Egil

On a calm, clear evening the sunset at Borgarnes campsite is spectacular.  There is a clear view to the west, and the sun sets over the shore of the fjord, lighting up the tide-washed mud of the inlet.  Here, so goes the story, the coffin of Kveldulf washed ashore sometime in the late ninth century after the old man died on the voyage from Norway.  Usually when they were approaching Iceland the settlers would throw overboard the ‘high seat pillars’ from their hall back in Norway, and found a new farm wherever they washed up.  Kveldulf was a darker character altogether; he gave instructions that his son should set up a farm where his coffin came ashore.  And that was in this bay, by which I was going to camp after my day on Esja and around Hvalfjörður.

Sunset at Borgarnes campsite

Sunset at Borgarnes campsite

A short time after the sun had set, a tremendous full moon rose above the mountains across the fjord to the southeast (Borgarnes lies on a peninsula that juts into Borgarfjörður from the northeast).  This seemed somehow fitting, for as anyone familiar with the Scandinavian languages will have noticed, Kveldulf means ‘Evening Wolf’.  Shape-shifting was generally looked down on by the saga writers, and Kveldulf’s werewolf reputation is little more than hinted at.  But he certainly was a berserk, and the two things often went together.  Friendly and hardworking in the mornings, he had a reputation for becoming increasingly difficult and even violent as night approached.

Moonrise

Moonrise

P1000504 P1000507

His son Skallagrim (Bald Grim!) inherited much of his father’s character, but was generally able to keep it under control.  Occasionally it would break out, as on one occasion at a local gathering, again near the campsite at the northern end of the peninsula.  Skallagrim was competing in a game against his twelve-year old son Egil, and Egil’s older friend, and he seemed to be losing.  However, as evening came on he was filled with a tremendous strength; he grabbed Egil’s friend and dashed him to the ground so hard that he died instantly.  Egil would have suffered the same fate, but his childhood nurse Brak shouted at Skallagrim, shaming him with his bestial lack of control.  Skallagrim turned on her instead, chasing her the length of the peninsula, and then hurling a great rock to drown her as she tried to swim to safety on an island just offshore.

Brákarsund, scene of Skallagrim's least worthy killing; the cairn reads 'Here Skallagrim drowned Brák'.

Brákarsund, scene of Skallagrim’s least worthy killing; the cairn reads ‘Here Skallagrim drowned Brák’.

That evening the twelve-year-old Egil walked into their hall with an axe and drove it into the skull of Skallagrim’s foreman and favourite servant.  Then he sat down and they ate as if nothing had happened; but father and son didn’t speak to each other all winter.  As you may have realised, Egil was not your average child.  He had already committed his first killing aged six following a playground squabble.  Amusingly, his mother didn’t even scold him for this first killing, instead proclaiming proudly that he had the makings of a great Viking.

Borg in the Marshes, site of Skallagrim and Egil's farm.

Borg in the Marshes, site of Skallagrim and Egil’s farm.

Egil certainly was a terrific Viking, and won great renown and wealth fighting for Athelstan of England at the battle of Brunanburh.  However, at the site of his home, just outside Borgarnes, it is not as a warrior, but as a poet that he is remembered.  An abstract statue in front of the church there recalls a poem Egil wrote following the drowning of one of his sons, a short time after the death of another.  It is a long poem, but I will quote a few verses:

4.
My stock
stands on the brink,
pounded as plane trees
on the forest’s rim,
no man is glad
who carries the bones
of his dead kinsman
out of the bed.

7.
The sea-goddess
has ruffled me,
stripped me bare
of my loved ones:
the ocean severed
my family’s bonds,
the tight knot
that ties me down.

25.
Now my course is tough:
Death, close sister
of Odin’s enemy
stands on the ness:
with resolution
and without remorse
I shall gladly
await my own.

Egil and Bodvar

Egil and Bodvar

The poem and the story behind its composition reveal great sensitivity and deep anguish.  These seem quite at odds with his tough exterior, but this contrast is just what makes Egil real to me; people’s characters are often contradictory.  It is the warrior who is not capable of sadness or ‘poetry’ that is frightening and unnatural to us today, and the sagas seem to suggest that the Vikings felt the same way.  The greatest warriors in the sagas are poets like Bjorn of Hitardal, or are afraid of the dark like Grettir and Gisli, or in Gunnar of Hliðarendi’s case suffer confusion because they feel guilt at killing, though society tells them this is unmanly.  The few characters who are simply the psychopathic killing machines we tend to imagine when we think of the Vikings are eventually shunned even by their closest friends and relatives.

