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A Visit to Iceland and the Scandinavian North Translated from German by Madame Ida Pfeiffer

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On the elevated plateaux several places were still covered with
snow; these we were obliged to cross, though we could frequently
hear the rushing of the water beneath its snowy covering. We were
compelled also to pass over coatings of ice spread lightly over
rivers, and presenting that blue colour which is a certain sign of

Our poor horses were sometimes very restive; but it was of no use;
they were beaten without mercy until they carried us over the
dangerous places. The pack-horse was always driven on in front with
many blows; it had to serve as pioneer, and try if the road was
practicable. Next came my guide, and I brought up the rear. Our
poor horses frequently sank up to their knees in the snow, and twice
up to the saddle-girths. This was one of the most dangerous rides I
have ever had. I could not help continually thinking what I should
do if my guide were to sink in so deeply that he could not extricate
himself; my strength would not have been sufficient to rescue him,
and whither should I turn to seek for help? All around us was
nothing but a desert and snow. Perhaps my lot might have been to
die of hunger. I should have wandered about seeking dwellings and
human beings, and have entangled myself so completely among these
wastes that I could never have found my way.

When at a distance I descried a new field of snow (and unfortunately
we came upon them but too frequently), I felt very uncomfortable;
those alone who have themselves been in a similar situation can
estimate the whole extent of my anxiety.

If I had been travelling in company with others, these fears would
not have disturbed me; for there reciprocal assistance can be
rendered, and the consciousness of this fact seems materially to
diminish the danger.

During the season in which the snow ceases to form a secure
covering, this road is but little travelled. We saw nowhere a trace
of footsteps, either of men or animals; we were the only living
beings in this dreadful region. I certainly scolded my guide
roundly for bringing me by such a road. But what did I gain by
this? It would have been as dangerous to turn back as to go on.

A change in the weather, which till now had been rather favourable,
increased the difficulties of this journey. Already when we left
Kalmannstunga, the sky began to be overcast, and the sun enlivened
us with its rays only for a few minutes at a time. On our reaching
the higher mountains the weather became worse; for here we
encountered clouds and fog, which wreaked their vengeance upon us,
and which only careered by to make room for others. An icy storm
from the neighbouring glaciers was their constant companion, and
made me shiver so much that I could scarcely keep my saddle. We had
now ridden above thirteen hours. The rain poured down incessantly,
and we were half dead with cold and wet; so I at length determined
to halt for the night at the first cottage: at last we found one
between two or three miles from Thingvalla. I had now a roof above
my head; but beyond this I had gained nothing. The cottage
consisted of a single room, and was almost completely filled by four
broad bedsteads. I counted seven adults and three children, who had
all to be accommodated in these four beds. In addition to this, the
kvef, a kind of croup, prevailed this spring to such an extent that
scarcely any one escaped it. Wherever I went, I found the people
afflicted with this complaint; and here this was also the case; the
noise of groaning and coughing on all sides was quite deplorable.
The floor, moreover, was revoltingly dirty.

The good people were so kind as immediately to place one of their
beds at my disposal; but I would rather have passed the night on the
threshold of the door than in this disgusting hole. I chose for my
lodging-place the narrow passage which separated the kitchen from
the room; I found there a couple of blocks, across which a few
boards had been laid, and this constituted the milk-room: it might
have been more properly called the smoke-room; for in the roof were
a few air-holes, through which the smoke escaped. In this smoke or
milk-room--whichever it may be called--I prepared to pass the night
as best I could. My cloak being wet through, I had been compelled
to hang it on a stick to dry; and thus found myself under the
necessity of borrowing a mattress from these unhealthy people. I
laid myself down boldly, and pretended sleepiness, in order to
deliver myself from the curiosity of my entertainers. They retired
to their room, and so I was alone and undisturbed. But yet I could
not sleep; the cold wind, blowing in upon me through the air-holes,
chilled and wetted as I already was, kept me awake against my will.
I had also another misfortune to endure. As often as I attempted to
sit upright on my luxurious couch, my head would receive a severe
concussion. I had forgotten the poles which are fixed across each
of these antechambers, for the purpose of hanging up fish to dry,
&c. Unfortunately I could not bear this arrangement in mind until
after I had received half a dozen salutations of this description.

June 21st.

At length the morning so long sighed for came; the rain had indeed
ceased; but the clouds still hung about the mountains, and promised
a speedy fall; I nevertheless resolved rather to submit myself to
the fury of the elements than to remain longer in my present
quarters, and so ordered the horses to be saddled.

Before my departure roast lamb and butter were offered me. I
thanked my entertainers; but refrained from tasting any thing,
excusing myself on the plea of not feeling hungry, which was in
reality the case; for if I only looked at the dirty people who
surrounded me, my appetite vanished instantly. So long as my stock
of bread and cheese lasted, I kept to it, and ate nothing else.

Taking leave of my good hosts, we continued our journey to
Reikjavik, by the same road on which I had travelled on my journey
hither. This had not been my original plan on starting from
Reikjavik; I had intended to proceed from Thingvalla directly to the
Geyser, to Hecla, &c.; but the horses were already exhausted, and
the weather so dreadfully bad, without prospect of speedy amendment,
that I preferred returning to Reikjavik, and waiting for better
times in my pleasant little room at the house of the good baker.

We rode on as well as we could amidst ceaseless storms of wind and
rain. The most disagreeable circumstance of all was our being
obliged to spend the hours devoted to rest in the open air, under a
by no means cloudless sky, as during our whole day's journey we saw
not a single hut, save the solitary one in the lava desert, which
serves as a resting-place for travellers during the winter. So we
continued our journey until we reached a scanty meadow. Here I had
my choice either to walk about for two hours, or to sit down upon
the wet grass. I could find nothing better to do than to turn my
back upon the wind and rain, to remain standing on one spot, to have
patience, and for amusement to observe the direction in which the
clouds scudded by. At the same time I discussed my frugal meal,
more for want of something to do than from hunger; if I felt
thirsty, I had only to turn round and open my mouth.

If there are natures peculiarly fitted for travelling, I am
fortunate in being blessed with such an one. No rain or wind was
powerful enough to give me even a cold. During this whole excursion
I had tasted no warm or nourishing food; I had slept every night
upon a bench or a chest; had ridden nearly 255 miles in six days;
and had besides scrambled about bravely in the cavern of Surthellir;
and, in spite of all this privation and fatigue, I arrived at
Reikjavik in good health and spirits.

Short summary of this journey:

First day, from Reikjavik to Thingvalla 46
Second day, from Thingvalla to Reikholt 51
Third day, from Reikholt to the different
springs, and back again 19
Fourth day, from Reikholt to Surthellir, and
back to Kalmannstunga 40
Fifth day, from Kalmannstunga to Thingvalla 51
Sixth day, from Thingvalla to Reikjavik 46
Total 253


The weather soon cleared up, and I continued my journey to the
Geyser and to Mount Hecla on the 24th June. On the first day, when
we rode to Thingvalla, we passed no new scenery, but saw instead an
extremely beautiful atmospheric phenomenon.

As we approached the lake, some thin mist-clouds lowered over it and
over the earth, so that it seemed as if it would rain. One portion
of the firmament glowed with the brightest blue; while the other
part was obscured by thick clouds, through which the sun was just
breaking. Some of its rays reached the clouds of mist, and
illuminated them in a wonderfully beautiful manner. The most
delicate shades of colour seemed breathed, as it were, over them
like a dissolving rainbow, whose glowing colours were intermingled
and yet singly perceptible. This play of colours continued for half
an hour, then faded gradually till it vanished entirely, and the
ordinary atmosphere took its place. It was one of the most
beautiful appearances I had ever witnessed.

June 25th.

The roads separate about a mile behind the little town of
Thingvalla; the one to the left goes to Reikholt, the right-hand one
leads to the Geyser. We rode for some time along the shores of the
lake, and found at the end of the valley an awful chasm in the rock,
similar to the one of Almanagiau, which we had passed on such a
wretched road.

The contiguous valley bore a great resemblance to that of
Thingvalla; but the third one was again fearful. Lava covered it,
and was quite overgrown with that whitish moss, which has a
beautiful appearance when it only covers a portion of the lava, and
when black masses rise above it, but which here presented a most
monotonous aspect.

We also passed two grottoes which opened at our feet. At the
entrance of one stood a pillar of rock supporting an immense slab of
lava, which formed an awe-inspiring portal. I had unfortunately not
known of the existence of these caves, and was consequently
unprepared to visit them. Torches, at least, would have been
requisite. But I subsequently heard that they were not at all deep,
and contained nothing of interest.

In the course of the day we passed through valleys such as I had
seen nowhere else in Iceland. Beautiful meadow-lawns, perfectly
level, covered the country for miles. These rich valleys were, of
course, tolerably well populated; we frequently passed three or four
contiguous cottages, and saw horses, cows, and sheep grazing on
these fields in considerable numbers.

The mountains which bounded these valleys on the left seemed to me
very remarkable; they were partly brown, black, or dark blue, like
the others; but the bulk of which they were composed I considered to
be fine loam-soil layers, if I may trust my imperfect mineralogical
knowledge. Some of these mountains were topped by large isolated
lava rocks, real giants; and it seemed inexplicable to me how they
could stand on the soft soil beneath.

In one of these valleys we passed a considerable lake, on and around
which rose circling clouds of steam proceeding from hot springs, but
of no great size. But after we had already travelled about twenty-
five miles, we came to the most remarkable object I had ever met
with; this was a river with a most peculiar bed.

This river-bed is broad and somewhat steep; it consists of lava
strata, and is divided lengthwise in the middle by a cleft eighteen
to twenty feet deep, and fifteen to eighteen feet broad, towards
which the bubbling and surging waters rush, so that the sound is
heard at some distance. A little wooden bridge, which stands in the
middle of the stream, and over which the high waves constantly play,
leads over the chasm. Any one not aware of the fact can hardly
explain this appearance to himself, nor understand the noise and
surging of the stream. The little bridge in the centre would be
taken for the ruins of a fallen bridge, and the chasm is not seen
from the shore, because the foaming waves overtop it. An
indescribable fear would seize upon the traveller when he beheld the
venturous guide ride into the stream, and was obliged to follow
without pity or mercy.

The priest of Thingvalla had prepared me for the scene, and had
advised me to WALK over the bridge; but as the water at this season
stood so high that the waves from both sides dashed two feet above
the bridge, I could not descend from my horse, and was obliged to
ride across.

The whole passage through the stream is so peculiar, that it must be
seen, and can scarcely be described. The water gushes and plays on
all sides with fearful force; it rushes into the chasm with
impetuous violence, forms waterfalls on both sides, and breaks
itself on the projecting rocks. Not far from the bridge the cleft
terminates; and the whole breadth of the waters falls over rocks
thirty to forty feet high. The nearer we approached the centre, the
deeper, more violent, and impetuous grew the stream, and the more
deafening was the noise. The horses became restless and shy; and
when we came to the bridge, they began to tremble, they reared, they
turned to all sides but the right one, and refused to obey the
bridle. With infinite trouble we at last succeeded in bringing them
across this dangerous place.

