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Nordic FAQ - 5 of 7 - ICELAND

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        A Frequently Answered Questions (FAQ) file for the newsgroup

                     S O C . C U L T U R E . N O R D I C

                           *** PART 5: ICELAND ***



               Index


               5.1     Fact Sheet
               5.2     General information
               5.2.1   Geography, climate, vegetation
               5.2.2   Economy
               5.2.3   Government
               5.2.4   Population and language
               5.3     History
               5.3.1   A chronology of important dates
               5.3.2   Icelanders discover Greenland
               5.3.3   Icelanders discover America (Vinland); L'Anse aux
                       Meadows
               5.4     Main tourist attractions
               5.4.1   Reykjavik
               5.4.2   Einar Indridason's travel tips
               5.4.3   More Iceland tips
               5.4.4   Accommodation in Iceland
               5.5     The sagas, Eddas, and subsequent Icelandic
                       literature.
               5.5.1   The sagas
               5.5.2   The Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda
               5.5.3   Later Icelandic literature

----------------------------------------------------------------------------


Subject: 5.1 Fact Sheet

Name: Lř­veldi­ ═sland
Telephone country code:  354
Area: 103,000 km▓ / 39,758 sq mi.
      (Glaciers: 12.000 km▓, lava 11.000 km▓, lakes 3.000 km▓,
      arable land 1.100 km▓).
Sea area (within 200 nautical miles of fishery limits): 758.000 km▓
Terrain: mostly plateau inerspersed with mountain peaks and icefields;
         coast deeply indented by bays and fjords.
Highest mountain: Hvannadalshn˙kur, 2119 m.
Largest ice cap: Vatnaj÷kull, 8,400 km▓.
Natural resources: fish, hydroelectric and geothermal power
Land boundaries: none
Population: 264,922 (1993)
Population density: 2.5 persons per km▓ (6.5 per sq mi)
Distribution: 90% urban, 10% rural (1990)
Infant mortality: 4 per 1,000 live births (1992)
Life expectancy: male: 76.5, female: 81.0  (1993)
Capital: ReykjavÝk (pop. 101,824) (1993)
Other major towns: Kˇpavogur: (17,172), Hafnarfj÷r­ur (16,787)
                   Akureyri (14,799)  (1993)
Flag: a red Nordic cross outlined in white on a blue background
Type: republic
Head of state: President Ëlafur Ragnar GrÝmsson
Languages: Icelandic
Currency: krˇna (Icelandic crown, ISK). 1 USD = 63 ISK (March 1995)
        see <gopher://hengill.rhi.hi.is:70/00/daglegt-lif/gengi.dags>
        for today's rates.
Climate: coolish temperate, warmed by the Gulf stream. Average temp.
in ReykjavÝk: -2░C - 2░C in Jan. and 9░C - 14░C in July.
Religion: Evangelic-Lutheran (96%) (official state-religion)
Exports:  Fisheries products: 78,7%
          Industrial products: 17,6%
          Agricultural products: 1,7%
          Other products: 2,0% (1993)
Cars per 1000 inhabitants (1989): 458
Phones per 1000 inhabitants (1989): 503
TVs per 1000 inhabitants (1988): 306
Doctors per 1000 inhabitants (1989) 2,8

Employment: (1991)

  Agriculture............... 5,4%
  Fishing................... 5,5%
  Fish processing........... 6,0%
  Other industry............12.5%
  Building industry......... 9.8%
  Commerce..................14,6%
  Transport & communcations. 6,9%
  Finance & insurance....... 8,4%
  Public sector.............18,5%
  Other.....................12,4%
  Total                    100,0%




Subject: 5.2 General information <By: Halldˇr ┴rnason et al.> 5.2.1 Geography, climate, vegetation Iceland is the second largest island in Europe, after Great Britain. It's the westernmost country in Europe, located far in the North Atlantic, atop the Mid-Atlantic Ridge which is an area of active volcanism. The island was indeed formed by numerous volcanos, many of which are still active, sometimes creating new islands out of the sea. Vegetation covers less than one-fifth of Icelands area and only about 1.1% is cultivated. Trees, mostly birch, grow in some places, along with some willows. The rest of the country is barren mountains, deserts (lava beds cover some 11% of Iceland) and glaciers (12%). Vatnaj÷kull (Lakes' Glacier) in the southeast is the largest Ice field in Europe and Ëdß­ahraun (Lava of ill deeds) north of Vatnaj÷kull is the largest lava bed on earth. Rivers and waterfalls are plenty, and provide hydroelectric power. Over 90% of homes are heated by hot springs, which also keeps greenhouses warm, where the famous Icelandic bananas are grown. 5.2.2 Economy Fishing produces Iceland's main exports, although it employs only ca. 12% of the work force. The country has no railroads, but a network of highways and secondary roads provides access to all inhabited parts of Iceland. Air transportation also plays an important role, both locally and internationally, through the main airports at ReykjavÝk and at KeflavÝk, where also a U.S naval base is located (Iceland has no military force of its own). 5.2.3 Government Iceland is a constitutional republic governed by a general assembly, the Althing, which is sometimes called the oldest democratic institution in existense. The president is elected every four years by universal suffrage for all persons over 18 years of age. Icelanders seem to like their presidents, because a president running for reelection has in nine times out of ten gone unopposed, and the tenth time won by a landslide. Real executive power is held by the prime minister and the cabinet. Fore more information, see the URL <http://www.althingi.is/~wwwadm/upplens.html>. 5.2.4 Population and language Iceland's population is a homogeneous mixture of Scandinavian and Celtic origin. Unlike the other Nordic countries there are no dialects to speak of. The language spoken in Iceland has changed very little since the island was settled, some 11 centuries ago. Icelandic and Faroese are the only Scandinavian languages to have kept the complicated inflection system of the Old Norse spoken during the viking age.
