Iceland Wins The Viking Wars

Img 2514-1– These first two street signs are to be found in my hometown of Stavanger, Norway while going for a walk in my neighborhood last week. I wanted to start a little collection of pictures showing how Norway is crazy about its viking past. However, I just have to concede that Icelandic national identity has completely out-done all the other Scandinavian countries in their endless use of viking images, words, and symbols. There is everything from Viking beer to Viking hotels, and every other thing seems to have the words Saga, Edda, famous vikings, or one of the Norse gods in it.

IMG_2608.JPG IMG_2605.JPG If you want street signs examples, there are plenty of them. I’m sure the whole Nordic pantheon must be represented within just a few blocks of the downtown area of Reykjavík. I’m not always familiar with the spellings, but I’m pretty sure they are the same guys. It would actually be great fun to teach kids some of the old myths, and then drag them through the town to look at signs and have them identify things. For example, “Hey kids, what is the name of this health food store from?”


Then you could cruise up on the hill to that funky Lutheran church and point at the massive statue in front and say, “Hey kids, who is this big hunk of a viking? I’ll give you a clue, he wasn’t no Lutheran, and he sold a map to Columbus…Hey no cheating…nobody is allowed to look at the names on any of the streets connected to this roundabout or the name of that bed & breakfast across the street…Hey Jón, I didn’t say you could read the inscription on the back…”

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The Culture House (which I mention in my posting on my “Notes from Iceland”) had a great little section talking about just this phenomenon in its great historiographical section:

“In the first half of the 20th century, street names in Reykjavík drew heavily upon the sagas, and the layout was even intended to reflect their plots. Skarphé∂insgata (“Skarphedin’s street”) lies east and south of streets named after his parents, Bergpórugata and Njálsgata and between the couple is Barónsborg kindergarten, recalling their fate when they lay down to die in their burning farmhouse with their grandchild Thord Karason between them.”

Ok, so imagine working at the kindergarten and giving some new parents the tour, “Oh ya, did I mention that our kindergarten is conveniently located in such away to remind everyone of the burning corpses of Bergpóru (sp?) and Njál?” Above the caption was a map to show some of the examples:

Reykjavik Saga Streets

2 thoughts on “Iceland Wins The Viking Wars”

  1. you kinda suck at using icelandic letters, but you get the names right. I’m alot better at icelandic then you(well i am 1 : ) )og þú ert lélegur í íslensku helvítis normaður : ) i hope you dont under stand that : D well any way add me or you chose

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