ICELAND- THE ISLAND OF SEVERE ROMANTIC

map_of_icelandIceland,  or ice and fire island, as it is written in promotion publications is an island in the north of Atlantic ocean and situates only 300 km. from Greenland. The island is 1,5 times bigger than Lithuania. The population is not huge :only 300 thousands citizens and 200 thousands of them are living in the capital called Reykjavik , which is the most northern capital in Europe. They have got no chimneys as they are using only geothermal energy for heating.  Also,  they don't use any natural minerals for electricity since of 99%  it is generated in geothermal power stations.  Hot water has a pungent sulfur scent, while cold ,is one of the cleanest water in the whole world. The country's economy are depending on fish prices,  therefore, the goverment strictly opposes to the accession the European Union for fear of losing fishing control, because  about  40% of country's total exports consist of fish and its products.

 

 

It is believed that the first settlers of Iceland were Irish monks arrived in the island about 800 AD.  Norwegian  Vikings moved to the island about IX-X century. Viking Floki Vilgerdarson gave the current name for the island- Iceland. Up to the 1814 yr. Iceland was a colony of Norway, later belonged to Denmark , in 1944 has been given independence.

_DSC4335It is interesting, that the island is the only place in the world ,which has a visible junction of two tectonic plates. This place is named Almagjau fracture (in local language "a simple man's brake"). In this place- Tingvelirr national park you can visit America and Europe only in a few minutes. There is no better and clearer place in the world shoving how lithospheric plates are moving away from each other. According to researches -Iceland will be split into two parts after many, many years. Every year, the crack increases by 2,54 cm. Now it is 4 meters wide and 40 meters deep. Many million years ago, when a crack opened and magma puffed out, Iceland has been formed as a volcanic island. Near Almagjau fracture, in national Tingvelirr park on 930 AD the oldest parliament in the whole world called Alting was set up. In 1991 with initiative of Iceland Foreign Minister John Baldwin Hanniballon Iceland was the first one who recognized Lithuanian independence after a long lasting dark Russian occupation.That is why Iceland and Icelandic people are very honored in my country.

Why travelling to Iceland was mesmerizing to me ? In my very youth I have read a book written by novelist Jules Verne called "A journey to the centre of the Earth".This story involves German professor Otto Lindenbrock who believes there are volcanic tubes going towards the center of the Earth. He, his nephew Axel and their guide Hans descended into the Iceland volcano Snaefellsjokull,  encountering many adventures before eventually coming to the surface again in southern Italy, at the Stromboli volcano. The idea to visit the land of magnificent volcanos, lava fields and various high and width waterfalls obsessed me and when I got a chance I went there as soon as I could. IMG_2680

It was known that traveling there would not have any comfort : instead of the warm Mediterranean beaches we were expecting a strong winds, rain and the average temperature of +10- 12  degrees even it was the end of July. Fortunately, we escaped the rain.  We had to change  our usual summer shoes into mountain boots and put wind and waterproofed jackets. If you want to see the harsh face of nature, to feel the strength of the wind,  to hear the unceasing songs of the waterfalls and the magnificent beauty of craters at the top of volcano  you must be ready for that.

_DSC4026Beauty of waterfalls, volcanos, glaciers,  lava fields created such a romance which you could not find anywhere else. In some places,  the  landscape looked more like a moon than the surface the  earth.

 

_DSC2825American astronauts were trained in those lava fields as they needed their eyes inure to the brown –black color of lava and would feel the harsh force of nature when they are left alone with it. Various forms and deeps caves are washed out of lava same as geysers and fumarole geothermal fields – hard to imagine that all has been created by the two elemental forces- water and fire. Travelling across the island you feel an unhurried charm of life and fell in love  with this harsh,  but very hospitable land.

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_DSC3334Our journey (by rented SUV ) started in the capital -Reykjavik ("Smokey Bay"in native language) The name was given by sailor called Ingofur Arnarson,  who found this place in IX century. More than half of the Iceland's inhabitants are living in Reykjavik .In the center of city they have an impressive Hallgrim Church, which basalt rocks are recalling the flowing lava._DSC2380 You can see the church from more than 20km. distance,  when  going up on a lift to the church tower you can see a wonderful panoramic view of Reykjavik.

_DSC2432 Near the church –the sculpture of Viking Leifur Eiriccson is built. He was the first known European who discovered a continental North America before Christofer Columbus. The  sculpture was donated to Iceland by America on 1000 th. anniversary of Altingo. There are a lot of cozy coffee shops in the city so as pedestrian streets. Since Icelanders strongly believe in elves and trolls you can see lots of sculptures beside the stores. Icelandic people believe that they are bringing good luck for sellers._DSC3118

Unfortunately,  we had to leave this beautiful city as we had to prepare and hike to the highest cascade of Glymur Falls. To reach it we had to climb up the steep slope while the very strong crosswind was. But the beauty that opened on the top was worth an effort we have put._DSC2445

Catching waterfall cascades were fallen into a narrow mountain gorge,  around it–a field of huge lava stones._DSC2466

They looked like surreal sculptures which being started creating by man but not finished and left as it is. By the way, going down the slope was much more difficult than climbing up, the wind was so strong,  the trail was stony and narrow. One careless step would be enough to fall and go down the gorge._DSC2731

Later on, we headed to Snaefellsness peninsula,  famous for its extraordinary landscape :  variety   of volcanoes, craters, lava fields, black lava beaches and impressive crater of Holahor volcano._DSC3251

_DSC2585Most of Icelandic craters , waterfalls, volcanoes having their own legends

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_DSC3135 Godafoss waterfall– was named after God when Icelanders threw all the idols , which they were worshiping, after converting to Christianity. The Swartifoss–dark waterfall. Gulfoss waterfall which in 1907 was saved by a local girl called Sigridur from planning to build a power station.