A moment of sun at the campsite; Borg in the distance

A moment of sunshine at the campsite; Borg in the distance, where the church stands today.

After visiting Borg in the rain the next morning, the site of Skallagrim and Egil’s farm below the rocky outcrop in the marshland that is the ‘borg’ (fortress), I headed back into Borgarnes.  I swam in the almost empty swimming pool, where gratuitous use of the water slides, steam bath, and hot pools counteracted the rain that continued to fall throughout.  Clean, warm, and briefly dry, I returned to the main street through a park where I came across the burial mound of Skallagrim, in which Egil also buried his son Bodvar.  A bronze cast in relief beside the cairn showed the devastated Egil carrying Bodvar’s limp body, and again I reflected that it is this moment of vulnerability in Egil’s life that we are most drawn to today.  And if reading it now moves us, it can only be because it moved the medieval Icelanders who told and wrote the stories about Egil.  Read it, and the emotion you feel connects you directly to those people and that time; and inevitably we realise that we are those same people.

Skallagrim's burial mound

Skallagrim’s burial mound

Up Mountain, Along Fjord

The mountain range of Esja lies across the fjord to the north of Reykjavík, and is a popular destination for walking amongst locals and tourists.  Peaking at 914m, it is a serious climb, though most walkers are happy to stop when they reach the top of one of the outlying ridges.  At about 800m, after a final hands and feet climb, the mountainside levels off and disappears up towards the central ridge; but it is rough, difficult ground further up, and the view is already fantastic at 800m.

Esja from Mógilsá

Esja from Mógilsá

I took the main path from Mógilsá up to the ridge of Þverfellshorn.  It was the last day of good weather for three weeks, and the view over Reykjavík and the fjords was superb.  In the distance I could see the entire northern coast of Reykjanes Peninsula, even out to the lighthouses at Garður where I had camped my first night, 50km away across the fjord.  Only the industrial shoreline of northern Reykjavík marred the view, but I was more interested in looking down the valley to the west of Þverfellshorn.

Reykjavík from Þverfellshorn

Reykjavík from Þverfellshorn

At the bottom of this valley lies the ancient saga site of Esjuberg, a farm established by some of the first Irish Christians to arrive after the Norse settlement had begun (speculation abounds as to whether Irish monks or even settlers had made it to Iceland before the vikings arrived, only to think better of it when they met their new neighbours).  They were initially welcomed by the open-minded local chieftain, the pagan Helgi Bjolan, whose father had ruled the extensively Christianised Scottish islands for a time.  However, when his more aggressive son and grandson took over relations soon deteriorated.  According to the Saga of the People of Kjalarnes a young man of Irish descent called Bui lived at Esjuberg with his Irish foster-mother Esja, a Christian and a magic-user.  This was an unusual combination in the world of the sagas, but very useful to Bui.

Esjuberg just out of sight at foot of valley; Seltjarnarnes at the end of Reykjavík Peninsula in middle distance; Garður and Reykjanes Peninsula just below horizon.

Esjuberg just out of sight at foot of valley; Seltjarnarnes at the end of Reykjavík Peninsula in middle distance; Garður and Reykjanes Peninsula just below horizon.

With her help Bui fought back against the new chieftain and his son when they tried to exile him for refusing to pay taxes to their temple to Thor.  He killed the son while he was worshipping in the temple, and then set it alight.  With Esja’s help he hid in a cave high up in the mountainside, somewhere above the valley I was now looking down 1100 years later.  Meanwhile down at the foot of the valley the chieftain set out to avenge his son, but when he couldn’t find Bui he instead killed his old friend and sworn-brother, Bui’s father.  So, as is the nature of a feud, no one really won.  However, years later Bui and the chieftain were reconciled, and Bui married his daughter, so there seemed to be a happy ending; until Bui was killed wrestling a son he had fathered on a beautiful troll princess in the mountains of Norway.  This may serve as a timely reminder to treat all the stories in the sagas with healthy suspicion!

Driving along the road afterwards I was able to see the site of Esjuberg, still an active farm, off to the right against the mountain.  Further on there is good farmland in the area where Helgi Bjolan and his descendants had their farm.  This area was once heavily wooded, according to the saga, but like around Reykjavík, it was all used up and destroyed in the first centuries of occupation.

