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icelandic sheep

As national symbols go, the sheep isn’t the flashiest of them all. In fact, most tourists prefer the cute and cuddly puffin to adorn their commemorative key chains and fridge magnets rather than the trusty sheep. Throughout history, however, the animal that has earned the love and respect of Icelanders is the sheep. It enjoys high cultural status, not just as a staple in the traditional Icelandic diet, but also for keeping locals warm.

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Breakthrough in Dýrafjörður Tunnel Celebrated

The final explosion to clear the Dýrafjörður tunnel will be performed tomorrow. A special ceremony will be held to celebrate the fact that the construction of the tunnel has gone extremely well. Minister of Transport Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson will attend the ceremony and assist with finishing the job with a special ceremonial explosion at 14.30.

The first explosion was made on September 14, 2017, so it only took 19 months to dig the 5300-metre long tunnel. The digging crew set an Icelandic record by digging 111 metres in a single week. No significant delays took place, and no aquifers were hit nor was there any difficulties breaking through the rock.

The tunnel will assist with transport security in the Westfjords, as residents had to rely on Vestfjarðavegur road which is often closed in the wintertime. When the tunnel will be fully completed, it will shorten the Vestfjarðarvegur route by 27 kilometres, as well as providing a stable and secure route. The tunnel will open towards Dýrafjörður on the north side and Arnarfjörður on the south side.

Travellers heading to Dynjandi waterfall will now enjoy a shorter route to their destination.

The contractors Suðurverk and Metrostave have invited townsfolk from Ísafjörður and Þingeyri to the ceremony. Buses will go from Kjarnastaðir at 12.45 into the working zone, while two buses will go back and forth from Ísafjörður. People are reminded to come appropriately dressed, and with proper footwear. As the area is still a construction zone, individuals under 18 years will not be allowed to enter.

The formal ceremony begins at 14.00, and the men’s choir Ernir will sing a couple of songs before the Minister will perform the final explosion. Light refreshments will be served. The ceremony is planned to last until about 15.30.

Further information about the Dýrafjörður tunnel can be found here – http://www.vegagerdin.is/Verkefnavefir/Dyrafjardargong.nsf (English information at the bottom).

Hallgrímskirkja Tower Closed for Five Weeks

hallgrímskirkja reykjavík
Hallgrímskirkja tower will be closed to visitors for five weeks while its lift is replaced. According to Vísir, the new lift is both faster and safer than the current one, which has been taking visitors up and down the landmark for 50 years. The tower is a popular tourist site due to its panoramic view of Reykjavík.
Sigríður Hjálmarsdóttir, Hallgrímskirkja’s CEO, says the tower will close to visitors on April 23, and is expected to remain closed for five weeks. If the project remains on schedule, it should be completed around May 27.
The new lift, like the one it will replace, is manufactured by Schindler. It is however a special type of “safety” lift which can be used during a fire. Just like the old lift, it can accomodate 6-8 people at a time, though it travels significantly faster. While Hallgrímskirkja’s current lift travels at one metre (3.3 feet) per second, the new one will travel 1.6 metre per second (5.2 feet).
The renovation will cost the church around ISK 40 million ($330,000/€295,000). Considering that admission to the tower put ISK 238 million (USD 2.3 million/EUR 2 million) in Hallgrímskirkja’s coffers in 2016, it appears to be a good investment.