Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Þingvellir - That Great Wonder of Iceland

On my trip I visited Þingvellir. It was beautiful in the setting sun with the yellow grass, the rocks, the many branched river, and the distant snow capped mountains. Allen French's description of this place in The Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow fit quite well with what I saw there. Granted there are some more recent buildings there now and the booths were gone, yet the landscape was the same. French calls the place "Thingvalla," and the parliament, "the Althing" instead of ingvellir" and the "Alþingi."  

"For from the plain on which they journeyed a large part had fallen clean away, many yards down, and it lay below like the bottom of a pan. The Great Rift was the name of the western precipice, and there was no way down save by one steep path....When Rolf had got down to the plain, he saw all the booths for the lodging of those who came to the Althing, ranged along the river....he went down to the Hill of Laws, where the Fifth Court sat to hear appeals. Now the Hill of Laws is cut off from the plain by deep rifts, and men showed Rolf where, to save his life, Flosi had leaped one rift at it's narrowest part and that was a great deed."  -The Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow, page 94-95 
View from the plain above, overlooking Þingvellir 
This first picture is taken while standing on the Great Rift.
The Great Rift (western precipice) is on the left side of the picture below. The flag pole is rising from the Lögberg (Law Rock) which either is the Hill of Laws, or a part of the Hill of Laws.

Down beside the precipice   

The Great Rift.

In the photo above, the smaller rocks on the left is the back of the Hill of Laws.
In the photo below, you see the view if you turn and look the other way up the rift while standing the Hill of Laws.
The Rift

Snorri's Booth
Snorri's booth is on the hill, overlooking the river where the booths where located in the story. This, however is not an inconsistency. Since Snorri was a very important man at the Althing, his could have been located there while many others were situated along the river.

Hill of Laws

I believe this is the Hill of Laws spoken of. It is actually a long hill; this is just a portion of it, but you can see that it is near the western precipice.
The Rivers

Above are the rivers by which the booths stood; the view from the Hill of Laws. 
Above is a photo I took down on the plain after crossing the rivers. Here you see the Hill of Laws with the flag pole and the Great Rift behind it.

Allen French called this place, "that great wonder of Iceland." And it really is. The place is gorgeous, my pictures do not do it justice. In a sense it is the heart of Iceland, of both the land and the country. 

It is near the place where the tectonic plates collide, the volcanic activity caused by this collision is possibly responsible for the formation of this island, and the fact that the land sits where two tectonic plates meet is responsible for the many geological wonders of this country: the volcanoes, geysers, and hot springs.  Volcanoes have played a huge role in making Iceland the land it is today. Basalt is basically everywhere you turn. And other forms of volcanic rock are also abundant.

In this place so near the edges of the plates, the country was formalized. The Alþingi began in 930 A.D. and continued for many years and after an interlude of foreign control, Iceland was declared an independent republic in 1946. A ceremony was held at the Law Rock. From the start, Iceland was different from other nations. In 930, Europe was ruled by kings, yet Iceland was a republic. There were no kings or nobility. There were chieftains and some men had more power than others, but it was still different than the other countries of the the time.

All photos are my own.

1 comment:

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