Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Vestmannaeyjar

Last weekend Jó and I took a trip to Vestmannaeyjar, aka the Westmann Islands. These islands consist of one main island, Heimaey (13.4 square kms), surrounded by smaller islands. Only the main one is inhabited (about 4500 people), although some of the other islands are used for raising sheep.

The islands were mostly created 12,000 years ago as this is a highly volcanic spot. The latest addition was in 1963, when the island Surtsey emerged from the sea during a volcanic eruption. Notably, a volcano basically appeared on Heimaey in 1973 and destroyed one third of the houses in town.

Alright, enough with the trivia :).

Overall, Heimaey is a cute island, kind of a mini-Iceland. You can walk from the harbor through the town to the airport in 30 minutes. There are some very imposing cliffs and rocks on the north side (I would not try to climb those), and two volcanic cones you can climb (they're not very high, around 220 meters each). We climbed Helgafell, the older cone, but I'm sure we will go over Eldfell (the 1973 cone) if we return.

The people on the island are supposedly friendlier than mainland (main island?) Icelanders. In fact, a random person nodded to me as our eyes met at one point, which confirms that people are indeed friendlier. On the downside, the buildings in the island are slightly run-down, and the harbour area has a pretty bad fish smell (I assume it's from drying fish).

The town has a lot of puffin-inspired names, paintings and merchandise (even the street signs are shaped like puffins...). However walking around town you don't see any puffins, which is a bit annoying. But! Go to the cliffs, and there they will be... Plenty and plenty of puffins! They look quite cute and they are entertaining to watch as they fly from and return to their cliff spots. Moreover, as I can attest from my last meal in the island, they're quite tasty. Their meat is quite dense and dark, somewhat like whale meat, but much tastier. Puffins: cute and tasty, the perfect animal! (well, I guess lambs too fit into that mold).

And now for the onslaught of pictures:

Volcanoes and lava

Walking on the 1973 lava

The lava stopped by this water tank

The 73 volcanic cone, as seen from the older volcano

Animals

Puffin group

"Don't look to your left, but I think somebody is watching us..."

How YOU doin?

Fulmar in flight

The mascot shark of the football team. At least it didn't smell like urine

Close encounters of the sheep kind

Cliffs

Rock face

Jo v/s the cliff

How do you get to that building?

How do you get to that building? Part 2

Do you see the elephant?

Miscellaneous

On the ferry

Jó's flowery socks that I had to wear when I found out I forgot to bring any extra clothes (and my socks were wet)

A view of the town, from the old volcano

A fishy mural

A monument to the 200+ Mormon Icelanders that left for Utah in the 1800's.. For real!

A plane taking off from the local airport

6 comments:

SLK said...

Yay puffins! Is this a local delicacy, or did you just grab one during your hike and decide to roast it up for dinner? ;)

The Thor said...

Wonderful sights. Fun to see a Lebanese in Iceland. Founded my blog in conjunction with a lebanese who is running www.bloggingbeirut.com, and well I'm bloggingreykjavik.net how fitting eh?. Keep up the postings

Laure said...

yay puffins! can i have one for my b'day??? Please please please!

Djaddi said...

slk: it's a local delicacy. I wanted to catch one myself but they stand on cliffsides and I'm a bit uncomfortable with heights so... restaurant it is!

thor: I had seen your blog before (through bloggingbeirut) but it was inactive for a while. I'm glad to see you're back in the swing of it! I like your high-res photo / low commentary format.

laure: sure, you just have to stop by here :)

tsduff said...

Vestmannaeyjar - this was my most favorite and beautiful place I saw the last time I was in Iceland. Your pictures are spectacular - especially the puffins and fulmars...although I've never eaten any of them.

Djaddi said...

Yeah, I've only been there once but it's definitely one of my favorite spots in the land.

The bird pictures were also good in that they finally justified our purchase of a 300mm lens for the camera :).