Subject: 5.3 History 5.3.1 A chronology of important dates ca. 800 Irish explorers discover Iceland. 874 Iceland receives its first inhabitants from Norway (prior to that, some Celtic colonies had existed in Iceland) as Ingˇlfr Arnarson arrives in ReykjavÝk. 930 The Icelandic parliament, "Althing", had its first meeting. The Al■ing is the oldest parliamentary system still operating in Europe. 985 EirÝkr (Eric) the Red discovers and settles in Greenland. 1000 Christianity adopted as the new religion. Leifr ErÝksson ('Leif The lucky') discovers North America and names it VÝnland. 1120-1230 The old Scandinavian sagas were written down in Iceland. Snorri Sturluson, a nobleman, historian and poet, writes (or is believed to have written) the Prose Edda and the Heimskringla 1262 Weakened by internal struggles, Iceland becomes under Norwegian rule, maintaining, however, a large autonomy. The end of the age of Sturlungs. 1387 Norway, and with it Iceland, becomes united to Denmark. 1400's-1700's Pestilence, commercial exploitation, and natural catastrophes nearly wiped out the Icelandic nation; by the late 18th century its number had dropped to less than 40,000. A revival began in the 19th century. 1536 Iceland becomes Lutheran. The Bible is translated into Icelandic in 1584. 1783-86 The worst volcanic eruptions in the history of Iceland. Grass was burned from large areas, 3/4 of cattle starved to death and likewise, 1/4 of Iceland's inhabitants died of starvation. 1786 ReykjavÝk received trade rights. 1800 The Althing meetings discontinued by the Danish king. 1843 With the awakening of Icelandic nationalism, the Al■ing is re-established as a consultative body. 1874 Iceland gets a constitution of its own. 1904 Home rule under Denmark. 1918 Denmark recognizes Iceland as a sovereign state, but Iceland remains united with Denmark. 1940 When Denmark falls to the Nazis, Iceland is occupied by British troops to prevent a German attack. 1941 U.S forces take over defence of Iceland. 1944 Iceland declares full independence at Ůingvellir. 1946 Iceland joins the United Nations. 1949 Iceland joins the NATO after a long dispute, and in 1951 reluctantly allows the U.S to maintain a naval base at KeflavÝk in return for U.S defense of Iceland. 1963 An underwater volcanic eruption creates a new island, named Surtsey, on the Icelandic coast. 1973 The volcano Helgafell erupted on the island of Heimaey, destroying 1/4 of the houses of Vestmanneyjar, one of Iceland's busiest fishing harbours. The rest was dug out of the ashes and most people moved back. 1975 Fishery limits extended to 200 miles. "Cod war" with Britain. 1980 VigdÝs Finnbogadˇttir becomes the first woman ever to be democratically elected President of a Republic. She has been re-elected in 1984, 1988, and 1992. 1986 Reagan-Gorbachev Summit Meeting held in H÷f­i house, ReykjavÝk 5.3.2 Greenland Greenland is said to have been discovered by a man called Gunnbj÷rn whose ship had gone off course. It was, however, EirÝkr Ůorvaldsson (a.k.a Eric the Red) who explored and named the island, and ruled the first colony of settlers. He who was born in Norway in the mid-10th century, but went to Iceland as a child after his father was banished from Norway. A violent man as he was, EirÝkr himself was banished from Iceland, and set forth on an expedition westward from Iceland. In 981 he got to Greenland (a name he gave to encourage settlers to go there), and spent the next three years exploring it. After that he returned to Iceland and led an expedition of 25 ships to settle (c.985) in southwestern Greenland. This settlement survived until the late 15th century. EirÝkr himself settled at Brattahli­ (Tunigdliarfik) in Greenland, where he died sometime after the year 1000. The most important written sources recounting the discovery and settlement of Greenland are Ari Ůorgilsson's ═slendingabˇk and Landßmabˇk. There are also two colourful sagas, GrŠnlendinga Saga (The Saga of the Greenlanders) and EirÝks saga rau­a (The Saga of Eric the Red), but these were composed only in the early 13th century and are often fanciful and contradict each other in places. Greenland's attraction was that it had better pasture for sheep, goats and cows than Iceland, where the soil had already become poor after about a century of heavy exploitation. Farmers had never lived there, the climate was probably a bit milder than today, and some of the fertile lowlands which now have have disappeared under sea were above surface at that time. There was probably also quite a lot of driftwood in Greenland