Reykjavík Maritime Museum Explores the Roots of the Icelandic Culture
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Visiting Iceland without exploring its maritime history would be like going to Greece without learning about democracy or philosophy - and what better way to learn about fishing than visiting Víkin - the Reykjavík Maritime Museum down by the old docks amongst the boats and fishermen. Besides exhibiting Iceland‘s sailing and fishing history the museum has a unique café on the waterfront overlooking Reykjavik harbour from where you can enjoy genuine Icelandic pastries while watching the ships roll in – and then watch them roll away again.
Amazingly, Reykjavík‘s only maritime museum is not that old and has in a span of a few years completely changed the appearance of the waterfront – from an dilapidated fish processing plant to preserving Iceland’s most important history with class. Eiríkur P. Jörundsson, director of the museum, is particularly proud of the endeavour. “This is a unique place and an unforgettable experience. Here you can really get to the roots of our culture, where sailing og fishing was extremely important. There is nothing like coming here, where the first settlers of Iceland landed their ship, smelling the ocean, seeing numerous relics from the past and experience how this nation grew from poverty to abundance based on our rich fishing grounds,” says Eiríkur.
There are three permanent exhbitions in the museum as well as temporary ones. The History of Sailing exhibition recounts Iceland's maritime history and the growth of Reykjavík Harbour in a lively fashion. It recreates the appearance of the docks from the early 20th century with all the sights and sounds – it even has real seawater with fish, crabs and starfish crawling around at the bottom. The From Poverty to Abunance exhibition portrays the Icelandic fisheries at the turn of the 20th century, and realistically depicts the lives of Icelandic fishermen. A popular attraction is the
Coast Guard Vessel Óðinn, which is actually an exhibition which allows you to walk onboard the vessel, see how the sailors lived and learn something about the Cod Wars.
Another treat in the museum is the Bryggjan Café, overlooking the entire harbour on a large pier. The café is run by a woman simply known as Sigga who has been bequeathed hidden recipes from her grandmother and now makes Reykjavík’s best pear cakes. “I just try to run the café as I would my own home. We bake everything here on the spot, we even make our own butter,” says Sigga. Bryggjan indee
d has on offer dishes which most Icelanders are familiar with from their grandparents, such as the deep-fried kleinur and pancakes with sugar. The food is even served on antique dishes donated to the museum by fishermen’s wives. But a café in a maritime museum would hardly be complete without any seafood, which Sigga delivers in spades with her unique and scrumptious fish soup.
But Bryggjan Café’s ace in the hole is surely the splendid view and bustling atmosphere. “We often get old fishermen stopping by for a cup of coffee and the old crew’s from Óðinn usually come by at least once a week before they head out to maintain and clean their old vessel, so in that way it is kind of reminiscent of what the old harbour life was like,” says Sigga.Reykjavík Maritime Museum
Grandagarður 8 • 101 Reykjavik
+354 517 9400
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