After the whirlwind of touring Iceland’s Golden Circle, we settled in for a more leisurely pace. We breakfasted near our hotel at the comfy C is for Cookie, and sampled pönnukökur, Icelandic pancakes similar to crepes. One choice is to eat them folded up with jam and whipped cream; another is rolled (above), with a sprinkling of sugar inside.
Though is was drizzly, central Reykjavik is walkable enough that it wasn’t a hinderance getting around by foot. We headed for the National Museum of Iceland to fill in our utter lack of knowledge of Icelandic history.
The National Museum houses a handsome collection of objects, such as this prize artifact, the Valþjófsstaður door (above), depicting a knight slaying a dragon. The well-designed exhibits trace the settlement of Iceland, beginning with the arrival of the Norse Vikings in the 800’s, and continuing up to the present.
As we entered the first hall, we encountered the outline of a boat sketched into the floor by a string of lights. Standing within its boundary, we’re struck by its smallness, and try to imagine what the settlers carried with them to survive the first winter in such a rugged place. Above: Agricultural tools, including a sickle, scythe, and a whetstone made of lava rock.
Written materials attest to early literacy, document Icelandic history, and preserve their cultural heritage. Landnámabók, or The Book of Settlements, describes the settlement of Iceland by the Norse in the 9th and 10th centuries.
A slice of earth showing the frequency of volcanic eruptions (above, left), and volcanic rocks used as counterweights in a weaving loom (right).
These two carved boards depict a mermaid that has seized a man, and, below that, a man fighting a monster in the form of a dragon gripping a human head in its jaws.
A drawing of branches, also known as Aaron’s Rod (above, left), protects against evil spirits. The purpose of the carved mask (right) is unknown.
A special exhibition on Icelandic silver work commemorates the National Museum’s 150th birthday. This hanging (above) displays a collection of silver cane tips.
Our brains stuffed with as much Icelandic history as they could hold, we were ready for a lunch break at Sægreifinn, or The Sea Baron, down by the old harbor. As the name implies, this casual stand features seafood, with the day’s choices displayed in open refrigerated cases, including the ubiquitous pitchers of Icelandic water.
Harðfiskur (above), dried fish, is ready to eat, direct from the package. We were advised it’s best enjoyed spread with a little butter. Note the array of condiments on the lower shelf, including squeeze bottles of sweet mustard.
The Sea Baron’s specialties: Lobster soup (above, left), another name for langoustines; and a grilled kabob of fresh plaice, a local flatfish. Afterwards, we had just enough room to take in Reykjavik 871+/-2 The Settlement Exhibition. The name of this archaeological site refers to the dating of wall fragments found there, the oldest relics of human habitation in Reykjavik.
We ended the day at Micro Bar, billed as the only micro brewery bar in Iceland and a more recent cultural phenomenon. As part of prohibition in Iceland, beer was banned from 1915 to 1989. Though we’re several months too late, we raised a glass to Beer Day, Iceland’s annual celebration in March of the ban’s lifting.
• C is for Cookie
• Þjóðminjasafn Íslands – The National Museum of Iceland
• Sægreifinn – The Sea Baron
• Reykjavik 871+/-2 The Settlement Exhibition
• Micro Bar
• Reykjavik, Part 1: Icelandic Daze
• Reykjavik, Part 2: The Golden Circle
• Reykjavik, Part 4: Cod Wars and Hot Dogs