Where Past, Present and Future Meet
One might think that life in a small remote fishing town would result in a reserved population wary of outsider influence. This is not the case in the town of Skagaströnd north-west Iceland, where international artists mingle freely with local fishermen, creating a unique atmosphere where the past meets the present without judgment.
Fish Is Life
Like many Icelandic towns, Skagaströnd’s history is centred around fisheries, which is still very much a part of Skagaströnd’s identity. The harbour is usually bustling with life with boats coming and going, people and forklifts moving about trying to get the fish from the boats to the stores as quickly and securely as possible.
Just watching the harbor life is an activity in itself, enjoyed by locals and visitors alike – just be careful not to get in the way. There is also a pleasant coffee shop,
Kaffi Bjarmanes, in a beautifully renovated old house right by the seaside just across from the harbor where you get an excellent view of the harbor life, the ocean and the ever-watchful seabirds around.
What Does the Future Bring?
The first documented settler in Skagaströnd was a woman named Þórdís who resided there in the late 10th century and had substantial influence in her community. She was known to be a spirited and fierce woman, with the gift of prophecy, who made no compromises when it came to dealing with powerful men at the time and is noted as such in several of the Icelandic old Sagas.
Although the people of her time might have been glad to be rid of her, present-day inhabitants of Skagaströnd celebrate her legacy and have opened a museum and exhibition in her honor. Visitors are introduced to various artifacts and get to delve into the story of her fascinating life while they experience the exhibition. If they dare, they will also be given the chance to have their prophecy told.
Close by we find a second museum in the oldest house in Skagaströnd named Árnes, which gives an impression of daily life in the early 20th century.
Art and Fish
You might not think that modern day artists and small-town fishermen would have much in common, but as it turns out they have co-existed in Skagaströnd with great success for over a decade. The Nes Artist Residency was opened in 2008 and has resulted in a colorful atmosphere where past and present traditions find common ground. The mayor of Skagaströnd, Alexandra Jóhannesdóttir, says that the success of the artist residency is a testament to the positivity and open-mindedness of the people of Skagaströnd.
“We have all types of people coming here from all over the world and staying with us for extended periods of time working on their craft and the fact that it has gone seamlessly really says something about our community, ” Alexandra says that the advent of the Nes Artist Residency has livened up the town and the creative atmosphere has proven to be quite contagious.
“Now it is not at all uncommon to have all sorts of happenings and events that would have seemed strange before, but are considered part of everyday life here in Skagaströnd.”
The town itself is also decorated with creative art. In front of the mayor’s office, you will find Erlendur Magnússon´s striking exhibition centred on the old Nordic gods, made from scrap metal and carefully selected to represent each immortal. Loki, the god of mischief and deception, is for example made from an old manure spreader and Odinn, the highest god of all, is made from scraps from a power station. The Sunwatch by Magnús Pálsson is also quite a striking piece, made from four basalt columns that guide sunrays according to an old Icelandic time-telling tradition.
Plenty to Do
A popular activity in the picturesque town of Skagaströnd is hiking to the top of the mountain spákonufell or along the sea cliffs at Spákonufellshöfði, which is where Þórdís resided and some even claim that her face can be seen petrified in the mountain.
Detailed trail descriptions and maps are available in town.
You’ll find a traditional Icelandic swimming pool in town, with the obligatory relaxing hot pot where you get served freshly brewed coffee by the wonderful staff. Last but not least you will find a hidden treasure if you are a golf enthusiast since Skagaströnd boasts of a nine-hole golf course with a spectacular ocean view over Húnaflói as far as the eye can see.