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Matt Willen Matt Willen | Saturday 5. September 2009

A Trip to Reykhólar and other

I got into Ísafjörður on Tuesday morning and took a day to get rested and settled in. I am staying at Áslaug´s guest house again near the center of town, where I stayed for the month in May. Got started this time with visit to the Westfjords Heritage Museum to get some close up photographs of artifacts from the history of the fishing industry, and then rode over to Reykhólar with Gusti, who was on his way to Reykjavík for an appointment.


I’ll write up a profile on Reykhólar in the town section later today. Briefly, though, it is the most southern town in the Westfjords, located on a sort of broad peninsula that reaches out west into Breiðafjörður from its eastern shore. Unlike much of the rest of the Westfjords, it has its share of geothermal activity: the town´s name translates roughly to “smoky holes” which are abundant around the town. In fact, while there I tried some bread that was baked in the steam of one (takes 36 hours). I camped in town for a couple of nights, and was graciously escorted around the town (c. 280 people) by Eygló Kristjansdottir.  On the way back on Friday, Gusti and I encountered some rather spectacular light, which culminated when we returned to Ísafjörður and Pollun was like a pane of glass. So Gusti arrange for a short boat trip around the harbor on an old wooden boat so we could photograph.


Noticing a couple of interesting things: First, when asking about the big changes that people have seen in the Westfjords in their lifetime, the improvement of the roads is a very common theme. These improvements include paving of roads, the construction of tunnels (which I have commented on before), and the construction of bridges. In fact, we had the good fortune of being able to cross the new bridge at Eyjasund the day before its grand opening. The bridge allows one direct access across Mjóifjörður without having to go all the way up to the head of the fjord and then traverse the highlands on a very rough road. It will also prove to be a boon to the town of Reykjanes in Djúp, as is brings travelers on the road from Ísafjörður to Holmavik or Reykjavík past the town (it was a healthy detour in the years before the bridge).


The second thing that I am getting a hint of has to do with perspectives, or ´expectations´ is perhaps the more accurate term. Many people at home who I have told about this project have commented that they thought life must be very hard in the Westfjords. In fact, I haven’t yet come across anyone who has commented about the difficulty of living here. I was talking with Eygló about this, and her sense was “No, it is just what you are used to,” a comment which suggests to me that people’s expectations tend to be consistent with the conditions of the living situation that they choose.


Finally, a third thing that continually resonates is the emphasis that individuals place on raising children as one of the extremely attractive things about living in the Westfjords. It is just a good place for kids, who can go out and play with friends, invent activities, and be safe.



Louis Martin, Wednesday 23 September | 15:13

What an impressive website, Matt. You are no doubt having the experience of a lifetime. Things are pretty routine here, with a big emphasis on all departments setting up assessment procedures for specific learning outcomes. I think you picked the right year to be away! Best of luck in all your endeavors.


Nikki Good (from Endo), Wednesday 14 October | 22:33

Hi Matt! I absolutly love the site the little bit I got to explore around it. I will be checking back regularly to read and see the updates. Love all the photos-they are fabulous! Such a beautiful country. Enjoy! Nikki


Lori Messenger, Monday 23 November | 04:50

Hi Matt,
Wow, I finally started exploring your website. Wow. That's the word I can come up with. The pictures are stunning. All of it so interesting. I want to bring my family there for a trip tomorrow! Alas, I have a semester to finish. Which, really, has been going well, just tired at the moment. And, I must finally have given into the procrastination pull (which mostly has not been any problem this time around - given family priorites...). It was well worth it to begin looking at your website! More later-
Best, Lori

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