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Day 3: More on the the enchantment of Djúpavík

Day 3 of our stupendous West Fjords excursion, ostensibly undertaken to distribute a book but really mostly just for having a fabulous time in amazing surroundings. 

We started the day in Djúpavík, a minuscule town in Strandir, most famous for its humongous abandoned herring factory. Djúpavík is a fascinating place. Its best-known residents are Eva and Ásbjörn who own and run Hótel Djúpavík, and who also own the big old factory by extension. They have lived there since the mid-1980s, came there from Reykjavík and completely fell for the place, and wound up living and raising their children there. The hotel is a small wonder – it used to be the staff quarters for the women who worked at the factory, and today is like a small, cosy, extremely-laid back country hotel where the dog wanders in and out at will and flakes out on the floor or wherever she feels like it, and the staff basically look and behave like they were born and raised in the place. Which they were not, since most of them are foreign and come to work there in the summers, some of them again and again and again. Like Claus, who is now on his eight summer in the place. It’s an enchanting little community, and anyone who spends any length of time there (even just 24 hours) instinctively feels that there’s something very special about it.

Hotel DjúpavíkIn the morning we had a tour of the factory, the story of which is completely mind-blowing. It was built in the 1930s during the “herring boom” and was an utterly remarkable feat. To wit: there were no roads there at the time, so everything had to be brought over by ship, including boilers and engines and other equipment that weighed, literally, tons. The details of how they put the place together – it is massive, by the way – are incredible, and a testament to the Icelanders’ remarkable resourcefulness, resilience and ambition. They set out to build one of the most state-of-the-art factories in the world in one of the remotest corners of the world – and they succeeded. Alas, the herring boom ended a few years later and the factory was abandoned, with everything in it.


Just past noon we headed out, destination Ísafjörður. We drove to Hólmavík first to get some gas, and while standing at the pump I noticed something peering up from out of EPI’s pocket: our hotel key from Djúpavík.


I quickly called the hotel and explained the situation, offering to put it in the mail the moment I arrived back in Reykjavík. But they wouldn’t hear of it – partly because they only get mail once a week out there. (!) Instead they asked me to drop it off at the Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft in Hólmavík and someone who was heading their way would take it to them. The museum proprietor would see to that. Now, I haven’t been in Strandir very long, but it seems to me that that’s the mentality there in a nutshell. No problems, just a laid-back approach to life and its various hiccups.

We are currently in Ísafjörður and haven’t done very much, so I’ll save the report about that, including accommodation and other fun stuff, until tomorrow. In the meantime here are a few more pics from Djúpavík:


The entrance to the art exhibition currently on display inside the factory.

exhibition hall

One of the exhibition halls

Rusty ship Djúpavík

A rusty old ship that used to be the staff quarters when there were so many people working at the factory that there wasn’t enough room in the nearby buildings.

The back end of the factory, and a view of the waterfall above the town. One of the reasons the factory was built in this spot was because of the close proximity of this water.
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