Hestur Experimental Station was notable in that many of the finest rams in Iceland are
raised there. At Hestur, they are breeding specifically for the greatest muscling possible
with this breed, with the least amount of fat, and experimenting with feeds, forage, and
Haafelli farm has the last remaining polled Icelandic goats in existence. Joanna the
combed the island, buying up every last one of the polled goats in existence, which are very
close to extinction. She also has about 20-30 horned Icelandic goats, a few Icelandic
sheep, and Icelandic chickens. However, before we visited any of the farms, Mundi took
us to a place very sacred to the Icelanders...Thingvellir. A valley in which the Northern
Atlantic tectonic plates are being formed. The western side of Iceland is getting closer to
North America, and the Eastern side, towards Russia at the rate of about one inch per
year. As you shall see, Thingvellir's beauty is breathtaking! 100 mostly dormant volcanos
are to be found in the valley which was recently formed by violent primeval forces. This
vast lava plain is filled with numerous deep fissures, and
the land is constantly sinking due to the landmasses splitting apart, forming a huge rift
The only surface river running through the valley runs into lake Thingvallavatn after
tumbling in a beautiful waterfall into a canyon. Thingvellir is an important Icelandic
historical site; people were sent out to search for a fitting place to hold the Icelandic
parliament meetings in the early 900's, and Thingvellir was chosen, in part because of the
natural ampitheater that was formed by a high volcanic cliff wall. The president of the
Parliament would stand on a nearby lava projection with his back to the people, and would
speak to the lava wall in front of him, which would bounce his voice backwards to the
people, who could hear him better because of the magnification of his voice by the
accoustic properties of the lava wall. Upon discovering this unique location, parliament
was founded there in 930 and met there until 1845.
Thingvellir Sunrise, 9:30 AM
|The lava wall that the Parliament
speaker bounced his voice off of.
|Panaramic veiw of where the Parliament speaker would stand.
Thingvellir was a seat of power and authority, and also a place of judgment. Consider how we
think of Hell...a place of great heat, burning and misery. Surely in the medieval mind a place
of 100 volcanoes would also carry that connotation, but beyond that, Thingvellir was indeed a
place of judgment, where those who committed sins or crimes against other individuals or
society would have their sentences pronounced by the Court, then carried out with terrible
swiftness. At the end of the path you see in the panoramic view is the drowning pool, where
women were dunked to prove their innocence or guilt. If they floated, they were considered
innocent. If they sank and drowned, they were pronounced guilty.
Unfortunately, back in that day, when it was difficult to get enough to eat and nearly everyone
was thin and would have had a low Body Mass Index, everyone but someone who was well fed
would have sunk, innocent or not!
Men were not put in the drowning pool, but were beheaded there instead. In the 1500's
Lutheranism was taking dominance over Catholicism, and the last person beheaded at the
drowning pool was the Catholic bishop and his two sons while his mistress and his two
daughters watched! We can be thankful that we live in the present day instead of back then!