Our next stop on our cruise around Iceland was in Akureyi, a town of fewer than twenty thousand that nevertheless is nicknamed the “Capital of Northern Iceland.” Located on an ice-free harbor, the town almost seemed overshadowed by the scale of the Viking Sky:
During our time docked at Akureyi our tour included stops at two main attractions – the turf house at Laufás and the Goðafoss waterfall.
Laufás is an ancient manor farm located across the fjord from Akureyi. There has been a church there since at least 1047. The parsonage and the church were built during the 1860’s. Like the sod homesteads on the American prairie from the same era, the parsonage is built of turf, a construction material that minimizes the need for wood, which is scarce in Iceland. The finish on the rooms ranged from spaces for livestock with exposed turf to bare wood bedrooms to a paneled and painted living room.
The pretty church was impressive for its time and location. Wood carvings on the pulpit date from 1698. The design and painting on the ceiling was reminiscent of a star-filled night sky.
The nearby Goðafoss waterfall is known not just for its beauty but also for its history. Around 1000 AD, there was growing pressure from Norway for the Icelandic followers of the Old Norse religion to to convert to Christianity. After indecisive debate in the annual parliament, the controversial decision was left to the priest Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði. Not just a priest but also an astute politician, after a day and night of silent prayer (to the old Norse gods, of course), he decided that Christianity would be the official religion, but pagans could still practice in private. To seal the deal, he returned to his home in north Iceland and threw idols of the Norse gods into a waterfall that was then dubbed Goðafoss – waterfall of the gods.
The next stop on our cruise should be familiar to fans of the Netflix series, Trapped: Seyðisfjörður.