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Keeping faith with the past: Iceland

by Nicky Gardner

"> Picture above: Goðafoss - the "waterfall of the Gods" in northern Iceland (photo © CsId / dreamstime.com).

Summary

Yes, you can go to Iceland in search of glaciers and geysers, but you can also travel north, just as William Morris did, in search of heroes and gods. These are landscapes full of eddic myth and powerful sagas. Iceland is a country that has kept faith with the past.

Our images of various European landscapes are powerfully shaped by early travel writers. It is perfectly possible to travel to Iceland and not see glaciers, geysers or volcanoes. Indeed, the great majority of business travellers jetting into Reykjavík see a glacier-free Iceland. Yet the very name of the country evokes such potent images that we all think we know Iceland, even though we may never have been there.

By the late eighteenth century, Iceland had become a regular destination for writers from Scandinavia, Britain and Germany. Among the travellers of that era was Ebenezer Henderson, a Scottish preacher who travelled by pony through Iceland in 1814 and 1815. Henderson travelled not primarily to see the landscape but rather to promote the distribution of bibles.

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