turf & tack

1_GaumberStone Pathway Leading Through Glaumbaer

We follow the charming hand-drawn map on the back of an advertisement card tucked into the front entry of The Mikligarður Guesthouse. I’m captivated by the stylized sheep and horse inviting us to explore the agrarian regions. Our goal is horseback riding, but marked thoughtfully on the map is Glaumbaer, the Skagafjordur Heritage Museum, a radiant green expanse in the summer sun.

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We are under its spell for several hours exploring the yawning, narrow hallways and specialty rooms of the homesteads built from herringbone pieced turf dug from the ground and framed by earth all around. Rows of turf houses have been built on this site for the last 900 years. We buy tickets at Gilsstofa, the yellow 19th C. timber house and meander the stone path through the series of houses, rooms comprising a wide array of activities from forge, storage, barn, to communal spaces.

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One turf house is the tack and sheltering rooms for the Icelandic horses that made it possible for people to settle this cold, barren landscape. Guides dressed in historic garb greet us at various points of interest and souvenirs opportunities. The community of houses was in disrepair when benefactor Sir Mark Watson first saw them in 1947. He was so fascinated by their originality, he funded the restoration and the site was designated a national landmark to preserve the heritage of turf-making and the lifestyle that it framed.

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Across the road is the actual working farm that operates today. I am drawn to the church adjacent to the village to photograph the iconic paintings of saints that frame the surrounding countryside within its tidy wooden window frames.

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The gray clapboard house, Áshús, houses exhibitions and a lovely Tea Room called Áskaffi which serves traditional Icelandic fare. After our tour we order tea and sandwiches so delicious that we quickly order a second serving. The rooms are decorated with vintage family photographs, antique utensils, and historic documents. Each gives a sweet slice of perspective on the lives and times of Icelandic country life. We savor these sweet slices of Icelandic life along with the pastries and pates served on antique porcelain.

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