Sunday, September 21, 2014

AKUREYRI, NORTHERN ICELAND


Akureyri's town square
I had a blustery walk in a wind blowing directly from the Arctic this afternoon. Akureyri was quiet on this Sunday afternoon; it's out of the tourist season here that ends on August 31.  Temperature is 6C!!

The sky is overcast but it's not raining. I walked around the town square, which was well nigh empty and the shops are closed. A few caf├ęs are open but not busy. It's definitely fall here, with the trees turning fast and the leaves blowing around. Everything is spotlessy clean and the water very hot!! Geothermal energy is apparent....

Looking across the fjord to farmland
Aureyri has a population of 17,000 but does not look big enough, neither did I see many of them. The few I did see were well wrapped up with hats, scarves, and mitts. The kids are blonde cuties, the young women are blond bombshells, and the men – ah, the young men! Also blonde and to die for! Though my taxi driver yesterday looked like a Viking fresh off his longboat. He was a redhead and had a fiery red beard. No doubt about it, he had Viking blood. (No pix, sadly; no one let me take their photo.)

Icelanders love ice cream, even if it's freezing outside, and when I visited the local parlour it was packed. The choice of flavours was immense, but not as big as the number of additional tidbits that could be added to your selection and whizzed up, then piled into a cone. I bought two slices of an Icelandic apple pie that was recommended for our afternoon snack. Topped with caramel, the apple filling was held together with a thick custard. Absolutely yummy! (Also, no pix!)

Akureyri from waterfront with the cathedral
The city, really only a small town, is the second largest in Iceland and has busy fishing and shipbuilding industries with farming in the hinterland. Akureyri lies at the head of Eyjafjordur below snow-capped mountains. It has a university, so a large, vibrant undergrad society. It was settled in 890 by a Norse-Irish permanent resident, and a trading-post was established in 1601. Most surprising is the huge cathedral that dominates Akureyri and was built in 1940. It looks more like an old New York skyscraper, but inside has a vast organ with 3200 pipes and a stained glass window from the original Coventry Cathedral. A ship hangs from the ceiling – it is part of an old Norse tradition of a votive offering for protection of loved ones at sea.

Many of the houses are three storeys. The lower one would have been the byre where the livestock lived in winter and heated the floor above with their body heat. Today it looks as if this is now the storeroom for the household. The steep roofs are bright red corrugated iron that allows the snow to slide off and not build up. I don't know how much Akureyri gets each winter.

We ate dinner at Noa, a resto owned by a Pennsylvanian who is married to an Icelander. It's about a mile north of the town, so a taxi was needed. Ingredients were all sourced locally. The starter was a share-plate of cured meats – ham, beef, chorizo (mild), and horse set off with Iceland cheeses. The brie is quite different from French brie – sweeter and a little earthier. Loved it all. Then came the local prime rib of lamb and root veggies sauteed in a cast-iron fry pan that came to the table sizzling. Gravy, plenty of it, accompanied it. This was the tastiest lamb I've ever eaten. Gamey and strong. The gravy was delicious. Bravo, Noa!!


IMAGES: © Photos by Pharos 2014. 

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