at that time. Catch was plenty in the sea, and there were reindeer, bears and birds to hunt on land. Pelts of polar bears and arctic foxes, whalebone and walrus tusks were used to pay for the essential imports, such as metal, timber and grain, as well as luxury goods. But the colony was vulnerable if there were epidemics among animals or people or even small climactic changes, and it died out sometime in the 15th century -- the exact reason isn't known. In 1712, centuries after the links between Greenland and the rest of the world had been broken, the king of Denmark-Norway sent an expedition to Greenland with pastor Hans Egede to nurture the Christian faith among the Viking descendants, but none had survived. The Eskimos had long since penetrated to the southernmost point of the country, and these were the Greenlanders Egede met. 5.3.3 Vinland; L'Anse aux Meadows According to the sagas, Vinland was discovered when ships went off course during one of the long journeys from Iceland or Norway to Greenland. The Saga of the Greenlanders attributes the first sighting of America to Bjarni Herjˇlfsson who had emigrated with EirÝkr the Red to Greenland, although Bjarni didn't actually set foot on Vinland; the Saga of EirÝkr the Red, on the other hand, says that the discovery was made by Leifr the Lucky, EirÝkr's son. Leifur grew up in Greenland but in ca. 999 he visited Norway, where he was converted to Christianity. According to one saga, he was then commissioned by King Olaf I to convert the Greenlanders to Christianity, but he was blown off course, missed Greenland, and reached North America (this story, however, is now known to be fiction, made by up by an Icelandic priest called Gunnlaugr in the 13th century). The other, more probable version of the story describes Leifur sailing on a planned voyage to lands to the west of Greenland that had been sighted 15 years earlier by Bjarni. He landed at places called Helluland and Markland and wintered at Vinland, and returned back to Greenland. After Leifr's journey an expedition led by Ůorfinnr Karlsefni, a wealthy Icelandic trader, returned to settle VÝnland in c.1010 and wintered there. The Scandinavians, both men and women, first traded but then fought with the native SkrŠlings. The descriptions of SkrŠling culture in the sagas are consistent with American Indian life. Because of SkrŠling attacks, the settlement was abandoned after three winters. There is some disagreement on where exactly the places visited by Leifr were. Vinland (Vine Land) was presumably Newfoundland, Markland (Wood Land) Labrador Island and Helluland (Flat Rock Land) Baffin Island. The only firm evidence of Scandinavian presence in North America has been found in Newfoundland at L'Anse aux Meadows, where excavations begun in 1961 have revealed the remains of eight turf-walled houses, one of which was a longhouse 22 m by 15 m (72 ft by 50 ft) containing five rooms including a "great hall," and a smithy, where bog iron was smelted. Several of the houses had stone ember pits identical with those found in Norse houses in Greenland. Among the artifacts unearthed was a soapstone spindle whorl similar to those discovered in Norse ruins in Greenland, Iceland, and Scandinavia; this find suggests that women as well as men were present at the site, which is also consistent with the sagas. Other artifacts point to a brief, much earlier occupation of the site by Maritime Archaic Indians and a later occupation by Dorset Eskimo. L'Anse aux Meadows may have been the place of Ůorfinnr's settlement. The site was a good one for a pioneer community; the soil was fertile, there was plenty of fish and game, the climate was mild and there was iron ore available, but the area wasn't previously uninhabited; the local Indians seem to have made long-lasting settlements impossible. The journeys to Vinland continued into the Middle Ages, but apparently only to obtain raw materials for the Greenland colony. Some scholars have suggested that L'Anse aux Meadows was a transit station to journeys further south, but apart from a Norwegian coin from King Olaf Kyrre's reign (1066-80) found on an Indian settlement in the state of Maine, there are no traces early Scandinavian presence further south. The various rune stones, such as the Kensington Stone, and other similar VÝking objects 'found' in North America are all faked. Similarly, the New World portions of Yale University's Vinland map, a world map supposedly made about 1440 which includes Vinland and Greenland, was in 1974 revealed as a modern forgery.
