We are in Dagný’s café and workshop Hendur í Höfn, located in the southern Icelandic town of Þorlákshöfn (thor-lucks-hupn) - a town where typically butterflies elude the lexicon, particularly this time of year – the frigid month of February. Outside, the belligerent North Atlantic gales have removed us from the tired earth, and thin, grey, empty roads greet us at every turn in the dull-toned town. The mischievous volcano Eyjafjallajökull haunts the distance. After a leisurely drive from Reykjavik, Dagný has taken us into the unassuming building, offering us one of the cakes of the day (oreo) and a selection of Icelandic teas with names like 'healing' and 'detox'.
Not the kind of produce you'd expect to see in a town mostly inhabited by fish factory workers and their families. But with a new road stretching along the South coast of the Reykjanes peninsula, Þorlákshöfn is now entangled in the everspreading web of Icelandic tourism, and Dagný understands the problem the town faces; 'There's nothing to see here. Everyone is working in fish!’ A vast portion of the town is devoted to the factories that border the seafront. Stark and overbearing, it’s hardly the place of Icelandic daytrip daydreams. ‘You have to show these tourists something.'
Þorlákshöfn, there has been a great success in keeping children occupied with active pursuits.
Not to suggest that the children here are at all uneducated. Boasting some of the best exam grades in the country, Þorlákshöfn’s schools teach some 270 children, with 100 in a highly reputable music college. Teachers encourage boys at the age of 14 to train for a short time in the fish factories and girls to help teach the younger students. Modern sports facilities dominate the town’s humble skyline, with one of the best swimming pools in the country pulling many visitors from Reykjavik, over an hour’s drive away. ‘It’s a great place to raise a family,’ remarks the receptionist at the swimming pool. ‘Moved here from Reykjavik for a year and have stayed ever since.’
And it is exactly this she is doing with the town. Adding energy, invigorating the area, and at a time when tourism in Iceland is increasing rapidly. Her plans for the future are even more exciting, as she coalesces with Reykjavik tourism companies. From May, food tours of the local area will focus on the produce grown and farmed nearby, ending within the cosy walls of Hendur í Höfn, where visitors can sample the meat, fish and vegetables they have spent the day observing cooked up by butterfly-hearted Dagný, whose inner fluttering is unable to cease amidst the revitalising pulse of her unique café.
For more information on Hendur í Höfn, including how to get there, check out the website.
Also, like Hendur í Höfn on Facebook.