Roadtrip…Monday 29th August Part 2

We arrived in Akureyri at around 3.45 pm, the reason I remember the time is because we wanted to go and visit The Icelandic Folk and Outsider Art Museum on the other side from the town. I was just the driver so went where I was told. Over the bridge and then we turned right and drove on for what I was assured would be about a 10 minute drive to the museum. Well the road went up the side of the mountain and after 10 minutes there was no museum. At the first available accommodation I stopped and we went into to ask directions. I now suspect that the girl we asked either does not know her left or right and has never been to the museum. Following her directions we ended up further into the mountains where there were only farmhouses and the road soon changed from tarmac to gravel. The museum was becoming bit of a holy grail for the person who wanted to go. Each new farmhouse roof in the distance became a possible until by 4.45pm it was mutually agreed that it wasn’t going to happen today since the museum closed at 5pm. The map now makes sense but at the time it was just plain confusing to us.

Now as I hinted at before I have a problem with certain parts of ‘The Rough Guide to Iceland’. While not every place is going to blow your socks off the writers are very dismissive of places. Now while I may be slightly biased this is the description of  Skagaströnd: ‘a terribly ugly place dominated by a hulking fish factory down by the harbour…’

Granted there may be not a lot to do or see with one shop, one petrol station, one bar, one bank and one cafe but I think my pictures somewhat go to show you can still find beauty and wonder if you take the time to look around you. I have the feeling the writers just drove right on through.

Windy day in the ‘terribly ugly’ Skagaströnd

Right let’s get back to Akureyri after securing accommodation for the night the four of us ventured out into Akureyri. Perhaps our expectations were too high or our imaginations had run away with us after spending time in Skagaströnd. Frequently billed as the capital of the North, Akureyri had became a metropolis of restaurants, bars and sophistication in our minds. We soon realized that if you get the right photographer and angle you can make a place look full of exciting possibilities. I congratulate the tourist board of Akureyri, you certainly fooled us. As did my current favourite book in the world, The Rough Guide to Iceland’ which calls it a ‘spot of urban sophistication’.

Now I’m not totally dismissing Akureyri since we had got there after business hours and the town had just had a festival the weekend gone.

We did actually enjoy having a choice of restaurants and the beer that came with the food at the time tasted like the best beer ever. I don’t if that was just down to having spent all day in the car or the beer coming out of a glass bottle but that was a good beer. I did ask our waitress what people did in the evenings but her only suggestion was bowling which we put low on the list.

At least there was a bookshop and that’s where we all headed en masse. Three of us stocked up on some materials mainly paper and some paint.

While I’ve been printmaking nearly relentlessly this year I’d made up my mind before leaving that I’d take a break from it. Instead I’ve making use of my time to try my hand at using watercolours but not necessarily in depicting traditional landscapes as one would associate with the word watercolours. The show and tell of that work will be another post.

Shopping done and feeling that it would be a shame to have an early night, three of us wondered what to do next…

We went bowling.

I won both times.

Odd but true, I have now been bowling in England, Iceland, Japan, Mexico and the United States.

In retrospect the beers in a bar opposite the bookshop after bowling were good and the quiet atmosphere there was good. Five days later while still a little disappointed initially with Akureyri, I find myself thinking about it with an odd mixture of affection and disappointment.

And so to bed for Tuesday would be a day of many sights.

Roadtrip…Part One/ Monday 29th August 2011

Somehow I’ve never really had to drive in another country other than very short trips that I don’t really count. So driving in Iceland I guess is another one of those things that was on my mental list of things to do.

Myself and three of the other artists decided to rent a car and go on a trip of the Northwest and Northeast.

We started early on the Monday or early relatively speaking in terms of our average daily routines and got a lift from Skagaströnd to Sauðárkrókur to pick the car up from the rental company. Now depending on your point of view I either drive on the wrong (left/right) side of the road while everybody else drives on the right (wrong) side of the road. That was actually more of a concern for my passengers than for me. I was actually looking forward to driving for several reasons. At the moment back in England I have access to a car but not a manual one so I was looking to driving a manual and also the opportunity to drive myself.

Shrimp factory in Sauðárkrókur.

Rather than take the most direct route we decided to drive around the peninsula to take in the scenery. I suspect in places it may not be the most dramatic of drives scenery wise and the fact that at one point I had three sleeping passengers probably attests to that. However, I’ll take the fact that all three fell asleep as a sort of compliment that they felt safe and secure enough with me at the wheel. I was pretty impressed with Icelandic roads at this point. There were hardly any potholes whereas in England we’re still waiting for potholes to be repaired from last December. The roads here are well maintained and while mainly single lane only there was hardly any traffic.

(It gets better…)

Armed with various general maps and The Rough Guide to Iceland which I disagree with in several parts more of which later we set off. Our first stop was Siglufjörður which was a small town with a harbour dramatically flanked by mountains on either side.

The more industrial sections of the harbour are further left and to the right of the picture.

Here comes the history part:

Siglufjörður was one of the world´s leading herring centers from 1900 until the herring stock disappeared in 1970 and there are three buildings that form the Sildmuseum detailing this past.

Rather begrudingly I paid for my ticket thinking it seemed a bit pricey for a museum about fishing. Boy, was I wrong, I throughly enjoyed myself!

The three buildings serve a different function:

The Factory where there was some machinery that looked like it came straight out of a cartoon with oversize dials…

The next building which I seem to have not taken a photograph of the exterior is the Boat House which houses boats from the era and you can board the largest. The lighting though and the indoor setting of a dock kind of reminded of a Scooby Doo episode and I half expected some old fella to be led away shouting: ‘Pesky Darn Kids!’

The third building and my favourite is The Salting Station and yet again I seem to have been spectaculary rubbish in not taking a good photograph of the exterior probably something to do with the drizzle. If you follow the link above you’ll get a good picture!

The ground floor is dedicated to the fishing and salting process and from a printmaker’s perspective I loved the old barrel and packaging stencils there. If anything they should be using those for T-shirt in the small gift shop area:

Slightly alarming fishy symbol although I’m pretty sure it was unintentional:

The next level has photographs of some of the other herring ports including Skagaströnd which at one point looked set to expand to a larger scale that it is currently until the herring disappeared. It was also where administrative duties took place:

Upstairs is where the real interest lies as this was where they housed the Herring Girls who would gut and salt the fish. Every space up there was used to house them:

From there we or rather I drove us onwards to Akureyri without any further stops along the way.