Subject: 5.4 Main tourist attractions 5.4.1 ReykjavÝk ReykjavÝk is the most northerly capital in the world and the largest city of Iceland, situated on Faxa Bay on the southwest coast. It is here that Iceland's first settler, Ingˇlfr Arnarson, landed in 874. According to the sagas, when he approached the shore, he threw two carved, wooden pillars to the water and swore that he would settle where they came ashore. The settlement began as a small fishing village, a charter was granted in 1786, and the city became an episcopal see in 1796. ReykjavÝk has been the seat of the Althing since 1843, and it was made the capital of Iceland in 1918. Ingˇlfr named the place ReykjavÝk (Smoky Bay), perhaps because of the geysers and hot steam pouring from the ground. However, ReykjavÝk is in fact probably one of world's most smoke-free cities, because of the extensive use of clean, geothermal power. More than half of Iceland's population lives in or near ReykjavÝk, making it the heart of the country's cultural, commercial, and governmental life. It's a modern city, but the old centre, including the Parliament House (1881) and the mid-18th century Government Building, has been carefully preserved. Close to them are the National Library and the National Theatre, and the statue of Ingˇlfr Arnarson. Interesting churches in ReykjavÝk include the the old cathedral near the Parliament, and the the new, 75m high HallgrÝms-kirkja; there's a great view over the city from the spire. Other places worth visiting are the University (1911), the National Museum (1863) which houses exhibits from around the world and items from the Viking age and Iceland's nautical past, and the ┴rni Magn˙sson Institute (where the priceless saga manuscripts are on display. The newest sight of the city is the City Hall (opened in 1992), which is built partly on a lake; apart from being an administrative centre, it also houses exhibitions and a cafe with views to the lake. ┴rbŠr Folk Museum is in the outskirts of the city, and has a collection of old, traditional buildings, mostly from ReykjavÝk, but also from elsewhere in Iceland. The Nordic House designed by the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto has a library, cafe, a permanent exhibition devoted to the Nordic way of life, and stages concerts, etc. 5.4.2 Einar Indri­ason's travel tips [ From: Einar Indri­ason <einari@rhi.hi.is> ] As many people come to Iceland by a plane the first impression that they get of the country is that it must be barren and covered with lava, as that is the view they see on their way from KeflavÝk airport to the Capital. That is not correct. Iceland has very varied landscape; it is magnificent in some places while there's nothing special in other places. Some popular attractions are the day trips from ReykjavÝk. One of them is called the "golden circle" which goes from ReykjavÝk to Ůingvellir, from there to Geysir, Gullfoss and even a small visit in Fl˙­ir. From there it continues to Hverager­i, finally returning to ReykjavÝk. Another one is to visit the "Blue Lagoon" (Blßa lˇni­) and take a bath in the lagoon. Other tours are also popular but they take you out to the country and you can expect to spend some days or even longer on such tours. Examples of such tours include: (but do not fully cover them :-> Mřvatn, Skaptafell, Landmannalaugar, H˙safell, Sprengisandur, Kj÷lur. What are those places mentioned in the above text? ReykjavÝk City is the capital of Iceland, as you should know if you read the "fact-sheet" on Iceland :-> Ůingvellir is where the old parliament was located. It is now a national park with some magnificent views. Geysir is a hot water spring, and it blows occasionally. Much more alive is its fellow 'hot-water-spring' named Strokkur. One can always count on Strokkur to give some fancy shows if you wait ca. 5-20 minutes (depends on the weather). Gullfoss is a "two-storey-high" waterfall about 10km from Geysir. The view there is magnificent. Fl˙­ir is a small town in the southern part of the country, not very far from Gullfoss and Geysir, and is famous for it's mushrooms. Hverager­i is also a small town in the southern part of the country about 45km away from ReykjavÝk. In Hverager­i there are many greenhouses powered by the hot water from the earth. Blßa Lˇni­ (blue lagoon) is a pool of water that is located on the south-western corner of the country. It is a bluish pool (hence the name) which contains some stuff that psoriasis-patients find great to rub and smear on their body. Others find the lake or pool a great place to relax. The temperature of the lake ranges from warm to hot, and there are places in the water where no-one should go to as the temperature gets too high there and can cause a severe burns. Mřvatn is a lake in the northern part of the country. The landscape around the lake is magnificent, and not only the landscape closest to the lake but for some distance from it too. At Mřvatn there are several birds and plants that are rarely seen elsewhere in the country. Skaptafell is an "oasis" at the root of a glacier in the south-eastern part of the country. Even if it is at the root of a glacier it has a great views and you will feel the nature. (But you must take the time to relax and feel the nature!) And how are you supposed to travel in Iceland? Well, you can take your own car on the ferry from Scotland or Faroe Islands to Iceland and use it to drive around the country. If you do, please bear in mind that Iceland has some sensitive plants and that driving outside of the roads is not nice to the nature. Also please bear in mind to follow all instructions about a closed road or closed track and don't try to "bypass" it, even if you are on some "highly-efficient-off-road" vehicle. Or you could rent a car and drive around the country on it. (If you do, the same applies to you as for those that bring their own car; be gently on the land). Or you could hitch-hike around the country. Or you