Stones, Sagas and Silence

Posted on January 13th, 2020 by

Hæ hæ!

Today was a jam packed day full of archaeology, saga learning, and exploring in Reykjavik. To start off the morning, we adventured to the Reykjavik 871.5 Settlement Musuem. Here we got to see real remenants that existed under the city on the exact ground we were standing on during the Viking age.

 After entering from the street level, we walked down a flight of stairs and into the exhibit space. Along with samples from artifacts such as an old gaming piece, and fishing hooks, the museum showed a green line along the walls of the room. As shown in the photo, this line represented the ground level during the age of the Viking settlers. By examining the artifacts and the ground itself, it allowed me to continue to understand what life may have been like for those who existed in Iceland before today.

Another thing I learned at the Settlement Museum was the importance of animals in the settlers of Iceland’s pre-Christian beliefs. The boundaries between animals and humans often appeared quite flexible.

Sure enough, when walking into a store we found a cat just lounging in the doorway, welcoming in the customers! After talking to the employee, I learned that this cat is instagram famous (@baktusthecat) and freely roams along the streets going in and out of the stores as he pleases. This flexible boundary between Baktus and the store employees represents a more modern practice of old Icelandic beliefs.

After the Settlement Museum, I headed out to find some lunch before the rest of our activities. I came across a hotdog stand and thought no better time than the present to try a classic street hotdog in Iceland! I got all the classic toppings and I rate it a 10/10. We have been talking a lot about our observations of how people act and what is considered to be the social normalities in Iceland versus the United States. The idea of silence has been a prominent one in most of our discussions, and a conclusion that we came to was that citizens in the U.S. are not as comfortable with silence as Icelanders are. I have noticed on multiple occasions that Icelanders do not have unnecessary conversations such as small talk and “excuse me” or even “hi” when walking by a stranger, like we do in the States. I challenged myself to be completely silent while riding the metro this morning, which turned out to be way harder than I thought. The notion that one needs to verbally communicate does not dominate the need to communicate in other ways such as body language.

We then adventured to the Árni Magnússon Institute which holds some of the most important and old sagas that date back to AM 237. I got to see some of the real sagas and learned all about where they are stored both nationally in Iceland’s National Library and National Archives, as well as internationally in the University of Copenhagen and even Harvard University in the United States. Sagas are a very important part of Icelandic culture and represent history as well as meaning. One example of this is The Legend of St Margaret, a story of a woman fighting her way out of the belly of a dragon. Many people believed it to be comparable to a woman giving birth and would have a copy of the saga in the delivery room with them for good luck.

After learning about the sagas, I had a chance to explore the university’s book store. After trying to decide if I liked Gustavus’s bookmark or the university’s book store more, I grabbed a coffee to-go and made my way back to the hostel for dinner. All in all, it has been a great day and I can’t wait for more fun adventures as we continue to explore Iceland! Remember, “Gott kaffi gerir daginn batri” (good coffee makes the day better).


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