12 October 2008

Chapter 19: 4 Hesteyri Summer Residents

Continued from Chapter 18

Hestyri is now a destination where former residents (who lived there prior to 1952) or their families live in their houses over the summer vacation. The population also varies according to the number of tourists visiting the area, and they comprise mostly of hikers who either begin or end their Hornstrandir hikes at Hesteyri.

We had daily contact with 4 Icelanders who are regular Hesteyri residents.

Hrólfur Vagnsson is a son of Birna - the Doctor's House Lodge owner. He is a very well-known jazz accordionist who was born in Bolungarvik but has spent a lot of time working in Germany (where in 1989 in Hanover, he set up Studio Vagnsson recording studios), as well as giving concerts all over Europe and in Japan and China. Hrólfur also spends a lot of time in Thailand where he works regularly with the First Thai Symphony Orchestra.

HrolfurHrólfur Vagnsson

When in Iceland over summer, Hrólfur is mostly at Hesteyri where he helps Birna by maintaining the Doctor's House, as well as greeting lodge guests when they arrive on the ferry. His electrical engineering background has helped him to set up a battery power supply for the lodge which runs the marine telephone, small LED lights placed in the kitchen and hallways and mobile phone chargers.

Hrólfur was really hospitable to us and took us out fishing for cod in his zodiac inflatable, as well as advising us on good hikes up the mountains. However, he didn't help us in our quest to watch the Arctic Foxes at close quarters, as he scared them off every time he went out for a cigarette!

Birna Pálsdóttir is Hrólfur's mother and she runs the Doctor's House Lodge as well as catering for the Coffee Cruise boat trips that come from Isafjordur.

Doctor's_House_HesteyriThe Doctor's House at Hesteyri

Now in her mid-70s, Birna can usually be found in the kitchen as she prepares food for the cruises or for various family members who happen to be visiting Hesteyri over the summer period.

Birna03Birna in her kitchen

On the rare occasions when she does sit down, she catches up on the local news or knits from a huge ball of homespun, dyed wool.

Birna02A rare chance to sit down

During winter and when Hesteyri is inaccessible, Birna lives in Bolungarvik where her daughters and sons also live.

Birna01A well-earned coffee break

When it was time to leave, I choked up when hugging Birna goodbye. She had opened her home to us and we had become part of her extended family. She even taught me a couple of Icelandic recipes while we worked together in the kitchen, and gave me many tastes of her preserves, cakes and pickled herring. In turn, we had cheerfully washed up the dishes and coffee pots after the coffee cruise visits, and most mornings we had scrubbed out her sticky porridge saucepan and washed her breakfast dishes too. She appreciated the help. I knew that we had made an impression on her when my goodbye hug was fiercely returned and we both stood there with tears in our eyes.

This is Birgir and his older sister Dagmar outside their tiny house in Hesteyri.

Dagmar_and_BirgirDagmar and Birgir pose outside their house

The house has no electricity, no plumbing and no toilet. Light is provided from gas lamps and water is collected from the stream for cooking and ablutions.

Dagmar_and_Birgir's_HouseThe bare necessities

Dagmar is 83, and she and Birgir were born in Hesteyri and attended the Hesteyri School until the settlement was abandoned in the early 50s. The family then moved to Reykjavik in search of work. Dagmar has a home in Reykjavik, but every summer she and her brother come home to live in Hesteyri.

DagmarDagmar - keeper of the camera and the delicious chocolate biscuits

Birgir is 78 and is definitely the naughty ringleader of the duo. With a twinkle in his eye and many stories from his childhood in Hesteyri, as a school teacher and his world travels, he can be seen walking slowly around Hesteyri with his Nordic walking poles - talking to anyone who comes within earshot.

BirgirBirnir in his living room

We had great fun checking Birgir's and Dagmar's fishing net each day. C had set it with Birgir by the river mouth in the hope of catching some late season salmon. Unfortunately, all it ever caught was a few flounder/flatfish and a lot of seaweed.

Now also based in Reykjavik, each summer Birgir tells everyone that it will be his last one in Hesteyri. I guess that time will come one day, but we pray that Birgir's and Dagmar's summers in Hesteyri may long continue.

We remember with great fondness our time spent in Hesteyri and the wonderful people we met, such as these 4 lovely Icelanders.

Next Chapter: Visiting the old Whaling Station


"Δημήτριος ο Ταξιδευτής" said...

have a wonderfullllll week!
And a poem by Blogger “thalassa”

Demetrios the Traveller

speak to me memory the language of seagulls
behind the hills behind the sweating sight
beds of sand tatooed by sudden wind
curved and open crevices particles of the skin of earth
with snake linear language
where the path into the cliff blue turns white foaming
air seeped through the stones ethereal as moans of this dry land
disconnected lay dormant following the wind of others
elevated lyrical images
of islands in high sea half to light half to gray _darkness
strains of memories

wave rolling wave to become equal in motion... in distance
into my mind to capture the essence
aqua choreography
the barren chest of isles producing depth not seen
by my sweeping cantos of self unity
sounds magical lured by the cardiac tunes
murmuring the language of skin and love songs

speak to me
speak to me memory,
the language of seagulls