The valley which is traversed by this peculiar river is narrow, and
quite enclosed by lava mountains and hills; the inanimate, silent
nature around is perfectly adapted to imprint this scene for ever on
the traveller's memory.

This remarkable stream had been the last difficulty; and now we
proceeded quietly and safely through the beautiful valleys till we
approached the Geyser, which a projecting hillock enviously
concealed from my anxiously curious gaze. At last this hillock was
passed; and I saw the Geyser with its surrounding scenery, with its
immense steam pillars, and the clouds and cloudlets rising from it.
The hill was about two miles distant from the Geyser and the other
hot springs. There they were, boiling and bubbling all around, and
through the midst lay the road to the basin. Eighty paces from it
we halted.

And now I stood before the chief object of my journey; I saw it, it
was so near me, and yet I did not venture to approach it. But a
peasant who had followed us from one of the neighbouring cottages,
and had probably guessed my anxiety and my fear, took me by the hand
and constituted himself my cicerone. He had unfortunately, it being
Sunday, paid too great a devotion to the brandy-bottle, so that he
staggered rather than walked, and I hesitated to trust myself to the
guidance of this man, not knowing whether he had reason enough left
to distinguish how far we might with safety venture. My guide, who
had accompanied me from Reikjavik, assured me indeed that I might
trust him in spite of his intoxication, and that he would himself go
with us to translate the peasant's Icelandic jargon into Danish; but
nevertheless I followed with great trepidation.

He led me to the margin of the basin of the great Geyser, which lies
on the top of a gentle elevation of about ten feet, and contains the
outer and the inner basins. The diameter of the outer basin may be
about thirty feet; that of the inner one six to seven feet. Both
were filled to the brim, the water was pure as crystal, but boiled
and bubbled only slightly. We soon left this spot; for when the
basins are quite filled with water it is very dangerous to approach
them, as they may empty themselves any moment by an eruption. We
therefore went to inspect the other springs.

My unsteady guide pointed those out which we might unhesitatingly
approach, and warned me from the others. Then we returned to the
great Geyser, where he gave me some precautionary rules, in case of
an intervening eruption, and then left me to prepare some
accommodation for my stay. I will briefly enumerate the rules he
gave me.

"The pillar of water always rises perpendicularly, and the
overflowing water has its chief outlets on one and the same side.
The water does indeed escape on the other side, but only in
inconsiderable quantities, and in shapeless little ducts, which one
may easily evade. On this side one may therefore approach within
forty paces even during the most violent eruptions. The eruption
announces itself by a dull roaring; and as soon as this is heard,
the traveller must hastily retire to the above-named distance, as
the eruption always follows very quickly after the noise. The
water, however, does not rise high every time, often only very
inconsiderably, so that, to see a very fine explosion, it is often
necessary to stay some days here."

The French scholar, M. P. Geimard, has provided for the
accommodation of travellers with a truly noble disinterestedness.
He traversed the whole of Iceland some years ago and left two large
tents behind him; one here, and the other in Thingvalla. The one
here is particularly appropriate, as travellers are frequently
obliged, as stated above, to wait several days for a fine eruption.
Every traveller certainly owes M. Geimard the warmest thanks for
this convenience. A peasant, the same who guides travellers to the
springs, has the charge of it, and is bound to pitch it for any one
for a fee of one or two florins.

When my tent was ready it was nearly eleven o'clock. My companions
retired, and I remained alone.

It is usual to watch through the night in order not to miss an
eruption. Now, although an alternate watching is no very arduous
matter for several travellers, it became a very hard task for me
alone, and an Icelandic peasant cannot be trusted; an eruption of
Mount Hecla would scarcely arouse him.

I sat sometimes before and sometimes in my tent, and listened with
anxious expectation for the coming events; at last, after midnight--
the witching hour--I heard some hollow sounds, as if a cannon were
being fired at a great distance, and its echoing sounds were borne
by the breeze. I rushed from my tent and expected subterranean
noises, violent cracking and trembling of the earth, according to
the descriptions I had read. I could scarcely repress a slight
sensation of fear. To be alone at midnight in such a scene is
certainly no joke.

Many of my friends may remember my telling them, before my
departure, that I expected I should need the most courage on my
Icelandic journey during the nights at the Geyser.

These hollow sounds were repeated, at very short intervals, thirteen
times; and each time the basin overflowed and ejected a considerable
quantity of water. The sounds did not seem to proceed from
subterranean ragings, but from the violent agitation of the waters.
In a minute and a half all was over; the water no longer overflowed,
the caldron and basin remained filled, and I returned to my tent
disappointed in every way. This phenomenon was repeated every two
hours and a half, or, at the latest, every three hours and a half.
I saw and heard nothing else all night, the next day, or the second
night. I waited in vain for an eruption.

When I had accustomed myself to these temporary effusions of my
neighbour, I either indulged in a gentle slumber in the intermediate
time, or I visited the other springs and explored. I wished to
discover the boiling vapour and the coloured springs which many
travellers assert they have seen here.

All the hot-springs are united with a circumference of 800 to 900
paces: several of them are very remarkable, but the majority

They are situated in the angle of an immense valley at the foot of a
hill, behind which extends a chain of mountains. The valley is
entirely covered with grass, and the vegetation only decreases a
little in the immediate vicinity of the springs. Cottages are built
every where in the neighbourhood; the nearest to the springs are
only about 700 to 800 paces distant.

I counted twelve large basins with boiling and gushing springs; of
smaller ones there were many more.

Among the gushing springs the Strokker is the most remarkable. It
boils and bubbles with most extraordinary violence at a depth of
about twenty feet, shoots up suddenly, and projects its waters into
the air. Its eruptions sometimes last half an hour, and the column
occasionally ascends to a height of forty feet. I witnessed several
of its eruptions; but unfortunately not one of the largest. The
highest I saw could not have been above thirty feet, and did not
last more than a quarter of an hour. The Strokker is the only
spring, except the Geyser, which has to be approached with great
caution. The eruptions sometimes succeed each other quickly, and
sometimes cease for a few hours, and are not preceded by any sign.
Another spring spouts constantly, but never higher than three to
four feet. A third one lies about four or five feet deep, in a
rather broad basin, and produces only a few little bubbles. But
this calmness is deceptive: it seldom lasts more than half a
minute, rarely two or three minutes; then the spring begins to
bubble, to boil, and to wave and spout to a height of two or three
feet; without, however, reaching the level of the basin. In some
springs I heard boiling and foaming like a gentle bellowing; but saw
no water, sometimes not even steam, rising.

Two of the most remarkable springs which can perhaps be found in the
world are situated immediately above the Geyser, in two openings,
which are separated by a wall of rock scarcely a foot wide. This
partition does not rise above the surface of the soil, but descends
into the earth; the water boils slowly, and has an equable, moderate
discharge. The beauty of these springs consists in their remarkable
transparency. All the varied forms and caves, the projecting peaks,
and edges of rock, are visible far down, until the eye is lost in
the depths of darkness. But the greatest beauty of the spring is
the splendid colouring proceeding from the rock; it is of the
tenderest, most transparent, pale blue and green, and resembles the
reflection of a Bengal flame. But what is most strange is, that
this play of colour proceeds from the rock, and only extends eight
to ten inches from it, while the other water is colourless as common
water, only more transparent, and purer.

I could not believe it at first, and thought it must be occasioned
by the sun; I therefore visited the springs at different times,
sometimes when the sun shone brightly, sometimes when it was
obscured by clouds, once even after its setting; but the colouring
always remained the same.

One may fearlessly approach the brink of these springs. The
platform which projects directly from them, and under which one can
see in all directions, is indeed only a thin ledge of rock, but
strong enough to prevent any accident. The beauty consists, as I
have said, in the magical illumination, and in the transparency, by
which all the caves and grottoes to the greatest depths become
visible to the eye. Involuntarily I thought of Schiller's Diver.
{40} I seemed to see the goblet hang on the peaks and jags of the
rock; I could fancy I saw the monsters rise from the bottom. It
must be a peculiar pleasure to read this splendid poem in such an
appropriate spot.

I found scarcely any basins of Brodem or coloured waters. The only
one of the kind which I saw was a small basin, in which a brownish-
red substance, rather denser than water, was boiling. Another
smaller spring, with dirty brown water, I should have quite
overlooked, if I had not so industriously searched for these

At last, after long waiting, on the second day of my stay, on the
27th June, at half-past eight in the morning, I was destined to see
an eruption of the Geyser in its greatest perfection. The peasant,
who came daily in the morning and in the evening to inquire whether
I had already seen an eruption, was with me when the hollow sounds
which precede it were again heard. We hastened out, and I again
despaired of seeing any thing; the water only overflowed as usual,
and the sound was already ceasing. But all at once, when the last
sounds had scarcely died away, the explosion began. Words fail me
when I try to describe it: such a magnificent and overpowering
sight can only be seen once in a lifetime.

All my expectations and suppositions were far surpassed. The water
spouted upwards with indescribable force and bulk; one pillar rose
higher than the other; each seemed to emulate the other. When I had
in some measure recovered from the surprise, and regained composure,
I looked at the tent. How little, how dwarfish it seemed as
compared to the height of these pillars of water! And yet it was
about twenty feet high. It did, indeed, lie ten feet lower than the
basin of the Geyser; but if tent had been raised above tent, these
ten feet could only be deducted once, and I calculated, though my
calculation may not be correct, that one would need to pile up five
or six tents to have the height of one of the pillars. Without
exaggeration, I think the largest spout rose above one hundred feet
high, and was three to four feet in diameter.

Fortunately I had looked at my watch at the beginning of the hollow
sounds, the forerunners of the eruption, for during its continuance
I should probably have forgotten to do so. The whole lasted four
minutes, of which the greater half must have been taken up by the
eruption itself.

When this wonderful scene was over, the peasant accompanied me to
the basin. We could now approach it and the boiler without danger,
and examine both at leisure. There was now nothing to fear; the
water had entirely disappeared from the outer basin. We entered it
and approached the inner basin, in which the water had sunk seven or
eight feet, where it boiled and bubbled fiercely.

With a hammer I broke some crust out of the outer as well as out of
the inner basin; the former was white, the latter brown. I also
tasted the water; it had not an unpleasant taste, and can only
contain an inconsiderable proportion of sulphur, as the steam does
not even smell of it.

I went to the basin of the Geyser every half hour to observe how
much time was required to fill it again. After an hour I could
still descend into the outer basin; but half an hour later the inner
basin was already full, and commenced to overflow. As long as the
water only filled the inner basin it boiled violently; but the
higher it rose in the outer one, the less it boiled, and nearly
ceased when the basin was filled: it only threw little bubbles here
and there.

