I know that the Vikings were the first people to discover Iceland, and they were the ones to give it its name, but there was another group of people that eventually made their way over to this island. These people had to face harsh conditions to cultivate the land and survive. I never gave much thought to these people and what they did in order to survive, until I visited their traditional farm houses, Glaumbaer.
I got to see them during the summer months when they were free from snow, and really showcased how they were built. Basically they had turf for their roofs that would look like rolling hills if it wasn’t for the fact that on the front of each one of these hills was a wooden facade giving the place the look of a typical Scandinavian house from the 1800s. I thought of it as a strange little addition, but I get why it was added. It probably gave these people a small semblance of home and made it feel more comfortable.
Going inside set me up for another surprise. Basically, all of these small houses were not separate, but were instead part of a big chain of house brought together for one large community. The rooms were designed to keep people warm during the long winters with big pantries, a large kitchen, and rooms in the back with personal bunks where the community could sleep. The big huge roofs would acts as a great insulation against the pounding storms, and the people could get light from the small windows dotted all along the inside each room. There was even a small location where the pastor of the community could prepare for services to help guide these people through the tough times.
This community was a far ways away from any of the larger towns on the island as well. The people that chose to live out here knew that they has to rely on themselves and their own ingenuity to live a comfortable life. They would venture out to the larger towns a couple of times a year to collect the supplies they might need in order to survive the next season. Otherwise, they made do with what they had. They would use everything that they could find to make life comfortable from the bones of whales to vision sleds and plows to the blubber that they could use to make shoes that would keep them warm and dry. Sledgehammers were made out of large stones, and the beds were made out of whatever timber they could find.
The windows were another feature of the place that surprised me. They were tiny, but they let in considerable light. Considering that a good portion of the time they spent here was during the summer when the sun would never set, I could understand why they made the windows so small. It would let in just enough light so they could see by, but not enough so they could also sleep at night. I could also see the function they served during the winter months. They weren’t going to let in any light because there wasn’t any light to enter, and they wanted to keep out the cold, so larger windows would be a problem. It showed me that everything that they did in these farm houses was of a practical nature, and it was for this reason that they were able to live and farm in this far away place up north.
It was a great stop along the Ring Road of Iceland, and it was my first insight into the people who lived here long after the Vikings. Glaumbaer is a must stop for anyone who ventures out this way and it is worth the small entrance fee to get to tour its lands.