We visited Iceland about a year ago on an adventure I’ll never forget. While I expected stunning natural scenery, glaciers, interesting food, and a unique culture, I was pleasantly surprised to find a beautifully preserved literary home.
Reykjavik is an incredible town filled with quaint charm and unexpected beauty. As part of a package of tours of historic sites, we visited a tidy, stark, red home tucked away on a side street where writer, artist and scholar Benedikt Gröndal lived from 1888 until 1907. I was previously unaware of this Icelandic writer, but the exhibition provided great insight into his life and works. I was especially drawn to his illustrations of native flora and fauna – whimsically captured in realistic simplicity. I won’t go into details, but there’s good information about the writer on this site.
Other exhibitions on our historic tour of Reykjavik illustrated a hearty people hardened by everything from volcanoes to relentless snow and ice, illness, and earthquakes. It couldn’t have been easy to live in Iceland in the late 1800s, but Gröndal seems to have created a comfortable and happy life as a curious intellectual.
Creativity can thrive anywhere, even in a remote town on a cold island in the North Sea. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live in such an isolated and barren land before the age of technology and connection but I’m grateful to those who did and captured the experience. And, I’m particularly grateful to those who work to preserve these legacies.