On Sundays the girls used to hunt for lice in the boys’

Nature Difficult to Move Networkdata2023-11-30 18:24:45 49725 86143

It was still fine clear daylight when I reached Thingvalla, and the sky rose pure and cloudless over the far distance. It seemed therefore the more singular to me to see a few clouds skimming over the surface of the mountains, now shrouding a part of them in vapour, now wreathing themselves round their summits, now vanishing entirely, to reappear again at a different point.

On Sundays the girls used to hunt for lice in the boys’

This is a phenomenon frequently observed in Iceland during the finest days, and one I had often noticed in the neighbourhood of Reikjavik. Under a clear and cloudless sky, a light mist would appear on the brow of a mountain,--in a moment it would increase to a large cloud, and after remaining stationary for a time, it frequently vanished suddenly, or soared slowly away. However often it may be repeated, this appearance cannot fail to interest the observer.

On Sundays the girls used to hunt for lice in the boys’

Herr Beck, the clergyman at Thingvalla, offered me the shelter of his hut for the night; as the building, however, did not look much more promising than the peasants' cottages by which it was surrounded, I preferred quartering myself in the church, permission to do so being but too easily obtained on all occasions. This chapel is not much larger than that at Krisuvik, and stands at some distance from the few surrounding cottages. This was perhaps the reason why I was not incommoded by visitors. I had already conquered any superstitious fears derived from the proximity of my silent neighbours in the churchyard, and passed the night quietly on one of the wooden chests of which I found several scattered about. Habit is certainly every thing; after a few nights of gloomy solitude one thinks no more about the matter.

On Sundays the girls used to hunt for lice in the boys’

Our journey of to-day was more formidable than that of yesterday. I was assured that Reikholt (also called Reikiadal) was almost fifty miles distant. Distances cannot always be accurately measured by the map; impassable barriers, only to be avoided by circuitous routes, often oppose the traveller's progress. This was the case with us to-day. To judge from the map, the distance from Thingvalla to Reikholt seemed less by a great deal than that from Reikjavik to Thingvalla, and yet we were full fourteen hours accomplishing it-- two hours longer than on our yesterday's journey.

So long as our way lay through the valley of Thingvalla there was no lack of variety. At one time there was an arm of the river Oxer to cross, at another we traversed a cheerful meadow; sometimes we even passed through little shrubberies,--that is to say, according to the Icelandic acceptation of the term. In my country these lovely shrubberies would have been cleared away as useless underwood. The trees trail along the ground, seldom attaining a height of more than two feet. When one of these puny stems reaches four feet in height, it is considered a gigantic tree. The greater portion of these miniature forests grow on the lava with which the valley is covered.

The formation of the lava here assumes a new character. Up to this point it has mostly appeared either in large masses or in streams lying in strata one above the other; but here the lava covered the greater portion of the ground in the form of immense flat slabs or blocks of rock, often split in a vertical direction. I saw long fissures of eight or ten feet in breadth, and from ten to fifteen feet in depth. In these clefts the flowers blossom earlier, and the fern grows taller and more luxuriantly, than in the boisterous upper world.

After the valley of Thingvalla has been passed the journey becomes very monotonous. The district beyond is wholly uninhabited, and we travelled many miles without seeing a single cottage. From one desert valley we passed into another; all were alike covered with light-grey or yellowish lava, and at intervals also with fine sand, in which the horses sunk deeply at every step. The mountains surrounding these valleys were none of the highest, and it was seldom that a jokul or glacier shone forth from among them. The mountains had a certain polished appearance, their sides being perfectly smooth and shining. In some instances, however, masses of lava formed beautiful groups, bearing a great resemblance to ruins of ancient buildings, and standing out in peculiarly fine relief from the smooth walls.

These mountains are of different colours; they are black or brown, grey or yellow, &c.; and the different shades of these colours are displayed with marvellous effect in the brilliant sunshine.



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