After a lapse of two hours--it was just noon--the basin was filled
nearly to the brim; and while I stood beside it the water began
again to bubble violently, and to emit the hollow sounds. I had
scarcely time to retreat, for the pillars of water rose immediately.
This time they spouted during the noise, and were more bulky than
those of the first explosion, which might proceed from their not
rising so high, and therefore remaining more compact. Their height
may have been from forty to fifty feet. The basins this time
remained nearly as full after the eruption as before.

I had now seen two eruptions of the Geyser, and felt amply
compensated for my persevering patience and watchfulness. But I was
destined to be more fortunate, and to experience its explosions in
all their variety. The spring spouted again at seven o'clock in the
evening, ascended higher than at noon, and brought up some stones,
which looked like black spots and points in the white frothy water-
column. And during the third night it presented itself under
another phase: the water rose in dreadful, quickly-succeeding
waves, without throwing rays; the basin overflowed violently, and
generated such a mass of steam as is rarely seen. The wind
accidentally blew it to the spot where I stood, and it enveloped me
so closely that I could scarcely see a few feet off. But I
perceived neither smell nor oppression, merely a slight degree of

June 28th.

As I had now seen the Geyser play so often and so beautifully, I
ordered my horses for nine o'clock this morning, to continue my
journey. I made the more haste to leave, as a Dutch prince was
expected, who had lately arrived at Reikjavik, with a large retinue,
in a splendid man-of-war.

I had the luck to see another eruption before my departure at half-
past eight o'clock; and this one was nearly as beautiful as the
first. This time also the outer basin was entirely emptied, and the
inner one to a depth of six or seven feet. I could therefore again
descend into the basin, and bid farewell to the Geyser at the very
brink of the crater, which, of course, I did.

I had now been three nights and two days in the immediate vicinity
of the Geyser, and had witnessed five eruptions, of which two were
of the most considerable that had ever been known. But I can assure
my readers that I did not find every thing as I had anticipated it
according to the descriptions and accounts I had read. I never
heard a greater noise than I have mentioned, and never felt any
trembling of the earth, although I paid the greatest attention to
every little circumstance, and held my head to the ground during an

It is singular how many people repeat every thing they hear from
others--how some, with an over-excited imagination, seem to see,
hear, and feel things which do not exist; and how others, again,
tell the most unblushing falsehoods. I met an example of this in
Reikjavik, in the house of the apothecary Moller, in the person of
an officer of a French frigate, who asserted that he had "ridden to
the very edge of the crater of Mount Vesuvius." He probably did not
anticipate meeting any one in Reikjavik who had also been to the
crater of Vesuvius. Nothing irritates me so much as such falsehoods
and boastings; and I could not therefore resist asking him how he
had managed that feat. I told him that I had been there, and feared
danger as little as he could do; but that I had been compelled to
descend from my donkey near the top of the mountain, and let my feet
carry me the remainder of the journey. He seemed rather
embarrassed, and pretended he had meant to say NEARLY to the crater;
but I feel convinced he will tell this story so often that he will
at last believe it himself.

I hope I do not weary my readers by dwelling so long on the subject
of the Geyser. I will now vary the subject by relating a few
circumstances that came under my notice, which, though trifling in
themselves, were yet very significant. The most unimportant facts
of an almost unknown country are often interesting, and are often
most conclusive evidences of the general character of the nation.

I have already spoken of my intoxicated guide. It is yet
inexplicable to me how he could have conducted me so safely in such
a semi-conscious state; and had he not been the only one, I should
certainly not have trusted myself to his guidance.

Of the want of cleanliness of the Icelanders, no one who has not
witnessed it can have any idea; and if I attempted to describe some
of their nauseous habits, I might fill volumes. They seem to have
no feeling of propriety, and I must, in this respect, rank them as
far inferior to the Bedouins and Arabs--even to the Greenlanders. I
can, therefore, not conceive how this nation could once have been
distinguished for wealth, bravery, and civilisation.

On this day I proceeded on my journey about twenty-eight miles
farther to Skalholt.

For the first five miles we retraced our former road; then we turned
to the left and traversed the beautiful long valley in which the
Geyser is situated. For many miles we could see its clouds of steam
rising to the sky. The roads were tolerable only when they passed
along the sides of hills and mountains; in the plains they were
generally marshy and full of water. We sometimes lost all traces of
a road, and only pushed on towards the quarter in which the place of
our destination was situated; and feared withal to sink at every
pace into the soft and unresisting soil.

I found the indolence of the Icelandic peasants quite unpardonable.
All the valleys through which we passed were large morasses richly
overgrown with grass. If the single parishes would unite to dig
trenches and drain the soil, they would have the finest meadows.
This is proved near the many precipices where the water has an
outlet; in these spots the grass grows most luxuriantly, and daisies
and herbs flourish there, and even wild clover. A few cottages are
generally congregated on these oases.

Before arriving at the village of Thorfastadir, we already perceived
Hecla surrounded by the beautiful jokuls.

I arrived at Thorfastadir while a funeral was going on. As I
entered the church the mourners were busily seeking courage and
consolation in the brandy-bottle. The law commands, indeed, that
this be not done in the church; but if every one obeyed the law,
what need would there be of judges? The Icelanders must think so,
else they would discontinue the unseemly practice.

When the priest came, a psalm or a prayer--I could not tell which it
was, being Icelandic--was so earnestly shouted by peasants under the
leadership of the priest and elders, that the good people waxed
quite warm and out of breath. Then the priest placed himself before
the coffin, which, for want of room, had been laid on the backs of
the seats, and with a very loud voice read a prayer which lasted
more than half an hour. With this the ceremony within the church
was concluded, and the coffin was carried round the church to the
grave, followed by the priest and the rest of the company. This
grave was deeper than any I had ever seen. When the coffin had been
lowered, the priest threw three handfuls of earth upon it, but none
of the mourners followed his example. Among the earth which had
been dug out of the grave I noticed four skulls, several human
bones, and a board of a former coffin. These were all thrown in
again upon the coffin, and the grave filled in presence of the
priest and the people. One man trod the soil firm, then a little
mound was made and covered with grass-plots which were lying ready.
The whole business was completed with miraculous speed.

The little town of Skalholt, my station this night, was once as
celebrated in religious matters as Thingvalla had been politically
famous. Here, soon after the introduction of Christianity, the
first bishopric was founded in 1098, and the church is said to have
been one of the largest and richest. Now Skalholt is a miserable
place, and consists of three or four cottages, and a wretched wooden
church, which may perhaps contain a hundred persons; it has not even
its own priest, but belongs to Thorfastadir.

My first business on arriving was to inspect the yet remaining
relics of past ages. First I was shewn an oil-picture which hangs
in the church, and is said to represent the first bishop of
Skalholt, Thorlakur, who was worshipped almost as a saint for his
strict and pious life.

After this, preparations were made to clear away the steps of the
altar and several boards of the flooring. I stood expectantly
looking on, thinking that I should now have to descend into a vault
to inspect the embalmed body of the bishop. I must confess this
prospect was not the most agreeable, when I thought of the
approaching night which I should have to spend in this church,
perhaps immediately over the grave of the old skeleton. I had
besides already had too much to do with the dead for one day, and
could not rid myself of the unpleasant grave-odour which I had
imbibed in Thorfastadir, and which seemed to cling to my dress and
my nose. {41} I was therefore not a little pleased when, instead of
the dreaded vault and mummy, I was only shewn a marble slab, on
which were inscribed the usual notifications of the birth, death,
&c. of this great bishop. Besides this, I saw an old embroidered
stole and a simple golden chalice, both of which are said to be
relics of the age of Thorlakar.

Then we ascended into the so-called store-room, which is only
separated from the lower portion of the church by a few boards, and
which extends to the altar. Here are kept the bells and the organ,
if the church possesses one, the provisions, and a variety of tools.
They opened an immense chest for me there, which seemed to contain
only large pieces of tallow made in the form of cheeses; but under
this tallow I found the library, where I discovered an interesting
treasure. This was, besides several very old books in the Icelandic
tongue, three thick folio volumes, which I could read very easily;
they were German, and contained Luther's doctrines, letters,
epistles, &c.

I had now seen all there was to be seen, and began to satisfy my
physical wants by calling for some hot water to make coffee, &c. As
usual, all the inhabitants of the place ranged themselves in and
before the church, probably to increase their knowledge of the human
race by studying my peculiarities. I soon, however, closed the
door, and prepared a splendid couch for myself. At my first
entrance into the church, I had noticed a long box, quite filled
with sheep's wool. I threw my rugs over this, and slept as
comfortably as in the softest bed. In the morning I carefully
teased the wool up again, and no one could then have imagined where
I had passed the night.

Nothing amused me more, when I had lodgings of this description,
than the curiosity of the people, who would rush in every morning,
as soon as I opened the door. The first thing they said to each
other was always, "Krar hefur hun sovid" (Where can she have
slept?). The good people could not conceive how it was possible to
spend a night ALONE in a church surrounded by a churchyard; they
perhaps considered me an evil spirit or a witch, and would too
gladly have ascertained how such a creature slept. When I saw their
disappointed faces, I had to turn away not to laugh at them.

June 29th.

Early the next morning I continued my journey. Not far from
Skalholt we came to the river Thiorsa, which is deep and rapid. We
crossed in a boat; but the horses had to swim after us. It is often
very troublesome to make the horses enter these streams; they see at
once that they will have to swim. The guide and boatmen cannot
leave the shore till the horses have been forced into the stream;
and even then they have to throw stones, to threaten them with the
whip, and to frighten them by shouts and cries, to prevent them from

When we had made nearly twelve miles on marshy roads, we came to the
beautiful waterfall of the Huitha. This fall is not so remarkable
for its height, which is scarcely more than fifteen to twenty feet,
as for its breadth, and for its quantity of water. Some beautiful
rocks are so placed at the ledge of the fall, that they divide it
into three parts; but it unites again immediately beneath them. The
bed of the river, as well as its shores, is of lava.

The colour of the water is also a remarkable feature in this river;
it inclines so much to milky white, that, when the sun shines on it,
it requires no very strong imaginative power to take the whole for

Nearly a mile above the fall we had to cross the Huitha, one of the
largest rivers in Iceland. Thence the road lies through meadows,
which are less marshy than the former ones, till it comes to a broad
stream of lava, which announces the vicinity of the fearful volcano
of Hecla.

I had hitherto not passed over such an expanse of country in Iceland
as that from the Geyser to this place without coming upon streams of
lava. And this lava-stream seemed to have felt some pity for the
beautiful meadows, for it frequently separated into two branches,
and thus enclosed the verdant plain. But it could not withstand the
violence of the succeeding masses; it had been carried on, and had
spread death and destruction everywhere. The road to it, through
plains covered with dark sand, and over steep hills intervening, was
very fatiguing and laborious.

