Pingvellir National Park. This national park in Iceland is where the Althing, an open-air assembly representing the whole of Iceland, was established in 930 A.D. It continued to meet until 1798.
What do Pingvellir National Park, Halldór Laxness, Vigdis Finnbogadottir, Seljalandsfoss, Parfasti Pjonninn, E-15, Strokkur, and the Aurora Borealis, have in common? They are all geographically or historically connected to Iceland.
Iceland is a European country the size of our Pennsylvania. Iceland became a free democratic country in 1944 while Denmark was being invaded by the Nazis.
Mr. Laxness won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955 writing The Independent People. Atlantic Monthly said this about his work: “A strange story, vibrant and alive…There is a rare beauty in its telling, a beauty as surprising as the authentic strain of poetry that lies in the shoving, battering Icelander.” When one visits Iceland, one wants to know more about its history and its people. Mr. Laxness’s book introduces you to this land and its people.
E15 is the name of the place where the 2010 volcano spewed so much ash from its cauldron that international flights had to be cancelled for lack of visibility over Iceland. The name of this volcano site in southern Iceland was so difficult for the journalists to pronounce that they nicknamed it the E15 site. Its name is Eyjafjallajokull. The researchers found that this volcano violently reacted with nearby glacial water. This rapid cooling made the magma contract and fragment into fine, jagged motes of ash. Near the end of the eruption, equally fine, porous ash was generated when small gas bubbles trapped in the molten rock expanded as the magma neared the surface. This volcanic activity had the effect on the atmosphere causing the airlines to cancel flights.
Vigdis Finnbogadottir became the world’s first democratically directly elected female president in the world. Her political campaigns encouraged reforestation of Iceland. She served from 1980 to 1996. Iceland is slowly planting trees mostly birch and aspen which provide a beautiful fall golden landscape next to the lava, mountains, green grasses. and mosses. She likens cultivating trees to bringing up children saying that cultivating the land had close connections to nurturing humans. That cultivation has its foundation in how young people are raised. Vigdis continues to serve as a UNESCO Goodwill ambassador.
Seljalandsfoss is one of 10,000 waterfalls of Iceland. It is connected to the Seljalands River and has its origin in the volcano glacier Eyjafjallajokull. The interesting part of this waterfall is that you can walk behind the waterfall and on trails that go to the top and to other waterfalls.
Parfasti Pjonninn (most useful servant) are the famous Icelandic horses. They are unusual compared to European horses. They were introduced to Iceland by the first Nordic settlers. They have adapted to the cool climate by growing a thick overcoat for winter, which they shed in the spring. They are known as useful servants since they provide transportation for the residents when the roads are bad. These horses have unusual additional steps in addition to the conventional walk. These steps are the tolt or running walk and the skeio or flying pace. Because the horse has these steps, they can provide a comfortable ride in the saddle. Icelandic horses are special to the Icelandic people.
Strokkur provides wonderful scenery. The eruption pours forth from the earth a geyser that starts as a blue bubble. Iceland is on a hot spot. Iceland rests on the boundary where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. It is also an area of intense volcanic activity and geothermal energy. The blue bubble (below, left) erupts about every ten minutes (below, right).
The aurora borealis or northern lights pulse across the winter sky. The lights originate in the sun as charged particles that move from the sun and contact with the earth’s magnetic field and ultimately drawn to the magnetic poles. You need to choose a cold, clear, moonless night around 11 p.m. or 3 a.m. You can download an aurora forecast app to check for times and forecasts.
To experience awe we suggest visiting Iceland through books, videos, or photos. We want to return.
Contributed by: Rosemary Hume
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