Akrafjall at mouth of Hvalfjörður

Akrafjall at mouth of Hvalfjörður

To the north of the mountain range Esja lies Hvalfjörður (Whale Fjord), a long, narrow fjord that carves its way into south-western Iceland.  I wanted to get to the head of the fjord, for two reasons: the waterfall Glymur, and the island of Geirshólmi.  I got a lucky lift with a young Austrian man who had no fixed schedule and thought Glymur sounded interesting.  After driving the 35km to the end of the fjord, we set off on foot together on the two-hour return walk to Glymur, Iceland’s highest waterfall at 198m.  And the waterfall did not disappoint; spilling over the end of a terrifying gorge that climbed suddenly from the gentle valley floor, the fall disappeared out of sight into the depths of the chasm.  Seagulls flew around, below me in the gorge as often as above, and when I dared to peak over the crumbling edge I could see gull chicks in nests below me.  It was exhilarating, impressive, terrifying, and well worth the walk.

Viewing point for Glymur

Viewing point for Glymur

Glymur

Glymur

Back at the fjord Geirshólmi poked its tiny cliffs out of the water, silhouetted by the sinking sun.  On this islet, 50m across and only slightly longer, between 80 and 200 outlaws lived for a time, according to the Saga of Hord and the People of Holm.  From the mainland the island looked far too small to accommodate so many people, but the longhouses at Hafnir and in the 871±2 museum had taught me that the medieval Icelanders could sleep a lot of people in a very small space, so I reserved judgement on the truthfulness of the story.  Undeniably it was a good defensive position, surrounded by steep cliffs several metres high, and with a clear view over the fjord in every direction.

Geirshólmi from west

Geirshólmi from west

It is no wonder the local farmers found the outlaws difficult to deal with, when it was impossible for them to retaliate for all the cows, sheep, and pigs they had stolen.  In the end though the stronghold was self-defeating.  The outlaws got so bored sitting on their rock that they allowed themselves to be duped into coming ashore with a promise of an amnesty, where every last one of them was killed.  The hero, Hord, was the last to leave, and his wife stayed behind with her two sons.  When he didn’t return she set out to swim ashore with the children, escaping just before the vengeful farmers turned up to complete the job by killing Hord’s sons.

Hvalfjörður from Glymur path; Geirshólmi beyond narrow peninsula from north shore.

Hvalfjörður from Glymur path; Geirshólmi beyond narrow peninsula from north shore.

Hvalfjörður and Esja are both beautiful places in their own right, with excellent walking and rewarding views.  There is, however, something extra special about the area when you know that this peaceful mountain valley, or that apparently insignificant little rock out in the fjord were the central sites of such dramatic events.  Even if you dismiss the stories as entirely fictional, the landscape still has something to say.  For when you then read the story again you can imagine the events in their natural setting, as the original saga audience would have done, and you become a part of that thousand-year old tradition.  And there is after all nothing in the landscape to say they didn’t happen…

Hvalfjörður; sun sinking behind Geirshólmi

Hvalfjörður; sun sinking behind Geirshólmi

Reykjavík

Laugardalur Tjaldsvæði (campsite) in Reykjavík is a bit of a hike from the centre, but it has two things going for its location, and I knocked them both off the list the same afternoon I arrived.  There is the massive public swimming pool Laugardalslaug, where a soak in the hot pools and a swim are a great way to recover after a hard day’s travelling.  And there is the Reykjavik Botanical Garden, which I had also visited on my previous visit, but which was on much better form now in mid August than it had been in late April.

P1000214

Laugardalur

It is a beautiful spot, and the perfect antidote to a day spent among the barren lava flows and mud pools of Reykjanes Peninsula or the busy streets of Reykjavík.  In the outer area flowery bushes line the perimeter fence, and little groves of trees line paths that run either side of a series of duck ponds, ending in a rockery.  Through another fence the garden gets serious, with more trees, shrubs and flowers of every kind organised by family and geographical origin, and in the farthest corner more rockeries and an extensive area of raised beds full of flowers.  The flowers were at their best on that sunny afternoon, and there were just enough families out enjoying the garden to give it a holiday atmosphere without it feeling crowded.  Tucked away behind a wooden office building I was particularly pleased to find a very extensive rhubarb collection – somebody obviously had good taste.

