Greinasafni: Sveitarfélög einnig undir: Icelandic Times
Visit the Cheerful Villagers in Iceland’s Smallest Fishing Place
The parish of Kaldrananes in the Westfjords, where the small village of Drangsnes lies, is one of smallest parishes in Iceland with only 114 inhabitants. This area has many things to offer; on a good day you will see a whale from the coast, various puffin colonies, old relics of a Basque whaling station since the 17th century, hot pools on the coast as Kaldrananes is a geothermal area, the Pier festival in July and last but not least a community of cheerful people who all know each other and help out making their surroundings as enjoyable as possible.

Many options for the traveler
Kaldrananes is on the northern side of the Westfjords near to the bigger village Hólmavík. Fishing has always been important for the area and its inhabitants, especially of the female lumpfish. The area is rich of whales, as Jenný Jensdóttir, the reeve of Kaldrananes explains: “We have a good whale-watching trip here, which always amazed my kids as they saw them regulary when they were playing by the coast and did not see the need for whale watching.

“The tourism here on Kaldrananes has been growing rapidly those last years as the area offers many interesting possibilites,” says Jenný. You have plenty of options concerning the sea; sailing, whale-watching, sea angling and trips to Grímsey in Steingrímsfjordur, where there are huge puffin colonies. We nowadays have both accommodation options in the village of Drangsnes and further in Bjarnafjörður fjord. We actually have swimming pools in both those places, the one in Bjarnafjörður was built in 1947 and is next to a natural pool as Bjarnafjörður is a hot spot. There is a natural hot tub by the swimming pool, in which the warm water just runs from the ground. The one in Drangsnes is newer, smaller and really cozy.”

But the most spectacular use of the hot water in Drangsnes is on the coast where a couple of hot tubs have been put to wind down in for whoever is passing the town. “In ‘96, they suddenly found hot water in Drangsnes. We did not have a swimming pool then, so an old, venerated man in the area gave the children some fish tubs to place in the coast and there they piped the hot water into them. The surf is strong by the coast so one winter it took the fish tubs with them. Then we decided to put proper tubs there and carefully fasten them down with rocks. There is even a piece of artwork, “LAGRIMA”, chopped into the rocks by the artist Mireya Samper, who visited us once. Jenný says that those hot tubs are used a lot by the locals. “Every one in the villages has his own “tub-robe” and “tub-shoes” and you will probably spot someone on the street, going to or coming from the tubs. Even in the shop, you could commonly see someone in the tub-robe on his or her way from the tubs!”

The Pier festival
Kaldrananes has a festival every year in July called the “Pier festival”. Every inhabitant of the town works voluntarily to make the festival as amazing and fun as possible. “This is a family festival, where parents are supposed to have fun with their kids,” says Jenný who adds that this year is going to be the 15th anniversary of the fest. “We take a whole day for the feast, this year the 17th of July, which is a saturday. The day begins with jig fishing on the pier for the kids, but we also have a song contest and many more activities for the kids.

“The hallmark of the festival is certainly the sea food tasting on the plane in front of the freezing plant put up by the local women’s society. There are various different kinds of sea food you can taste there, which are probably exotic for many people, like minke whale, grilled seal meat, grilled female lumpfish and grilled puffin. We offer people to taste both more traditional food as well as this same material cooked in new ways,” says Jenný. On the Pier festival the culture is also held in high esteem with art and photography exihibitions. “We always try to show old photos from the area, the theme this year being “The Great Snowy Winter of 1995” but the magnitude of snow that winter was unbelievable and it has hardly snowed since,” says Jenný.

During the evening the feast continues with an entertainment program, a campfire and in the end a proper Icelandic country ball. “I would also like to mention the scarecrow competition as well as the new names all the houses and streets get after the different fishwaters of the sea, those things certainly enliven the place.”

Old relics from the Basques
In Kaldrananes, more precisely in Hveravík, an old whaling station from the 17th century has been found. It is believed that the Basques ran the fishery, which was probably a big industry at that time. “They have found relics of the oven, actually the oldest relics of bricks in Iceland. It is also believed that Icelanders got to know tobacco for the first time through the Basques, but they have found a lot of tobacco pipes there,” says Jenný.

Kaldrananes contains a small society and consequently people there still care for each other, your neighbour is your friend and family, an atmosphere that might be lost in many bigger towns or cities. The people of this cheerful community not only lives at peace with each other and their surroundings, the sea being important as ever; they also welcome travelers to their region and to participate in their society and experience the feeling of union.

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