View from cathedral

We berthed at the end of a beautiful fjord in Northern Iceland to visit the city of Akureryi.

We decided not to go on a ship excursion but rather to explore the city using the hop on/hop off bus service as we have found this an excellent way to learn a lot when having only a short time in a city. A bad decision for this city.

We purchased our tickets from the Tourist Information booth on the pier and were directed to the main centre about half a km away and were told that the Pink Bus left from there. While we waited we saw the Pink Bus go past and assumed that it would turn further up the road. No such luck. It stopped up the road, a stop which later turned out to be much closer to the ship, people got on and off and the bus left! There were 7 stops on the tour but only 1 bus which took an hour per cycle.

View from cathedral2 other ships in the harbour which had been delayed due to bad weather

We decided to walk to the centre of town and see where to start. The Cathedral stood proudly at the top of a hill and, although there were either steps or a steep hill to climb to get there we decided to go and see it first. We used the stairs, all 112 of them, as they had a railing and landings at various levels making it a bit easier. We felt that once you had climbed up there all you wanted to do is fall on your knees! After the climb we were met by a sign – Church closed until 14:45 for funerals. Yes, plural, as it is tradition for funerals to be held on a Friday.

Steps to the Cathedral

The 112 steps

We walked around the outside of the Cathedral for a while, noting that, if one had a car, there is a large flat parking area all around the Cathedral. As we came to the back of the building we saw the Pink Bus coming down the hill. There being no sign as to where it might stop we waved our tickets in front of it and, wow, it stopped. The driver confirmed that there were no marked stops for the bus but we were close to where he usually stops so it was OK.

 Side of cathedral

Stained glass windows down the side of the Cathedral

The next stop shown on the route map was Akureryi University. Having spent almost 20 years in Administration at our local university I was keen to see this one. When we rang the bell for the stop, the driver turned around with a perplexed look on his face. “You want to stop here?” “Yes please”. “This is the first time I have ever stopped here.” Then why have it on the map?? Well, we had a wonderful hour there.

University library with mountains

Library of the University

Walking around the small campus was easy and there were wonderful views of the city from there. We met some of the administrative staff who were walking across the campus and they told us that he students are mainly off-campus due to the distances involved as most live in small villages. They pointed out the various buildings and told us that they actually work in the Research Centre and so have little contact with the students.

University Research Centre

University Research Centre

We went up to the Administrative and Cafeteria area where we, unexpectedly, met the Dean of Students who willingly spent some time talking with us. She said that they had just completed Orientation Week for the First Semester of the new Academic Year and to celebrate the large bell set on a hill would be rung at 1pm. This only happens twice a year and we were there to witness it. We waited for the bell ringing which happened just before the bus arrived. The bus driver was surprised to learn how much we enjoyed it. Never under estimate what treasures will turn up if you travel with an open mind.

University bell 3

The bell  which is rung twice a year and inscribed with each date since 1987

The next stop was the Botanical Garden and we were blown away by what we saw. A magnificent array of flowers and trees here almost at the Arctic Circle. Iceland is not as cold as one would imagine because of the geysers in various parts of the country but still, it was amazing to see this beautiful place. It was started by a group of housewives who acquired a hectare of land in 1912 from the municipality to open a park for “adornment and recreation”. In 1957 it was taken over by the municipality and extended to 3.5ha with most plants which grow in the Arctic Region and Alpine areas. These pictures give just a glimpse of this beautiful place.

 Colours everywhere

Beautifully laid out area of the Gardens

Fountain in secluded area

Fountain in secluded part of the Gardens

We took the bus back to the Cathedral at about 14:30 and joined the crowds waiting for it to open after it had been tidied following the last funeral of the day. So glad that we returned as it is beautiful inside. It is the Lutheran Cathedral of the Diocese of Iceland i.e. the Seat of the Bishop. The Lutheran Church is the National Church of Iceland and is strongly supported financially by the Government. Inside the Cathedral is quite modest especially when compared with many other European Cathedrals. The pipe has 3200 organ pipes, paid for through donations by the members. The Sanctuary is bright and airy without any enclosures. Hanging from the ceiling is a model of a fishing boat as is common in Nordic tradition of giving offeringss for loved ones at sea. I felt very sorry for the Verger who was frantically removing items used at the funerals and roping off areas while tourists poured in and wanting to get their photos.

 Sanctuary of the Cathedral

Sanctuary of the Cathedral

Organ pipes in Cathedral

Some of the pipes for the organ

Model ship in Cathedral

Boat hanging from the ceiling

Our last stop before returning to the ship was to be the street of original buildings from the 18th Century. We had calculated that the bus was due in approx. 15mins. After waiting nearly half an hour we walked back down the 112 steps into the main area of the town, saw some of the original and some restored buildings and began the rather lengthy walk back to the ship. Suddenly, the bus stopped next to us, right at the main Visitors’ Centre to drop off and pick up passengers. We hopped on for the final section where he stopped on the pier. 

One of the oldest bldgsOne of the oldest buildings in Akureryi

 Renovated old buildings 2

Renovated buildings

It was a very strange day with the hop on/hop off bus in Akureryi.

Huge spray of flowers

I could not resist including this photo