Iceland was covered in forests when it was first discovered, but the trees were mostly birch and these were unsuitable for building. In order to protect themselves and their livestock from the harsh climate, the settlers constructed shelters using the trees to provide a framework and covering the frame with turf.
In the 1400s, the earlier large long houses were abandoned and they were replaced with smaller buildings that were interconnected. Each building was designed to serve a separate purpose. Near the end of the 18th century, a new style developed with the ends of the buildings made of wood, with the turf covering the sides and roofs. Some of these buildings have survived to present times.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
After seeing the iceberg lagoon and having a better sense of how much time it would take us to drive westward back to Vik, I felt we could make a quick stop at Hof to view the turf-covered church there. I had read about the quaint church in our guidebook and wanted to see it for myself. I remember tales of my maternal grandmother leaving Ontario and travelling to a homestead in Alberta when she was just a young girl. She told me the family had spent their first winter in a sod house, and I wanted to see what a sod building would look like inside.
The church was only a short distance from the highway in the midst of a small community of white-painted houses with red metal roofs. There didn’t seem to be anyone about and the church itself was closed up tight. I decided to wander around the adjacent cemetery and was surprised to find that all the graves were arranged in neat rows with identical white crosses. It appeared that the coffins had been placed on the ground and that mounds had been built up around them.
Perhaps this was done because the ground was so very hard. The community was situated immediately under a towering ridge, not far from the tip of a glacier. It’s likely that there is nothing but lava under the thin soil and that graves could not be dug into the ground.
We stayed only long enough for me to take some photos, Anil never even got out of the car. He has never understood my fascination with cemeteries, and I don’t suppose he ever will.