Hat? Check. Parka? Check. Gloves? Check. Some people might tell you that September is still technically summer. Some people would be wrong—at least when talking about Iceland. So, what can we do instead of sunbathing? How about some troll hunting?
North Of The Wall
The flow of tourists is already starting to ebb in Iceland, not that it was ever more than a trickle this summer. The wind and drizzle are also doing their best to make the indoors look more enticing, promising comfort, safety from the elements and maybe a hot beverage to warm up with, while snuggling on a couch with a cozy blanket. If you’re a wuss.
How about a trip to the northernmost town in Iceland instead? Luckily, I still have the opportunity to travel to the furthest regions of the island, thanks to it being sort of a part of my job. But what to do so far up north? Sure, the view from the car seat will be great, through mountains and along the sides of cliffs, but how much entertainment can there be in the little fishing villages we’re set to visit? Depends on what you’re looking for I’d say. And what I’m searching for is famous for avoiding the sun. That’s right, I’m about to hunt some trolls.
A typical Icelandic troll tends to be quite a grumpy fellow, sometimes suffering from noise sensitivity and having the occasional craving for human flesh. They also have a pretty severe allergy to sunlight. Our skin problems are nothing compared to the constant threat of turning to solid stone as soon as they’re hit with the slightest dose of vitamin D. Iceland has a lot of folklore surrounding these guys, with some trolls coming off more benevolent than others. I’ve made it my mission to find at least some remnants of the tales, while also enjoying the breathtaking landscapes of the wild north.
Over The Misty Mountains
The journey starts out early, as the Grapevine’s faithful cameraman Art Bicnick and I drive from Reykjavík through the never-ending Hvalfjörður, to Borganes for some much-needed coffee and stopping occasionally for a particularly nice shot of a mountain. The weather starts out fine enough, with some sunshine making the strong winds more tolerable as we get closer and closer to our destination Soon we’re headed into the grey mist, not knowing what awaits us on the other side.
Our first major stop is at Húnafjördur, along a windy coastline, down a cliff until we’re standing right in front of what is supposed to be the remnants of a troll. The big rock, just a few meters into the sea is known as Hvítserkur, which roughly translates to “white coat.” Fitting as it’s coated in white bird poo. That’s apparently what you get for trying to smash a monastery for ringing its bell and then getting hit by the morning sun.
It’s To Die For
The northern coastline offers an impressive view over the North Atlantic despite the drizzle. If anything, the gloomy weather adds more atmosphere. The part I’m probably the least fond of is the mountain tunnel we have to travel on our way in toSiglufjörður. It’s a single lane for nearly a kilometer. A car coming up in front of us has to drive into one of the spaces carved into the shoulder every few meters. I hate every second of it. And I don’t even consider myself claustrophobic.
Once that ordeal has passed, we finally enter the historic village that started out as a hub for fishing sharks, then enjoyed an era of herring and became the show place for some more modern dark tales. In the shadow of the mountains and surrounded by cute wooden fishing houses, fictional murder has also made its home. Author Ragnar Jónasson made Siglufjörður the setting for his literary Dark Iceland series and a lot of the crime series “Trapped” (“Ófærð“) was filmed here.
Pool With A View
As remote as the little fishing village is, it sure has its charm. The Siglunes Guesthouse we’re staying at not only offers coziness but also Moroccan cuisine by master-chef, Jaouad Hbib, who built the reputation of the restaurant and changes up the menu daily. I honestly doubt that I’ll find such a symphony of spices again in Iceland anytime soon. Our second day in the north is thankfully sunnier and we can watch the sun slowly rise over the mountains. We head out—back through the cursed tunnel—and stop at Hofsós for a dip in a swimming pool overlooking Skagafjörður. In the fjord, I can also spot the small islands Drangey and Málmey, which both have troll stories connected to them. Drangey is said to have been a big cow that was led by trolls when they all got hit by the morning sun. Málmey is even said to be cursed! Apparently married couples should not live on the island for more than 20 years, lest the wife mysteriously disappear and possibly turn into a troll. Though perhaps you should simply not isolate your spouse on a rock in the ocean. It might lead to some marital friction… even if the northern landscape of Iceland is breathtakingly gorgeous.
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