could buy a ticket with the buses here. Last time I checked, one could buy two types of tickets. (Not counting the ticket that takes you from place A to place B with minimum of hassle). I am talking about "unlimited use of buses for some limited time" vs. "limited use of busses for (almost) an unlimited time". You can buy a ticket that says something like this: "This person can travel with all busses during the period from XXX to YYY, and need not pay any more; he has already paid for the trip." And then there is the "This person can only travel in one direction on the main-road, but can take as much time to do it as is needed. (Up to a limit that is, but that limit is pretty high.)" A question that is sometimes asked is: "What clothes should I take with me to Iceland?" Well, I am not sure if you'll believe this but I recommend that you take the whole "spectrum"; light clothes for the hot and sunny days, clothes to protect you from light rain and no wind, clothes to protect you from high wind and heavy rain, and warm clothes to keep you warm those freezing nights. (Yes, they do occur, even in the summertime. Especially in the higher parts of the country). You might get some cultural shocks here in Iceland in regard to food. But even if you don't like the looks or the names or the smell or something about some Icelandic food, do try it. Even just one bite of it. Looks, names, smells can be deceiving. One of the specialties occasionally offered is called "svi­". Svi­ is a burned sheep-head, which is boiled and eaten. It tastes good, but you might be put off by the head looking at you while you're eating it :-> "Skyr" is a white, milky substance, which looks a bit like jelly, but has a peculiar taste and no visitor to Iceland should leave without tasting skyr first! Lifrarpylsa is a mixed internals from sheeps and is boiled. It is eaten either cold or warmed up. A full day tour through the black rock desert to Her­ubrei­, the queen of Icelandic mountains, and the fertile oasis at its foot, on across the lunar landscape to the great Volcanic caldera Askja. Askja last erupted in 1961. The crater VÝti (hell) formed by an immense eruption in 1875 which buried parts of the farmland in northeast Iceland in ashes, is now filled with warm sulphuric water (good for bathing). 5.4.3 More tips from various articles The following part is from Dirk Grutzmacher <D.Grutzmacher@ed.ac.uk>, compiled of replies to a query posted to the group. "What to do" There is a "Lonely Planet" series book on "Iceland, Greenland & Faeroes". For a complete guide to Iceland I suggest to look into getting this. Iceland is probably Europes most expensive country. So I imagine you'll want to camp or go bed'n'breakfast. It's advisable to book B&B before you go. If you look back a couple of 100 articles in the soc.culture.nordic newsgroup someone posted about a week back a list of B&B phone numbers. Go round the whole country. It's not all the same! Take at least one inland "lowflying" flight. The country from above is really something. Try the horse riding. An Icelandic horse is like no other horse. "What not to do" Tip. Icelanders don't like being tipped. Don't wear your shoes in their houses. Everyone takes off their shoes as they enter a house. If you like a occasional beer to relax ;-) then I suggest you buy a pack of beer in the Icelandic duty free as you enter the country. Just follow all the Icelanders as they get of the plane. They ALWAYS buy from duty free. You'll see why, if you go to a night club and order a beer. Usually 6 pounds a pint. Don't wear a jumper and jeans if you want to go out at night on the town. Icelanders over dress no matter what the occasion. You can spot the tourist by the jumper'n'jeans. Some clubs get a bit wild. Be careful. Especially if you chat up local girls. Iceland is the most hospitable country I've ever been to. They almost seem nicer to outsiders than they do to each other. Never be afraid to ask any question of anyone. Also most younger Icelanders speak English. German also, but this is not as common. They all know Danish but refuse to speak or even understand it. :-> Answer 2 There is so much that you can see in Iceland, the nature is just out of this world. (the NASA used the landscape of Mt. Askja to practice for the moon voyage in the late sixties) If you never get sea-sick, you should definetly go to Stykkishˇlmur, which is a town on the SnŠfellsnes peninsula. There you can sail on Brei­afjord. Not only is it full of many small and beautiful islands, but also it is much fun to see all the seabirds. In the middle of the trip the crew will throw down a small trawl, which will bring back many specimens of the animals that live on the bottom of the sea; crabs, sea-urchins, clams, scallops, and mussels. If you are daring enough you can try to taste the scallops and the sea-urchin's eggs, it really doesn't taste as bad as it sounds. This is one of many package-trips that BS═ (the Icelandic Grayhound bus system) offers each summer. Some of the worthwhile BS═ trips are: A day trip to Ůingvellir which is the spot where the Icelandic parliament (Althing) was founded. This is also where the North American and the European crustal plates meet. The "Blue Lagoon" is a very pretty lagoon formed from excess water from a hot water plant. In it is white silica clay, which some believe is a good medicine for psoriasis and eczema. The clay gives the lagoon a very special colour, and the steam gives it a very mystic atmosphere. In the Blue Lagoon there is a resturant, from the poolside are long tables into the lagoon, where waiters in swimsuit serve you very good fish. it is a unique experience. The Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar) are a group of 15 islands, named after the Irish slaves of the first Norse settler. Only the biggest one, Heimaey is inhabited. In 1973 all the residents had to be evacuated when a volcanic eruption destroyed a sizable part