Meet One Of The Last Icelanders To Live In A Turf House - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Meet One Of The Last Icelanders To Live In A Turf House

Published June 18, 2018

Elísabet Sveinsdóttir is one of the few remaining Icelanders to live in a traditional turf house, something she looks forward to every summer, despite the preponderance of tourists who peek into her windows.

RÚV paid a visit to Elísbet, who lives in the turf house Lindarbakki in Borgarfjörður Eystri every summer.

“It is so good to be back,” she told reporters. “You wait all year to be back here. You always need to know everything that’s happening here. Hopefully I can be here all summer.”

Lindarbakki was constructed in 1899 in the traditional manner of old Icelandic farm houses — the exterior walls are made entirely of slabs of turf that have been stacked on top of one another, while the roof and interior walls are made of timber. Elísbet is originally from this small east Iceland village, and bought Lindarbakki with her husband in 1979, but now lives most of the year in the capital area.

Despite this mode of construction, Elísbet says the house does not require any more care and upkeep than a more modern timber house would. It has also become a popular tourist attraction, as many of them mistakenly believe it’s a museum, and not a place where someone is actually living.

“They really walk around this place a lot and knock on the door, and then get a little awkward when I tell them this is a summer home,” she says, adding that she often times asks these visitors to sign a guestbook. “I have eight or ten books filled with signatures, including some written in Chinese or Hebrew or some other language I don’t understand. But I don’t have any guest reception or anything like that. I’m just here amusing myself. Talking to other people about my life. When everything is done for a person, you should try and enjoy it.”

In the RÚV piece, with reporting by Rúnar Snær Reynisson, you can take a look inside Elísabet’s home. The clip is in Icelandic, without subtitles, but that shouldn’t detract from the charm of this cozy summer home.

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