The WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge provides the theme of Weathered.
Most likely there will be several entries for this theme, but one sprang to mind immediately.
During my visit to the wonderful, photogenic country of Iceland, I set my base just outside the second largest city of Akureyri; Akureyri is very much an industrious town with lots of practical appeal. From there I explored the region, which led me to the Herring Era Museum in the picturesque town of Siglufjörður.
Here I found something a little weathered…
This wonderful texture was on one of the ancillary buildings. The museum certainly gives a great sense of the time period of the herring boom, and bust, and is worth a visit!
One of the things about Dutch culinary habits that is hard to understand for a lot of people outside the Netherlands, is our passion for eating raw herring. There even is a holiday (semi-official) associated with this passion: Vlaggetjesdag (Day of the Small Flags).
Originally, this referred to the day that the ships would first test their engines after lying still during the winter, before going out to sea for the herring catch. There was a set day for this event, after Whitsun Sunday, when the ships would parade in the harbor decorated with small flags between their masts.
Nowadays, Vlaggetjesdag is celebrated when the first catch of herring returns to harbor, or, more accurately, when the first New Herring (the new season’s catch) is made available to the public for consumption. On this day, usually around the middle of June, there will be lines at the herring vendors and happy, smiling faces when the herring is consumed.
This first herring catch is big business. Every year, the first barrel that makes it into harbor is auctioned with the proceeds going to charity; this barrel can go for well in excess of 50,000 euros and has been close to 100,000 euros on occasion.
Also, newspapers will publish their review of whose herring is the best of that year’s catch. Winning this contest can result in a couple of extra euros per herring for that vendor and lines that are out of this world.
So, next time you make it to the Netherlands around mid-June, go check out the herring and enjoy a couple of these delicacies!
This week’s stop is in Iceland, where I made an all too short, 4-day stop last year on the way back from Europe. This country is full of photogenic spots, all deserving time to be explored and presented.
These images are from the Herring Era Museum in Siglufjörður, a small town on one of the numerous fjords on the Northern coast of Iceland. It is one of the many towns, villages and areas along the north and east coast of Iceland that were deeply affected by the arrival of the herring adventure around the beginning of the 20th century.
Nowhere did the herring adventure have such an impact as in Siglufjörður. Norwegian fishermen came sailing on their herring vessels during the summer of 1903, and thereby the Herring Adventure had started. Within forty years this once tiny little village had transformed into a thriving town of more than three thousand inhabitants.
For years the entire life of Siglufjörður centred on the herring catch and its processing – the town’s twenty-three salting stations and five reducing factories were a living reminder of that. Siglufjörður was also one of the most important ports in Iceland and on more than one occasion the herring exported from the town accounted for over 20% of the nation’s total exports.
As the herring adventure progressed, a goldrush-like atmosphere settled over the town, leading to Siglufjörður been dubbed the “Atlantic Klondike”. The town also became a magnet for herring speculators who came and went, some making a lot of money during the stay, and others not. With its booming industry, Siglufjörður also became a mecca for tens of thousands of workers and labourers seeking employment.
When bad weather and storms broke, the sheltered waters of the fjord became home to a massed fleet of hundreds of herring ships. Life on land was just as colourful, the streets of Siglufjörður so jammed with crowds and activities that they resembled the teeming avenues of major cities.
Marine resources are notoriously unstable, and herring is no exception. Following depressed catch figures in the years around 1950, herring stocks began to be fished as never before. This was due to a new and more efficient fishing technology developed by Icelandic pioneers. Other countries were quick in claiming these advances for themselves.
The years that followed continued to underscore the decline of catches and fortunes in Siglufjörður and its surrounding area, eventually turning it into the sleepy, beautiful town that it is today.