Tag Archives: waterfall

The Best Waterfall in Iceland

It used to be possible to walk up to these falls near Kirkjubærjarklaustur, but it has been closed off due to disrespect, especially illegal camping. You can still spot its trolls from a distance, though, if you have a good eye. Do pay your respects with a nod, at least, and for Troll’s sakes, respect those farms and their stock. The place should be a UNESCO site.

Imagine going up to this troll, through all these stone bones and heads, and collecting water for the farmhouse at its foot. It was here that I learned that trolls keep humans because humans keep sheep and trolls really like sheep. A humbling and always slightly uncertain relationship.

Iceland’s Elves Are Scarcely Hiding at Midsummer

It’s one of the things about the height of summer in Iceland: everything comes alive. Lichens give elvish faces to every rock, water moves more mysteriously, and the faces that peer from nearly every rock are more intense. You should have no difficulty spotting many faces in the rocks round this little waterfall on the Stapavík Trail.

Thing is, some of them are more intense than others and hit somewhere very deep inside one’s spirit.

See that yet? maybe? Maybe not? Let’s look again, then:

The elves are never far.

A Window into the Icelandic Soul

Here’s the deal. For over 1,000 years, that’s 40 generations or so, maybe more, or about 2.5% of the human experience on Earth,when you wanted a drink of water for 8 months of the year, this is where you got it: from within ice.

Out the Back Door of a Lost Croft on Stekkur

And ice was a power of negation from outside of the world. You had, in other words, to reach into the enemy, right outside of the human world, to survive. And you sent your kids out to get this water. From there. And they did it. And this was called independence; for almost all Icelanders, if you wanted children you had to accept a bargain of absolute poverty like this. There is no moral to this story. Still, when we look at Inspired by Iceland’s images of the country:

Well, just remember you’re looking at 40 generations of Icelandic children approaching the Frost Giants and stealing life. The theft goes on.

Hiding in Plain Sight

While getting boots and gloves and hat ready to go over the lip of the hill last December 24 and visit Sheep’s Falls, one of my favourite waterfalls, many tourists stopped as well: the first stop, it seems, two or three hard hours of driving from Reykjavik. Time and again, they took a few pictures over the Berserkerjahraun to the rising sun, and then posed for each others’ cameras and drove on. It was intimate and sweet.

Still, they had Kirkjufoss to get to before the rising sun was no longer behind the mountain, and they didn’t need me telling them it would be worth it to walk for ten minutes down through the drifts, because they might not have come to Iceland to see the pale, pale winter sun and to learn its nature. They had places to be getting along to, with better cameras and the hope for brighter light, and promises had been made to them, and promises, we know, should be kept.

Just imagine how many times a day any and every traveller in Iceland, myself included, encounters people who know where they are and what is worth seeing and say nothing, because that’s the way of the land itself. As Paul Theroux pointed out half a century ago while travelling by train through South America, it’s North Americans (myself included) who point to stuff.

The Secret Origin of Icelandic Horses Revealed at Last

Icelandic horses are very beautiful, especially in a winter gale. Icelanders will tell you that their ancestors brought them over from Norway by ship. Sure, guys.

Let me take you behind the curtains of that little deception. It might look easy to be an Icelandic horse…

… but like being an Icelander …

… it can be a little rough. Really tough on the hair, for one.

Not only that, but tense, like.

Makes a horse a little crazed, you might think.

Watch out for your ears.

Yeah, but that is all because horses didn’t come over on boats from Norway and continue on to create America out of a lump of clay…


…just as Icelanders aren’t vikings but the descendants of Norwegian farmers and their Irish slaves, who came here for the good hotdogs.

As for the horses, they live near waterfalls. It’s a thing.

Svodufoss

Note the horses being born above. You can just make them out below, too.

The paddock is nearby, where humans can keep an eye on the miracle.

Hólmskelsárfoss

Miracle? Yes. Here’s a foal just about to be born in the stream coming down from the falls.
Hólmskelsá

That’s how it works in a magical country. That the resulting horses look like the horses you might meet elsewhere, well…

… that’s part of the magic, too.

Now you know.

Welcome to the 21st Century, Gunnar

 

Gunnar argued for the independence of Iceland during Germany’s military struggles of the 1940s, on the principle that the land is written in the chain-linked patterns of the Icelandic sagas, with the suggestion that the Icelanders wrote the sagas in response to the chain-link rhymes of the land.

Grundarfjördur

His observation is obvious. Equally obvious is how poor a tool such observations are for deflecting a military conqueror. Less obvious is the point that when you are from the land and have nothing and yet have to do something, you use what you have. Still, the approach has its dangers. It might stress one form of pattern, for instance, but it obscures another. So, let’s look at Gunnar’s saga again. This time, note the story of trolls and ogres written in the rock.

Gunnar was a humanist, a twentieth century man. This tale of ogres and epic battles is one he could have told as well, including how it generates the water of life as cold passes into warmth. That he didn’t is an example of how writers adapt to their audience. It is also an example of how we can re-read them, and free them… and us.