of the island. A year later almost all of the poeple returned to rebuild the town. On the Westman Islands is the biggest Puffin colony in Europe. The "Golden Circle" is the most popular tourist attraction. On this tour you will see the "golden waterfall" (gullfoss) where hundreds of tons of glacial water cascade down some 32 meters into the 40-70 m deep river gorge. Only six km. to the west lies the Geysir geothermal area, with the great Geysir, known to have erupted water as high as 80 m. in the air. Today the very active Strokkur erupts every few minutes, some 10-20 m. high. A great tour for two of the world's most famous natural wonders. The tour ends with a visit to Ůingvellir, and then on to ReykjavÝk. The Northern part of Iceland is very beautiful. From Akureyri (the capital of the north) you should visit the famous lake Mřvatn, the beutiful water-fall Go­afoss and the Krafla area. The Dimmuborgir area (the black castles) is spooky. There the stories of the "Huldufˇlk" really come true. The huldufˇlk are small people that live in the rocks of Iceland. The Huldufˇlk were created when Adam and Eve were still in Paradise. One day God decided to pay them a visit. Eve found out that God was on his way, so she started to wash all her children, but she couldn't finish washing them all, so she hid them. When God came he asked if the children that she showed him were all the children that she owned, and Eve said they were. Then God said that he knew that she was lying, and since she felt that her dirty children were not good enough to show him, he decided that nobody should be able to see them, and made them invisible. The Huldufˇlk can decide if they want you to see them or not. A full day tour through the black rock desert to Her­ubrei­, the queen of Icelandic mountains, and the fertile oasis at its foot, on across the lunar landscape to the great Volcanic caldera Askja. Askja last erupted in 1961. The crater VÝti (hell) formed by an immense eruption in 1875 which buried parts of the farmland in northeast Iceland in ashes, is now filled with warm sulphuric water (good for bathing). J÷kulsarlˇn and Skaftafell national park are very cool places to see. J÷kulsarlˇn is a glacial lagoon at the edge of Vatnaj÷kull ice tounges, which is full of magnificent floating icebergs. Skaftafell national park is a beutiful contrast between the white icecap, the black basaltic sands, muddy glacial waters and clear brooks in narrow gulches, woodlands and wide variety of flowering plants is enough to amase anyone. It is a unique experience to go horseback riding in Iceland. There are many companies that offer those trips. Many of the day-trips that I have listed above have to be booked in advance so it is very good to decide what you are going to do before you come here, or at least to have a good idea about what you'd like to do. Answer 3 It depends whether you've seen fjords, glaciers or volcanic scenery before. A week is not too much time, so you might not want to take the bus right round the island (what I did in '88, and it was wonderful). My favourite bits were the eastern fjords (the bus careering round gravel roads on cliff edges) and the black sands east of VÝk on the south coast. Eat skyr and ßvaxtagrautur and dried fish (because you won't find them anywhere else probably), do try and speak Icelandic a bit (there's a good Langenscheidt dictionary which you ought to be able to buy there), cos the Icelanders really open up if you try a bit. Go swimming somewhere, just for the warmth and the smell. The Blue Lagoon is OK, but there are an awful lot of tourists; same goes for Gullfoss and Geysir and Thingvellir. The weather will probably be OK; like Argyll but colder. And the YHs are pretty good... 5.4.4 Accommodation in Iceland Summer hotels: Various hotels around the country operate in summer only. Many of those are schools in winter with swimming pools and hot springs nearby. Most have licenced resturantsand bars. Prices for a single room with shower range from: USD 53 (breakfast not included), and for a double room with shower from USD 84.50 (breakfast from USD 10) Edda hotels: The Icelandic tourist bureau operates a chain of seventeen tourist-class hotels around the country under the name of EDDA hotels. Both bed and breakfast and sleeping-bag accommodations are offered. The head office is at SkˇgarhlÝ­ 18, 101 ReykjavÝk TEL: +345-562-3300 FAX: +345-562-5895. Prices for rooms without bath range from USD 52 for a single to USD 68 for a double, and for rooms with bath from UDS 72 for a single to USD 99 for a double, breakfast costs USD 11 and sleeping-bag accommodation is from USD 14 Farmhouse accommodation: Icelandic Farm Holidays is a chain of farms around Iceland offering travellers accommodation and variety of services. some activities offered at farms are horseback riding, fishing, hunting rounding up sheep and swimming. Accommodation is in the farmhouse, separate houses or cottages. Travellers can choose from bed and breakfast or sleeping-bag accommodation. Cottages are usually rented by the week. For a new brochure or booking, contact a travel agent or Icelandic Far Holidays, BŠndah÷llin at Hagatorg, 107 ReykjavÝk, TEL: +345-562-3640. FAX: +345-562-3644. Prices for bed and breakfast per person in a double room range from USD 40-70, and for sleeping-bag accommodation from USD11-22. A cottage for one week costs on average USD 400-600 for 4 persons, and USD 450-670 for 6 persons. Youth and family hostels: There are various youth and family hostels around Iceland and all people are welcome regardless of age. Almost all hostels have family rooms (rooms with 2 to 4 beds). A few hostels are open all year, others operate in summer only. for further information contact the Icelandic Youth Hostels Association, Sundlaugarvegur 34, 105 ReykjavÝk TEL: +345-553-8110, FAX: +345-567-9201. Price for accommodation is USD 20, for members USD 17, linen extra USD 4, breakfast extra USD 9.
