Saga Shop Winter 2019

56 Icelandair Stopover CULTURE: Holidays As with most Icelandic festivities, winter holidays are a mishmash of Christian and heathen customs. Falling into the latter cate- gory, Þorrablót (Midwinter Feast) celebrates traditional cuisine with feasts throughout the pagan month of Þorri (January 25 to Febru- ary 23 this year). This is an ideal time to sample the Icelandic delicacies you’ve been warned about: Seared sheep’s head, ram’s testicles, and fermented Greenland shark, all washed down with an icy gulp of Brennivín schnapps. March then brings a trio of Carnival celebra- tions . The first is Bolludagur (“Bun Day,” March 4 this year), when locals eat choux pastry filled with jam and cream. Children cry “ bolla, bolla, bolla! ” (“bun, bun, bun!”) while smacking their parents’ behinds—one bun for every whack. On March 5 comes Sprengidagur , which is typically translated as “Bursting Day,” though it probably originally meant “Sprinkling Day,” in reference to sprinkling holy water. Locals favor the bursting idea, taking it as a pre- scription to stuff themselves with salted lamb and lentil soup. Last comes Öskudagur (Ash Wednesday) on March 6. Like a more wholesome Hallowe’en, kids dress up in costumes and sing in exchange for candy at local shops. You can sample festive midwinter fare at restaurants, cafés and bakeries around the country. RECREATION: Swimming Pools Thinking about bathing in Iceland may conjure images of lava-side spas, but some of the country’s best—and most affordable— swimming spots are its humble neighborhood pools. In downtown Reykjavík, Sundhöllin is the place to be. Opening in 1937 and heavily renovated in 2017, this elegant complex features both the city’s oldest and newest pools—indoor and outdoor, respectively. Also not to be missed in the capital is Laugardals- laug , Iceland’s biggest and most popular pool. With several water slides and hot tubs, it’s perfect if you’re traveling with kids. Other well-equipped pools around the country include the Akureyri swimming center , which has water slides and excellent kids’ play areas; and the pool in Vestmanna- eyjar , which also has fabulous slides and a small rock-climbing wall. Facilities tend to be more basic in small towns and villages, though they often more than make up for it with gorgeous views. Among these is the stunning Hofsós swim- ming pool in North Iceland, which offers magnificent vistas over Skagafjörður fjord. Other picturesque bathing spots include Selárdalur pool, close to Vopnafjörður; and the Patreksfjörður and Tálknafjörður pools , both in the Westfjords. Continues on page 58. STOPOVER ICELAND: OUR TOP PICKS With so much you can pack into an Icelandair Stopover, the options can feel over- whelming. So, we keep it simple: Four new themes and four fresh suggestions every issue. Take your pick. BY SARAH DEARNE. A traditional Þorrablót spread including sheep’s head, ram’s testicles, Greenland shark, and blood pudding. Photo by The blanz, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0. Warm water and conversation at Laugardalur pool. Photo by Ragnar Th. Sigurðsson / Visit Reykjavík. n Reykjavík n Patreksfjörður n Selárdalur Tálknafjörður n n Vestmannaeyjar n Akureyri n Hofsós