Tag Archives: Eldborg

Art and Nature in a Quarry: It’s an Icelandic Thing

Eldborg, the Tephra Cone that translates as Fire Mountain, in Krysuvik…is a beautiful place, rarely visited….

… is a beautiful place…

You can get close to life there.

The road’s not even busy.

Two generations ago, when it looked out over an active quarry, …
… it was a major site for native Icelandic tourism. One of Iceland Air’s original jets is named after it.

Does this look like a jet to you? No? If you’re Icelandic, it might.

It was part of a network of walking paths, where Icelanders could celebrate all things Icelandic, including the beauty of Kjarval’s paintings, which a few aging Icelandic hikers still do by lunching in Kjarvalstaðir, his gallery in Reykjavik…

… but that’s about it. Icelandic artists are too worldly now to make much of his trolls and elves and such like.

Eldborg

They’re into environmental protection and other more modern mythologies, which they have embraced with great verve, but it’s good to remember that in Icelandic culture the capacity remains to see art, nature and a gravel quarry together, as one thing. The same can be said of rivers: quarries, all.

Bessastaðaá

Yes, a quarry.

 

Fire Mountain Erupts!

This is Eldborg, “Fire Mountain.”

It used to lie on the main road to the East.

Now it’s out of the way and forgotten in a barren land.

But don’t drive past. It’s beautiful on Fire Mountain.

At Midsummer, the mountain erupts again.

And comes to life.


Or life comes to it.

Hard to say which.

Both at once, perhaps. Note how just for a couple weeks, every glob of stone develops a body and lives.

It is a fantastical riot of life. Everything is alive.

And then the mountain goes back to solemnly watching the Grindavik Road.

All kinds of people.

All kinds of watching.

Three Ways of Looking at Iceland

One way to look at Iceland is to visit a popular tourist site. Gerðuberg, for instance, a half-kilometre-long chain of basalt blocks.

The government sees to its popularity. The project is to keep tourists moving, and to give them a stop or two now and then to refresh. It’s a technique learned over a thousand years of sheep herding. Humans aren’t sheep, of course, but we do have physical needs. Air, for instance. Light. Spiritual purpose. That kind of thing. For that, some places are better than others. Gerðuberg is a great one: the first place you’ll stop, two hours out of Reykjavik on your one-day-long and way-too-quick way around the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. You’re going to want to stretch your legs by that time. But don’t be fooled. By the time you get to Gerðuberg’s natural wonders, you’ve already passed the second way of seeing. It was on the road in.

You see, every natural wonder in Iceland is framed by a long history of human struggle. These post-war North American metal sheds are used as barns everywhere. It’s no longer the fashion, but hundreds are still in use, just as they are (for instance) on the Canadian Prairies. You can see Gerðuberg and its crater in the background. You are getting closer to Iceland now. Crater? Yes.

The Third way of seeing. Well, you passed it, too, probably wondering where you could stop to take a photo.


This is Eldborg, or Fire Mountain. There are numerous Eldborgs in Iceland. This is a fine one.

The answer is: off a little side road, and then along a 2.5 km trail across private land. Other than that, no-one has made a spot for you to stop, except for Gerðuberg. But there’s a trick to this third way. You will probably be lulled by Gerðuberg. You might just miss Eldborg, because you’re looking the other way. And that’s the secret to the third way of seeing in Iceland: turn around.