We proceeded to the little village of Struvellir, where we stopped
to give our horses a few hours' rest. Here we found a large
assembly of men and animals. {42} It happened to be Sunday, and a
warm sunny day, and so a very full service was held in the pretty
little church. When it was over, I witnessed an amusing rural
scene. The people poured out of the church,--I counted ninety-six,
which is an extraordinarily numerous assemblage for Iceland,--formed
into little groups, chatting and joking, not forgetting, however, to
moisten their throats with brandy, of which they had taken care to
bring an ample supply. Then they bridled their horses and prepared
for departure; now the kisses poured in from all sides, and there
was no end of leave-taking, for the poor people do not know whether
they shall ever meet again, and when.

In all Iceland welcome and farewell is expressed by a loud kiss,--a
practice not very delightful for a non-Icelander, when one considers
their ugly, dirty faces, the snuffy noses of the old people, and the
filthy little children. But the Icelanders do not mind this. They
all kissed the priest, and the priest kissed them; and then they
kissed each other, till the kissing seemed to have no end. Rank is
not considered in this ceremony; and I was not a little surprised to
see how my guide, a common farm-labourer, kissed the six daughters
of a judge, or the wife and children of a priest, or a judge and the
priest themselves, and how they returned the compliment without
reserve. Every country has its peculiar customs!

The religious ceremonies generally begin about noon, and last two or
three hours. There being no public inn in which to assemble, and no
stable in which the horses can be fastened, all flock to the open
space in front of the church, which thus becomes a very animated
spot. All have to remain in the open air.

When the service was over, I visited the priest, Herr Horfuson; he
was kind enough to conduct me to the Salsun, nine miles distant,
principally to engage a guide to Hecla for me.

I was doubly rejoiced to have this good man at my side, as we had to
cross a dangerous stream, which was very rapid, and so deep that the
water rose to the horses' breasts. Although we raised our feet as
high as possible, we were yet thoroughly wet. This wading across
rivers is one of the most unpleasant modes of travelling. The horse
swims more than it walks, and this creates a most disagreeable
sensation; one does not know whither to direct one's eyes; to look
into the stream would excite giddiness, and the sight of the shore
is not much better, for that seems to move and to recede, because
the horse, by the current, is forced a little way down the river.
To my great comfort the priest rode by my side to hold me, in case I
should not be able to keep my seat. I passed fortunately through
this probation; and when we reached the other shore, Herr Horfuson
pointed out to me how far the current had carried us down the river.

The valley in which Salsun and the Hecla are situated is one of
those which are found only in Iceland. It contains the greatest
contrasts. Here are charming fields covered with a rich green
carpet of softest grass, and there again hills of black, shining
lava; even the fertile plains are traversed by streams of lava and
spots of sand. Mount Hecla notoriously has the blackest lava and
the blackest sand; and it may be imagined how the country looks in
its immediate neighbourhood. One hill only to the left of Hecla is
reddish brown, and covered with sand and stones of a similar colour.
The centre is much depressed, and seems to form a large crater.
Mount Hecla is directly united with the lava-mountains piled round
it, and seems from the plain only as a higher point. It is
surrounded by several glaciers, whose dazzling fields of snow
descend far down, and whose brilliant plains have probably never
been trod by human feet; several of its sides were also covered with
snow. To the left of the valley near Salsun, and at the foot of a
lava-hill, lies a lovely lake, on whose shores a numerous flock of
sheep were grazing. Near it rises another beautiful hill, so
solitary and isolated, that it looks as if it had been cast out by
its neighbours and banished hither. Indeed, the whole landscape
here is so peculiarly Icelandic, so strange and remarkable, that it
will ever remain impressed on my memory.

Salsun lies at the foot of Mount Hecla, but is not seen before one
reaches it.

Arrived at Salsun, our first care was to seek a guide, and to
bargain for every thing requisite for the ascension of the mountain.
The guide was to procure a horse for me, and to take me and my
former guide to the summit of Hecla. He demanded five thaler and
two marks (about fifteen shillings), a most exorbitant sum, on which
he could live for a month. But what could we do? He knew very well
that there was no other guide to be had, and so I was forced to
acquiesce. When all was arranged, my kind companion left me,
wishing me success on my arduous expedition.

I now looked out for a place in which I could spend the night, and a
filthy hole fell to my lot. A bench, rather shorter that my body,
was put into it, to serve as my bed; beside it hung a decayed fish,
which had infected the whole room with its smell. I could scarcely
breathe; and as there was no other outlet, I was obliged to open the
door, and thus receive the visits of the numerous and amiable
inhabitants. What a strengthening and invigorating preparation for
the morrow's expedition!

At the foot of Mount Hecla, and especially in this village, every
thing seems to be undermined. Nowhere, not even on Mount Vesuvius,
had I heard such hollow, droning sounds as here,--the echoes of the
heavy footsteps of the peasants. These sounds made a very awful
impression on me as I lay all night alone in that dark hole.

My Hecla guide, as I shall call him to distinguish him from my other
guide, advised me to start at two o'clock in the morning, to which I
assented, well knowing, however, that we should not have mounted our
horses before five o'clock.

As I had anticipated, so it happened. At half-past five we were
quite prepared and ready for departure. Besides bread and cheese, a
bottle of water for myself, and one of brandy for my guides, we were
also provided with long sticks, tipped with iron points to sound the
depth of the snow, and to lean upon.

We were favoured by a fine warm sunny morning, and galloped briskly
over the fields and the adjoining plains of sand. My guide
considered the fine weather a very lucky omen, and told me that M.
Geimard, the before-mentioned French scholar, had been compelled to
wait three days for fine weather. Nine years had elapsed, and no
one had ascended the mountain since then. A prince of Denmark, who
travelled through Iceland some years before, had been there, but had
returned without effecting his purpose.

Our road at first led us through beautiful fields, and then over
plains of black sand enclosed on all sides by streams, hillocks, and
mountains of piled-up lava. Closer and closer these fearful masses
approach, and scarcely permit a passage through a narrow cleft; we
had to climb over blocks and hills of lava, where it is difficult to
find a firm resting-place for the foot. The lava rolled beside and
behind us, and we had to proceed carefully not to fall or be hit by
the rolling lava. But most dangerous were the chasms filled with
snow over which we had to pass; the snow had been softened by the
warmth of the season, so that we sank into it nearly every step, or,
what was worse, slipped back more than we had advanced. I scarcely
think there can be another mountain whose ascent offers so many

After a labour of about three hours and a half we neared the summit
of the mountain, where we were obliged to leave our horses. I
should, indeed, have preferred to do so long before, as I was
apprehensive of the poor animals falling as they climbed over these
precipices--one might almost call them rolling mountains--but my
guide would not permit it. Sometimes we came to spots where they
were useful, and then he maintained that I must ride as far as
possible to reserve my strength for the remaining difficulties. And
he was right; I scarcely believe I should have been able to go
through it on foot, for when I thought we were near the top, hills
of lava again rose between us, and we seemed farther from our
journey's end than before.

My guide told me that he had never taken any one so far on
horseback, and I can believe it. Walking was bad enough--riding was

At every fresh declivity new scenes of deserted, melancholy
districts were revealed to us; every thing was cold and dead, every
where there was black burnt lava. It was a painful feeling to see
so much, and behold nothing but a stony desert, an immeasurable

There were still two declivities before us,--the last, but the
worst. We had to climb steep masses of lava, sharp and pointed,
which covered the whole side of the mountain. I do not know how
often I fell and cut my hands on the jagged points of the lava. It
was a fearful journey!

The dazzling whiteness of the snow contrasted with the bright black
lava beside it had an almost blinding effect. When crossing fields
of snow I did not look at the lava; for having tried to do so once
or twice, I could not see my way afterwards, and had nearly grown

After two hours' more labour we reached the summit of the mountain.
I stood now on Mount Hecla, and eagerly sought the crater on the
snowless top, but did not find it. I was the more surprised, as I
had read detailed accounts of it in several descriptions of travel.

I traversed the whole summit of the mountain and climbed to the
adjoining jokul, but did not perceive an opening, a fissure, a
depressed space, nor any sign of a crater. Lower down in the sides
of the mountain, but not in the real cone, I saw some clefts and
fissures from which the streams of lava probably poured. The height
of the mountain is said to be 4300 feet.

During the last hour of our ascent the sun had grown dim. Clouds of
mist blown from the neighbouring glaciers enshrouded the hill-tops,
and soon enveloped us so closely that we could scarcely see ten
paces before us. At last they dissolved, fortunately not in rain
but in snow, which profusely covered the black uneven lava. The
snow remained on the ground, and the thermometer stood at one degree
of cold.

In a little while the clear blue sky once more was visible, and the
sun again shone over us. I remained on the top till the clouds had
separated beneath us, and afforded me a better distant view over the

My pen is unfortunately too feeble to bring vividly before my
readers the picture such as I beheld it here, and to describe to
them the desolation, the extent and height of these lava-masses. I
seemed to stand in a crater, and the whole country appeared only a
burnt-out fire. Here lava was piled up in steep inaccessible
mountains; there stony rivers, whose length and breadth seemed
immeasurable, filled the once-verdant fields. Every thing was
jumbled together, and yet the course of the last eruption could be
distinctly traced.

I stood there, in the centre of horrible precipices, caves, streams,
valleys, and mountains, and scarcely comprehended how it was
possible to penetrate so far, and was overcome with terror at the
thought which involuntarily obtruded itself--the possibility of
never finding my way again out of these terrible labyrinths.

Here, from the top of Mount Hecla, I could see far into the
uninhabited country, the picture of a petrified creation, dead and
motionless, and yet magnificent,--a picture which once seen can
never again fade from the memory, and which alone amply compensates
for all the previous troubles and dangers. A whole world of
glaciers, lava-mountains, snow and ice-fields, rivers and lakes,
into which no human foot has ever ventured to penetrate. How nature
must have laboured and raged till these forms were created! And is
it over now? Has the destroying element exhausted itself; or does
it only rest, like the hundred-headed Hydra, to break forth with
renewed strength, and desolate those regions which, pushed to the
verge of the sea-shore, encircle the sterile interior as a modest
wreath? I thank God that he has permitted me to behold this chaos
in his creation; but I thank him more heartily that he has placed me
to dwell in regions where the sun does more than merely give light;
where it inspires and fertilises animals and plants, and fills the
human heart with joy and thankfulness towards its Creator. {43}

The Westmann Isles, which are said to be visible from the top of
Hecla, I could not see; they were probably covered by clouds.

During the ascent of the Hecla I had frequently touched lava,--
sometimes involuntarily, when I fell; sometimes voluntarily, to find
a hot or at least a warm place. I was unfortunate enough only to
find cold ones. The falling snow was therefore most welcome, and I
looked anxiously around to see a place where the subterranean heat
would melt it. I should then have hastened thither and found what I
sought. But unfortunately the snow remained unmelted every where.
I could neither see any clouds of smoke, although I gazed steadily
at the mountain for hours, and could from my post survey it far down
the sides.

