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Heimaey - museums, views

Sunday 24th August

We checked out of our guesthouse, then headed down to the harbour to buy our return ferry tickets and to check out if it was possible to fit in a boat tour (it wasn't). Then we headed up Stóraklif, the hill directly west of the harbour, with all the telecommunications equipment on top of it.

It was a bit of a scramble to the top, but the route wasn't at all exposed. And the views were spectacular - the top is flat, so there's no one viewpoint, but walking along the edge gives 360 degree views: Heimaey town to the southeast, with the volcanos behind it; the cliffs of Heimaklettur to the northeast; the Iceland mainland to the north; cliffs and coastline to the southwest; and all the way across the island to Stórhöfdi at the southern tip.

the coastline to the southwest

There was long grass on the top, and I had just joked that this was the only place on the island the sheep couldn't reach... when three sheep trundled into view! It was very windy: when we lay down on our backs, out of the wind, it was suddenly much warmer.

On our way back down we ran into a man climbing up to do maintainance work on the track and telecommunications equipment. He said he'd been doing that for 30 years - he'd been there during the eruption in 1973 - and must have climbed up 1200 times! He told us that the sheep were taken in and out by helicopter, along with building materials, and pointed out the remnants of an old "flying fox" used before the helicopters came.

Anna holds a puffling
After a stop for hotdogs and coffee, we set off on the museum circuit. There are three museums in town, to which the one (450 Krona) ticket gets entry. First came the natural history museum. The highlight of this is the aquarium, with all kinds of strange fish and other sea creatures, but there's also a good stuffed bird collection. The geological collection can't match those. And the museum happened to have a lost puffling (baby puffin) in a box, which we were able to pick up and hold.

Next came a visit to the folk museum, which has particularly good coverage of traditional fishing. Near that is the old church, with an attractive wooden door illustrating the town's history, and the graveyard, picturesquely situated under the volcanos.

At Skansin, on the shore just to the east of the town, are several attractions: a building half-destroyed in the 1973 eruption, left as a memorial; a traditional stave church, built in 2000; an old house, now a museum displaying 19th century furnishings; and the remnants of a fort built by the British during a brief occupation.

a memorial of the 1973 eruption
our ferry, the Herjólfur
farewell to Heimaey

We had pizza for lunch and timed it just right, getting to the ferry as the last passengers were boarding!

Visiting Heimaey? We had two full days - 48 hours - on Heimaey, and were lucky to have good weather the whole time. If we'd had more time - another day would have been nice - there was plenty more to do: There's also a film centre, showing films about the island, though that looks like a wet-weather activity, and it's possible to take a plane flight to look at the island of Surtsey, which appeared in 1963.

If I were visiting Heimaey again, I might catch the bus and ferry one way and fly the other, both for variety and to save a little time.

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