Subject: 5.5 The sagas, Eddas, and subsequent Icelandic literature. The first Icelandic literature was written down some two centuries after the island was settled in the 9th century. It can be divided into three categories: 1. Eddic poetry, i.e mythological and heroic poems 2. skaldic poetry, or court poetry in praise of some event or person 3. saga literature -- prose works ranging from fairly factual history writing to pure fiction. 5.5.1 The Sagas The sagas are without doubt Iceland's most important contribution to world literature. They are medieval prose narrative, abounding in paradox and iron. Violence is abundant, but the style is subdued. Heroism is praised, but moderation is more highly prized. Much is said of fate, but the complex characters seem to control their own destinies. The world of the saga is pagan, but its sentiment is humanitarian. Among the more historical saga literature, based on both oral and written sources, the best known are Ari Ůorgilsson's ═slendingabˇk (a history of Iceland), Snorri Sturluson's Heimskringla ('The Disc of the World', a history of Swedish and Norwegian kings), and the anonymous Knytlinga Saga (a history of Danish kings). An excellent example of the fictional saga literature is Hrafnkels Saga, a short bildungsroman. The family sagas, such as Egils Saga (the story of Iceland's greatest skald, Egill Skalla- grÝmsson) and Njßls Saga, fall somewhere in between the fictional and factual varieties of sagas. Heimskringla is the most celebrated of the sagas, but the dramatic Egil's Saga (c.1220) comes close. The more ornate LaxdŠla Saga (c.1250) elaborates tragic themes from the poems of the Edda. In Grettis Saga (c.1300), which shares motifs with the Old English poem Beowulf, the hero succumbs to pagan sorcery. Njßls Saga (c.1230-90) both glorifies and repudiates the Saga Age (870-1050), and provides an important description of ancient Icelandic legal system. The most important of the legendary sagas is V÷lsunga Saga (c.1250); it was a major source for Wagner's operas, and retells parts of the Edda. 5.5.2 The Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda The Eddas are two collections of Old Icelandic writings, and together they form the most important source of Scandinavian mythology. The Poetic Edda is a collection of 34 Icelandic poems, interspersed with prose dating from the 9th to the 12th century. The poems were composed by anonymous poets and they deal mostly with mythological themes. Among the most important of these are the poems V÷luspß (The vision of the Seeress) and Hßvamßl (The Speech of the High One). To give some taste of the nature of this poetry, here's a famous quote from Hßvamßl, where Odin ('The High One') speaks of how he acquired the art of casting runes by being sacrificed on a branch of the World Tree: I know I hung on the windswept Tree through nine days and nights I was struck with a spear and given to Odin, myself given to myself They helped me neither by meat nor drink I peered downward, I took up the runes, screaming, I took them - then I fell back. The Younger, or Prose, Edda (c. 1220) is the work of the Snorri Sturluson. It was probably intended as a handbook for novice poets who wished to become skalds, or court poets, in a time when the old pagan tradition was already beginning to fade from men's minds but was still appreciated. Snorri was a brilliant stylist, writing in his native Icelandic; his Edda is no dry antiquarian treatise, but a witty, imaginative and lively account of the old tales of the gods. Despite his being a Christian, there is little doubt that Snorri has given us a faithful picture of heathen mythology as it was known in his day; there are few attempts at rationalizing or pointing towards some Christian moral teaching. It is difficult to know to how far removed Snorri's stories are from the living faith of the pagan era, but despite its limitations, the Prose Edda is the best introduction to the world of Scandinavian mythology there exists. (For a summary of the basic aspects of Norse mythology, see section 2.2). 5.5.3 Later Icelandic literature The epic Icelandic tradition climaxed in the 13th century. Pre-Reformation literature also includes Eysteinn ┴sgrimsson's religious poem Lilja (14th century), a number of popular ballads, and the rÝmur, which were cycles of epic poetry. After the Reformation, Iceland experienced three centuries of poverty, which also affected its literature, although in the 17th century HallgrÝmur PÚtursson wrote his important Passion Hymns. Romanticism bloomed in the 19th century in the poetry of Jˇnas HallgrÝmsson and GrÝmur Thomsen, while the novelist Jˇn Thoroddsen foreshadowed realism. In the early 20th century some Icelanders began to write in Danish; the most important of them was the novelist Gunnar Gunnarsson. After World War I, Icelandic literature experienced a renaissance, especially in form of the poetry of Stefßn frß HvÝtadal, DavÝ­ Stefßnsson, and Tˇmas Gu­mundsson. Of the prose writers of this era the most prominent were ١rbergur ١r­arson and the Nobel Prize winner Halldˇr Laxness, the most important figure of modern Icelandic literature. After World War II another generation of poets took over, introducing modernist features into the heavily traditional Icelandic poetry. Among the leaders of this avant-garde were Steinn Steinarr and Jˇn ˙r V÷r. Some of the writers active in Iceland today are the poets Hannes PÚtursson and Snorri Hjartarson, and the novelists Ëlafur Jˇhann Sigur­sson (who is also a poet), Thor Vilhjßlmsson, and Indri­i G. Ůorsteinsson. For electronic versions of some of the works of Nordic literature, see the collection of Project Runeberg: * <http://www.lysator.liu.se/runeberg/> * <ftp://ftp.lysator.liu.se/pub/runeberg> * gopher.lysator.liu.se ; path: /project-runeberg 5.3.2 Greenland Greenland is said to have been discovered by a man called Gunnbj÷rn whose ship had gone off course. It was, however, EirÝkr Ůorvaldsson (a.k.a Eric the Red) who explored and named the island, and ruled the first colony of settlers. He who was born in Norway in the mid-10th century, but went to Iceland as a child after his father was banished from Norway. A violent man as he was, EirÝkr himself was banished from Iceland, and