Just seen The Northman and thought to yourself, “Yes! That is the lifestyle I want! Going Berserker, throat singing, ripping throats out with my teeth!”? While the Viking way is undeniably alluring for some of us, the real-life accomplishments of the man whose labor of love it was to build a replica of a medieval Norwegian building are even more astonishing.
Dr. Johan Viking Hultin, who passed away in January this year at the age of 97, was an eminent pathologist, inventor, mountaineer and explorer. His discovery of permafrost-buried victims of the 1918 flu epidemic gave scientists the ability to map the virus’s genome and determine why it was so lethal. In addition, Hultin, who was brought up in Sweden but emigrated to the US, invented multiple auto safety breakthroughs, including the impact-absorbing bumper.
Hultin’s main residence was in the Bay Area, in suburban Walnut Creek, but the great lover of medieval and old Norse mythology built himself a hideaway in Bear Valley, about three hours east of San Francisco in the Central Sierra Mountains. Set on 0.37-acre of wooded land and built as a faithful replica of a 14th century building updated for a 20th century lifestyle, the one-bedroom house measures just 1,350 square feet. It’s available for $1.6 million via Joel Barnett at Bear Valley Real Estate.
The original building on which Dr. Hultin based his mountain folly is now in Stockholm, in an open area museum of vintage Swedish buildings assembled in 1901. (Norway was part of Sweden until 1905.) “Vastveitloftet,” as it’s called, “the loft-bower from Vastveit,” came from a farm in Telemark, Norway. These types of buildings were used both as storerooms and as living spaces.
Security was a must in those days, both real and otherworldly. On the original building, a number of crosses are carved above the door to keep trolls and other evil spirits out and, the staircase is placed so as to make it necessary to walk all the way around the the second-floor gallery before access can be gained to the uppermost level. In Hultin’s house, a Viking-style dragon’s head is depicted in stained glass. Besides being a mark of status, an image like this would have been intended to help kept evil spirits at bay.
Built by Hultin and a team of artisans, the unique getaway was created from old-growth redwood milled on site. Everything was hand carved and hand crafted, just as it would have been in 1325. The bedroom showcases Norwegian folk art designs, called rosemaling, which were hand painted by Norwegian artists. For overnight guests there’s a spacious loft and, true to designs of the 14th century, there are also two hand-crafted sleeping nooks in the living room.
The maple stair railings are a slight departure from the 14th century as they were copied from a 1650 church in Norway. Of course, the property also offers loads of modern conveniences marauding Vikings would likely have enjoyed, if been astonished by: radiant heating, a sprinkler system, a simple but up-to-date kitchen, and two modern bathrooms.
Hultin helped restore several ancient labyrinths in Iceland and Sweden, and he replicated one of the labyrinths he restored in the yard. There are also several outbuildings, including a pump house, and the property offers great views, looking across the Sierra High Country and directly at the Dardanelles and Yosemite beyond. Plus, it’s close to Bear Lake, which offers swimming and other lake sports, too.
Now if you’ll excuse us, we need to put on a wolf pelt and build a bonfire in honor of Odin.