Reykjavik Botanical Garden

Reykjavik Botanical Garden

It is interesting how desirable a place the partially wooded valley around the Botanical Garden has become in the artificial world of modern Reykjavík, though I didn’t appreciate the tragic poignancy of this until I visited the museum ‘871±2’ the next day.  The name 871±2 is a reference to a thin archaeological layer of volcanic ash from a large eruption at some time in that five-year window.  It is known as the settlement layer because it is simultaneous with the earliest archaeological signs of human inhabitation on Iceland.  It can therefore be used to date the first buildings in Iceland fairly accurately, depending on whether the ash traces of the layer are found below or above the structure being excavated.  The museum is entirely below modern street level and has been carefully constructed around an excavation of a real longhouse built in about the year 930 AD, the remains of which are actually fairly comparable with its less celebrated uncle in Hafnir.

871±2

871±2

The longhouse, or rather its stone foundation wall, forms the centrepiece of the museum, brought to life by a clever optical trick that makes it looks like there are actual flames burning in the central hearth.  To one side a section of wall that just predates the ash layer demonstrates that it was a site in occupation for several generations at the very least.  Panels in the museum wall set the scene of the original settlement with descriptions and illustrations of landscape, nature, and the human activities of the settlers.  Particularly interesting is the assertion that the hills around Reykjavík were originally covered with birch woods.  The woods were all destroyed in the first hundred years of occupation for grazing, burning, and charcoal production, which must have been devastating to the local economy – a lesson we now seem to insist on learning all over again on a global scale.  And in Reykjavík of course it means our instinctive gravitation towards more natural environments has required the artificial recreation of an ancient wooded landscape around the lake Tjörnin, and around and in the Botanical Garden.

I spent my time in Reykjavík wandering the streets and visiting the other saga-related museums, and was left with a more favourable impression of the city than my first visit had given me – though I was still horrified that streets like these could be named for some of the greatest heroes of Iceland’s literary golden age:

Skarphédinsgata

Skarphédinsgata

 

... and Skarpheðin as depicted outside the lively Saga Museum at Perlan.

… and Skarpheðin as depicted outside the lively Saga Museum at Perlan.

After a night at the campsite, two nights in a youth hostel in the centre gave me a chance to reread the sagas from the areas I would be travelling to next.  I also found a solution to the eternal problem of hearing any Icelandic in a city where you are always identified as a tourist and addressed in English before the shop or café door has even closed.  This is the 11am Sunday service at the magnificent Hallgrimskirkja, where an hour of flowing spoken and sung Icelandic seems too short a time, even if you don’t understand a word of it!  It is a beautiful language to read and to listen to, and all the more interesting for its antiquity.  It must be one of the least changed modern languages in the last thousand years, at least in Europe.  Though the pronunciation has no doubt changed greatly, much of the vocabulary is the same the Vikings used, and one can readily imagine the settlers of the ninth century, and indeed the Anglo-Saxons in England, speaking in much the same way, with liberal scatterings of ‘eth’ and ‘thuh’ sounds.

Hallgrimskirkja

Hallgrimskirkja

After two days of museums, saga reading, another swim (this time in my preferred Vesturbæjarlaug west of the centre) and two nights of good sleep, on the Tuesday morning after my arrival I was finally both ready and eager to begin my journey proper; my first destination was Kjalarnes and the dramatic mountain range of Esja.

Kjalarnes and Esja beyond Reykjavík's most iconic statue.

Kjalarnes and Esja beyond Reykjavík’s most iconic statue.

... and the same view 18 months earlier in April sunshine.

… and the same view 18 months earlier in April sunshine.

Reykjanes Peninsula

It was with a determination to find this mysterious Iceland of the sagas that I landed at Keflavík airport late one Friday night in mid August.  My head was full of Laxdæla saga after reading it on the flight, and my rucksack was full of more sagas, a copy of Lonely Planet, a road atlas, a bird guide, a few changes of clothes, some emergency food, and a warm but bulky sleeping bag.  Strapped to the outside was my tent, and I was going to need it very soon, because I knew all the hostels in Reykjavík were fully booked until Sunday.  So I ignored the buses outside the airport and set off on foot into the night.

