Greinasafni: Icelandic Times
The Settlement Centre in Borgarnes: A picturesque approach to the past
Borgarnes is a historical place in Iceland as it is the scene of one of the most noteable Icelandic Sagas, Egils saga. In 2006, a cultural centre opened in the heart of this little town with the aim to present clearly and visually to its visitors the history of the settling of Iceland, especially emphasizing the environment that fed and bred the robust and poetic Egill Skallagrímsson. Now, four years later the Settlement Centre has won many awards for its activity and is adding yet another option for travellers; the Smart Guide, a guided tour with an iPhone around the Borgarnes area.

Two exhibitions and a restaurant to visit

“Our aim is mainly to offer our visitors a strong basis to understanding the history of Iceland and the Icelandic Sagas. It makes all your travels to various places in Iceland so much clearer if you have a good sense of the history, and especially of the time of the settlement,” says Sigríður Margrét Guðmundsdóttir who runs the centre along with her husband Kjartan Ragnarsson.

The centre is located in some of Borgarnes’s oldest buildings, which have been connected by a geniously made annex, using the rocky outcrops behind the houses as one of its walls. This annex functions as a reception hall, leading you to the exhibition rooms and the restaurant.

“The Settlement Centre has two exhibitions running, the Settlement Exhibition and the Egils Saga Exhibition. Everybody gets a guided tour through an iPod and can choose from ten languages plus a special version for children,” says Sigríður. Each tour of the exhibitions lasts for thirty minutes.

The Settlement exhibition provides insight into the time of Iceland’s settlement, how Iceland was discovered and why the Vikings left their home in Norway. You also get to hear the tales of certain prominent settlers. The Egils saga exhibition takes you through this colourful story that gives a good insight into the tumultous years of the settlement. The Saga follows Egill through the various stages of his eventful life, as he wrote some of Iceland’s finest poems from a young age, killed men since the age of seven, got into battles in his voyages, became known for his severe temper and grieved the loss of his son in his old age. Both of the exhibitions are presented to the visitor through a visual and theatrical use of all sorts of props and media, made by various artists. The curved wooden figures in the Egils saga exhibition are really memorable as they capture the essence of this peculiar story.

“The restaurant provides hungry travellers with a healthy and nutritious meal. We both have traditional Icelandic dishes, such as Icelandic meat soup and some more international cuisine, like Italian and Mexican. We know what it feels like to be a tired traveller and therefore we have tried to create a nice and relaxing atmosphere while keeping the prices reasonable,” says Sigríður.

To experience the settings of Egils saga
The newest addition to the Centre’s options is the Smart Guide, an innovative guided tour with an iPhone to the main settings of the story of Egill Skallagrímsson. With the help of the newest GPS navigational technique the phone leads you around the Borgarnes area and as it detects certain locations it automatically begins narrating.

“With this new technique, you certainly get a lively guidance through the area, it is just like the guide is there with you in person,” says Sigríður. “You just turn on the program and a voice tells you exactly what to do. It guides you to where you are supposed to walk and when you are on the right spot it begins narrating the background story of wherever you are. Then it tells you to drive to the next spot and when you have reached it, the iPhone tells you to stop, what to do next, etc.”

One can both rent an iPhone from the Settlement Centre, starting next summer onwards, and download the program from the Apple store, starting late next summer. “This is quite a unique experience, which we are really proud to present to our guests in addition to the exhibitions,” says Sigríður.

For all those seeking better understanding of the Icelandic cultural heritage, the Settlement Centre is without doubt a good option. Both the exhibitions themselves and the whole environment of the Settlement Centre radiates creativity and obvious care for the subject, which results in an interesting and lively experience for the guests.

The Settlement Centre
Brákarbraut 13 - 15 - 310 Borgarnes
Tel: +354 437 1600

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