This post is a continuation from Touching down in Iceland.
After relieving our bladders and stocking up on liquor at Keflavik, we located the car rental kiosk and braved the early morning breeze to our little car. By now I was in desperate need of coffee and breakfast. But first I had to relearn how to drive a stick shift. It’s been almost 20 years since I’ve used a manual transmission and things did not go smoothly! Somehow, in the car-loading process I had misplaced the little gate card which was supposed to let us out of the airport parking lot. We stopped at the gate and began searching for the credit-card-size piece of paper that I feared had blown away in morning breeze. When another driver pulled up behind us, I frantically ground the transmission into reverse to get out of his way so he could get around us. Come to find out, it was just the rental car guy anticipating our problem. He swiped his card at the gate and ushered us through.
Within 20 minutes, we noticed white steam billowing into the still-dark sky. We surmised this was from the famous Blue Lagoon, which we would be visiting later in our journey. My heart leaped when I saw a hand painted sign for a coffee shop as we entered the little village of Grindavik. On the second pass through town I found the sign again and turned down a nondescript road that looked like it would dump us directly into the harbor. As we neared the end of the line my partner began to panic. “There’s nothing down here. We don’t belong here, this is private property, don’t…”
Well, dear readers, you know me by now. I have a really hard time turning around. Instead, I turned the corner and drove past a heap of fishing nets and there was a tidy little cafe. As we stepped through the door the sun was shyly peeking above the eastern horizon, casting a golden glow over the water, which reflected warmly into the coffee shop—which was obviously the local hang out. Well, I think it was the only hang out.The aroma of fresh coffee greeted us. Tempting pastries sat on doilies in a glass case. We were hoping for more substantial food when we asked if the cafe served breakfast. “But, of course!” exclaimed the beautiful woman behind the counter as she prepared our coffee drinks. “Please just have a seat and allow me ten minutes.”
With that she disappeared and we looked at each other—perplexed. We enjoyed the quaint fishery ambiance and watched a group of elderly locals huddled together in the opposite corner while we sipped our hot drinks.Shortly, Kristinn glided down a staircase we hadn’t noticed, bearing our breakfast on a super-sized pizza tray. Our introduction to Icelandic breakfast included all the usual European staples plus the dish of pickled herring, which we would find with each breakfast for the next ten days.As we began sampling our feast, Kristinn asked if we’d be interested in touring the fish net factory upstairs. Why wouldn’t we? A few minutes later, Kristinn’s cousin, Lihja (I hope I spelled his name correctly,) came down the stairs and invited us up to his domain. He said his shop was very busy with a big repair job that needed to be completed for the boat that just came in the night before. But apparently, this was breakfast time, as his employees were gathered about in a corner, devouring a breakfast that now looked remarkably familiar. And then Lihja commenced to demonstrate the fine art of rope splicing. And then Lihja asked if we would be interested in an “off-the-map” tour of Grindivik. Again, why wouldn’t we? So he ushered us into his pickup, scraped his icy windshield, and off we went to see the parts of his village that most tourists whiz past. Most notably, he explained how a successful Icelandic businessman deals with the troublesome issue of living compatibly with neighborhood elves. As he explained it (as I best remember it):
Here sits one of the largest and most successful fishing operations in southern Iceland. It has been passed down from the father to the son. In recent years, it began to outgrow its original building. The new owner needed to expand the building, BUT, just behind the building sits a pile of rocks which a locally famous elf calls home. To destroy the rocks would be to risk angering the elf. Would you be willing to risk the anger of the elf and the possible demise of your business by destroying the rocks?
At this point, Lihja’s eyebrows rose as he waited for us to digest this dilemma.
Well, this wise businessman had no intention of ruining the family’s run of good luck. So this is how he solved the problem!
Lihja’s pickup rounded the corner and paused behind the fishing company’s warehouse, which flanked the elf’s home in a u-shape. Lihja’s also showed us his home and where he went to school and where his children go to school before returning us to the Bryggjan Kaffihus to continue with our exploration of Iceland.