By Terri Kristjanson Wintonyk
After hearing about the Snorri Plus program on an Icelandic Roots Samtal Hour, I was hooked!
Participating in this program was an amazing adventure for me. The first week was spent in Reykjavík. We stayed at Hotel Holt, which is known for its art collection and it was spectacular, including many of Iceland’s best-known artists. Our days in Reykjavík gave us the opportunity to hear speakers on history, politics, folklore, genealogy, and language lessons. We were each given a personalized booklet with our ancestral information. We also had lots of free time for exploring, shopping or just putting our feet up. We were right in the heart of downtown Reykjavík so there was lots to experience, including meeting some second cousins that I knew existed, but didn’t know how to find them.
Some of my friends think I was on a diplomatic mission because I posted on Facebook that we had coffee with the President of Iceland. I told them no, he just meets with important people.
Our second week was spent in Northwestern and North Central Iceland on our Adventure Tour. Guðrun, our wonderful guide, mapped out a journey that showed us many sights and experiences that most tourists don’t see. We did the Golden Circle (Thingvellir, Gullfoss, and Geysir) then headed north. We spent two nights in the Buðadalur area (great prices on Icelandic knitwear), the area of the Eirik the Red saga. Lots of winding country roads with impressive scenery, and a dairy with great ice cream!
The next day we were off the Drangsnes for a boat trip to Grimsey at Steingrimsfjörður (not the bigger Grimsey North of Húsavik). We saw flocks of puffins and other seabirds on the way there. I thought I’d be lucky if I saw one puffin, so seeing that many took my breath away! Imagine my surprise when we reached the island and there was no dock to disembark. There was a gangway that was lowered by pulleys from the rock. Once we reached the end of it we had to manoeuvre between 2 rocks to continue. After 3 sets
of 8-10 ft sections of wooden bridge pieces (with pretty rickety handrails) we were finally on the island. By that time I was done (mobility issues), so I stayed while the rest explored the island. Our bus driver, Erlandur stayed to keep me company and we ended up seeing a seal!
My sister spotted some whale sprays from the top of a cliff, so, after the challenge of getting me back on the boat, we went off in search of the whales. We found them and they gave us quite the show!
We spent two nights in Akureyri. The highlights for me were the stop at Laufás with its turf houses and beautiful church. I discovered after I returned home that the Bishop from there was my great-great-grandfather’s 2nd cousin. And of course, I loved our visit to Forest Lagoon in Akureyri, a wonderful hot pool experience. I didn’t want to get out!
Then travelling through Siglafjörður to Hofsós and the Emigration Museum where we had a bit of a visit with John/Jack Plumley. There were, apparently, some very good Norwegian waffles. (I’m gluten-free so couldn’t sample them, but the rest of the group raved about them and some even bought special waffle makers when we got home.)
We had a few more days in Reykjavík experiencing the Reykjavík Marathon, and Culture Night, which is not a night but a whole day. The energy, music, and general noise were a delight to experience. We saw a play at Harpa and enjoyed a barbecue at the Canadian Embassy.
I feel like I saw the real Iceland. I would highly recommend the experience!