As we descended we found the snow melting at a depth of 500 to 600
feet; lower down, the whole mountain smoked, which I thought was the
consequence of the returning warmth of the sun, for my thermometer
now stood at nine degrees of heat. I have noticed the same
circumstance often on unvolcanic mountains. The spots from which
the smoke rose were also cold.

The smooth jet-black, bright, and dense lava is only found on the
mountain itself and in its immediate vicinity. But all lava is not
the same: there is jagged, glassy, and porous lava; the former is
black, and so is the sand which covers one side of Hecla. The
farther the lava and sand are from the mountain, the more they lose
this blackness, and their colour plays into iron-colour and even
into light-grey; but the lighter-coloured lava generally retains the
brightness and smoothness of the black lava.

After a troublesome descent, having spent twelve hours on this
excursion, we arrived safely at Salsun; and I was on the point of
returning to my lodging, somewhat annoyed at the prospect of
spending another night in such a hole, when my guide surprised me
agreeably by the proposition to return to Struvellir at once. The
horses, he said, were sufficiently rested, and I could get a good
room there in the priest's house. I soon packed, and in a short
time we were again on horseback. The second time I came to the deep
Rangaa, I rode across fearlessly, and needed no protection at any
side. Such is man: danger only alarms him the first time; when he
has safely surmounted it once, he scarcely thinks of it the second
time, and wonders how he can have felt any fear.

I saw five little trees standing in a field near the stream. The
stems of these, which, considering the scarcity of trees in Iceland,
may be called remarkable phenomena, were crooked and knotty, but yet
six or seven feet high, and about four or five inches in diameter.

As my guide had foretold, I found a very comfortable room and a good
bed in the priest's house. Herr Horfuson is one of the best men I
have ever met with. He eagerly sought opportunities for giving me
pleasure, and to him I owe several fine minerals and an Icelandic
book of the year 1601. May God reward his kindness and benevolence!

July 1st.

We retraced our steps as far as the river Huitha, over which we
rowed, and then turned in another direction. Our journey led us
through beautiful valleys, many of them producing abundance of
grass; but unfortunately so much moss grew among it, that these
large plains were not available for pastures, and only afforded
comfort to travellers by their aspect of cheerfulness. They were
quite dry.

The valley in which Hjalmholm, our resting-place for this night, was
situated, is traversed by a stream of lava, which had, however, been
modest enough not to fill up the whole valley, but to leave a space
for the pretty stream Elvas, and for some fields and hillocks, on
which many cottages stood. It was one of the most populous valleys
I had seen in Iceland.

Hjalmholm is situated on a hill. In it lives the Sysselmann of the
Rangaar district, in a large and beautiful house such as I saw no
where in Iceland except in Reikjavik. He had gone to the capital of
the island as member of the Allthing; but his daughters received me
very hospitably and kindly.

We talked and chatted much; I tried to display my knowledge of the
Danish language before them, and must often have made use of curious
phrases, for the girls could not contain their laughter. But that
did not abash me; I laughed with them, applied to my dictionary,
which I carried with me, and chatted on. They seemed to gather no
very high idea of the beauty of my countrywomen from my personal
appearance; for which I humbly crave the forgiveness of my
countrywomen, assuring them that no one regrets the fact more than I
do. But dame Nature always treats people of my years very harshly,
and sets a bad example to youth of the respect due to age. Instead
of honouring us and giving us the preference, she patronises the
young folks, and every maiden of sixteen can turn up her nose at us
venerable matrons. Besides my natural disqualifications, the sharp
air and the violent storms to which I had been subjected had
disfigured my face very much. They had affected me more than the
burning heat of the East. I was very brown, my lips were cracked,
and my nose, alas, even began to rebel against its ugly colour. It
seemed anxious to possess a new, dazzling white, tender skin, and
was casting off the old one in little bits.

The only circumstance which reinstated me in the good opinion of the
young girls was, that having brushed my hair unusually far out of my
face, a white space became visible. The girls all cried out
simultaneously, quite surprised and delighted: "Hun er quit" (she
is white). I could not refrain from laughing, and bared my arm to
prove to them that I did not belong to the Arab race.

A great surprise was destined me in this house; for, as I was
ransacking the Sysselmann's book-case, I found Rotteck's Universal
History, a German Lexicon, and several poems and writings of German

July 2d.

The way from Kalmannstunga to Thingvalla leads over nothing but
lava, and the one to-day went entirely through marshes. As soon as
we had crossed one, another was before us. Lava seemed to form the
soil here, for little portions of this mineral rose like islands out
of the marshes.

The country already grew more open, and we gradually lost sight of
the glaciers. The high mountains on the left seemed like hills in
the distance, and the nearer ones were really hills. After riding
about nine miles we crossed the large stream of Elvas in a boat, and
then had to tread carefully across a very long, narrow bank, over a
meadow which was quite under water. If a traveller had met us on
this bank, I do not know what we should have done; to turn round
would have been as dangerous as to sink into the morass.
Fortunately one never meets any travellers in Iceland.

Beyond the dyke the road runs for some miles along the mountains and
hills, which all consist of lava, and are of a very dark, nearly
black colour. The stones on these hills were very loose; in the
plain below many colossal pieces were lying, which must have fallen
down; and many others threatened to fall every moment. We passed
the dangerous spot safely, without having had to witness such a

I often heard a hollow sound among these hills; I at first took it
for distant thunder, and examined the horizon to discover the
approaching storm. But when I saw neither clouds nor lightning, I
perceived that I must seek the origin of the sounds nearer, and that
they proceeded from the falling portions of rock.

The higher mountains to the left fade gradually more and more from
view; but the river Elvas spreads in such a manner, and divides into
so many branches, that one might mistake it for a lake with many
islands. It flows into the neighbouring sea, whose expanse becomes
visible after surmounting a few more small hills.

The vale of Reikum, which we now entered, is, like that of Reikholt,
rich in hot springs, which are congregated partly in the plain,
partly on or behind the hills, in a circumference of between two and
three miles.

When we had reached the village of Reikum I sent my effects at once
to the little church, took a guide, and proceeded to the boiling
springs. I found very many, but only two remarkable ones; these,
however, belong to the most noteworthy of their kind. The one is
called the little Geyser, the other the Bogensprung.

The little Geyser has an inner basin of about three feet diameter.
The water boils violently at a depth of from two to three feet, and
remains within its bounds till it begins to spout, when it projects
a beautiful voluminous steam of from 20 to 30 feet high.

At half-past eight in the evening I had the good fortune to see one
of these eruptions, and needed not, as I had done at the great
Geyser, to bivouac near it for days and nights. The eruption lasted
some time, and was tolerably equable; only sometimes the column of
water sank a little, to rise to its former height with renewed
force. After forty minutes it fell quite down into the basin again.
The stones we threw in, it rejected at once, or in a few seconds,
shivered into pieces, to a height of about 12 to 15 feet. Its bulk
must have been 1 to 1.5 feet in diameter. My guide assured me that
this spring generally plays only twice, rarely thrice, in twenty-
four hours, and not, as I have seen it stated, every six minutes. I
remained near it till midnight, but saw no other eruption.

This spring very much resembles the Strukker near the great Geyser,
the only difference being that the water sinks much lower in the

The second of the two remarkable springs, the arched spring, is
situated near the little Geyser, on the declivity of a hill. I had
never seen such a curious formation for the bed of a spring as this
is. It has no basin, but lies half open at your feet, in a little
grotto, which is separated into various cavities and holes, and
which is half-surrounded by a wall of rock bending over it slightly
at a height of about 2 feet, and then rises 10 to 12 feet higher.
This spring never is at rest more than a minute; then it begins to
rise and boil quickly, and emits a voluminous column, which,
striking against the projecting rock, is flattened by it, and rises
thence like an arched fan. The height of this peculiarly-spread jet
of water may be about 12 feet, the arch it describes 15 to 20 feet,
and its breadth 3 to 8 feet. The time of eruption is often longer
than that of repose. After an eruption the water always sinks a few
feet into the cave, and for 15 or 20 seconds admits of a glance into
this wonderful grotto. But it rises again immediately, fills the
grotto and the basin, which is only a continuation of the grotto,
and springs again.

I watched this miraculous play of nature for more than an hour, and
could not tear myself from it. This spring, which is certainly the
only one of its kind, gratified me much more than the little Geyser.

There is another spring called the roaring Geyser; but it is nothing
more than a misshapen hole, in which one hears the water boil, but
cannot see it. The noise is, also, not at all considerable.

July 3d.

Near Reikum we crossed a brook into which all the hot springs flow,
and which has a pretty fall. We then ascended the adjoining
mountain, and rode full two hours on the high plain. The plain
itself was monotonous, as it was only covered with lava-stones and
moss, but the prospect into the valley was varied and beautiful.
Vale and sea were spread before me, and I saw the Westmann Islands,
with their beautiful hills, which the envious clouds had concealed
from me on the Hecla, lying in the distance. Below me stood some
houses in the port-town, Eierbach, and near them the waters of the
Elvas flow into the sea.

At the end of this mountain-level a valley was situated, which was
also filled with lava, but with that jagged black lava which
presents such a beautiful appearance. Immense streams crossed it
from all sides, so that it almost resembled a black lake separated
from the sea by a chain of equally black mountains.

We descended into this sombre vale through piles of lava and fields
of snow, and went on through valleys and chasms, over fields of
lava, plains of meadow-land, past dark mountains and hills, till we
reached the chief station of my Icelandic journey, the town of

The whole country between Reikum and Reikjavik, a distance of 45 to
50 miles, is, for the most part, uninhabited. Here and there, in
the fields of lava, stand little pyramids of the same substance,
which serve as landmarks; and there are two houses built for such
persons as are obliged to travel during the winter. But we found
much traffic on the road, and often overtook caravans of 15 to 20
horses. Being the beginning of August, it was the time of trade and
traffic in Iceland. Then the country people travel to Reikjavik
from considerable distances, to change their produce and
manufactures, partly for money, partly for necessaries and luxuries.
At this period the merchants and factors have not hands enough to
barter the goods or close the accounts which the peasants wish to
settle for the whole year.

At this season an unusual commotion reigns in Reikjavik. Numerous
groups of men and horses fill the streets; goods are loaded and
unloaded; friends who have not met for a year or more welcome each
other, others take leave. On one spot curious tents {44} are
erected, before which children play; on another drunken men stagger
along, or gallop on horseback, so that one is terrified, and fears
every moment to see them fall.

This unusual traffic unfortunately only lasts six or eight days.
The peasant hastens home to his hay-harvest; the merchant must
quickly regulate the produce and manufactures he has purchased, and
load his ships with them, so that they may sail and reach their
destination before the storms of the autumnal equinox.


