The flattened location of Egilsstadir, on the edge of one of the many thalwegs invaded by migratory birds from Iceland, leaves little to foresee in the stretch that follows.
After the junction, the road climbs the mountain, first covered with dry vegetation that lends it ocher and brownish tones, but which, with the altitude, soon gives way to white.
The snow increases visibly. At the top of the slope, the track is tucked between high walls of ice. Samples of avalanches fall on both sides that bury more and more the already suffocated asphalt.
It's the 4-wheel drive that saves us from an otherwise guaranteed drag.
The Twilight Descent to Seydisfjordur
Once the summit is reached from the front, the descent into the depths of the fjord begins.
It's almost ten, as they say, at night.
The sun persists in resisting in this Iceland, despite the frigid setting, already officially spring. The light from the subarctic sunset tinges the peaks of the mountains beyond magenta but misses the winding slope as we descend towards the foothills and the sea.
David Kristinsson meets us in the car park next to his Hotel Aldan. We hit the nail on the visit and realized that he expected us to get to know the charm and fame of the place beforehand.
This was not yet the case.
Night falls for good. On the host's recommendation, we stayed in the old bank building that he had also recovered. Installed there, we recharge the batteries of the work equipment and, as soon as possible, ours, almost to zero after the long journey from husavik.
New Day Among the Norwegian Wood Houses of Seydisfjordur
Morning and breakfast bring us back to lucidity. David enjoys. Show us the picturesque corners of Norwegian wood of the Hotel Aldan, probably brought in the form of Kit da Norway, once a grocery store, then a video club.
Philippe Clause, a Welsh friend from the outskirts of Paris who lives in a studio across the street, keeps us company.
Norwegian fishermen resumed a previous colonization that is presumed to be prior to the XNUMXth century.
Attracted by the abundance of herring, they built the first wooden buildings and established, there, a fishing post, the same as the North American whaler Thomas Welcome Roys, in the XNUMXth century.
World War II and the Annihilation of the Local Fishing Fleet
When World War II broke out, the village had already developed significantly. It housed a precursor undersea cable car connecting Iceland to mainland Europe and the country's inaugural high-voltage station.
British and American strategists detected the advantages of its location and decreed that a military base and airstrip be installed there. Today, that track is disabled.
David picks up the story further on: “Until a while ago, there was a good fishing fleet leaving here and a large fish processing plant. In its own way, the municipality evolved to become the most prosperous in east Iceland.
Until the powerful shipowners of Reykjavik bought almost all the boats. Seydisfjordur no longer had jobs to offer and was abandoned.”
Seydisfjordur and Dieter Roth: A Creative Shift from Fishing to Art
The advent of tourism saved it, by unconventional means, by the way. Early onlookers appreciated its secluded beauty and settled down. This was followed by a community of bohemians and breeders attracted by the welcome of the pioneers and the feeling of freedom.
Some arrived from other parts of Europe.
The most famous, the Swiss-German artist Dieter Roth, saw in Seydisfjordur a magical place. In the last decade of his life, he established one of several seasonal residences in the village.
Roth died in 1998. In that same year, a group of admirers of his work, of art in general and of the village, founded a Center for Visual Art in the villa where Skaftfell lived.
The Devotion and Dedication of David Kristinsson by Seydisfjordur
That's where we walk with David, between the inlet that invades the fjord and the colorful houses at the foot of the slope. Along the way, the tour guide tells us a little about his life: how he was born in Akureyri, the capital of the north.
The period when he moved to Copenhagen with his girlfriend, where, after three years, he learned good Danish, despite a childhood teacher telling him that he could never do it.
He also tells us about his return to Reykjavik, where he also lived, but which he never got used to.
And his move, in 2011, to Seydisfjordur, with arms and luggage, with ideas and some money to invest in the community, as he confesses to us, without any obsession with profit.
We arrived at Skaftafell.
Skaftafell and Dieter Roth: Place for Art and Creativity
David introduces us to Tinna Gudmundsdottir who, in turn, introduces us to the center with undisguised pride. On the third floor, it shows us the rooms in the residence allocated to art students and other passersby.
In the second, we looked at a series of sketches displayed on the walls and examined with chemical amazement the window of fast food rotten with which Dieter Roth, resorting to countless bacteria, once again expressed his social restlessness and critical creativity.
This type of biodegradable works was common in the artist who, for that reason, was also known as Dieter Roth.
A born experimentalist with inexhaustible energy and dedication, Roth has produced numerous artists' notebooks, printed works and sculptures. “He would turn to this table when he had any more outburst ideas. I created sketches and accumulated them around here until, later, I associated them in books or other formats.
We now invite those around here to leave their marks as well.” Tinna tells us, then leads us to a bookshelf filled with the former owner's other books and guides us page after page.
Seydisfjordur's Political Misalignment
At a certain point, the conversation changes tone, as the sparkle in the blue eyes of Gudmund's daughter who protests against the situation that Iceland has reached, reassures us due to their right-wing governments, always too concerned with financial returns.
“Profit, profit and more profit. That's all they think about. Even the new supermarket that was installed up there, insists on exploiting us with hyperinflated prices. Here in Seydisfjordur, most of us avoid it.
We'd rather do the 60 km over the mountain and shop in Egilsstadir than get robbed.” The political-economic debate lingers. Tinna is intrigued and, for a moment, disarmed when we tell her that in Portugal there is a strong sense that the last left-wing government has bankrupted the country.
The time we had for the city runs out.
Around the Seaside of Seydisfjordur
We leave Skaftafell around lunchtime. David escorts us halfway to the Hotel Aldan. When we arrive at a service station, he tells us the time of separation: “Well, I'll stay here. On Fridays, we all meet at that restaurant. The food is very bad, the conviviality pays off.”
On our own, we decided to explore a little more of the village and the fjord. In almost two hours, we only found eight or nine souls out of the nearly 700 that are supposed to inhabit.
The tourist office works but is empty, like the closed dock where we see only a few boats lined up, the few left over from the commercial raid perpetrated by the capital's fishing companies.
And Philippe Clause's Artistic Knitwear
Before we left, we still went through the Philippe's house who, in the comfort of the studio, shows little concern with that apparent civilizational stagnation.
His art is knitting and, at a table full of colorful skeins of wool, the French expatriate is dedicated to finishing new scarves, shawls and scarves elegant ones that he promotes in a makeshift showcase on the walls and online, where he is the model himself.
David told us that his hotel business and the city were more interested in visitors who wanted to spend several days there enjoying the tranquility and cultural dynamics, not so much those who ran around Iceland in six or seven days.
We were exploring the island with some more than just. Still, we belonged to the last class.
We got into the car and said goodbye to Seydisfjordur. Until the next opportunity.