With hard walking and a very lucky lift I arrived not too long after midnight at a campsite on the very northwesternmost tip of Reykjanes Peninsula, outside the little town of Garður.  The campsite lay right up against the sea, between the old and the current lighthouse, and the few other tents on the site were mostly positioned along a thick sea wall of large rocks for shelter.  It was windy and cold, and I wondered how my limited wardrobe would cope in several weeks time in the north of the country, with conditions this bad here in the south in mid August.  It was still very cold the next morning when I got up at six, but as the sun came up the temperature improved and the clouds rolled away, leaving a beautiful day behind them.

Image

Garður Campsite – mountains of west coast in distance

I walked several kilometres back through Garður and along the road towards Keflavík; there was no traffic except for jeeps with golf buggies on trailers heading the other way.  A couple of hundred metres over the bare moorland to the northeast the coastline ran parallel to the road, while on the other side the moor stretched away to the horizon.  It was punctuated by occasional low ridges and patches of some thriving green plant that looked suspiciously like an invasive weed, but was for the most part bleak and bare except for moss and a thin scattering of struggling grass.  My attention was caught by a large number of wooden frames standing a short distance away on my right, which I guessed were for drying fish on.

Fish drying along Krysuvík - Reykjavík road

Fish drying along Krysuvík – Reykjavík road

This was the first indication of a traditional industry that could have supported life on this peninsula before the Modern Age.  The fields around Garður, such as they were, all had horses in rather than cows or sheep or pigs, and the Icelander who drove me to Hafnir on the west coast of Reykjanes pointed out his dozen horses in a field on the edge of Hafnir.  What did he use them for? “Riding,” he replied.  In the rest of Europe this might seem pretty excessive, but in Iceland keeping horses has little to do with post-industrial prosperity; for many it is a natural part of life.  Reference to almost any medieval saga reveals that despite the strong association we have with vikings and the sea, the early Icelanders were effectively a horse culture.

Image

Horses outside Garður

Horses were used all the time for travel and shepherding, for popular entertainment by making stallions fight at prearranged gatherings, and sometimes they fulfilled a spiritual or religious role as well.  In the saga named for him the chieftain Hrafnkel is set on a dramatic course of ups and downs after killing a servant boy who had ridden without permission his prize stallion, which he had dedicated to the god Frey.  This obsession with horses seems to have survived ever since, and in fields and on hillsides all over Iceland you will see countless Icelandic horses, a breed they protect fiercely, and which as a result is more or less unchanged from its early medieval ancestors.

Hafnir has a more tangible survival from the settlement period in the form of a partially excavated longhouse from about the year 900.  It is one of a few pieces of evidence for medieval occupation of this bleak corner of the countryside, another being a reference to a journey around Reykjanes taken by a family of beggars in the Saga of Hord and the People of Holm.  However, the poor land quality and exposed coastline must have meant that it was always a region where few people lived, and the land becomes even less hospitable beyond Hafnir, where I headed next.

P1000146

Partially excavated longhouse, Hafnir

In the world of tourism Reykjanes Peninsula is famous (apart from the Blue Lagoon) for its bubbling mud pools and steaming springs, the most dramatic of which are at Gunnuhver in the far southwestern corner, and Krysuvík, where a turning off the coastal road eventually leads cross country back to the main road into Reykjavík.  I spent the next few hours visiting these sites and the sea cliffs beyond Gunnuhver, and arrived footsore, tired, and happy, in Reykjavík late that afternoon.  I will let photos describe that journey, and you will have to imagine the sulphurous reek and ferocious steaming and bubbling sounds of the mud pools.

P1000160

Meeting of European and American continental plates, south of Hafnir.

P1000166

Cliffs at southwestern tip of Iceland.

P1000172

Cratre, Valahnúkur

P1000178

Boiling mud pools at Gunnuhver

South coast of Reykjanes, outside Grindavík

South coast of Reykjanes, outside Grindavík

Boiling mud, Séltún (Krysuvík).

Boiling mud, Séltún (Krysuvík).

Steaming stream, Séltún

Steaming stream, Séltún

Icelandic horses in upland meadow, Krysuvík

Icelandic horses in upland meadow, Krysuvík

Searching for Iceland

The first time I travelled to Iceland I flew in over the Reykjanes peninsula during the day, so that my first impression from the plane window was of a terribly bleak and desolate landscape, an impression that the bus journey from the airport to Reykjavík seemed to confirm.  I was mistaken, however, to think that these vast lava flows and barren moorland were the essence of Iceland.  But how many visitors come to Iceland and never see anything more than this, stopping over for an afternoon to visit the Blue Lagoon, or perhaps for a night or two in Reykjavík?  How many tourists leave thinking Iceland is a wasteland punctuated only by the occasional stunning tourist attraction and by the sprawling city of Reykjavík?

