5. The collection
In the last three decades, hundreds of thousands of people visited Petra. Understandably this has affected the daily life of her family. Many of her guests, who come here to view her stones, fail to realize that they are visiting a private home. The house and garden, especially in the last few years, have taken the shape of a nature museum but never the less Sunnuhlíð was primarily Petra's home. She didn´t mind the inconvenience because she felt it very rewarding to be surrounded with all these people.
When the long Icelandic winter comes to an end, the task of spring-cleaning awaits the family. As one can imagine this is no easy task. First of all the fallen leaves, flowers and other plants have to be cleaned up along with all kinds of litter that blows into the garden during the winter. Next, all the stones, both in the garden and inside the house, are taken from the benches and shelves and cleaned. This takes a few days and that time is used to fix all the shelves and benches that are worn out or broken. This time is also used for all other kinds of maintenance and construction work that is necessary.
The summer and fall are a busy season for the family. For the last ten years the number of guests in Sunnuhlíð has increased steadily and reached 20.000 in 2003. In July and August, a few hundred guests pay a visit each day, and it is not uncommon to find over one hundred visitors viewing the collection at the same time. For the past few years Petra´s mineral collection has been the most popular tourist attraction in East Iceland.
Petra's guests come from all over the world and are sometimes a colourful group of people and through the years she had a number of memorable visits. Few years ago a group of twelve cyclists from Italy arrived. They had been travelling around Iceland for a few days when they were drenched in a rainstorm. Petra took them in, gave them food and shelter and dried all their clothes before they continued on their journey. In her guest-books, many stories similar to this one can be found. Many years ago three tired young Americans called in and Petra offered them to sit down with her family and have supper with them and then offered them a bed to sleep in through the night. Thank-you letters from them and many others that have enjoyed her hospitality, still arrive at Sunnuhlíð.
An American that had been seriously wounded in the Vietnam War and was bound to a wheel chair, visited Petra here once. His group didn't have a lot of time to view the mineral collection and when they had to leave, the disabled man refused to go. After three hours he finally agreed to leave but he told Petra that after the visit, he knew what kind of place was waiting for him after this life and therefore he found his condition to be more tolerable. Another tourist had a similar feeling when he visited Sunnuhlíð. He left his shoes by the gate and said that this was a holy place and it wasn't proper to walk around with his shoes on.
People come here for all kinds of reasons. Most of them because of the beauty of the minerals, others come because of their interest in geology and others still because they believe that the stones possess some energy or power. Many guests come here repeatedly, for example a geology professor that had visited Petra over twenty times along with his graduate students and a group from a German institution for the blind.
Many show a very strong reaction to what they experience inside the collection. Some guests have started to cry when they walk in to the house and others have said that they had a strong physical reaction when they viewed the stones. Whether a beautiful stone holds the power of healing will never be proven. On the other hand there are many that belief in these powers and visit Petra´s in large numbers each year.