Öskjuhlíð, Mount of Mystery in the Heart of Reykjavik

Öskjuhlíð Forest in Reykjavik

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Saturday was a perfect day for outdoor adventures here in Reykjavik. I started thinking of all the cool places we could go in the surrounding area for a nice walk or hike, including Heiðmörk, Esja (also take a look at the MountEsja.org webcam), Straumsvík, the Hengill area between Hveragerði and Þingvellir, or even just having Óðinn pick a trail out of the book I translated, Walking Trails of the Greater Reykjavik Area: 25 Beautiful Walks (...and lo and 
behold! another groovy internet discovery made while looking for a good article to link to: this post by a family who used that very book and blogged about their adventure on Walk no. 1 around Straumsvík!)

When I told him of my plan he said, "Awesome! If I get to choose, then let's have a picnic at Öskjuhlíð!" (btw, that link leads to a great article on the WWII history of that area.)

I had wanted something more unusual than just the forest on the hill right over there, a three and a half minute drive away, but that's what he wanted, and in fact it made sense to stick closer to home since a bank of dark grey clouds loomed on the far horizon. So we grabbed a backpack and fixin's for pb&j sandwiches (part of my American heritage that I've passed on to my kids, but not historically popular at all here in Iceland...as a matter of fact, I don't remember peanut butter even being available here twenty years ago) and off we went!

I have to admit I'm always pleasantly surprised by how lovely and calm it is there, just minutes from the bustle of the city. Óðinn wondered if we'd see any animals during our meal, knowing full well we don't have the kind of beasts here in Iceland you'd find at a picnic in California, for example (no squirrels, no ants, no raccoons, no bears, no too-bold little birdies ; ) There are definitely bucketloads of rabbits on the hill, but I've only seen glimpses of them darting away myself.

But to our surprise, just as we were done laying out our picnic blanket and were getting ready to start munching on our sandwiches, a happy Icelandic Sheepdog came bounding up, trying to sneak into our donuts! Its owner whistled for it a moment later, and as quickly as it came it was gone.

Just as we set off for our hike through the woods, though, another even more gorgeous animal came arrived....the beautiful golden Lab (is that right?) pictured, who took a deep fancy to Óðinn's walking stick. She found us again and again over the next half hour in between being called away by her person. We were also lucky enough to see, and sometimes just sense, all sorts of otherworldly beings over the next few hours, the kind that don't usually choose to be recorded. And on that note, ground has been officially broken at Öskjuhlíð for a new Pagan Temple, the first high temple of its kind in the world in almost a thousand years. That's good news!

So if you end up getting burnt out on doing touristy stuff here, if you've seen one too many museums or you can't stand the idea of another souvenir shop presenting products for your purchasing pleasure, let your feet guide you over to the forest underneath the big shiny Perlan dome. Such a simple adventure, but I promise your spirit will feel renewed ~°~

A large Elven Stone at Öskjuhlíð  
Note: the dogs we met were officially breaking the law, or at least their humans were, by not being on leashes. Though I get it, it still makes me sad, seeing how friendly these two were, and how much natural fun they were having. This Iceland Review article by focuses on canine life in our big little city, a place that's nearly overrun with cats, as is. Maybe some day I'll write about how the Reykjavik police back in the late 40's captured my father's beloved dog, put it in a burlap sack and made the whole family watch while they shot her, including my dad, who was no more than nine at the time...but that's probably more than you wanted to know... (believe me, though, I'm very glad to not have dog-doings all over our sidewalks and parks!)

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