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A remarkable number of old turf houses remain in Iceland. PIC Flickriver

A remarkable number of old turf houses remain in Iceland. PIC Flickriver

A beginner in the Icelandic language might have a hearty laugh when coming upon a place marked Grenjastadur or Grenjastaður in the North of Iceland. The name could well be translated as the Crying Place. A visit might actually give that name some meaning as this is one of the oldest turfed homestead in the country.

Grenjastadur used to be one of the nicer places and homes in the whole country. Seeing the mud flooring, the basic “kitchen” and the fact that the outer walls are made of turf it is easy to vision folks here crying a whole lot for their bad lot in life. Were it not for the fact that this was for a while such a dynastic home it was long considered among the wealthiest in whole of Iceland. Chiefs and high priests called this home and were proud of it.

Chiefs and high priests called this home

Contemplate this when having a look. The place has been fully and beautifully restored to former “glory” and even if from the outside in summertime it might look “kinda nice” one has to imagine living here in relative poverty in cold and dark months for centuries. Horrible easily comes to mind.

But for folks not used to seeing a real home made partly of turf and furbished with resources close by this might leave some impression of how far Iceland has come in a short time. The last people living here only moved to something nicer roughly 60 years ago.

Oh, and the name does not stand for the Crying Place. The Iceland verb for crying is certainly grenja and even less-than-smart locals could confuse the name with the same word but this a noun. Grenja comes from the word greni which means a hiding mound and was and is used for when hunting while laying low in bunkers of some kind. Ergo: a place of hiding and not crying.

Grenjastadur is found in the North of Iceland. It is clearly marked but only open for visitation during summertime, June, July and August, between 10 and 18 daily (see map.) It is located in Adaldalur. Take road no.85 from the Ring Road by Godafoss waterfall and you´ll be fine.