The Víkin Maritime Museum
Located appropriately enough on Reykjavík’s harbor, the Víkin Maritime Museum provides a comprehensive overview of the history of Iceland’s fishing industry. It’s a massive place which is more interesting than a fishing museum really has any right to be, and could easily eat up hours of your time.
Fishing has always played an integral role in the economy of Iceland. It powered the country’s growth throughout the 20th century, still accounts for 40% of exports, and employs a huge chunk of the workforce. Fishing is, at least partly, the reason Iceland is dragging its feet to join the EU, and it very nearly caused the little country to provoke Britain into a naval war. Fishing has created and destroyed entire Icelandic communities, sometimes within a single decade.
Considering the industry’s importance to Iceland, we weren’t shocked to discover that Reykjavík went all out for its maritime museum. With models, photos, dioramas, videos, and loads of information, the exhibits in the Víkin paint a comprehensive picture of fishing in Iceland. Visitors are taken through the early days, when fishermen were truly chancing death every time they set out into the choppy waters of the North Atlantic, up into the relative comfort of the present day.
Fascinating stuff, and then you turn a corner in the museum, and find yourself in an exhibition dedicated to Iceland’s first nursing home for fishermen. Complete with model beds and rooms which recreate the actual living conditions of retired fishermen. There was even a model bedpan.
Bizarre, but this provides a sense of how thorough the Víkin Museum is. Something we didn’t have a chance to see was the Óðinn, a coast guard vessel which sits just outside the museum and can be visited for an extra charge. Looks like the kind of thing kids would love.
These well-wishers are not seeing off a Nazi boat… this swastika was the logo of the fishing company Eimskip well before Hitler appropriated it.