I have never seen Himalayan blue poppies. And I never expected to see them in Iceland. And those poppies are incredibly beautiful.
Gail and I continue our circle tour of Iceland. On the East side, there is a little seashore town called Seydisfjorder , inhabited by 700 people. Built in around 1840s as a trading center by Norwegians, it made its wealth from herring. During summer months, there is a ferry from Norway to Seydisfjorder. It is lovely town which attracts many artists.
By the end of our trip, Seydisfjorder became one of our favorite towns in Iceland.
The most striking effect starts before we enter the town spiraling down from the mountains speckled with beautiful waterfalls, fields of wild flowers (Gail can name some of them: lupin, Icelandic thyme, and buttercups), and moss coverings.
The town is dotted with colorful houses just like any other town or city in Iceland. Our favorite ones are the light blue little church, where they hold concerts, and a bright blue house.
Icelandic people color their houses with bright primary colors. Their towns look like toy-towns from a distance. Just walking around any city or town makes you feel good just because of these colorful houses.
We ask the locals about the colorful houses and the answers vary, but the story, more or less goes like this:
In the mid-1800’s British ships brought corrugated iron , a highly effective insulation and durable material, to Reykjavik when they came to buy sheep. People in Iceland start building their houses with the corrugated iron. However the material needed to be painted to stop them from rusting. They used the leftover paint (usually with bright colors) from shipping yards.
Using corrugated iron was a great solution since there are no forests in Iceland that can provide timber.
Speaking about the forests in Iceland, there is a great joke about it:
Question: “What do you do when you get lost in the forest in Iceland? Answer: “You stand up.”
When we arrive at Seydisfjorder, we park our car and start walking around this little town. We take a side street as if we are the locals. And we are awestruck. A beautiful garden is greeting us. An old lady is proudly tending her garden. She doesn’t know English. We don’t know any Icelandic. She invites us to her garden. Our love for flowers does not require any language. Just looking at our faces is enough to tell how much we appreciate the beauty.
And the most striking ones of all the flowers in her garden are the Himalayan blue poppies. Their truly beautiful blue petals and golden yellow anthers are a perfect match in nature.
Our little lady with a beautiful garden shows us every corner of her garden. She has painted stones. From her hand language, we think she painted them during the long winter nights dreaming about how they will look next to the flowers.
You can see how much effort she has put into her garden. You can also see how high-spirited she is. I feel deeply that she loves life.
We thank her and walk towards another street where we find a little café. We sit outside soaking the sun in and feel like a local among the tables filled with cheerful Icelandic people. Two little girls are playing nearby jumping up and down on a pile of sod. They are dressed in colorful clothes, just like the houses.
We finish our coffee. We get into our little car and drive to our next destination. We are not worried if it is getting dark. We are only worried that there may not be any food left at the next hotel and there is a chance that there might not be a restaurant nearby.
Greeting an evening (with full sun) with a glass of wine and fresh fish is waiting for us.
Bill Terry’s book, Blue Heaven: Encounters with the Blue Poppy, talks about his encounters with this indescribable beauty. He also has a website http://meconopsis.ca/ totally dedicated to meconopsis.
You can also visit http://www.meconopsis.org/, a nonprofit organization totally dedicated to these species. I found out that the Himalayan blue poppies we have seen are Meconopsis Grandis (very rare and hard to cultivate).