From Reikjavik to Thingvalla is 45
From Thingvalla to the Geyser 36
From the Geyser to Skalholt 28
From Skalholt to Salsun 36
From Salsun to Struvellir 9
From Struvellir to Hjalmholm 28
From Hjalmholm to Reikum 32
From Reikum to Reikjavik 45


During my travels in Iceland I had of course the opportunity of
becoming acquainted with its inhabitants, their manners and customs.
I must confess that I had formed a higher estimate of the peasants.
When we read in the history of that country that the first
inhabitants had emigrated thither from civilised states; that they
had brought knowledge and religion with them; when we hear of the
simple good-hearted people, and their patriarchal mode of life in
the accounts of former travellers, and which we know that nearly
every peasant in Iceland can read and write, and that at least a
Bible, but generally other religions books also, are found in every
cot,--one feels inclined to consider this nation the best and most
civilised in Europe. I deemed their morality sufficiently secured
by the absence of foreign intercourse, by their isolated position,
and the poverty of the country. No large town there affords
opportunity for pomp or gaiety, or for the commission of smaller or
greater sins. Rarely does a foreigner enter the island, whose
remoteness, severe climate, inhospitality, and poverty, are
uninviting. The grandeur and peculiarity of its natural formation
alone makes it interesting, and that does not suffice for the

I therefore expected to find Iceland a real Arcadia in regard to its
inhabitants, and rejoiced at the anticipation of seeing such an
Idyllic life realised. I felt so happy when I set foot on the
island that I could have embraced humanity. But I was soon

I have often been impatient at my want of enthusiasm, which must be
great, as I see every thing in a more prosaic form than other
travellers. I do not maintain that my view is RIGHT, but I at least
possess the virtue of describing facts as I see them, and do not
repeat them from the accounts of others.

I have already described the impoliteness and heartlessness of the
so-called higher classes, and soon lost the good opinion I had
formed of them. I now came to the working classes in the vicinity
of Reikjavik. The saying often applied to the Swiss people, "No
money, no Swiss," one may also apply to the Icelanders. And of this
fact I can cite several examples.

Scarcely had they heard that I, a foreigner, had arrived, than they
frequently came to me, and brought quite common objects, such as can
be found any where in Iceland, and expected me to pay dearly for
them. At first I purchased from charity, or to be rid of their
importunities, and threw the things away again; but I was soon
obliged to give this up, as I should else have been besieged from
morning to night. Their anxiety to gain money without labour
annoyed me less than the extortionate prices with which they tried
to impose on a stranger. For a beetle, such as could be found under
every stone, they asked 5 kr. (about 2d.); as much for a
caterpillar, of which thousands were lying on the beach; and for a
common bird's egg, 10 to 20 kr. (4d. to 8d.) Of course, when I
declined buying, they reduced their demand, sometimes to less than
half the original sum; but this was certainly not in consequence of
their honesty. The baker in whose house I lodged also experienced
the selfishness of these people. He had engaged a poor labourer to
tar his house, who, when he had half finished his task, heard of
other employment. He did not even take the trouble to ask the baker
to excuse him for a few days; he went away, and did not return to
finish the interrupted work for a whole week. This conduct was the
more inexcusable as his children received bread, and even butter,
twice a week from the baker.

I was fortunate enough to experience similar treatment. Herr
Knudson had engaged a guide for me, with whom I was to take my
departure in a few days. But it happened that the magistrate wished
also to take a trip, and sent for my guide. The latter expected to
be better paid by him, and went; he did not come to me to discharge
himself, but merely sent me word on the eve of my departure, that he
was ill, and could therefore not go with me. I could enumerate many
more such examples, which do not much tend to give a high estimate
of Icelandic morality.

I consoled myself with the hope of finding simplicity and honesty in
the more retired districts, and therefore anticipated a twofold
pleasure from my journey into the interior. I found many virtues,
but unfortunately so many faults, that I am no longer inclined to
exalt the Icelandic peasants as examples.

The best of their virtues is their honesty. I could leave my
baggage unguarded any where for hours, and never missed the least
article, for they did not even permit their children to touch any
thing. In this point they are so conscientious, that if a peasant
comes from a distance, and wishes to rest in a cottage, he never
fails to knock at the door, even if it is open. If no one calls
"come in," he does not enter. One might fearlessly sleep with open

Crimes are of such rare occurrence here, that the prison of
Reikjavik was changed into a dwelling-house for the chief warden
many years since. Small crimes are punished summarily, either in
Reikjavik or at the seat of the Sysselmann. Criminals of a deeper
dye are sent to Copenhagen, and are sentenced and punished there.

My landlord at Reikjavik, the master-baker Bernhoft, told me that
only one crime had been committed in Iceland during the thirteen
years that he had resided there. This was the murder of an
illegitimate child immediately after its birth. The most frequently
occurring crime is cow-stealing.

I was much surprised to find that nearly all the Icelanders can read
and write. The latter quality only was somewhat rarer with the
women. Youths and men often wrote a firm, good hand. I also found
books in every cottage, the Bible always, and frequently poems and
stories, sometimes even in the Danish language.

They also comprehend very quickly; when I opened my map before them,
they soon understood its use and application. Their quickness is
doubly surprising, if we consider that every father instructs his
own children, and sometimes the neighbouring orphans. This is of
course only done in the winter; but as winter lasts eight months in
Iceland, it is long enough.

There is only one school in the whole island, which originally was
in Bessestadt, but has been removed to Reikjavik since 1846. In
this school only youths who can read and write are received, and
they are either educated for priests, and may complete their studies
here, or for doctors, apothecaries, or judges, when they must
complete their studies in Copenhagen.

Besides theology, geometry, geography, history, and several
languages, such as Latin, Danish, and, since 1846, German and also
French, are taught in the school of Reikjavik.

The chief occupation of the Icelandic peasants consists in fishing,
which is most industriously pursued in February, March, and April.
Then the inhabitants of the interior come to the coasting villages
and hire themselves to the dwellers on the beach, the real
fishermen, as assistants, taking a portion of the fish as their
wages. Fishing is attended to at other times also, but then
exclusively by the real fishermen. In the months of July and August
many of the latter go into the interior and assist in the hay-
harvest, for which they receive butter, sheep's wool, and salt lamb.
Others ascend the mountains and gather the Iceland moss, of which
they make a decoction, which they drink mixed with milk, or they
grind it to flour, and bake flat cakes of it, which serve them in
place of bread.

The work of the women consists in the preparation of the fish for
drying, smoking, or salting; in tending the cattle, in knitting,
sometimes in gathering moss. In winter both men and women knit and

As regards the hospitality of the Icelanders, {45} I do not think
one can give them so very much credit for it. It is true that
priests and peasants gladly receive any European traveller, and
treat him to every thing in their power; but they know well that the
traveller who comes to their island is neither an adventurer nor a
beggar, and will therefore pay them well. I did not meet one
peasant or priest who did not accept the proffered gift without
hesitation. But I must say of the priests that they were every
where obliging and ready to serve me, and satisfied with the
smallest gift; and their charges, when I required horses for my
excursions, were always moderate. I only found the peasant less
interested in districts where a traveller scarcely ever appeared;
but in such places as were more visited, their charges were often
exorbitant. For example, I had to pay 20 to 30 kr. (8d. to 1s.) for
being ferried over a river; and then my guide and I only were rowed
in the boat, and the horses had to swim. The guide who accompanied
me on the Hecla also overcharged me; but he knew that I was forced
to take him, as there is no choice of guides, and one does not give
up the ascent for the sake of a little money.

This conduct shows that the character of the Icelanders does not
belong to the best; and that they take advantage of travellers with
as much shrewdness as the landlords and guides on the continent.

A besetting sin of the Icelanders is their drunkenness. Their
poverty would probably not be so great if they were less devoted to
brandy, and worked more industriously. It is dreadful to see what
deep root this vice has taken. Not only on Sundays, but also on
week-days, I met peasants who were so intoxicated that I was
surprised how they could keep in their saddle. I am, however, happy
to say that I never saw a woman in this degrading condition.

Another of their passions is snuff. They chew and snuff tobacco
with the same infatuation as it is smoked in other countries. But
their mode of taking it is very peculiar. Most of the peasants, and
even many of the priests, have no proper snuff-box, but only a box
turned of bone, shaped like a powder-flask. When they take snuff,
they throw back their head, insert the point of the flask in their
nose, and shake a dose of tobacco into it. They then, with the
greatest amiability, offer it to their neighbour, he to his, and so
it goes round till it reaches the owner again.

I think, indeed, that the Icelanders are second to no nation in
uncleanliness; not even to the Greenlanders, Esquimaux, or
Laplanders. If I were to describe a portion only of what I
experienced, my readers would think me guilty of gross exaggeration;
I prefer, therefore, to leave it to their imagination; merely saying
that they cannot conceive any thing too dirty for Iceland delicacy.

Beside this very estimable quality, they are also insuperably lazy.
Not far from the coast are immense meadows, so marshy that it is
dangerous to cross them. The fault lies less in the soil than the
people. If they would only make ditches, and thus dry the ground,
they would have the most splendid grass. That this would grow
abundantly is proved by the little elevations which rise from above
the marshes, and which are thickly covered with grass, herbage, and
wild clover. I also passed large districts covered with good soil,
and some where the soil was mixed with sand.

I frequently debated with Herr Boge, who has lived in Iceland for
forty years, and is well versed in farming matters, whether it would
not be possible to produce important pasture-grounds and hay-fields
with industry and perseverance. He agreed with me, and thought that
even potato-fields might be reclaimed, if only the people were not
so lazy, preferring to suffer hunger and resign all the comforts of
cleanliness rather than to work. What nature voluntarily gives,
they are satisfied with, and it never occurs to them to force more
from her. If a few German peasants were transported hither, what a
different appearance the country would soon have!

The best soil in Iceland is on the Norderland. There are a few
potato-grounds there, and some little trees, which, without any
cultivation, have reached a height of seven to eight feet. Herr
Boge, established here for thirty years, had planted some mountain-
ash and birch-trees, which had grown to a height of sixteen feet.

In the Norderland, and every where except on the coast, the people
live by breeding cattle. Many a peasant there possesses from two to
four hundred sheep, ten to fifteen cows, and ten to twelve horses.
There are not many who are so rich, but at all events they are
better off than the inhabitants of the sea-coast. The soil there is
for the most part bad, and they are therefore nearly all compelled
to have recourse to fishing.

Before quitting Iceland, I must relate a tradition told me by many
Icelanders, not only by peasants, but also by people of the so-
called higher classes, and who all implicitly believe it.

It is asserted that the inhospitable interior is likewise populated,
but by a peculiar race of men, to whom alone the paths through these
deserts are known. These savages have no intercourse with their
fellow-countrymen during the whole year, and only come to one of the
ports in the beginning of July, for one day at the utmost, to buy
several necessaries, for which they pay in money. They then vanish
suddenly, and no one knows in which direction they are gone. No one
knows them; they never bring their wives or children with them, and
never reply to the question whence they come. Their language, also,
is said to be more difficult than that of the other inhabitants of

One gentleman, whom I do not wish to name, expressed a wish to have
the command of twenty to twenty-five well-armed soldiers, to search
for these wild men.

