Though they reside on almost the same lane of latitude and experience similar wintertime climates, Anchorage, Alaska and Reykjavik, Iceland are vastly different places. Just ask the students who went to the latter as part of the “Fire and Ice: Viking Saga, Icelandic Legacy” class last month.
“It was amazing seeing how different the cultures are,” said student Ian McDermod. “In every way. The foods, the traditions, the stories.”
Taught by professors Dave Onofrychuk and Gina Miller, the course focused on studying the world view of the Vikings and their Sagas — how they’re presented in medieval texts and how those Sagas connect to modern Icelandic culture and prose.
“We did so many readings in class and really worked to immerse ourselves in the culture before we got there,” McDermod said. “So when we did get there, we recognized elements from what we saw in class and were able to experience them firsthand.”
In Iceland, the class visited sites like the Blue Lagoon, Reynisfara beach, a processing plant for putrefied shark snacks, the location of Erik the Red’s sod hut in Eiriksstadir, and the National Library, where they met with Alda Sigmundsottir, one of the authors they studied.
“She opened our eyes a lot to the crossroads Icelanders find themselves, besieged by so many tourists these days, as a country of 330,000 receiving as many as 1.7 million visitors last year and getting ready to welcome 2 million this year,” Onofrychuk said.
Though there were scheduled activities each day, many of the students spent their free time pursuing other interests.
“Everyone enjoyed getting to know the locals; some more successfully than others,” Onofrychuk said. “One student enjoyed a lesson with Iceland’s only professional dance company. Another few students sat down with the deputy director of the Marine Research Institute. Another couple received a 4.5 hour lesson in Icelandic from a language professor at the University of Iceland.”
McDermod spent much of his time filming. This marked his first trip outside of North America and he wanted to have video to remember it by and to share with others.
The video below is his compilation of their 10-day trip.