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Sushi, Viking Style

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If you hear the same suggestion from a variety of different locals, it’s smart to listen. And it seemed that everyone we talked with in Stykkishólmur recommended a boat trip of the islands around the bay. So we bought tickets, and discovered that the locals were right. The Viking Sushi Tour was one of the most entertaining excursions we had in Iceland.

sea urchin roe
Sea Urchin Roe in a Scallop Shell

A company called SeaTours runs the “Viking Sushi Tour” out of Stykkishólmur. The 90-minute boat ride promises bird-spotting, island-viewing and fine Viking-style dining.

As our boat neared the first island, Þórishólmur, I felt my stomach crawling up into my throat. Our vessel was huge, and we were approaching land way too quickly. I looked up at the captain to make sure that he was neither sleeping nor drunk, but he seemed in control. Turns out, Þórishólmur is a volcanic plug which sinks straight into the sea, so even large boats like ours are able to get very close. And we were near enough that I could have almost reached out and touched the rock.

Had I tried, my fingers might have been pecked off. The island’s cliffs were packed with sea birds: guillemots, kittiwakes and puffins. We saw more puffins on this trip, and were closer to them, than on our tour out of Reykjavík.

Saga Stone

The boat brought us by two other islands, one of which had a huge crevasse almost splitting it in two. A large rock was somehow wedged into the crevasse which, according to legend, was thrown by a troll woman from the mainland. Annoyed by the bells of the town church, she hurled a rock at it, but missed and hit the island instead. In an example of science following folklore, the rock has been studied, and did in fact come from the mountain on which the troll is said to have lived. Not just that, but the church would have been directly in the stone’s path.

The stories and island-hopping were a lot of fun, but the best part of the tour came at the end, when the crew dropped a giant trawler into the ocean. Considering our proximity to shore, the water’s depth was astounding; the trawler just kept sinking and sinking. Soon, it was raised and its contents dumped onto a large cleaning table. Greedily, we looked upon our bounty: an amazing number of scallops, crabs, starfish and sea urchins. And now, we would feast in a manner worthy of Vikings! (Well… effete Vikings who eat with chopsticks, sip on white wine and let the boat staff do all the work of cleaning and schucking.)

I had expected to feel revulsion while munching down raw scallops and (especially) sea urchin roe, but it was all surprisingly good! I suppose it really doesn’t get any fresher, than straight from the freezing depths of the Northern Atlantic.

Stykkishólmur is an extremely picturesque town, with plenty to do and see, and the Viking Sushi Tour is a real highlight. Not to be missed.

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August 8, 2013 at 1:20 pm Comment (1)

Stykkishólmur and its Museums

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With its quaint multi-colored houses and outstanding location in the Breiðafjörður Bay, Stykkishólmur was the best town during our three-day trip to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Though its population is only around 1000, there’s plenty to occupy visitors, including three excellent museums.

Stykkishólmur Photos

After setting up our tent near the golf course on the outskirts of town, we set off into the mean streets of Stykkishólmur. This is not a place which requires a lot of time to explore. There’s the modern church on a bluff overlooking the city, the harbor from where ferries depart to the island of Flatey, a couple of decent restaurants, and a lot of cute houses. From a high enough viewpoint, you can see the entire city at once.

We completed our circuit of downtown in about twenty minutes, and had a lot of time to waste until the Viking Sushi Adventure Tour we’d booked, so we decided to check out the town’s museums, one right after the other.

Andy Warhol painting of Vesuvius

First up: the Eldfjallasafn. Stykkishólmur might seem a strange place for a museum dedicated to volcanoes, but it happens to be the birthplace of Haraldur Sigurðsson, one of the world’s leading volcanologists. After spending most of his life abroad, including a stint teaching at the University of Rhode Island, Haraldur returned home to open a museum. He has climbed Vesuvius, visited the volcanoes of the Caribbean and investigated the catastrophic 1815 Tambora explosion in Indonesia. The Eldfjallasafn is full of relics from these experiences. The displays, organized by region, are comprised of rocks, paintings, photographs and video. There’s even an original Andy Warhol painting of Vesuvius.

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Next, we went to the Vatnasafn (the Library of Water). The name is beyond cryptic, and we weren’t at all sure what to expect, but this turned out to be an installation by American artist Roni Horn. She collected samples from 24 glaciers around Iceland and placed the water in large columns, inside one of the best houses in Stykkishólmur. The result is… odd. The water in each of the columns is crystal clear, and so the various glaciers are indistinguishable. It looks neat, lots of huge water-filled columns, but you might be left wondering what the point was. “There is no point, man, it’s art!”

Norska Húsið Stykkishólmur

The final stop on our cultural tour of Stykkishólmur was the Norska Húsið (Norse House), dating from 1832 and built from imported Norwegian timber. Directly across from the harbor, it’s one of the most impressive dwellings in town, and home to a fantastic museum. The bottom floor is reserved for rotating exhibits, while the top floor recreates the family’s living arrangements with period furniture and anecdotes about life in 19th century Stykkishólmur. It was all very well done, surprisingly interesting, and was our favorite museum of the day.

Locations on our Iceland Map: Eldfjallasafn | Vatnasafn | Norska Húsið

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At the harbor, we saw this group of acrobatic kids.
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August 5, 2013 at 2:58 pm Comments (6)
Sushi, Viking Style If you hear the same suggestion from a variety of different locals, it's smart to listen. And it seemed that everyone we talked with in Stykkishólmur recommended a boat trip of the islands around the bay. So we bought tickets, and discovered that the locals were right. The Viking Sushi Tour was one of the most entertaining excursions we had in Iceland.
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