The people who maintain that they have seen these children of
nature, assert that they are taller and stronger than other
Icelanders; that their horses' hoofs, instead of being shod earth
iron, have shoes of horn; and that they have much money, which they
can only have acquired by pillage. When I inquired what respectable
inhabitants of Iceland had been robbed by these savages, and when
and where, no one could give me an answer. For my part, I scarcely
think that one man, certainly not a whole race, could live by
pillage in Iceland.


I had seen all there was to be seen in Iceland, had finished all my
excursions, and awaited with inexpressible impatience the sailing of
the vessel which was destined to bring me nearer my beloved home.
But I had to stay four very long weeks in Reikjavik, my patience
being more exhausted from day to day, and had after this long delay
to be satisfied with the most wretched accommodation.

The delay was the more tantalising, as several ships left the port
in the mean time, and Herr Knudson, with whom I had crossed over
from Copenhagen, invited me to accompany him on his return; but all
the vessels went to England or to Spain, and I did not wish to visit
either of these countries. I was waiting for an opportunity to go
to Scandinavia, to have at least a glance at these picturesque

At last there were two sloops which intended to sail towards the end
of July. The better of the two went to Altona; the destination of
the other was Copenhagen. I had intended to travel in the former;
but a merchant of Reikjavik had already engaged the only berth,--for
there rarely is more than one in such a small vessel,--and I deemed
myself lucky to obtain the one in the other ship. Herr Bernhoft
thought, indeed, that the vessel might be too bad for such a long
journey, and proposed to examine it, and report on its condition.
But as I had quite determined to go to Denmark, I requested him to
waive the examination, and agree with the captain about my passage.
If, as I anticipated, he found the vessel too wretched, his warnings
might have shaken my resolution, and I wished to avoid that

We heard, soon, that a young Danish girl, who had been in service in
Iceland, wished to return by the same vessel. She had been
suffering so much from home-sickness, that she was determined, under
any circumstances, to see her beloved fatherland again. If, thought
I to myself, the home-sickness is powerful enough to make this girl
indifferent to the danger, longing must take its place in my breast
and effect the same result.

Our sloop bore the consolatory name of Haabet (hope), and belonged
to the merchant Fromm, in Copenhagen.

Our departure had been fixed for the 26th of July, and after that
day I scarcely dared to leave my house, being in constant
expectation of a summons on board. Violent storms unfortunately
prevented our departure, and I was not called till the 29th of July,
when I had to bid farewell to Iceland.

This was comparatively easy. Although I had seen many wonderful
views, many new and interesting natural phenomena, I yet longed for
my accustomed fields, in which we do not find magnificent and
overpowering scenes, but lovelier and more cheerful ones. The
separation from Herr Knudson and the family of Bernhoft was more
difficult. I owed all the kindness I had experienced in the island,
every good advice and useful assistance in my travels, only to them.
My gratitude to these kind and good people will not easily fade from
my heart.

At noon I was already on board, and had leisure to admire all the
gay flags and streamers with which the French frigate anchoring here
had been decked, to celebrate the anniversary of the July

I endeavoured to turn my attention as much as possible to exterior
objects, and not to look at our ship, for all that I had
involuntarily seen had not impressed me very favourably. I
determined also not to enter the cabin till we were in the open sea
and the pilots had left our sloop, so that all possibility of return
would be gone.

Our crew consisted of captain, steersman, two sailors, and a cabin-
boy, who bore the title of cook; we added that of valet, as he was
appointed to wait on us.

When the pilots had left us, I sought the entrance of the cabin,--
the only, and therefore the common apartment. It consisted of a
hole two feet broad, which gaped at my feet, and in which a
perpendicular ladder of five steps was inserted. I stood before it
puzzled to know which would be the best mode of descent, but knew no
other way than to ask our host the captain. He shewed it me at
once, by sitting at the entrance and letting his feet down. Let the
reader imagine such a proceeding with our long dresses, and, above
all, in bad weather, when the ship was pitched about by storms. But
the thought that many other people are worse off, and can get on,
was always the anchor of consolation to which I held; I argued with
myself that I was made of the same stuff as other human beings, only
spoiled and pampered, but that I could bear what they bore. In
consequence of this self-arguing, I sat down at once, tried the new
sliding-ladder, and arrived below in safety.

I had first to accustom my eyes to the darkness which reigned here,
the hatches being constructed to admit the light very sparingly. I
soon, however, saw too much; for all was raggedness, dirt, and
disorder. But I will describe matters in the order in which they
occurred to me; for, as I flatter myself that many of my
countrywomen will in spirit make this journey with me, and as many
of them probably never had the opportunity of being in such a
vessel, I wish to describe it to them very accurately. All who are
accustomed to the sea will testify that I have adhered strictly to
the truth. But to return to the sloop. Its age emulated mine, she
being a relic of the last century. At that time little regard was
paid to the convenience of passengers, and the space was all made
available for freight; a fact which cannot surprise us, as the
seaman's life is passed on deck, and the ship was not built for
travellers. The entire length of the cabin from one berth to the
other was ten feet; the breadth was six feet. The latter space was
made still narrower by a box on one side, and by a little table and
two little seats on the other, so that only sufficient space
remained to pass through.

At dinner or supper, the ladies--the Danish girl and myself--sat on
the little benches, where we were so squeezed, that we could
scarcely move; the two cavaliers--the captain and the steersman--
were obliged to stand before the table, and eat their meals in that
position. The table was so small that they were obliged to hold
their plates in their hands. In short, every thing shewed the cabin
was made only for the crew, not for the passengers.

The air in this enclosure was also not of the purest; for, besides
that it formed our bed-room, dining-room, and drawing-room, it was
also used as store-room, for in the side cupboards provisions of
various kinds were stored, also oil-colours, and a variety of other
matter. I preferred to sit on the deck, exposed to the cold and the
storm, or to be bathed by a wave, than to be half stifled below.
Sometimes, however, I was obliged to descend, either when rain and
storms were too violent, or when the ship was so tossed by contrary
winds that the deck was not safe. The rolling and pitching of our
little vessel was often so terrible, that we ladies could neither
sit nor stand, and were therefore obliged to lie down in the
miserable berths for many a weary day. How I envied my companion!
she could sleep day and night, which I could not. I was nearly
always awake, much to my discomfort; for the hatches and the
entrance were closed during the storm, and an Egyptian darkness, as
well as a stifling atmosphere, filled the cabin.

In regard to food, all passengers, captain and crew, ate of the same
dish. The morning meal consisted of miserable tea, or rather of
nauseous water having the colour of tea. The sailors imbibed theirs
without sugar, but the captain and the steersman took a small piece
of candied sugar, which does not melt so quickly as the refined
sugar, in their mouth, and poured down cup after cup of tea, and ate
ship's biscuit and butter to it.

The dinner fare varied. The first day we had salt meat, which is
soaked the evening before, and boiled the next day in sea-water. It
was so salt, so hard, and so tough, that only a sailor's palate can
possibly enjoy it. Instead of soup, vegetables, and pudding, we had
pearl-barley boiled in water, without salt or butter; to which
treacle and vinegar was added at the dinner-table. All the others
considered this a delicacy, and marvelled at my depraved taste when
I declared it to be unpalatable.

The second day brought a piece of bacon, boiled in sea-water, with
the barley repeated. On the third we had cod-fish with peas.
Although the latter were boiled hard and without butter, they were
the most eatable of all the dishes. On the fourth day the bill of
fare of the first was repeated, and the same course followed again.
At the end of every dinner we had black coffee. The supper was like
the breakfast,--tea-water, ship's biscuit and butter.

I wished to have provided myself with some chickens, eggs, and
potatoes in Reikjavik, but I could not obtain any of these luxuries.
Very few chickens are kept--only the higher officials or merchants
have them; eggs of eider-ducks and other birds may often be had, but
more are never collected than are wanted for the daily supply, and
then only in spring; for potatoes the season was not advanced
enough. My readers have now a picture of the luxurious life I led
on board the ship. Had I been fortunate enough to voyage in a
better vessel, where the passengers are more commodiously lodged and
better fed, the seasickness would certainly not have attacked me;
but in consequence of the stifling atmosphere of the cabin and the
bad food, I suffered from it the first day. But on the second I was
well again, regained my appetite, and ate salt meat, bacon, and peas
as well as a sailor; the stockfish, the barley, and the coffee and
tea, I left untouched.

A real sailor never drinks water; and this observation of mine was
confirmed by our captain and steersman: instead of beer or wine,
they took tea, and, except at meals, cold tea.

On Sunday evenings we had a grand supper, for the captain had eight
eggs, which he had brought from Denmark, boiled for us four people.
The crew had a few glasses of punch-essence mixed in their tea.

As my readers are now acquainted with the varied bill of fare in
such a ship, I will say a few words of the table-linen. This
consisted only of an old sailcloth, which was spread over the table,
and looked so dirty and greasy that I thought it would be much
better and more agreeable to leave the table uncovered. But I soon
repented the unwise thought, and discovered how important this cloth
was. One morning I saw our valet treating a piece of sailcloth
quite outrageously: he had spread it upon the deck, stood upon it,
and brushed it clean with the ship's broom. I recognised our
tablecloth by the many spots of dirt and grease, and in the evening
found the table bare. But what was the consequence? Scarcely had
the tea-pot been placed on the table than it began to slip off; had
not the watchful captain quickly caught it, it would have fallen to
the ground and bathed our feet with its contents. Nothing could
stand on the polished table, and I sincerely pitied the captain that
he had not another tablecloth.

My readers will imagine that what I have described would have been
quite sufficient to make my stay in the vessel any thing but
agreeable; but I discovered another circumstance, which even made it
alarming. This was nothing less than that our little vessel was
constantly letting in a considerable quantity of water, which had to
be pumped out every few hours. The captain tried to allay my
uneasiness by asserting that every ship admitted water, and ours
only leaked a little more because it was so old. I was obliged to
be content with his explanation, as it was now too late to think of
a change. Fortunately we did not meet with any storms, and
therefore incurred less danger.

Our journey lasted twenty days, during twelve of which we saw no
land; the wind drove us too far east to see the Feroe or the
Shetland Isles. I should have cared less for this, had I seen some
of the monsters of the deep instead, but we met with scarcely any of
these amiable animals. I saw the ray of water which a whale emitted
from his nostrils, and which exactly resembled a fountain; the
animal itself was unfortunately too far from our ship for us to see
its body. A shark came a little nearer; it swam round our vessel
for a few moments, so that I could easily look at him: it must have
been from sixteen to eighteen feet long.

The so-called flying-fish afforded a pretty sight. The sea was as
calm as a mirror, the evening mild and moonlight; and so we remained
on deck till late, watching the gambols of these animals. As far as
we could see, the water was covered with them. We could recognise
the younger fishes by their higher springs; they seemed to be three
to four feet long, and rose five to six feet above the surface of
the sea. Their leaping looked like an attempt at flying, but their
gills did not do them good service in the trial, and they fell back
immediately. The old fish did not seem to have the same elasticity;
they only described a small arch like the dolphins, and only rose so
far above the water that we could see the middle part of their body.

