Station: [21] Haus Olesen Interior

F: Come on in! And if you’re entering the house from the garden side, please don’t forget to wipe your feet! That’s the purpose of the stone paving that extends another meter into the hallway. It’s a built-in doormat …

M: The hallway divides an Uthland Frisian house into two equal parts: the living area on one side, the accommodation for the farm animals and the work rooms on the other. Here in the hallway, you can also see the special construction of this type of house. It is a post-and-beam construction, and the roof truss rests, not on the exterior walls, but on wooden posts. These posts, which are barely a metre or roughly three feet away from the exterior wall, run in two rows along the entire length of the house.

F: Rooms lead off the hallway on both sides. In the living area, you have the kitchen and the bedroom as well as the living room and the parlour beyond – dubbed “Dörnsk” and “Pesel” in the local dialect.
Apart from the kitchen, the living room, or Dörnsk, was the only room in the house with heating. The stove was heated from the kitchen, and when it was nice and toasty warm, you could unscrew the brass knobs and put one in your pocket as a hand warmer.

M: The heated living room also contains two of the three wall beds in the house – known locally as “Alkoven”. One is just to the left of the entrance. Have you noticed how short it is? In the old days, people didn’t sleep stretched out in the way we do, but in a half upright position. They were worried they wouldn’t wake up, or be taken unawares by some emergency, a fire or flooding. But some were also superstitious: lying flat reminded them of the dead, who were laid out at home until the day of their funeral.

F: Finally, the living room walls probably look familiar: they’re covered with the tiles the sailors brought back from the Netherlands.

M: To the left of the living room is the kitchen with its brickwork hearth. Immediately above the stove is the flue. One unusual feature is the bread oven at ground level. Have you noticed the square wooden trapdoor in the floor? It covers a hole that’s roughly half a metre or one and a half feet deep.
Take a look at your screen now to see a historical image. The oven was at ground level, remember? So the housewife simply sat in the hole to slide dishes into it. Talk about making life easy for yourself!

F: Opposite the kitchen, on the other side of the hallway, is the barn. These days, there’s an exhibition of various agricultural implements in there. And to the left of the barn is the stable. Two or three cows might have stood in there, with perhaps a horse at the back, a few sheep and some chickens. The livestock stood with their heads facing the exterior wall, which, incidentally, was built of strips of turf to save on bricks. The manure fell straight into the gutter and could be shovelled out through the stable door and to the dung heap. And since there was no bathroom, the gutter doubled as a toilet for the human residents.

M: When the house was built, 400 years ago, it may not have been one of the largest in the village of Alkersum, but still, nearly a fifth of the houses were significantly smaller. So it was mid-range. Over the centuries, the house was never extended by adding a barn, though that became common on Föhr as farming grew ever more intensive. In the 1920s, when the last resident lived here, it was rather a poor house for the period.

Fotos: © Dr.-Carl-Häberlin-Friesen-Museum