The Problem With Cairns

In Iceland, the major architectural monuments from the past are also way-finding cairns of stones passing across inhospitable terrain. They were essential for commerce and the maintaining of a low technology culture in a harsh environment. They are now essential links to the past, as important to Icelanders as, say, the pyramids in Egypt or the Strasbourg Cathedral in France. In other words, they led somewhere, and still lead somewhere important, even as people continue to try to read them.

Aimlessness at Þingvellirvatn

Unfortunately, many contemporary visitors to Iceland, being humans and liking to make their own presence into lasting magical gestures, a signature of their kind, obscure the landscapes with their mark-making. Please don’t. It’s ugly and aimless. They don’t let you do it in Paris. Respect goes a long way towards creating beauty.

2 thoughts on “The Problem With Cairns

  1. annarashbrook

    I so agree! Here in the mountains in Austria,we find them ever more often. A sign this area is getting more popular. I’m very tempted to kick them over, but I might hurt my foot!

    1. Harold Rhenisch Post author

      The Icelandic government has been actively dismantling these things, with positive results. Now we’re seeing them crop up in Canada, too. I’m glad you saved your foot! I suspect there’s a market for stone-kicking boots with reinforced, shock-absorbing toes.


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