Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Day 9: Skriðuklaustur, Njarðvíkurskriður, and Borgarfjörður

Having realized there's not all that much to do in Egilsstaðir, Ed and I decided to explore some of the eastern Icelandic environs today. This morning we headed south to Skriðuklaustur, most recently the home of Gunnar Gunnarsson, an Icelandic author who wrote mainly in Danish. Gunnarsson had had this house built in 1939 and had planned to use the lands for large-scale farming, but this didn't come to pass.

The area below Gunnarsson's home had been the site of a circa 16th century Augustinian cloistered monastery. Ten years of excavations uncovered extensive ruins that included the foundation of the church, and more than 300 graves, the remains of which are currently being housed in Reykjavik. The whole site was absolutely fascinating; the tour guide was able to explain a lot about the excavation site and what had been found, and spent quite a bit of time with us describing its history.

We had an excellent lunch in the cafe before heading north and driving along the Njarðvíkurskriður (Njarðvík Screes), a beautiful but somewhat harrowing drive; much of the drive was very twisty and involved driving on gravel (which, I suppose, is why the car rental people had recommended gravel insurance).

Our final destination was Borgarfjörður, a tiny fishing village from which hikers pass through. On our way back through town we encountered Álfaborg, a "city of elves," and on our drive back through the Screes we stopped to view Naddakross, a wooden cross with the Latin inscription "Effigem Christi qui transit pronus honora. Anno 1306" ("You who pass the sign of Christ, bow your head in reverence. Year 1306"). This cross marks the legendary spot where, in 1306, a brave farmer named Jón Árnason killed a half-human, cave-dwelling monster named Naddi by wrestling him into the ocean. Naddi had been gnawing loudly on rocks and terrorizing anyone crossing the screes after nightfall. The present cross dates from the 1950s, but is apparently planted on the original site.

We arrived back at our hotel earlier than I thought we would, so after relaxing for an hour or two, we picked up the laundry that we'd had done by the hotel (I'm not one to send my laundry out, but once in awhile it's necessary), and had dinner at the excellent Salt Cafe & Bistro.

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