These fish are not caught; they have little oil, and an unpleasant

On the thirteenth day we again saw land. We had entered the
Skagerrak, and saw the peninsula of Jutland, with the town of
Skaggen. The peninsula looks very dreary from this side; it is flat
and covered with sand.

On the sixteenth day we entered the Cattegat. For some time past we
had always either been becalmed or had had contrary winds, and had
been tossed about in the Skagerrak, the Cattegat, and the Sound for
nearly a week. On some days we scarcely made fifteen to twenty
leagues a day. On such calm days I passed the time with fishing;
but the fish were wise enough not to bite my hook. I was daily
anticipating a dinner of mackerel, but caught only one.

The multitude of vessels sailing into the Cattegat afforded me more
amusement; I counted above seventy. The nearer we approached the
entrance of the Sound, the more imposing was the sight, and the more
closely were the vessels crowded together. Fortunately we were
favoured by a bright moonlight; in a dark or stormy night we should
not with the greatest precaution and skill have been able to avoid a

The inhabitants of more southern regions have no idea of the
extraordinary clearness and brilliancy of a northern moonlight
night; it seems almost as if the moon had borrowed a portion of the
sun's lustre. I have seen splendid nights on the coast of Asia, on
the Mediterranean; but here, on the shores of Scandinavia, they were
lighter and brighter.

I remained on deck all night; for it pleased me to watch the forests
of masts crowded together here, and endeavouring simultaneously to
gain the entrance to the Sound. I should now be able to form a
tolerable idea of a fleet, for this number of ships must surely
resemble a merchant-fleet.

On the twentieth day of our journey we entered the port of
Helsingor. The Sound dues have to be paid here, or, as the sailor
calls it, the ship must be cleared. This is a very tedious
interruption, and the stopping and restarting of the ship very
incommodious. The sails have to be furled, the anchor cast, the
boat lowered, and the captain proceeds on shore; hours sometimes
elapse before he has finished. When he returns to the ship, the
boat has to be hoisted again, the anchor raised, and the sails
unfurled. Sometimes the wind has changed in the mean time; and in
consequence of these formalities, the port of Copenhagen cannot be
reached at the expected time.

If a ship is unfortunate enough to reach Helsingor on a dark night,
she may not enter at all for fear of a collision. She has to anchor
in the Cattegat, and thus suffer two interruptions. If she arrives
at Helsingor in the night before four o'clock, she has to wait, as
the custom-house is not opened till that time.

The skipper is, however, at liberty to proceed direct to Copenhagen,
but this liberty costs five thalers (fifteen shillings). If,
however, the toll may thus be paid in Copenhagen just as easily, the
obligation to stop at Helsingor is only a trick to gain the higher
toll; for if a captain is in haste, or the wind is too favourable to
be lost, he forfeits the five thalers, and sails on to Copenhagen.

Our captain cared neither for time nor trouble; he cleared the ship
here, and so we did not reach Copenhagen until two o'clock in the
afternoon. After my long absence, it seemed so familiar, so
beautiful and grand, as if I had seen nothing so beautiful in my
whole life. My readers must bear in mind, however, where I came
from, and how long I had been imprisoned in a vessel in which I
scarcely had space to move. When I put foot on shore again, I could
have imitated Columbus, and prostrated myself to kiss the earth.


On the 19th August, the day after my arrival from Iceland, at two
o'clock in the afternoon, I had already embarked again; this time in
the fine royal Norwegian steamer Christiania, of 170 horsepower,
bound for the town of Christiania, distant 304 sea-miles from
Copenhagen. We had soon passed through the Sound and arrived safely
in the Cattegat, in which we steered more to the right than on the
journey to Iceland; for we not only intended to see Norway and
Sweden, but to cast anchor on the coast.

We could plainly see the fine chain of mountains which bound the
Cattegat on the right, and whose extreme point, the Kulm, runs into
the sea like a long promontory. Lighthouses are erected here, and
on the other numerous dangerous spots of the coast, and their lights
shine all around in the dark night. Some of the lights are movable,
and some stationary, and point out to the sailor which places to

August 20th.

Bad weather is one of the greatest torments of a traveller, and is
more disagreeable when one passes through districts remarkable for
beauty and originality. Both grievances were united to-day; it
rained, almost incessantly; and yet the passage of the Swedish coast
and of the little fiord to the port of Gottenburg was of peculiar
interest. The sea here was more like a broad stream which is
bounded by noble rocks, and interspersed by small and large rocks
and shoals, over which the waters dashed finely. Near the harbour,
some buildings lie partly on and partly between the rocks; these
contain the celebrated royal Swedish iron-foundry, called the new
foundry. Even numerous American ships were lying here to load this
metal. {46}

The steamer remains more than four hours in the port of Gottenburg,
and we had therefore time to go into the town, distant about two
miles, and whose suburbs extend as far as the port. On the landing-
quay a captain lives who has always a carriage and two horses ready
to drive travellers into the town. There are also one-horse
vehicles, and even an omnibus. The former were already engaged; the
latter, we were told, drives so slowly, that nearly the whole time
is lost on the road; so I and two travelling companions hired the
captain's carriage. The rain poured in torrents on our heads; but
this did not disturb us much. My two companions had business to
transact, and curiosity attracted me. I had not at that time known
that I should have occasion to visit this pretty little town again,
and would not leave without seeing it.

The suburbs are built entirely of wood, and contain many pretty one-
story houses, surrounded, for the most part, by little gardens. The
situation of the suburbs is very peculiar. Rocks, or little fields
and meadows, often lie between the houses; the rocks even now and
then cross the streets, and had to be blasted to form a road. The
view from one of the hills over which the road to the town lies is
truly beautiful.

The town has two large squares: on the smaller one stands the large
church; on the larger one the town-hall, the post-office, and many
pretty houses. In the town every thing is built of bricks. The
river Ham flows through the large square, and increases the traffic
by the many ships and barks running into it from the sea, and
bringing provisions, but principally fuel, to market. Several
bridges cross it. A visit to the well-stocked fish-market is also
an interesting feature in a short visit to this town.

I entered a Swedish house for the first time here. I remarked that
the floor was strewed over with the fine points of the fir-trees,
which had an agreeable odour, a more healthy one probably than any
artificial perfume. I found this custom prevalent all over Sweden
and Norway, but only in hotels and in the dwellings of the poorer

About eleven o'clock in the forenoon we continued our journey. We
steered safely through the many rocks and shoals, and soon reached
the open sea again. We did not stand out far from the shore, and
saw several telegraphs erected on the rocks. We soon lost sight of
Denmark on the left, and arrived at the fortress Friedrichsver
towards evening, but could not see much of it. Here the so-called
Scheren begin, which extend sixty leagues, and form the Christian's
Sound. By what I could see in the dim twilight, the scene was
beautiful. Numerous islands, some merely consisting of bare rocks,
others overgrown with slender pines, surrounded us on all sides.
But our pilot understood his business perfectly, and steered us
safely through to Sandesund, spite of the dark night. Here we
anchored, for it would have been too dangerous to proceed. We had
to wait here for the steamer from Bergen, which exchanged passengers
with us. The sea was very rough, and this exchange was therefore
extremely difficult to effect. Neither of the steamers would lower
a boat; at last our steamer gave way, after midnight, and the
terrified and wailing passengers were lowered into it. I pitied
them from my heart, but fortunately no accident happened.

August 21st

I could see the situation of Sandesund better by day; and found it
to consist only of a few houses. The water is so hemmed in here
that it scarcely attains the breadth of a stream; but it soon widens
again, and increases in beauty and variety with every yard. We
seemed to ride on a beautiful lake; for the islands lie so close to
the mountains in the background, that they look like a continent,
and the bays they form like the mouths of rivers. The next moment
the scene changes to a succession of lakes, one coming close on the
other; and when the ship appears to be hemmed in, a new opening is
suddenly presented to the eye behind another island. The islands
themselves are of a most varied character: some only consist of
bare rocks, with now and then a pine; some are richly covered with
fields and groves; and the shore presents so many fine scenes, that
one hardly knows where to look in order not to miss any of the
beauties of the scenery. Here are high mountains overgrown from the
bottom to the summit with dark pine-groves; there again lovely
hills, with verdant meadows, fertile fields, pretty farmsteads and
yards; and on another side the mountains separate and form a
beautiful perspective of precipices and valleys. Sometimes I could
follow the bend of a bay till it mingled with the distant clouds; at
others we passed the most beautiful valleys, dotted with little
villages and towns. I cannot describe the beauties of the scenery
in adequate terms: my words are too weak, and my knowledge too
insignificant; and I can only give an idea of my emotions, but not
describe them.

Near Walloe the country grows less beautiful; the mountains decrease
into hills, and the water is not studded with islands. The little
town itself is almost concealed behind the hills. A remarkable
feature is the long row of wooden huts and houses adjoining, which
all belong to a salt-work established there.

We entered one of the many little arms of the sea to reach the town
of Moss. Its situation is beautiful, being built amphi-theatrically
on a hillock which leans against a high mountain. A fine building
on the sea-shore, whose portico rests upon pillars, is used for a
bathing institution.

A dock-yard, in which men-of-war are built at the expense of the
state, is situated near the town of Horten, which is also
picturesquely placed. There does not seem to be much work doing
here, for I only saw one ship lying at anchor, and none on the
stocks. About eight leagues beyond Horten a mountain rises in the
middle of the sea, and divides it into two streams, uniting again
beyond it, and forming a pretty view.

We did not see Christiania till we were only ten leagues from it.
The town, the suburbs, the fortress, the newly-erected royal palace,
the freemasons' lodge, &c., lie in a semicircle round the port, and
are bounded by fields, meadows, woods, and hills, forming a
delightful coup-d'oeil. It seems as if the sea could not part from
such a lovely view, and runs in narrow streams, through hills and
plains, to a great distance beyond the town.

Towards eleven o'clock in the forenoon we reached the port of
Christiania. We had come from Sandesund in seven hours, and had
stopped four times on the way; but the boats with new-comers, with
merchandise and letters, had always been ready, had been received,
and we had proceeded without any considerable delay.


My first care on arriving in this town was to find a countrywoman of
mine who had been married to a lawyer here. It is said of the
Viennese that they cannot live away from their Stephen's steeple;
but here was a proof of the contrary, for there are few couples
living so happily as these friends, and yet they were nearly one
thousand miles from St. Stephen's steeple. {47}

I passed through the whole town on the way from the quay to the
hotel, and thence to my friend. The town is not large, and not very
pretty. The newly-built portion is the best, for it at least has
broad, tolerably long streets, in which the houses are of brick, and
sometimes large. In the by-streets I frequently found wooden
barracks ready to fall. The square is large, but irregular; and as
it is used as a general market-place, it is also very dirty.

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