Greenland and Norway
My cruising diary continued...
Monday 28th August - The Jewels of the North tour stop 1.
By 2 p.m. (Monday 28th August 2017) we had docked at the
port of Akureyri,
and the tour guides had us signed in and ready for a swift disembarkation from
Deck 3. By 2.30 p.m. my husband and I were on the coach which stood ready for
us at the quayside and we were off to visit the first stop on our Jewels of the
We didn’t see much of the town of
Akureuyri, which is named as the Capital of
North Iceland as we headed east but learned a few details about it. Akureyri is
an important port and fishing centre which tends to remain ice free due to its
relatively warm climate, the fjord where it is situated at the southern tip
being a very long fjord. Technically Akureyri is said to be a sub-polar oceanic
climate! Its winters are cold but not severe and it has mild summers. It also
has the reputation of having a lot less rain than southern Iceland gets, though that is balanced by it being
a very cloudy area with fewer days of sunshine than in other parts of Iceland.
The day was definitely cloudy and it was raining when we set off through fairly barren countryside to the Godafoss Waterfall. The farming I saw along the route was done on a smallish scale, the population of the land we drove over very slight. The grazing animals were mainly cattle, sheep, pigs and horses which I believe are very old breeds, from stock which came to
the earliest settlers. Poultry wandered around in large penned areas close to the
farmsteads, confined but definitely not battery farms. I don’t remember seeing food crop fields but since the growing season
is so short that may account for me only registering the cut hay for animal
fodder. The information given was that currently only 1 % of the terrain of Iceland is
arable fields and something like 5% of the population farm the land, though around 20% of the total land is grazed by animals. Farming was much more widespread and over larger areas from Viking 12th century times to the late 19th century but the repercussions of the deforestation and land 'exhaustion' on what is essentially volcanic soil means that little is arable farmed now. More recently, geothermal
heat has been harnessed to provide heat and artificial light for the growing of
some vegetables and fruits but a visit to these farms were not on my tour. Iceland with a current population of some 334,000 is self sufficient in the production of meat, dairy products and eggs.
Some parts of our drive to Godafoss reminded me of the Fenwick Moors of East Ayrshire, Scotland and in some parts the bleakness of Caithness, Scotland.
|Selfies are rubbish but Godafoss inpressive!|
The Godafoss Waterfall was an unexpected surprise! My experience of spectacular waterfalls in
Scotland and in the western North
American continent (U.S. Oregon and Washington State and Alberta, Canada) has been of really deep falls creating a magnificent water drop. The Godafoss Waterfall
seemed all the more impressive since the water tumbles over from a fairly flat
What I really loved about the waterfall was the story behind it along with the impressive rock strata and the little caves that border the falls.
Godafoss- the Waterfall of the gods derives from the time of Thorgeir Ljosvetningagodi Thorkelsson who was a law speaker of the ancient Icelandic Althing (Parliament) A.D 985 to 1001. Around the year 1000 the parliament was debating whether the country should remain true to the old Norse gods or become Christian. Thorgeir (by then around 60 years of age and a pagan priest and chieftain) decided in favour of Christianity being adopted by all, after a day and night spent meditating under a fur blanket. When he publicly declared he had taken on the mantle of the Christian religion he threw his carvings of the old Norse gods into the falls. From that point onwards
Iceland was to
be a Christian nation though it was still possible to worship the old gods in private
and some old pagan traditions were retained. Thorgeir’s story is recalled in
the works of the Íslendingabók- the Book of Icelanders. The original was
written by Ari Thorgilsson, the most well documented Iceland chronicler of the 12th
century. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ari_%C3%9Eorgilsson https://www.britannica.com/topic/Landnamabok
I'm afraid I didn't find any of his ancient carvings much as I wanted to find them (no doubt along with the crowds of tourists at the site) but I did wonder if his shade was sitting watching us from one of the little caves on the far side of the River Skjálfandafljót.
This site has a fabulous image of the waterfalls with a 'northern lights' backdrop and is spectacular! https://www.northiceland.is/en/other/place/godafoss-waterfall
Stay tuned for my next places on the 'Jewels of the North' tour.