Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Light and whispers

Now that I'm home, I've had a chance to re-read the travel journal that I kept while in Iceland and I realize that there are some big gaps in my postings. Scribbling on the fly at a public library or dark internet gaming cafe surrounded by teenage boys is not terribly conducive to the creative spirit - a girl needs a room of her own!

I'm going to add bits and pieces about our trip in the coming days and weeks as well as continue to add more photos (I've already added some to my earlier postings) so stay tuned! You can click on any of the photos to see a larger version.

One of the most beautiful man-made places we visited was the church in Ísafjörður. It was built in 1995 to replace a much older one on the same site that had burned down. It's a very beautiful modern structure somewhat like an origami cubist version of the iconic Sydney Opera House. The church in Ísafjörður has cascading levels of long narrow windows rising above each building section and one wall is punctuated with small openings that reminded me a lot of the windows in Le Corbusier's church at Ronchamp. (There are almost no stained glass windows in Icelandic churches - probably mostly because of the long dark winters.) The interior is typically spare and light Scandinavian in decor with slate tile floors, white walls, and and a soaring blue ceiling, rows of simple chairs instead of pews, and a magnificent organ.

But it's the altarpiece that takes your breath away - a soaring flock of small clay birds seemingly frozen in mid-flight, so life-like despite their dark orange colour. The birds were each individually created by the people of Ísafjörður under the supervision of artist Ólöf Nordal - it is the embodiment of a true community effort but it's effect as a whole is so inspiring! I am no church-goer but one cannot but feel renewed and inspired in such a beautiful, peaceful place. I lit a single candle for Chris and spent a few quiet moments lost in prayer.

Later that day after we returned from our trip to the island of Vigur, we - of course - popped by the library. We had a great chat with the friendly library staff and she told us about the collection and the building's history. The beautifully restored three-story building used to be the regional hospital. The library is on the main floor, in an inter-connected series of sunny rooms with high ceilings. The regional archives, photography museum, and cultural centre are also in the same building.

"Whispers in the Library"

Just for fun, here is one of the panorama shots I stitched together (click on photo for a larger version). This is the Northwest side of Ísafjörður and the soaring fjord cliffs behind, taken from the harbour.


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