Iceland, Day 2 – National Museum of Iceland

Unfortunately we woke up late again today! That means no trip to the Perlan Dome or stroll to the geothermal park (maybe another day?). Also, it’s raining again, so that means our Northern Lights tour for tonight was postponed til tomorrow night.

Rainy days mean museums, so we decided to check out the National Museum of Iceland, which is all about Icelandic history from the time of Nordic settlers to the present.

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Some notes:

– admission is kr 1200 for adults

– open til 5pm during off-season

– has 2 floors of exhibits, the bottom floor is roughly 870AD – 1400AD (from early Settlers to Nordic Vikings, Christianity, and Danish rule), and the top floor is 1400AD – present (Lutherans, Icelandic independence).

– we were only there for a little over 2hrs, and felt rushed, but it was doable. Ideally I’d recommend 3-4hrs to really see all the exhibits.

– an audio guided tour is available, but we skipped it.

– if you get one of those Iceland Welcome Passes (where you can visit any number of attractions for free/cheap if you go within 24/48/72 hrs), I believe you get in here for free.

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We spent a majority of our time on the bottom floor, and learned about the early history of Iceland. Some interesting things I noted:

– Iceland’s main export was woolen items up until the 1400s, then it became dried fish. Fishing was their big industry, and as a result there was a lot of fighting with British & German military over control of their ports.

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– 60% of all Icelandic female DNA can be traced back to Scotland/Ireland, and 80% of all Icelandic male DNA can be traced back to Norway. Meaning that while Vikings were on their way to conquer Iceland, they picked up a few Celtic slavewomen on the way.

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– Iceland converted to Christianity without any aggression. To paraphrase: one of the Icelandic chieftains had a group meeting and told the other chieftains that they should all follow the same religion so it would cause less conflict. But they were still allowed to practice paganism in the privacy of their own homes.

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– Even though there are plenty of rocks and stones in Iceland, people didn’t start using them to build homes until the 1700s. Wood was the main construction material, and was used extensively in everyday life. Houses were built out of wood supports and walls were made out of stacks of grassy turf. It reminded me of Hobbit homes.

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– It was common for many countries to paint frescoes depicting scenes from the Bible, but in Iceland they’d carve those scenes into wood.

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All in all, I’d say this museum is definitely worth a trip. Give yourself plenty of time too, there were several interactive video kiosks as well.

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