came to Yanovka to see about the terms of our contract

In all Iceland welcome and farewell is expressed by a loud kiss,--a practice not very delightful for a non-Icelander, when one considers their ugly, dirty faces, the snuffy noses of the old people, and the filthy little children. But the Icelanders do not mind this. They all kissed the priest, and the priest kissed them; and then they kissed each other, till the kissing seemed to have no end. Rank is not considered in this ceremony; and I was not a little surprised to see how my guide, a common farm-labourer, kissed the six daughters of a judge, or the wife and children of a priest, or a judge and the priest themselves, and how they returned the compliment without reserve. Every country has its peculiar customs!

came to Yanovka to see about the terms of our contract

The religious ceremonies generally begin about noon, and last two or three hours. There being no public inn in which to assemble, and no stable in which the horses can be fastened, all flock to the open space in front of the church, which thus becomes a very animated spot. All have to remain in the open air.

came to Yanovka to see about the terms of our contract

When the service was over, I visited the priest, Herr Horfuson; he was kind enough to conduct me to the Salsun, nine miles distant, principally to engage a guide to Hecla for me.

came to Yanovka to see about the terms of our contract

I was doubly rejoiced to have this good man at my side, as we had to cross a dangerous stream, which was very rapid, and so deep that the water rose to the horses' breasts. Although we raised our feet as high as possible, we were yet thoroughly wet. This wading across rivers is one of the most unpleasant modes of travelling. The horse swims more than it walks, and this creates a most disagreeable sensation; one does not know whither to direct one's eyes; to look into the stream would excite giddiness, and the sight of the shore is not much better, for that seems to move and to recede, because the horse, by the current, is forced a little way down the river. To my great comfort the priest rode by my side to hold me, in case I should not be able to keep my seat. I passed fortunately through this probation; and when we reached the other shore, Herr Horfuson pointed out to me how far the current had carried us down the river.

The valley in which Salsun and the Hecla are situated is one of those which are found only in Iceland. It contains the greatest contrasts. Here are charming fields covered with a rich green carpet of softest grass, and there again hills of black, shining lava; even the fertile plains are traversed by streams of lava and spots of sand. Mount Hecla notoriously has the blackest lava and the blackest sand; and it may be imagined how the country looks in its immediate neighbourhood. One hill only to the left of Hecla is reddish brown, and covered with sand and stones of a similar colour. The centre is much depressed, and seems to form a large crater. Mount Hecla is directly united with the lava-mountains piled round it, and seems from the plain only as a higher point. It is surrounded by several glaciers, whose dazzling fields of snow descend far down, and whose brilliant plains have probably never been trod by human feet; several of its sides were also covered with snow. To the left of the valley near Salsun, and at the foot of a lava-hill, lies a lovely lake, on whose shores a numerous flock of sheep were grazing. Near it rises another beautiful hill, so solitary and isolated, that it looks as if it had been cast out by its neighbours and banished hither. Indeed, the whole landscape here is so peculiarly Icelandic, so strange and remarkable, that it will ever remain impressed on my memory.

Salsun lies at the foot of Mount Hecla, but is not seen before one reaches it.

Arrived at Salsun, our first care was to seek a guide, and to bargain for every thing requisite for the ascension of the mountain. The guide was to procure a horse for me, and to take me and my former guide to the summit of Hecla. He demanded five thaler and two marks (about fifteen shillings), a most exorbitant sum, on which he could live for a month. But what could we do? He knew very well that there was no other guide to be had, and so I was forced to acquiesce. When all was arranged, my kind companion left me, wishing me success on my arduous expedition.

I now looked out for a place in which I could spend the night, and a filthy hole fell to my lot. A bench, rather shorter that my body, was put into it, to serve as my bed; beside it hung a decayed fish, which had infected the whole room with its smell. I could scarcely breathe; and as there was no other outlet, I was obliged to open the door, and thus receive the visits of the numerous and amiable inhabitants. What a strengthening and invigorating preparation for the morrow's expedition!



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