The second stop on our trip was the most American of them all: Eiríksstaðir. As the name suggests, this is named after someone named Eirikr (or Erik, if want to Anglicize it), specifically Eiríkr Þórvaldsson, better known as Eirikr Rauði (Erik the Red), the man who discovered North America. Here is his statue:
Eirikr’s discovery was, specifically, Greenland. Mainland North America was discovered by his son Leifr Eiríksson, or Leifr hin heppni (Leifr the Lucky). Since we’re on the topic of an Icelander discovering Greenland, let’s take this opportunity to correct a common misconception:
Urban legend in America holds that Iceland is green and Greenland is icy, and that the “Vikings” named them backwards to keep people from finding the good country. This is simply false. Eiríkr the Red was born almost a century after the settlement of Iceland, and the country already had its name by the time of Eiríkr’s birth. Also, Greenland is without a doubt the more difficult of the two to reach from Europe, and Iceland lies between the two. If one was really determined to hide Iceland by naming another island Greenland, picking an island on the other side of Iceland was probably not the right idea. Anyone who lives here also knows that Iceland is not especially green apart from maybe a month or so each year, and it is most certainly icy.
The actual legend goes like this: Eiríkr was exiled from Iceland for killing a neighbor or two, and sailed west to find someplace to live. He found a suitable place, which he called Greenland, in hopes of making it sound appealing so that his family would come join him there. By all accounts it seems to have worked: there has been a fair amount of excavation of Viking-age settlement in Greenland. But I digress.
Here are photos of a traditional Icelandic house at Eiríksstaðir.
As you can see, it’s made of dirt. Turf used to be the standard construction material for Icelandic houses. There are very few trees here, so lumber was hard to come by. It’s sort of like the sod houses they used to build back home in Texas during our own settlement period.
And here is a waterfall. More pictures of waterfalls are on the way, too.
More to come. Thanks for reading.