_DSC4236 There is a monument built for persistent girl just next to the waterfall.

_DSC4216Detifoss waterfall is the most powerful in Europe. Barnafoss (children waterfall)–in accordance with the legend of the Christmas morning. Parents went to the church and children walked behind them. They were trying to shorten the way and go through the stone arch that spanned the ridges of waterfall, but unfortunately ,sank into the water and drowned. After that, their mother cursed the arch and said that everyone that will pass through the arch, die. But after a short time the earthquake broke the arch.

The Swartifoss fall falling from basaltic columns is called troll's fingers.  Seljadenfoss fall which is passable between  cliffs  and water–has name of  "Traders Waterfall "._DSC3877

Iceland is  volcanic island. It contains many volcanos : Hekla, Katla, Efjafadjokulis, Askja, Hvannadalshnukur (the highest peak of country, higest point  2,110 meters)_DSC4048.The most famous is the Efjafadjokudli volcano, which erupted in 2010  when large volumes of dissolved glacier ice flooded up to the ocean, 800 people were evacuated, the erupted volcano spread the massive cloud of volcano ashes,  hence caused the closing of the airspace in the most part of Europe. A documentary film about volcano eruption and its consequences was created and shown by the farmer in the farmstead, located  at the foot of the volcano. _DSC3852

The whole farmstead was covered with thick layer of ashes, but nowadays people are well-kept living there, as well as to live up to the crash. Hekla volcano is called "The gates to the hell"._DSC2475

Because of the centures of oppression and deprivation, Icelanders fostering their language, managed to maintain their national identity and customs.  Icelandic language almost have not changed since Viking times and their myths and tales have passed from mouth to mouth, they started to write much later. It's incredible, that Iceland has the Nobel Prize winner Hallidor Laxness, a great storyteller, excellent painter of Icelandic scenery and settings.

_DSC3936We continued our journey through lava fields, pseudo-craters towards Myvatno (mosquitos) lake._DSC4339 Lake formed about 2300 years ago during the eruption of lava. This is a place of frequent earthquakes. It is real kingdom of birds and also the only place where we found mosquitos.

_DSC3294 We saw another unusual natural phenomenon at the surroundings of lake Myvatna–vapor rasing from the earth –fumaroles and the "dark cities" that has been created by fuzed maze of the hardened lava. It was so pleased to float into the Myvatna geothermal lagoon pool after this long journey. We climbed to the top of waterfalls and volcanic craters and everything was so _DSC3168beautiful that we did not feel the cold wind, which was ripping our clothes or icy needles stabbing our faces. More than 50 hot springs are sprayed in the geothermal valley of southwestern. They are bubbling a dirt from the small holes._DSC4126

_DSC4150There are two powerful geysers –Geysir and Strokur (Mixer). Even the generic word "geyser" comes from a hot-spitting geyser which means "constantly rushing". The stream erupts every 7-8 minutes, rises 20 meters up or even higher. There is the largest glacier in Europe called Vatnajokull with a thickness of up to 1 km. Glacier floats into the ocean and it is a great attraction to sail between big icebergs like in Artic._DSC3715_DSC3714

It is impossible to fit entire unique beauty of nature in a short story. It is necessary to see, to feel the wind power on a volcano crater, see the boundless lava fields,  and image herself being in Arctic when sailing amongst icebergs. Is nice to see the whales playing in the ocean, to smell the sulfur coming from the hot springs , bathe in the famous open– air  "Blue Lagoon".  Great nostalgia occurs when you are  listening  the  endless waterfall music, maybe telling mysterious stories of elves and trolls or of  a  brave Vikings who  found  this island centuries ago…. _DSC3430

_DSC2625Of course,  it was necessary to taste fried whale meat, their delicacies –fried sheep's head and rotted shark. Icelanders are hard working people. Summers here are very short, most of time is just continues polar darkness. The tourist period is very short as well. There is only a few hotels so the students dormitories are transformed into hotels or guest houses at summer time.

_DSC3863_DSC3335There are lots of campsites near the geothermal springs , so the tourists,  living in the tents can rejoice bathing in them after the long traveling day. In summer the country is "occupied" by tourists: cyclists, pedestrians and powerful SUV's. _DSC3995

_DSC3066The vegetation is very poor, even in the botanical garden,  there are no exotic flowers ,only ones that doesn't require a lot of sun and warmness can blossom here. 

Icelanders also have a very interesting forming of surnames: a child gets father's  name with suffix "son" or "dottir"(daughter). They also have one of the longest living age in the world. Icelanders say it's  because of eating a lot of meat and drinking coffee.

What we usually expect from traveling?  For me–journeys fulfill my dreams and lift my life into the  higher level. I love meeting a new people when traveling, listen new languages, became familiar with traditional meals,customs, smells and sounds which are common to this country. When travelling –don't scatter in the past, expect  anything  in  uncertain future, enjoy the present moment. You  experience life in a completely different, unusual rhytm and enjoy knowing that your long awaited dream finally came true.  And don't be afraid to dream big !.

For those who want to know  more about  the Icelanders, their mode of life I would recommend to read the book written by Halligmur Helgason "The Thousand Degree Woman"

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Leonarda Sarakauskiene :info@sarakauskiene.lt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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