"This is one of the most picturesque of sites, and has one of the most romantic of sagas attached to it", opens William Gershom Collingwood's description of Hvalfjörður in his 1899 book A Pilgrimage to the Saga-Steads of Iceland -- whose title, and overall concept, are the principal inspiration for this project.
Hvalfjörður lies north of Reykjavík and Mosfellslbær and is the longest fjord in the south-west of Iceland, cutting 30kms deep into the land along a north-east/south-west axis and curling to the east at its head. Before the Hvalfjarðargöng tunnel was opened in 1998 and the main ringroad re-routed underneath the fjord, all traffic heading north or west to and from Reykjavík had to follow the fjord all the way around -- a drive of an hour or two. The volume of traffic on the road now -- which at times is cut into the steep edges of the mountain-sides rising straight out of the fjord -- must be a tiny fraction of what it was, and the fjord as a whole now has a quiet but powerful feel.
|View down Hvalfjörður from the eastern end of the fjord|
There's a lot of local history here. Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614-1674), poet and priest (Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavík is named after him, and every year his Passíusálmar are broadcast on the national radio each day over the course of Lent) served as minister at the church at Saurbær for the last 24 years of his life. In the WWII, a British/American naval base and oil refuelling station was established here with over 20, 000 soldiers -- a staggering number, given that the current population of Hvalfjarðarsveit now is around 600 and can't have been that much bigger in previous generations. Part of the naval camp can still be seen, not far from where the whaling staion is, on the northern shore of the fjord, towards the eastern end.
|Geirshólmi, from Þyrill; Þyrilsnes, on which Hörðr |
fought his last fight and died, stretches out into the
fjord from the left-hand side