Daniel Bruun

Routes over the Highlands

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Online Version erstellt von Dieter Graser



For the Tourist, who will not be satisfied by making one of the traditional, I am almost tempted to say, to commonplace Tours, which all strangers are induced to — for the Tourist, who is a real out-door man, and does not mind spending a few days in uninhabited regions, I would recommend a ride through the deserted inner Highlands from North to South, or vice versa. Take the route over Kjölur! All that is characteristic in


Icelandic scenery will then spread itself out before us: Through a broad smiling thickly-populated valley — Skagafjördur — where nature exhibits itself in all its richness and abundance, our road winds up over the hill of the coast districts to the mightly, desolate, and yet so splendid Highland plain bordered by the white domes of the glaciers' perpetual ice. Here our way passes over desert sands, across rapid rivers, and lava fields black as a ravens wing to a mighty crater, and to mountain tarns rich in feathered life! Then on again down towards the inhabited plains of the South — to Gullfoss, Geysir, Thingvellir and Reykjavík.

The ship heads up the 20 mile long and comparatively broad Skagafjord. But already before we have fast ground under our feet, before we have trodden this traditional soil with its memories of a thousand years, the shape of the little Island Orangey appears in sight and reminds us vividly of the past.

The rock island raises itself a hundred fathoms sheer out of the blue water, not unlike a square fort. Nature has here on this detached part of Iceland formed a place of defence, where the Saga hero, Grettir the Strong, spent the last three years of his life as an outlaw. It was from here, that Grettir, once when his fire had gone out, swam ashore — nearly five miles — to fetch more; an unrivalled performance. When he had spent three years on the island, which is only 200 fathoms long and 50 wide, he was at last surprised and killed; he had then only one year more to pass before he would have been a free man again; but his foes grudged him the freedom he had sighed for for twenty slowly passing years. Grettir the Strong is one of the great heroes of Icelandic Saga, and was a real hero. Countless are the stories of his courage, cunning, and strength, and mementos of his illustrious career are frequently to be found in the north. At the top of the island the site of his abode may still be seen. Orangey is now uninhabited, but for six weeks during the spring, bird-catching goes on briskly here; specimens of the auk species, (the Guillemot, Auk, & Puffin) forming the principle booty. The birds are caught in a peculiar manner by means of large rafts on which the snares are spread, live specimens being used as decoys. Now as in olden days sheep are grazed on the island both summer and winter.

We come into Skagafjord, past Drangey and the other splendid islands, which adorn this Fjord, whilst the hills rise on the right and left, their summits, may be, capped with snow.

Straight before us, to the South, we see the white houses of the trading station Saudárkrókr, lying on the strand be- neath the hills at the end of the Fjord. — Still further south we see the broad Skagafjords valley, where the sun sparkles and the refraction gives small islets, eminences, and farms an exaggerated height. In the far south, at the end of the valley — lies a blue conical mountain, the top of which is quite white. This is Mælifellshnjúkur which stretches skyward over all the neighbouring hills, and can be seen from far around, even from right in the middle of the country, whither we are bound. The Parsonage farm Mælifell lies at the foot of the mountain, while the farm Gilhagi lies a little farther south in the dale.

The ship casts anchor in the bay opposite the town, a boat comes out, and we are landed at one of the small piers belonging to the traders. We are at once surprised at the many small elegant wooden houses, which are all painted in light and pleasant colours. There are several streets, a little Hotel, where one can spend the night, a church, and several rather large tradesmens shops where stock of provisions may be obtained; and further a group of other houses belonging to artizans, fishermen and others. The place is further honoured by a clergyman, and an official acting as judge and revenue officer of the district.

The arrival of the steamer is generally marked by the presence of a number of peasants in the town. Especially

On horseback.

after the wool-shearing in the early summer, they come to the trading station with their caravans. The horses are faste- ned one behind the other with the wool bales hanging from either side of the pack-saddles. Towards evening one caravan after the other starts out, the people kissing one another good bye once, twice, thrice, or even oftener, indifferent whether on horseback or on foot; and the men start off at a wild pace, which is kept up for a short distance,—in fact they perform a kind of „ Fantasia" like the Arabs on similar occasions.

The evening is far advanced before the last caravan has departed, but in the shops the lights still burn for some time longer, while the accounts for the day are made up. A few stragglers still sit in the inn, while the horses wait patiently without, but finally the last straggler topples out and climbs uncertainly on to his horse. — It is touching to see how the horse even seems to try to help him over his difficulties, and assist him in preserving his balance by fol- lowing as nearly as possible his toppling movements. As a matter of fact the temperance movement has made great strides in Iceland in later years.

It is the time of the light nights. Galloping and shouting, the motley crowd leave the town at eventide; but soon the

A small hay caravan.

pace is slackened, and the easy even trot begins, which makes such steady progress. One family after another reach home to their farms, where the dogs are barking; others keep on the whole night through — and a part of the next day may be —, before they reach their homesteads at the end of the valleys.

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