3 August 2019:
Seyðisfjörður, Iceland:
Trapped in a Pearl Shell

By Corey Sandler

We have rounded the top of Iceland and reached Seyðisfjörður on the east coast, one of Iceland’s most picturesque towns with a collection of 19th century wooden homes, surrounded by beautiful nature.

Poet Matthías Johannessen called Seyðisfjörður a “pearl enclosed in a shell.”

It exists because of its protected harbor established by foreign merchants, mostly from Denmark. It’s a small town of about 665 people, spread across 82 square miles or 213 square kilometers.

The town sits at the end of the fjord. A road over a mountain connects to the rest of Iceland, about 17 miles to the Ring Road.

Here’s what we saw today, on a beautiful (and scarily warm day) in town and up and over in the central valley.

Seyðisfjörður was one of many places used by British and American forces during World War II and some of the elements of the bases can be seen around the fjord,including a disused landing strip.

And this was one of the few places that saw actual combat, or at least an attack, during World War 2. On February 10, 1944, the British oil tanker El Grillo, at anchor in the harbor was attacked, by three German FW-200 Condor bombers flying from occupied Norway.

The captain chose to scuttle the ship, still laden with bunker oil and defensive weapons. El Grillo, Spanish for The Cricket, is still on the bottom. It was not until 2002 that most of the remaining oil and its weapons were removed. Today it is one of the most popular dive sites in Iceland.

A popular restaurant in Seyðisfjörður—one of only a few in town, but nevertheless said to be one of the best outside of Reykjavik—is called Kaffi Lara, and within it is the El Grillo bar. And they offer a craft beer named after the sunken tanker.

Every week the car ferry MS Norröna of the Smyril Line comes to Seyðisfjörður from Hirtshals in Denmark and Tórshavn in the Faroe Islands.

Which brings us to murder and mayhem. In 2015 the Icelandic television series “Trapped” was set in the town, and partially filmed there.

A very engaging, low-key murder mystery, the show begins when a partial corpse is found in the harbor as the ferry arrives. Across ten episodes we come to know the intense, tormented police chief and his small staff, and also what seems like almost every other resident of town.

The cold and wild winter of Iceland is essentially another character, as a powerful storm cuts off the town from Reykjavik.

The TV series stars Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, a hulking teddy bear of a man who has become Iceland’s unofficial and unlikely hunk. Olafur Darri was born in Connecticut in the United States, but moved to his family’s home country of Iceland and has become the nation’s best-known actor in films and on stage.

All photos and text Copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. See more photos on my website at http://www.coreysandler.com


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