A Journey to the Interior of the Earth
Hospitality Under The Arctic Circle
It ought to have been night-time, but under the 65th parallel there was nothing surprising
in the nocturnal polar light. In Iceland during the months of June and July the sun does
But the temperature was much lower. I was cold and more hungry than cold. Welcome
was the sight of the boer which was hospitably opened to receive us.
It was a peasant's house, but in point of hospitality it was equal to a king's. On our arrival
the master came with outstretched hands, and without more ceremony he beckoned us to
To accompany him down the long, narrow, dark passage, would have been impossible.
Therefore, we followed, as he bid us. The building was constructed of roughly squared
timbers, with rooms on both sides, four in number, all opening out into the one passage:
these were the kitchen, the weaving shop, the badstofa, or family sleeping-room, and the
visitors' room, which was the best of all. My uncle, whose height had not been thought of
in building the house, of course hit his head several times against the beams that
projected from the ceilings.
We were introduced into our apartment, a large room with a floor of earth stamped hard
down, and lighted by a window, the panes of which were formed of sheep's bladder, not
admitting too much light. The sleeping accommodation consisted of dry litter, thrown
into two wooden frames painted red, and ornamented with Icelandic sentences. I was
hardly expecting so much comfort; the only discomfort proceeded from the strong odour
of dried fish, hung meat, and sour milk, of which my nose made bitter complaints.
When we had laid aside our travelling wraps the voice of the host was heard inviting us
to the kitchen, the only room where a fire was lighted even in the severest cold.
My uncle lost no time in obeying the friendly call, nor was I slack in following.
The kitchen chimney was constructed on the ancient pattern; in the middle of the room
was a stone for a hearth, over it in the roof a hole to let the smoke escape. The kitchen
was also a dining-room.
At our entrance the host, as if he had never seen us, greeted us with the word
"SAELLVERTU," which means "be happy," and came and kissed us on the cheek.
After him his wife pronounced the same words, accompanied with the same ceremonial;
then the two placing their hands upon their hearts, inclined profoundly before us.
I hasten to inform the reader that this Icelandic lady was the mother of nineteen children,
all, big and little, swarming in the midst of the dense wreaths of smoke with which the