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There seems to be a waterfall around every corner in Iceland, but on our recent cruise port call we saw only a few of them. Even then, it could be argued that we didn’t see the best of them, but we probably saw the best known. Even as we sailed into Seydisfjordur, we were flanked on both sides by the steep banks of the fjord - and down those banks cascaded waterfalls. We were particularly struck by one, which divided into a twin fall, leaving a sort of island perched on the hillside.
But falls such as this, however beautiful and stately, are but a trickle compared to the ones to be seen elsewhere in Iceland. We’d already had a glimpse of the Godafoss on the way up to Lake Myvatn, and most people would be satisfied with even that. But, we got off the bus on the way back, and took a walk along the top of one of the cliffs bounding the river, to see the falls at their even more awesome. It’s even possible, with a lot of care, to climb down to the river bank, and scramble over the rocks for an even better view.
If you cast an eye back through these chronicles, you’ll see my attitude is by no means "see one waterfall, you’ve seen them all". You might think that, having seen South America's mighty Iguazu Falls, all others would pale into insignificance. Not a bit of it: every waterfall has its own character. Even a slight trickle has its own atmosphere - but this is no slight trickle.
Their name means "God's Falls" - but not the Christian God. In 1000 CE, the "Lawspeaker" - who I gather both passed laws and enforced them - decreed that Iceland should henceforth convert to Christianity. And, to ensure this was observed, he collected up the images of the old Norse gods and cast them into the falls.
I was already familiar with the waterfall at Gulfoss (Golden Falls), because its picture is on my favourite computer game. But it's no preparation for the reality. Three steps send the raging waters of the river downhill, squeezed between black basalt cliffs. A nearby interpretation board tells the story of Sigurdur Tomassdottir, the daughter of the landowner, whose dedication and efforts saved the falls from being lost to a hydro-electric scheme. She even threatened to throw herself into the falls if the scheme went ahead.
Although I don’t think she really met with much opposition. Iceland, it would seem, has no need for a hydro-electric scheme. Geothermal power stations, I am told, provide all the energy they need!