Friday, September 9, 2011

Elves, Kjarval, and whales in Borgarfjörður Eystri (Bakkagerði)

Much has been written and said about "the hidden people," elves, gnomes, and trolls in Iceland. Many of us from the outside wink, enjoy the stories, and move on. My elf experience in Borgarfjörður, just below Álfaborg (the capital of elves and fairies), was a bit different when I visited the Álfasteinn or the Elf Stone Museum. While my wife, Josh Rubin and I crawled into the replica of an elf family dwelling and listened to the tale of Snotra the Cursed Queen, it was easy to be drawn into the story and imagine the world of elves and their interaction with humans. This was possible thanks to the dedication of Bryndís Snjólfsdóttir and Arngrímur Viðar Ásgeirsson who built the Álfasteinn Museum. Borgarfjörður also hosts a museum about Jóhannes Kjarval, Iceland’s greatest painter, who spent much his life in the area and drew amazing portraits of the townsfolk. The visit was capped with the unexpected appearance of minke whales in the fjörd. Their appearance reminded me of Kjarval's stern opposition to whaling all those years ago when it was less controversial. He was truly a great man and a visionary.