set forth on an expedition westward from Iceland. In 981 he got to Greenland (a name he gave to encourage settlers to go there), and spent the next three years exploring it. After that he returned to Iceland and led an expedition of 25 ships to settle (c.985) in southwestern Greenland. This settlement survived until the late 15th century. EirÝkr himself settled at Brattahli­ (Tunigdliarfik) in Greenland, where he died sometime after the year 1000. The most important written sources recounting the discovery and settlement of Greenland are Ari Ůorgilsson's ═slendingabˇk and Landßmabˇk. There are also two colourful sagas, GrŠnlendinga Saga (The Saga of the Greenlanders) and EirÝks saga rau­a (The Saga of Eric the Red), but these were composed only in the early 13th century and are often fanciful and contradict each other in places. Greenland's attraction was that it had better pasture for sheep, goats and cows than Iceland, where the soil had already become poor after about a century of heavy exploitation. Farmers had never lived there, the climate was probably a bit milder than today, and some of the fertile lowlands which now have have disappeared under sea were above surface at that time. There was probably also quite a lot of driftwood in Greenland at that time. Catch was plenty in the sea, and there were reindeer, bears and birds to hunt on land. Pelts of polar bears and arctic foxes, whalebone and walrus tusks were used to pay for the essential imports, such as metal, timber and grain, as well as luxury goods. But the colony was vulnerable if there were epidemics among animals or people or even small climactic changes, and it died out sometime in the 15th century -- the exact reason isn't known. In 1712, centuries after the links between Greenland and the rest of the world had been broken, the king of Denmark-Norway sent an expedition to Greenland with pastor Hans Egede to nurture the Christian faith among the Viking descendants, but none had survived. The Eskimos had long since penetrated to the southernmost point of the country, and these were the Greenlanders Egede met. 5.3.3 Vinland; L'Anse aux Meadows According to the sagas, Vinland was discovered when ships went off course during one of the long journeys from Iceland or Norway to Greenland. The Saga of the Greenlanders attributes the first sighting of America to Bjarni Herjˇlfsson who had emigrated with EirÝkr the Red to Greenland, although Bjarni didn't actually set foot on Vinland; the Saga of EirÝkr the Red, on the other hand, says that the discovery was made by Leifr the Lucky, EirÝkr's son. Leifur grew up in Greenland but in ca. 999 he visited Norway, where he was converted to Christianity. According to one saga, he was then commissioned by King Olaf I to convert the Greenlanders to Christianity, but he was blown off course, missed Greenland, and reached North America (this story, however, is now known to be fiction, made by up by an Icelandic priest called Gunnlaugr in the 13th century). The other, more probable version of the story describes Leifur sailing on a planned voyage to lands to the west of Greenland that had been sighted 15 years earlier by Bjarni. He landed at places called Helluland and Markland and wintered at Vinland, and returned back to Greenland. After Leifr's journey an expedition led by Ůorfinnr Karlsefni, a wealthy Icelandic trader, returned to settle VÝnland in c.1010 and wintered there. The Scandinavians, both men and women, first traded but then fought with the native SkrŠlings. The descriptions of SkrŠling culture in the sagas are consistent with American Indian life. Because of SkrŠling attacks, the settlement was abandoned after three winters. There is some disagreement on where exactly the places visited by Leifr were. Vinland (Vine Land) was presumably Newfoundland, Markland (Wood Land) Labrador Island and Helluland (Flat Rock Land) Baffin Island. The only firm evidence of Scandinavian presence in North America has been found in Newfoundland at L'Anse aux Meadows, where excavations begun in 1961 have revealed the remains of eight turf-walled houses, one of which was a longhouse 22 m by 15 m (72 ft by 50 ft) containing five rooms including a "great hall," and a smithy, where bog iron was smelted. Several of the houses had stone ember pits identical with those found in Norse houses in Greenland. Among the artifacts unearthed was a soapstone spindle whorl similar to those discovered in Norse ruins in Greenland, Iceland, and Scandinavia; this find suggests that women as well as men were present at the site, which is also consistent with the sagas. Other artifacts point to a brief, much earlier occupation of the site by Maritime Archaic Indians and a later occupation by Dorset Eskimo. L'Anse aux Meadows may have been the place of Ůorfinnr's settlement. The site was a good one for a pioneer community; the soil was fertile, there was plenty of fish and game, the climate was mild and there was iron ore available, but the area wasn't previously uninhabited; the local Indians seem to have made long-lasting settlements impossible. The journeys to Vinland continued into the Middle Ages, but apparently only to obtain raw materials for the Greenland colony. Some scholars have suggested that L'Anse aux Meadows was a transit station to journeys further south, but apart from a Norwegian coin from King Olaf Kyrre's reign (1066-80) found on an Indian settlement in the state of Maine, there are no traces early Scandinavian presence further south. The various rune stones, such as the Kensington Stone, and other similar VÝking objects 'found' in North America are all faked. Similarly, the New World portions of Yale University's Vinland map, a world map supposedly made about 1440 which includes Vinland and Greenland, was in 1974 revealed as a modern forgery. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- END OF PART 5 -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- ę Copyright 1994-96 by Antti Lahelma and Johan Olofsson. You are free to quote this page as long as you mention the URL for the original archive (as: <http://www.lysator.liu.se/nordic/index.html>), where the most recent version of this document can be found.

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