Here's to a delightful weekend in the country

Right. I know it’s taken me ages to get around to posting about the weekend in the east. I’m unreliable, and you probably couldn’t trust me in a combat situation. But here, I’m telling you all about it now. I had such a great time. It's unbelievably beautiful there, the weather was (on average) quite fair, the people I was with were lovely, I fulfilled a long-standing ambition to see puffins, ate a good deal of cake and barbecued meat, drank a lot of Icelandic beer. All the positive things. I even managed to whip through an Icelandic novel that I found on the shelf in the summer house (Engill, pípuhattur og jarðarber by Sjón) – it was very surreal, about a boy walking round with a sort of ghost talking to chairs and putting raisins in boxes. Not sure I really enjoyed it, to be honest, but it was good practice nonetheless.

Last Friday was the 17th June, Iceland's national holiday commemorating their independence from Denmark in 1944. So there was a lot going on in Reykjavík. However, I am unable to report on it, because that was the day that we left for Egilsstaðir. I spent the morning packing and generally milling about, Ahmad came round about one o'clock, and Stacey picked us up from my house to go to the tiny domestic airport, conveniently located just down the hill. There is only one gate, and you can turn up ten minutes before your flight, tell them your name and get on the plane. With no ID and as much liquid as you like, because nobody is going to do any security checks. Good old Iceland. The flight was an hour, and then Ahmad's mum Gurrý picked us up at the other end to take us to the summer house. Ahmad's sister Tamara was there as well, so it was pretty much a party. Although I am a bit disappointed to have missed the national celebrations, I'm sure there will be other opportunities for that in the future, and we had fun letting Ahmad teach us the most complicated card game in the world.

On Saturday we went out in search of puffins. The weather was rubbish, although I suppose it could have been worse. Low cloud and cold damp, but not much rain really. 

Typical Icelandic fog on the mountain pass.
Ahmad and Stacey at a coffee break and tactical planning session in Borgarfjörður eystri.
We meandered around Borgarfjörður eystri for a good while before we found them, despite the instructions we got from the woman in the café, but when we did it was amazing. There were hundreds of them, and the walkways let you get within about three metres. They didn’t seem bothered at all – I suppose they are used to tourists gawping at them. Obviously I took about a thousand photos, because puffins are probably the cutest birds in the world. Here are a few of them:

Wait, these are kittiwakes. Kittiwakes make a noise like a wailing child.
That's better.
All those little white dots on the grass are puffins. Believe it or not. The flying gull is a fulmar.
Landscape smothered in cloud.

In Icelandic puffin is lundi, which sounds a lot like Lundy, n’est pas? Interesting etymological snippet for you. Also the French word for Monday, but no etymological link there, of course. Speaking of days of the week, to take a small detour, you know how in English they’re mostly named after Norse deities? You’d think they would be in Icelandic as well, of all languages, but actually they’re Sun-day, Moon-day, Third-day, Midweek-day, Fifth-day, Fast-day and Bath-day. Obviously Bath-day is my favourite (Laugardagur – could also be translated as Pool-day or Hot-spring-day); it sort of makes up for the tedium of Midweek-day (Miðvikudagur). I think they did used to be named after Þórr and Óðinn and all that lot, but were changed as part of the Christianisation process, but don’t quote me on that.

Anyway, on Sunday we mostly went to look at fjords and, whilst it was a bit cloudy in the morning, we had the most beautiful summer weather in the afternoon. It was at least 13° I would say! We saw Seyðisfjörður, which I think is probably the prettiest town I have seen so far in Iceland. 

There it is, down there.
A small fossy bit in the river which flows down to Seyðisfjörður.
Seyðisfjörður's answer to the Reykjavík Tjörn.

Boats and that.
Mountains, Gandalf! And poppies - it's the summer time!
 Apparently there’s a long period during the winter months where no sun can reach the town, because it’s so deep in the fjord. That’s probably pretty depressing, but they do have a Vínbúð to help them cope. The opening hours would require you to be quite an organised drinker, though. 

In winter it's now open four times as long on Fridays! Which is still only four hours.
Even in 101 Reykjavík, you have to plan a lot further in advance if you plan to take some beer to a party or do a bit of pre-drinking before you go out. Alcohol is only sold in the state-run Vínbúðs, not in supermarkets (unless you count léttöl, which I don’t), and the Vínbúð is only open from 11 to 6, and is closed on Sundays and public holidays. This has been a shock to the system after my lifestyle in Sheffield. Especially in second and third years, where I would go to the Co-op between two and five times a day to get things as I needed/wanted them. Some days we used to go there around 6 to get some things for dinner, pop back after dinner to get pudding, and drop in again between 9 and 11 for some gin if we were going out. Not to mention morning milk runs, lunch-time egg restocking, mid-afternoon lollipops. I never really considered buying all these things at the same time, and buying something earlier than the day I wanted to consume it was a rare occurrence. So having to go down to Austurstræti at 5.30 to get drinks for some impossibly distant time in the evening is mostly annoying to me. I don’t think I could cope with Seyðisfjörður, as picturesque as it is. One of my favourite things about the town was the artwork in the café. I was immediately taken with this picture:

I couldn't even capture how great this is on my camera. It's a freaking hologram, and when you move, it changes which eye Jesus is winking with. Outstanding.
This weeping child masterpiece only added to my delight. Because it was in the toilets right above the baby-changing area. I found that really amusing, but it might be just me.
In the afternoon we went to Reyðarfjörður, and on round to Eskifjörður. Which was lovely, and we saw beautiful things like this:

Here we see Eskifjörður, and some lupins.
Down in Eskifjörður. Desktop material. This actually is now my desktop.
Stacey down by the shore when we were enjoying the sunshine and warmth.

Gurrý and Tamara.
Mr. Eider Duck and his harem.

On Monday, our flight was not until 8 in the evening, so we had the whole day to go and explore a bit of the highlands. We went to a natural hot spring that we’d read about, but it was a bit of a disappointment to be honest. It was tepid rather than hot – only Ahmad went actually in. The rest of us were content to dip feet.

It's pretty desolate up there.

Well, that’s all for now. In the mean time, I leave you with this stunning picture:

I think it's the cigarette that makes it.

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