I would guess that the single greatest category of foreign visitors is the visitor who is in the country for three or four days, and spends it in Reykjavík, leaving the city only to do a mandatory Golden Circle tour: a coach trip round Þingvellir, Geysir, and Gullfoss.  There is nothing wrong with this.  They will have a great time, and some of them may resolve to come back, because even on such a short visit the natural features make quite an impression.  But this is no more the essence of Iceland than the lava fields between Keflavík and the Blue Lagoon, though many of these visitors will undoubtedly make the mistake of thinking they have ‘seen Iceland’.  I know, because I made the same mistake, and I had a whole week to make it in.

Gullfoss

Gullfoss – the essence of Iceland?

I had two days in Reykjavík, and then spent a day hitchhiking round the Golden Circle, before continuing along the south coast.  I had three more days to race to Jökulsárlón, a spectacular glacier lake, in the southeast of the country, and back to Reykjavík.  They were three truly incredible days, and a major factor in my decision to return to Iceland just over a year later for a longer visit.  This journey along the south coast is probably the most common route for tourists going beyond the Golden Circle, and with good reason, as the waterfalls, cliffs, and glaciers it passes are truly stunning.  It is also a route which seems to confirm a first impression of Iceland as an exceptionally bleak country.  While the road first crosses the extensive grasslands of the Rangár district, these soon give way to hundreds of miles of washed out black sand, regularly reshaped by glacial floods and supporting a little grass only in those places that have for some time escaped these catastrophic interludes.  Just when the traveller thinks the landscape can get no bleaker or more inhospitable, the road hits a series of tremendous lava flows, mile after mile of twisted and lumpy rock supporting no life except a thick layer of moss.

Lava flow on south coast.

Lava flow on south coast.

When I left after my week’s visit I was amazed and appalled in equal measure.  I knew I would have to come back to explore more of the natural features of the landscape, but I could not understand how or why a people had come to settle this desolation in the first place.  Bleak as it seemed to me, how much worse must it have looked to settlers who knew their lives depended on making a living out of this harsh land?  To me it seemed a landscape divorced from its inhabitants – an easy conclusion to reach on the south coast, where there are in any case large areas with very few people living there at all.  I thought this alternately and often simultaneously beautiful but bleak landscape was essentially Iceland, but I was wrong.

Actually I did come closer to the real heart of the country when I walked out along a long dirt road to a tiny youth hostel in a narrowing lowland valley to the northwest of the famous glacier called Eyjafjallajökull.  On this little croft, with only a single staff member for company, the croft itself in the company of a single farm, there was a sense of peace, and of harmony with the landscape.  But I had to get back to Reykjavík the nest day, and so this brief experience of a human place in peaceful coexistence with the landscape was overwritten by more sandscapes, lava flows, and by the bustle of the Blue Lagoon, where I rounded off my trip that afternoon.  Iceland, I could declare on my return to Britain, is an unbelievably bleak place – beautiful, but no place to live.

However, as a student of the medieval Icelandic sagas, I could not escape the fact that for over eleven hundred years people had been living on this island.  And more than that, they had created, told, and written stories of all kinds that demonstrated their interactions with the landscape, showing that these people existed not in spite of the land, but with it and because of it.  My experience of Iceland made this difficult to understand, but there it was, demonstrated in forty medieval sagas and numerous other stories and folk tales, taking place in real locations all over Iceland, and all crying out that there was more to this country than waterfalls and lava.  So when I went back this summer I carried with me two kinds of guidebook.  I had an up to date Lonely Planet to lead me to more of the natural features that had so impressed me on my first visit, and in my rucksack I had a five-volume collection of the Icelandic family sagas, or Íslendingasögur.  These would be my guide to the landscape behind the landscape, the Iceland the settlers saw and lived in, visible now to foreigners only with the aid of these stories, but preserved also in the memories and national consciousness of the Icelanders themselves.  It is an Iceland that takes time and effort to discover, but it is an Iceland worth making the effort for.  It is the nature and the people, the history, and the literature of Iceland.  It is Iceland.

Gisli rock

Geirþjófsfjörður – a landscape with a story.