Sænautasel in Iceland

In the video I interview Lilja Óladóttir, hostess at Sænautasel, about the farm and what service is provided for tourists.

Sænautasel was build in 1843, on a very remote area in the highland of Jökuldalsheiði in the North-East part of Iceland. The farm is covered with turf like other traditional Icelandic farms in the old days, which provides good isolation from heat loss. Farming was difficult in this isolated area. Winters were hard, so as much grass as possible had to be cut and stored each summer to try to keep the sheep alive until spring. In 1875 the farm was abandoned, because it was covered with tephra from the volcanic eruption of Askja. The farm was rebuilt in 1880, but abandoned again in 1943. At least two families at the farm went to America in the early 1900s.

The farm was rebuilt in 1992 and has been open to the public since then. Guided tours explain the conditions of earlier Icelandic generations, before the time of indoor running water and electricity.

Close to the farm is the lake Sænautavatn, where visitors can catch trouts.

This farm is considered the model for the setting of the novel: “Sjálfstætt fólk” (e. Independent People) by Halldór Kiljan Laxness, who stayed at the farm. It was one of his most popular works, which was published in almost two million copies worldwide. The novel is about a sheep farmer and his family. The title refers to his obsessive desire for independence. Laxness (1902-1998) is the only Icelander, who has won the Nobel Prize for Literature, which he did in 1955.

Visitor can taste some traditional Icelandic food at the farm. Centuries ago it was essential to use everything eatable and process it for storage in the only way that was available at that time. The purpose was to have food, which tasted good, to survive the harsh winters.

Nowadays such food is mostly served as buffet at the “Þorrablót” festival during the ancient Nordic month of “Þorri”, which is from mid-January to mid-February, as a tribute to old culture. Often groups like clubs and employees hold Þorrablót and besides eating there are many entertainments including all the men honoring the women with a song and vice versa.

A buffet can include food like smoked lamb meat, singed sheep heads, blood pudding, wind-dried fish, seal’s flippers, putrefied Greenland shark and pickled rams’ testicles. With the food “Brennivín” (e. Black Death) is drunk, which is an Icelandic caraway-seed-flavored spirit.

Visitors can also have “Lummur” at the farm, which are Icelandic thick mini pancakes sometimes with raisins. Rhubarb jam and sugar is served with the pancakes, beside hot chocolate and coffee.

Icelandic hand knitted sweaters and other handicrafts are sold at the farm.

One thought on “Sænautasel in Iceland”

  1. I wish I knew what she was saying. My grandfather was born and raised on that farm. They immigrated to the United States to North Dakota. His name was Haroldur Gudmunder Thorlakson.

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