It was absolutely beautiful yesterday so EPI and I decided to go to Þingvellir. [That’s pronounced ‘Thingvellir’. Not ‘Pingvellir’. Unless you want every Icelander you meet to laugh themselves silly at you.] Þingvellir is the sort of place you reserve for absolutely beautiful days because it’s special. [Plus it’s really good to go there if you have a hangover, and EPI had a hangover yesterday.]
Why is it special? Well, if there’s a place that comes close to being sacred for the Icelanders, Þingvellir is it. It’s the site where our Alþingi originated back in the year 930, which if you’re not up on your Icelandic history was the Very First Parliament in the World and yet another thing that proves that we Icelanders are The Best in everything. Once a year, all the chieftains would ride to Þingvellir [literally ‘Parliament Plains’] to discuss matters of national importance and to vote on them. It’s also the place where capital punishment was doled out. Anyway, here is a view across Þingvellir; you can see the old church and old Þingvellir farmhouse, which today is used by the government to entertain VIPs.
… it looks all flat, but it’s actually a lava field, filled with nooks and crannies and gorgeous ravines.
Anyway, if you walk down to the left from where I was standing, you head through the Almannagjá fissure, which is in fact the mid-Atlantic ridge, only above sea level [duh]. On either side of you are steep cliff walls and remarkably these are the Eurasian and American tectonic plates that are actually moving apart at a rate of a couple centimetres per year. Here’s a shot taken when we were almost through the fissure; I tried to take one further up but it didn’t work because of the dark shadow in between the two walls:
… To your left, ladies and gents, is Europe; to your right is America. Incidentally, there is an aerial view here.
Anyway, we then come to the dreaded Drekkingarhylur
[Drowning Pool]. This is where women found guilty of infidelity were drowned [the men were beheaded]:
… Pretty gruesome, no? As you can see, it was pretty frigid out there, even if the sun was shining.
The next stop was the Öxarárfoss waterfall, a bit further on:
… Always a delight. We sat there for quite a while, just watching and listening. Very good for hangovers.
We then headed back, but took the low road, in the direction of the church. After a while we came to the ravine known as ‘Peningagjá’, or ‘Money Ravine’, as everyone throws change in there.
… As you can see, it’s exceedingly beautiful. The water is so unbelievably clear that you can see straight through to the bottom. Predictably, it’s filled with shining coins, which do nothing to deter from its beauty…
… Standing there on the bridge yesterday, I learned Two New Things: a) if you can follow your coin with your eyes all the way to the bottom, you get to make a wish, b) they go down there every now and again in diving costume and vacuum up all the coins.
Well, I guess they’d have to.
Anyway, next stop the church, and the old graveyard around it. I didn’t take any photos of tombstones or crosses this time, but here’s the church up close:
… Ever-so quaint, don’t you agree? And inside it’s absolutely lovely.
Well, that concludes our little tour. If you ever come to Iceland, you’ll definitely have to make the trip to Þingvellir [actually, if you take any sort of organized tour you’ll be hard pressed to avoid it] – it’s only a 40 minute drive from Reykjavík, and indeed hard to see why we don’t go there more often.
AS FOR TODAY…
The weather: ugh, eeee, shiver. Bad-assed strongwindfromthenorth all day long, blowing right off the ocean. YT got herself all windproofed and everything and ventured a run since it was sunny but man! it was cold. Major windchill. Or should I say Windkill. Right now temps are 1°C but probably -36 with Windkill, and the sun came up at 08.03 and went down at 18.25.