08 June 2007


Part one is here
We held our concert on Saturday evening, and as I stood singing in the middle of the steps, I realized that this church is one of the few I have ever been in that have proper views-to-the-outside windows, rather than stained glass that preserves this separation in the Holy Building. As we sang, I watched the water, the mountains, and the ships leaving the harbor from the trio of pointed windows opposite.

When we were done, the Húsavík choir came up and performed, its whole soprano and alto section sporting the exact same sensible-lady-of-a-certain-age haircut. Is there only one hairdresser in town, and is she only trained in one haircut? When the singing was done, we all shared a solemn shot of whiskey, priest included, and then we were free of obligation until the next day.

After dinner, some of us tried to go to the one bar in town, only to discover it was locked up tight, to the contrary of its posted hours. Turns out it was closed for the Big Event that night, the sveitaball in the sports house. These events are apparently quite common in smaller villages all over Iceland, translated roughly as "country ball", an all-ages party with live music. In this case, it was the superspecial one in honor of the holiday in celebration of sailors. Sjómannadagur is huge here, given the seafaring history of the land, and it was evident at this ball. The sports hall had been fully tricked out in woolen mittens, netting, net floats, boat parts, and mannequins dressed in foul-weather gear. Nothing says "celebrate" quite like a sou'wester on a plastic figure.

However, literally EVERYONE had turned out for the event- the priest, the leathery 80 year-old sailors with their faded tattoos, the young crop of sailors, farmers from all over. The clothes reflected all levels of enthusiasm too, from jeans all the way up to one woman sporting a fuchsia ball gown and tiara. The vibe was kind of like a wedding without the bride and groom- everyone dancing as they pleased, and clusters talking animatedly along long white tables. In the bathrooms (the sports locker rooms) women gossiped, fixed their makeup, and in the hallways, the guys who'd reached trúnó stage of inebriation slapped each other on the backs and expressed their love and respect for each other. I had some strange and random conversations with people, such as the one with a kid who offered ...amorous attentions and then when I refused, he offered me a job in a slaughterhouse in Húsavík ("but it's a great job!"). Hard to resist such local charm.

The band playing was Greifarnir, a group that'd hit it big here in the 80s and was originally from Húsavík. The songs were all the kind that everyone knows and can sing along to here, a catchy sound that kept people dancing late into the sunny night. I finally packed it in at about 2:30, and walked home in the silence of a town that's all busy dancing somewhere else.

The next morning I woke up in time to go to the pool in the crystal-perfect day. It was a workable country pool with two huge hot tubs, but a sadly crowded lap area. Still, I packed in a few laps and then lounged, reading the ads on the wall ("hot dogs! Best straight from the hot tub") and watching the kids on the slide. The weather was once again the kind that made it hard to believe I was in Iceland with all the sun, the green, the warmth, the bright dandelions crowding the hillsides.

On the way back from the pool, I went to a little craft shop downtown, housed in the oldest building in Húsavík. The small, huddled building was stuffed with felted things, knitted things, painted things, all created by people in the area. These shops are all over the place in this country and they're always worth a visit. Duty called though, so I headed back to the guesthouse to change for the service. So the choir assembled and we went back to the church where we all sang up in the loft, crowded around the organ that breathed and gasped like a living being next to me.

And finally, time for coffee, since this was not only Sjómannadagur but also the church's anniversary celebrations. So off we all went to the one hotel in town that had a sizable ballroom, stuffed with as many tables as it could hold for the afternoon, all set with coffee cups and paper napkins monogrammed with a little picture of the church. On both ends of the room were enormous buffets drowning in goodies, and with the exception of the marzipan-covered cakes, entirely homemade. The whole community must have been baking for a week to pull that off- all the food I'd seen at the birthday party a few months ago, but entirely homemade. Cookies that melted with deliciousness, kleinur that had been freshly fried and were delectably crispy. We all ate ourselves delirious before we had to pack up and stuff ourselves back in the vehicles and hit the road again.

The clouds closed around us once more as we returned to Reykjavík, and I learned that we had happily escaped what had been a stormy and soggy weekend in the south. Just like the first time I was in Vík (a famously wet place), I learned that we had gotten lucky with this northern trip, and that Húsavík had put on all its charms to ensure that it got special billing as one of my new favorite places in Iceland.


Sarah said...

Hey! you made it to Husavik! You recommended it to us on our trip and we really loved it - and would love to go back. That church was beautiful, too. We have two pictures of it taken at roughly the exact same time, but one looks like it was about to pour rain and the other looks like it was 85 degrees and sunny outside. Ah the clouds and weather of Iceland!
-Sarah :O)
PS I'd been craving some new pictures of Iceland - thanks for including them in your blog!!! :O)

Professor Batty said...

... once again; I am in awe of and grateful for your wonderful posts...

Skúli said...

This reminded me of something I had almost forgoten: as a member of anorher choir I once sang in that curch. It's beautiful. Thank you for this lovely sketch.

Rose said...

Lovely posts and photos. I enjoyed my vicarious trip immensely. The only thing missing is an MP3 of the choir singing :-)

ECS said...

sarah: Happy to deliver, and yes, I love Húsavík! How's the tiny one coming along? Any chance of holding on for the 17th?

professor: thanks. I enjoyed yours today :)

skúli: you're welcome! Did you also not appreciate the acoustics there? I found that the space was charming inside but rather unsatisfying for singing in.

Rose: As commented to Skúli, the acoustics are sadly lacking in this church. My choir director, who grew up in the area, has dubbed it the church with the worst acoustics in Iceland, rather like singing in a barn.

Sarah said...

No tiny one yet - He's due on Thursday, but chances are he'll be over, so the 17th IS still a possibility! Let's hope it's then and not later (I can't take being pregnant that much longer!!!)


tsduff said...

E - I love that little shop (oldest building with wooly things and such) in Husavik - also the bakery there down the street serves the best bread in the morning ever. I found Husavik to be one of my favorite places in Iceland - yes, ha ha, including the infamous phallic museum which we visited and enjoyed chatting with the owner about his odd collection.

The old church was closed when we were there, so we were unable to visit inside. Sounds wonderful.