I have just returned from a short trip in Iceland. It’s funny, because Iceland was not necessarily one of the top countries on my list of upcoming destinations. I often prefer more urban destinations, and I feel more attracted to the warmer temperatures of the south. So why this stop in Iceland? Because going through Iceland is often a way to have a cheaper plane ticket to Europe. As I had to go to Copenhagen, I compared the airline tickets and realized that a flight that would stop at Keflavik airport would cost me less than a direct flight to Copenhagen. And while making a stop in Iceland, why not take the opportunity to discover a little this country?
So I stayed a few days in Reykjavik, the northernmost capital in the world. Reykjavik is a small town of about 200,000 people that shares some similarities with its Scandinavian cousins. There are a few museums in the city (one of which is dedicated to the male organ that I have not visited) and I decided to spend some time visiting the one that explains the origins of the city.
In fact, the Reykjavik 871 +/- 2 Museum was built on the ruins of one of the first buildings built in Reykjavik, a Viking longhouse, inhabited from 930 to 1000. The Vikings, probably from Norway, settled on the Reykjavik peninsula and lived there hunting and fishing. Their longhouse could house up to 10 people, and livestock and other domestic animals slept under the same roof.
To the north of these ruins, there are also the remains of a wall that was built before 871 (we know this, because in 871, there was a big volcanic explosion that left a layer of ash on all the area … the wall in question is covered by these ashes, and was therefore built before). It is the oldest known human construction in all of Iceland.
It is about 1000 years later that Reykjavik will become the capital of Iceland and will slowly expand. The ruins in question were only discovered in the early 2000s and further archaeological research is underway to get a better idea of the lives of the original inhabitants.
In short, before you go start exploring this beautiful country, you should take some time to visit this museum, if only to give you a sense of how was born Reykjavik!