The Guesthouse at the Centre of Njál’s Saga historical scenario
Turning left from Hvolsvelli and driving 9km up the road, one will find Húsið Guesthouse built in1929 as a school by talented and ambitious people. Since 2012 an Icelandic-Czech family, Guðni Guðmundsson, his wife Jana Flieglova and their young son have lived there. We had been invited by the couple to visit Husid as they wanted to introduce their family business.
We arrived just before noon on a beautiful Saturday in late April. We were met by a happy Icelandic sheepdog, as is often the case on Icelandic farms and by an equally happy housewife who welcomed us and showed us the Guesthouse.
The House is a tidy and dignified building, constructed from timber and concrete with a living soul, according to the owners. Its old style interior, wooden staircase and original flooring allowed me to travel back in time. I learned that most of the damaged vintage wood furnishings that had been updated and restored were repaired by the assistant chef. The Glasshouse annex, added to the building in 1995, is now used as a convenient dining room.
Combined, the old building and its newer back houses, located to the north of the main building, can host 56 guests. Additionally there are newly-built teachers’ cottages and a small auditorium, with beds for 20 people, only a short distance from the old schoolhouse, providing great facilities for smaller groups. Guðni told me about the various unorganised outdoor leisure-time activities the guests can participate in, like hiking-trails and walking-paths. “We often have school groups and family reunions and similar groups that are self-sufficient. Usually they buy bed and breakfast although we can provide dinner for groups and sometimes individuals. We only run the Guesthouse and thus are not a travel agency in order to keep the price as low as possible. We give our guests free guidance on selfguided walks and sell and organise walking trips when asked to. This area has a rich bird life and wonderful nature and we welcome more nature-loving tourists.”
Guðni was interrupted by his wife during the interview who informed us that lunch was ready. Jirka, the professional Czech chef, prepared and served us a appetising and elegant cuisine using only high-quality Icelandic ingredients. We are served delicious fried lamb fore shanks. For dessert we had a tempting Icelandic special: ‘rabbabara’ (rhubarb) cake with cream. Truly delicious!
Zuzana, who is Jirka’s sister and assistant, is the housekeeper-in-chief. After the lunch she confided that she has a love for Icelandic mountains and added that if the mount Herðubreið is the queen of all Icelandic mountains then mount Þrihyrningur is the king. To prove her point, she showed me a picture book of mount Þrihyrningur, unaware of the pivotal role the mountain played in Njáls Saga.We went outside to the patio to take in the surroundings after having enjoyed the delicious lunch. To the north is Tunguskógur, which the Forest Development Agency has nurtured and cares for. Some 8 kilometres north of Tunguskógur is the magnificent Þrihyrningur mountain, and 10 kilometres east from The House is Gluggafoss waterfall. Facing south is Stóra Dímon and Seljarlandsfoss waterfall and Seljarlandslaug pool. In the far south, on the coast, is Landeyjarhöfn, where the ferry crosses to the Westman Islands. Close to The House is an old power station which will be restarted due to the guests’ interest. There is an 18-hole golf course, trout fishing, horse rental and museums in the area and a swimming pool in nearby Hvolsvöllur. For those who want to go further, there are various options
such as Fjallabaksleið nyðri og Fjallabaksleið syðri.
Some choose to walk from Fimmvörðuháls to Þórsmörk. To get to Fimmvörðuháls one takes á bus from Hvolsvöllur or rents a jeep or even a horse. For those interested in sheep, the sheep gathering takes place in September. Prices are reasonable and groups receive a discount at The House.
By Sigurdur Thordarson
Njáls Saga (The story of Njáll) is, without doubt, the most famous of the Icelandic sagas. Praised by the public and scholars alike, Icelanders, regardless to age, gender and social status, discuss Njáls saga for hours and even years.
Njals Saga is one of the keys to learning and understanding Icelandic because there are so many popular Icelandic phrases and proverbs directly from it. Njáls Saga is the oldest romance story written in a Germanic language and it describes clearly the social structure, the democratic legislation and judiciary at Althingi since 930. The book indicates total respect for the division of labour between the genders. Through this beautiful love story one can learn a great deal about the morality of Icelanders’ ancestors, the Norse people, who settled in Iceland.