Iceland: Day 8

For most of the group this is a travel day home/beyond, but for three of us (Kathy & Kay & me) we share a taxi and move to down town Reykjavik hotels.

As it was too early to check in, I stowed my luggage and took off afoot to find Icelandic history. I quickly found it in a beautiful cemetery. The grey and charcoal color of the setting was wonderfully offset by the recent, and light snowfall. It was an historic cemetery with with better known personages indicated on a key/map. I came upon the cemetery at the old end and wondered to the more recent (the newest I saw was 1999). I was especially taken with the obvious acceptance (perhaps encouragement) of trees growing up on/within the plots. I must admit that it felt comforting to have the trees: like having company, or companions, or old friends nearby to help while-away the decades and centuries

By the time I reached the end of the cemetery I was nearly at my destination: the National Museum of Iceland. A welcoming institution. The primary exhibit, The Birth of a Nation,  spans 2 large floors, starting around the year 870 and the first settler and the "settlement period" (ending around 930). The exhibit ends with the ultimate declaration of Iceland's independence from Norway in 1944, and artifacts and memorabilia from the last decades of the 20th century. Also at the end' there are oral history videos displayed (in Icelandic, of course), and booths set up for visitors to record their own Icelandic history.

Among the many displays and interactive interpretive opportunities, three stand out for me. First, an audio story told as if by the son of the first letterpress printer in the country. Of course this man was initially supported by his patron - the church - who paid for his education and training in Coppenhagen for a year before returning to set the type and print Iceland's first bible and other religious documents. Eventually this printer earned his released, and went on to print more secular items. Interestingly the patron priest was ultimately murdered in the reformation from Catholism to Lutherism.

Next was the room the discussed the motion of the earth, sun and moon, and space in general. On the wall hung a large white sheet of paper, with all the regions of Iceland listed. Under each region was listed various terms for the cardinal directions (north, south, east & west) used in each region - there were many. In addition pencils were provided for visitors to add other, even more colloquial, terms. Again, there were several additions.

Finally, there was a special hall of photographs from all over Iceland, depicting people active in the chores and events of every day life during the 1900s. Many of the photos (from the trove of photos given to the museum over the decades) were unidentified as to place and persons. Visitors were encouraged to supply indentification when possible - apparently a very successful program. How great it must feel to be an unsuspecting visitor and discover an unknown photo of a friend, relative, or place, and thus name it for the museum. An example: an elderly man recognized his father as a young boy on a fishing dory with his grandfather. In this case, the man recognized the vessel and harbor first, and then the faces, which were reflected in his own.

I spent many hours at the museum. The rest of the afternoon was spent walking around and observing folks on a late Friday afternoon. Many were feeding whooper swans, greylag geese, mallards and tufted ducks in a local park lake. And then, dinner with Kay and Kathy (friends from the tour) at a local fish place down on the docks. (Local fisherman retired from the sea, now providing grilled fish kabobs and fish soups in rustic, and very comfortable/familiar setting. The only unnerving moment was seeing this fisherman sitting on a barrel in the corner. Actually, a wax statue of this now deceased man, whose son now owns the establishment.)




Whooper swans, greylag geese, mallards and tufted duck

Whooper swans, greylag geese, mallards and tufted duck