In the interest of preserving memories and acting as a future guide, this series of posts reflects on adventures spent abroad- meaning, outside of my own community, wherever I might land. It serves not only as a record but also as an exercise in memory and language.
“And that’s Thingvallavatn,” Kim replied, gesturing to the blue waters. We pulled off at our next clover. I struggled to push the door open, the winds were so strong. Hundreds of rock stacks spread out before the lake. Japanese tourists lined up together and through mere gesturing, we exchanged photos and giggles as the wind pushed us about. The Laufskalavarda Cairns were erected in memory of farms lost to volcanic eruptions and stood for good luck. They seemed endless, stretching out on the barren land. Visitors created their own memorials before setting off for the lake. We were no different.
There is no official entrance to the park- you just go until it spits you somewhere that seems legitimate. Luckily, if you veer left or right, you’re in the Golden Circle- you can’t really screw it up. We opted for a visit with zero veering and landed at the visitor’s center where we ignored an informative documentary and where I (stupidly) walked away from hand-felted electric pink and grey slippers. There would be no 2,000 krona bathroom visits today, only starkly splitting lava fields and cascading falls.
Little ant-sized travelers meandered before us and we followed them with our clunky steps, down the descending path and into the valley. The walls stretched up around us.
|Meandering down through the enterance|
Here, it is said, that Icelandic law was created. Swaths of people would gather at the tectonic split to hear the chieftan declare rulings and to enact decrees. His information would be passed down each wall by a town cryer of sorts until it reached the lowliest of subjects, like a large format version of phone tag. Scattered throughout were historical signs, describing ancient activities around each point of interest. Throughout history, they told us, this was a place of law and terror. Landmarks were primarily named after execution styles- certain styles being more suited (presumably) to particular genders. Men, we learned, were often careened off of cliffs while women were typically stuffed into sacks and drowned. The beauty of our surroundings shifted to bleakness. As I stood beneath the rocks and falls, I tried to hold my gaze as others drifted away. I wanted to honor the memories of those lost by not turning away.
|Oxrarfoss, where women were drowned for witchcraft to adultery|
As much as I tried to simultaneously remember what this place was- how it brought together swarms of people, destroyed thousands of lives, altered geography and its inhabitants- and to be present in its simple, stark beauty, I couldn’t help but let the latter win out. I tucked my scarf into my coat and we forged our way through the valley.