Historical Turning Point and Natural Beauty
This was a special but emotional day for me. Geology is everywhere in Iceland. As some of you may know, my dad was a geologist and soil scientist/conservationist at UPR - Mayagüez, but worked on projects around the world. He had an amazing intellect and great sense of humor. He passed away in 2016. Throughout the day, I felt him with me as I visited places that I know he would have loved to see and tell me all about in length. (Who knows, he probably had visited those, since I know he had been to Iceland at least a couple of times in the days when planes had to refuel in Reykjavik o thier way to Europe. But I wasn't sure, and I made me sad that I couldn't ask, you know? ) Anyhow, this wouldn't be the only time that I felt his presence on this trip (more on that later). It made the day bittersweet.
The day started with a visit to Goðafoss, a waterfall in Northern Iceland. The icy-blue water falls an impressive 12 meters/ 39 feet tall and about 30 meters/98 feet wide in a graceful media-luna, or semi-circle.
The name Goðafoss means "waterfall of the gods" which is connected to the conversion of Icelanders to Christianity in 1000 CE.., a historical turning point. The question before the Althing parliamentary assembly in that year was whether Iceland should embrace Christianity, or continue in “the old custom.” The assembled lawmakers were bitterly divided. According to the Íslendingabók, (narrative early history of Iceland), a civil war was narrowly avoided through the leadership of a man named Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði. After a day and a night of meditation, Ljósvetningagoði, who was himself a pagan priest, decided in favor of Christianity. The compromise brokered by the Althing left pagans able to practice in private, even though Christianity became Iceland’s official religion. Afterwards, he threw his idols of the Old Norse religion gods into the waterfall.
Geology: Dimmuborgir & Námafjall Hverir
We continued towards the geological treasures of the area surrounding Mývatn, a volcanic lake in northern Iceland. We began in Dimmuborgir or Black Fortress is an lava field with unusual formations. It formed in an eruption that occurred in the area 2,300 years ago. As lava flowed across the area, it passed over a lake, causing it to boil. This both quickened the cooling of the lava and caused pillars of steam to shatter parts of it. After it solidified, Dimmuborgir area became defined by large stacks of rock and many caves and caverns, caused by bubbles of intense steam. In Icelandic culture, lava caves are allegedly the homes of the nation’s trolls.
Next, we visited Námafjall Hverir a geothermal area on the east side of Lake Mývatn.
Here we saw boiling mud pots and sulphur crystals of many different colors. The smell was disgusting, though.
To conclude this part of the day, we stopped at GeoSea, to enjoy the thermal baths. The natural geothermal waters are a tonic for the body and soul. The view from the infinity pool into the fjord was breathtaking, we even saw the National Geographic Explorer sail by beneath us. Divine.
In the afternoon, we traveled to the town of Húsavík, where we checked out the awesome Whale Museum. Again, another beautifully curated space. I learned a lot of new information about whales and whaling in Iceland, and especially enjoyed the skeletons on display.
That night, we were planning to stop at Grimsey, Iceland's island territory in the Artic Circle. We couldn't disembark because of high waves. I think this was one of the things I was most looking forward to on the trip, since I'm not sure if I'll ever make it there again. Anyways, as we say in PR, no pasa nada (it's ok). Still amazing.
Long post, I know. More to come! 🙃