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Eyrarbakki – International Visits Program

Updated: Jul 10, 2020

Sunday, August 19th, I arrived in Eyrarbakki and met with Linda, who has arranged everything for my stay and presentation.

Húsið (The House) at Eyrarbakki is one of Iceland’s oldest buildings, built in 1765 when Danish merchants were allowed to overwinter in Iceland for the first time. It is the darkest house in this photo. Merchant families lived in the House for almost two centuries and over that period the House was the center for art and European culture in Iceland; fashion, music and literature spread from there throughout the country.

The merchant, Guðmundur Thorgrímsen, and his wife Sylvia, moved to Eyrarbakki in 1847. Their son, Hans Thorgrímsen, became the famous pastor of the Dakota settlement. His life is so interesting and he did so much to help the Icelanders in Dakota. He was the pastor when most of the churches in Dakota were built.

Eyrarbakki village was one of the largest harbours and trading places in Iceland, serving farmers along the coastline from the extreme west to the extreme east.

It is so great to be here in Eyrarbakki. The earliest pioneers came from here and they have great stories to tell. My presentation was held in ”The Living Room.” No other lecture had ever been held in this room before.

Lýður Pálsson, the Director of the Museum greeted me. Somehow Linda escaped all the photos on my camera and I will have to get someone else to send me a photo of us together.

A wonderful group packed into the living room at the Húsið to see my presentation. I was very close to everyone in the room and stood just beside the old piano. It was brought to Eyrarbakki in 1871 by a ship and then put into a small fishing boat to be brought to shore. Unfortunately, there was a horrible rain storm that day but they rowed it ashore where four men hauled it into the house.

My story tells the people of Iceland that our ancestors did not forget their homeland or the people and we honor our Icelandic heritage and the country of Iceland. I weave a personal story of my ancestors into the presentation and it can be very emotional.

In a few places during the show, I noticed a few tears running down the cheeks of a few people. I tried to avoid looking at them so that I would not cry, too. Well, by the end of my presentation, almost every person in the room had tears running down their cheeks. With just a few more sentences to go ….. I finally broke down, too. Tears ran and my voice cracked. I finished the last two sentences through the tears and through the huge lump in my throat.

I said, ”Oh, I am so sorry!” But those in attendance said, ”Do not be sorry. This is the best lecture that I ever attended. I want to come to North Dakota and to see the settlement areas in America.”

Atli Asmundsson gave a speech to everyone after I finished. I am not sure what he said since it was in Icelandic. I caught about every fourth word. Linda had prepared treats and coffee for the group. There was lots of smiles and visiting between everyone. The people of Eyrarbakki started to plan their trip to America.

Afterwards, Atli and Þrúður treated us to a wonderful dinner with their family and with Almar, Anna Björk, and Steinar. The program at Eyrarbakki was a success. Two down and eleven more to go. I wonder what other adventures will occur as I make my way around this amazing country of our ancestors.

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