Monday, March 9, 2015

Iceland

Then it was off to Iceland. We visited Akureyri which is a town in northern Iceland. It is Iceland's second largest urban area after the capital Reykjavik. The Norse Viking Helgi magri (the slim) Eyvindarson originally settled the area in the 9th century. The first mention of Akureyri is in court records from 1562 when a woman was sentenced there for adultery. In the 17th century, Danish merchants based their camps at the current site of Akureyri, which was one of the numerous spits of land in Pollurinn. The main reasons for choosing this spot for trading operations were the outstanding natural harbour and the fertility of the area. Permanent settlement at Akureyri started in 1778, and eight years later, the town was granted its municipal charter by the king of Denmark (and at the time Iceland also) along with five other towns in Iceland. The king hoped to improve the living conditions of Icelanders by this action because at the time, Iceland had never had urban areas. As far as the king was concerned Akureyri was unsuccessful, because it did not grow from its population of 12. It lost its municipal status in 1836 but regained it in 1862. From then on Akureyri started to grow because of the excellent port conditions and perhaps more because of the productive agricultural region around it. Agricultural products became an important sector of the economy. It is surrounded by mountains, the highest being Kista (1447 metres) and another peak of 1538 metres at the head of Glerádalur. There is a narrow coastal strip of flat land; inland is a steep but low hill. In earlier times a few spits of land (Icelandic: eyri, thus Akur-eyri) jutted from the narrow coast, but a lot of land has since been reclaimed from the sea so that today the coastline is more even except for the largest, Oddeyri, which was formed by the river Glera which runs through the town. It is thought that the name of the town is derived possibly from the name of a field which may have been situated near some of the sheltered locations by the river. The body of sea between Oddeyri and the end of the fjord is known as Pollurinn ("the Pool") and is known for calm winds and a good natural harbour. Akureyri today is centered on Ráðhústorg (Town Hall Square) near the northwest corner of Pollurinn. The districts of Akureyri are: Innbær, the oldest part of town on the strip of land between the hill and Pollurinn south of the central area; Brekkan, on top of the hill; Oddeyri on the peninsula with the same name; and Glerárhverfi on the north bank of the Glerá (also referred to colloquially as Þorpið, 'the Village'). Because of the town's position at the end of a long fjord surrounded by high mountains, the climate is actually more inland than coastal, meaning greater variations in temperature (warmer summers, colder winters) than in many other inhabited parts of Iceland. However, the mountains shield the town from strong winds. The relatively warm climate (for its latitude) allows the Botanical Gardens to flourish without need of a greenhouse. The area around Akureyri has one of the warmest climates in Iceland even though it is merely 100 km (62 mi) from the Arctic Circle.

Here is a view from the city looking at one of the surrounding mountains.

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