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July 2006: A visit to Ericsstadir

Ericsstadir was once the home of Eric the Red, and the birthplace of his son, Leifur Eriksson - the first European to set foot in North America, in the year 1000. Although he only stayed there a year, he paved the way for other Viking settlers in the land they called Vínland - the land of grapes. The Vikings didn't remain in Vínland long however, a combination of disease and hostile natives forced them to leave after a few dozen years.
Footprint of History
The original homesite is seen here in the foreground. The home has been reconstructed using ancient tools and techniques to resemble what the original house once looked like.
As the Vikings lived...
The inside of the house is stuffy and dark... though warm. A open-pit fire in the center provides heat and light. Smoke is let-out through a vent in the roof. It's not surprising to learn that many Vikings suffered and died from lung ailments.
A group of people dress in period clothing and tell an oral history of the place and the people who lived there.
Doorway to the Past
I've visited a lot of historic places, but for some reason Ericsstadir seemed more authentic than most. Perhaps it was because it was not the history of kings or great leaders, but that of ordinary men who accomplished great things without any fanfare from their peers, or expectations of historical glory. I had a feeling the land had changed little since the time of Eric the Red. I could feel how it was then - I could look out the door, and it was almost the same view that little Leifur had, over a thousand years ago. It truly was a door to the past.
This runic carving is just down the road from Ericsstadir.
Eric the Red was a larger-than-life character. One of his slaves ruined some property of a neighbor, and the ensuing conflict resulted in Eric killing the neighbor. For this, he was banished to a nearby island. Eric then sailed to Greenland, and convinced a group of people to follow him and settle there - famously advertising it as "Green".

Where is it?

Ericsstadir is located in the west of Iceland, not far from the town of Búdarðalur.

Before you go...
Brush-up on your history. Sit in the grass on the hill and feel the wind on your face. It blows the same now as it did then.

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