Going here was a real mission. Halldor Laxness is Iceland’s best known writer, probably because he won the Nobel Prize for Literature, which I suppose says a lot. I’ve only read one of his books so far, but I loved it and do want to read more. As well as liking him as an author, the reviews of this museum were good and as I love having a nosey round other people’s houses … well, it just had to be done.
I’d checked the opening times of the museum online, so I only needed to know how to get there as it’s quite far out of Reykjavik. When I asked for directions in the tourist office, the woman behind the desk said ‘well, first you need to rent a car, then …’ She didn’t continue as she’d seen my look of dismay. Even if I could afford car rental, there would be no way I’d drive in this amount of snow!
So then she said, ‘let me check in case I’m being too pessimistic’. A few minutes later she’d come up with a plan for me. I had to get one bus way out of the city and then get a connecting bus that left only five minutes after the first bus was due to arrive, so it would all be a bit fine-cut, but possible.
On the day, I wanted to be sure of nothing going wrong so called in at the bus station an hour and a half before the first bus was due to leave. I checked my plans with the lady in the ticket office and what a good job I did. Because it is winter and not many people go to the Laxness Museum, the second bus only runs if it is booked at least an hour in advance. She phoned for me and booked both my outward and return journeys. As the buses are only every four hours I was going to have a long time at this museum. I was hoping for a little coffee shop I could sit in and read and write my journal.
The first bus arrived on time and got me to the required stop right on schedule. I shouldn’t really expect any less from Icelandic buses. Even in this weather everything seems to run like clockwork. There was a taxi waiting at the bus stop, with two people sitting in the back. The bus station lady had said something about the bus being a taxi, but I thought she meant some kind of minibus taxi. No, the bus was an actual taxi.
The bus/taxi driver dropped me at the last stop which was a few minutes walk from the actual house. It was bitterly cold and the snow was really deep and difficult to walk through. By the time I got to the house my fingers were numb even though I was wearing fleecy gloves. I wasn’t looking forward to hanging around the bus stop for long on the way back.
The house is large and white and Laxness lived there with his wife and children for most of his life. His wife, who was younger than him, is still alive but lives in a home in Reykjavik. There are wonderful views of hills and fields on all sides. In the garden to the side is a small swimming pool. The steam rising from the geothermally heated water made it look so inviting; an oasis in the snow.
The house was so homely inside, I could really imagine living there and curling up on one of the sofas with a good book. There were so many things that I would like in a house of my own if I could have one big enough. The hallway had a grandfather clock and an old chest; the living room had a grand piano, an egg chair, and large array of cacti and other tropical plants (they looked incongruous but good against the snowy background!); the dining room had a table to seat twelve and a samovar; the bedrooms had plenty of bookshelves; the study was lined with books, had a couple of desks (a tall one that Laxness would stand at to write, and a regular one at which his wife would sit to type up his manuscripts), and piles of papers; and there was a small library, basically what would be the box room in any other house, but in this one it was lined with books. Throughout the house was an art collection of mostly modern works and a collection of artefacts gathered from trips around the world.
I walked round the house listening to the audio guide and then went round twice more just looking and trying to absorb the place. I wasn’t allowed to take photos inside the house, but plenty can be found here on the museum’s website.
Once I could tear myself away, I walked round the garden and then watched a short video in the ticket office. One of the ladies working in the museum was finishing work and offered me a lift back to the bus stop where I could catch one of the regular buses back into Reykjavik. As there was no coffee shop for me to sit in and wait another 2 or so hours until the taxi bus was due, I gratefully accepted and she phoned to cancel the taxi bus for me. If the weather had been different I would have easily passed the time going for a walk and exploring the area, but it would have been foolhardy in conditions like this when I would have no idea what the ground was like that I was walking on because of the thick layer of snow.
Even though it’s a real trek out of town, this is somewhere I will come to again the next time I’m in Iceland.
I wrote this review of Laxness’ best known novel, ‘Independent People’.