Fish Have No Feet

While reading Jón Kalman Stefánsson’s novel Fish Have No Feet, which in part takes place in Keflavík, it occurred to me that I never posted my photos from 2017 from there. The book begins with the motto Keflavík does not exist.


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Well, most visitors who come by plane will know that it does in fact exist, and those who are forced to stay near the airport either because they arrive late or because they have to leave early, get a chance to visit. That this is an Icelandic city becomes instantly clear. It presents itself with openness and laconic clarity and always a bit more dedication than strictly necessary.

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The main source of income is documented for eternity,

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the love-hate relationship to the former US army base sublimated in an elegant sculpture,

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the local cave repurposed as the lair of a giantess with a golden heart,

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and comfort is offered to the tired (gigantic?) visitor with a wink.

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Is it ironic that even the scaffoldings are adorned with an extra touch? I don’t think so. In a country where impermanence due to the forces of nature is everywhere, building something requires an extraordinary belief in the ultimate possibility of permanence.

Hafrafell (North Iceland V)

According to Google, there are several mountains named Hafrafell in Iceland, and the one this post is about isn’t even on Google Maps. It’s barely a mountain anyway.
When driving east on 85 from Húsavík to Ásbyrgi, one can see a handful of small mountains that are often hiding in the clouds. Below is a typical view of the Hafrafell, a little over 500 meters high.

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On a less cloudy day they all promise good views of the landscape. We inquired at the ranger station at Ásbyrgi about that one above, and the extremely friendly ranger told us to drive to the nearest farm, ask the owners for permission, leave the sheep alone, and find our way up.

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The farm is located on 865, which is a right turn off 85 when driving north, directly after the pool in Lundur. I doubt that many people ever go there, but the owner didn’t seem surprised. There is a path that leads to a small lake (mainly used by the sheep, very cooperative), and from then on one needs to find one’s own way.

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We followed the north-east face to its southern end and then went up. It’s pretty steep, and there was still lots of snow.

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The top is a large plateau with unlimited access to the all the clouds you can wish for. And the views were indeed worth the effort.

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To the east, a vast and empty landscape opens up. Very tempting. I need to learn riding a horse to get around there.

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Finally, one can see see the Ásbyrgi canyon from above, together with the mandatory threatening weather.

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Equally fascinating as the large scale landscape is the smaller scale vegetation. Of course you can find soft moss and dancing birches elsewhere, too, but here they are part of the deal.

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We spent about three hours on this mountain, 90 minutes to get up, 30 minutes on the top, and another hour to get down again. If you feel inspired and want to try it, check for snow and weather conditions before you go.

Aldeyjarfoss (North Iceland II)

Within two hours driving from Húsavik, there are plenty more or less easy to reach places of interest. One of them is the Goðafoss waterfall, which is visible right from the ring road. Nearby, but not quite so easy to reach is the Aldeyjarfoss.

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To get there, one follows 842 south (a dirt road, better than 844, which is an alternative). This turns after a few bumpy kilometers into F26. Most people drive their two wheel drive cars up to the parking lot.

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The waterfall itself is quite impressive, but its real beauty is due to the large basalt formations surrounding it.

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Next to it are some more contemplative smaller falls,

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and a short hike takes you to another large fall, the Hrafnabjargafoss.

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On the way, the rock formations on the river banks have the appearance of ancient friezes, telling stories about civilizations long forgotten.

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The complexity of this place made of rock and water is quite overwhelming.

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Húsavik (North Iceland I)

The next few weeks, I will write about this year’s vacation in Iceland’s north. For comparison, here are the links to the blog posts about Iceland’s south from two years ago:

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This year we stayed in Húsavik, a small and peaceful town a few degrees south of the polar circle.

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It lies on the east shore of Skjálfandi bay, which allows for nice sunsets (unless it is too cloudy (often) or not cloudy enough (rarely).

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Dramatic clouds are abundant and make driving dangerous.

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A highlight was the full moon backlit with a setting sun at midnight.

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Clouds (Iceland XII)

Most places have their own very distinctive appearance of clouds. Landscape painters know this and therefore prefer to live close to the ocean or the mountains. Needless to say, clouds in the midwest are either dull or very dangerous.

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Iceland has both ocean and mountains so that one can expect the best of the best.

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When I was little they told us in school that life forms can be distinguished from lifeless matter by a few criteria: Ability to move, react to the environment, and reproduce. Clouds can do all that.

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So I started thinking that being a cloud might be an interesting way to live.

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Unfortunately, the only cloud based life forms in the near future will most likely be rather virtual.

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Rock Art (Iceland IV)

This image of an expecting woman should make it clear that trolls are not as close to extinction as some try to make us believe.

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Of course they are hard to find. Not only are they well camouflaged by all the lava rocks, they are also in constant migration, like here a small family, with the child being carried piggyback.

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But not only trolls roam Iceland. This large bird should rewrite a chapter of the theory of evolution.

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Then there are the giants, always watching.

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Monotony (Iceland I)

This post is the first of many trying to put the 2000+ images I took this summer in Iceland in some unconventional order.

Let’s begin with the simplest aspects of the landscape. In contrast to Hamlet, very often there are fewer things in heaven and earth than you would expect. In fact, you might just see a flat gray plane all the way to the horizon, and above it a similarly gray sky.

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One travels in this landscape on roads that dramatically increase the complexity.

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What is striking is that all this must have been moved and put in place at some point. Enormous volcanic eruptions
have covered this landscape with lava and ash.

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Slowly growing moss patiently tries to withstand the ubiquitous erosion, caused by wind and meandering rivers.

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It is hard to believe that most of Iceland was covered with trees, until the Vikings needed the wood for their boats, houses, and fires.

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