// ICELAND // Gaman að kynnast þér! (Or, ‘nice to meet you!’ in Icelandic…)
Back in May this year [that’s right folks, MAY! Where on earth did this year go?!] we had the brilliant opportunity of visiting Iceland, Norway and Sweden. It is one of those opportunities that you get and you just have to say yes, I will go to Iceland, yes I will submit to this opportunity with a twisted arm 😉
Truth is, we have wanted to visit Iceland for years, simply because it has always seemed like such a bizarre and fascinating place. From the Viking heritage, to the common belief in elves and trolls by the locals, to the incredible music exports Iceland has provided – Bjork, Sigur Ros/Jonsi, Olafur Arnalds and Teitur, to name only a few – this is an incredibly intriguing place, and that’s after you consider the volcanic, ash-laden, glacial nature that all of this is happening in and around.
Iceland is really a place of wonder and beautiful desolation. The whole island has been forged by thousands of years of volcanic activity, creating a landscape that is breathtaking and ferocious all at once. And it is still a hotbed of activity – the most recent being just back in 2010 when Eyjafjallajökull erupted violently, spitting airborne ash over Northern and Western Europe. If you have a look at where Iceland is geographically in comparison, it’s easy to feel a little overcome with nature’s command!
Iceland flatlands of this volcanic rock surround the island perimeter and form a base for endless glacial peaks and mountain ranges that shoot into the sky. All the while, small farm houses freckle the land where the flat meets the steep, raising Icelandic livestock and sheltering themselves from the harsh winds and icy air. Traditional farmhouses are often buried under the moss and grass, to guard from the storms. It is quite a site to see dwelling after dwelling of doors and windows simply sticking out of the ground, as if Iceland had grown these dwellings herself! Simply baffling! Kinda Hobbit-like too … even if I do make the comparison to New Zealand’s mythical rites!
Speaking of livestock, Iceland is home to some very particular breeds of livestock, and wearing traditional woolen knitwear from the Icelandic sheep has become an Icelandic institution. Although it seems you can buy Icelandic knitwear almost anywhere, we soon realized that if you’re willing to pay a little extra and ask the locals where to go for a kick-arse Icelandic jumper/sweater (a Lopapeysa), or lambs wool booties for your niece or nephew – then you won’t be disappointed!
Speaking more of livestock – did we mention that Iceland serves up one hell of a lamb?! Caz and Robert (or ‘Rodge’ or ‘Raj’) and I stayed at a brilliant seaside farmhouse bed and breakfast called Hali where, after a long day of driving, shooting and exploring, were served up a roast lamb dinner fresh with fig jam and sage infused mashed potatoes. Ummmmm, yep … ’nuff said! The waitress also told us she had friends named Bjork and Sigur Ros [still taking that with a grain of salt].
It became apparent to me in my pre-reading and research of Iceland, that they are a people who believe in the mystical and the magical. Being one who is always up for a good tale, I was very interested to learn that Icelanders have frequent run ins with trolls and elves. You read that correctly. BUT, I promise you that if you take the time to ask some locals respectfully about trolls and elves, you are bound to be surprised with just how close to home the subject is, and hear some incredible stories – at times eery and a little chilling! I am fascinated by this part of Iceland and have committed to returning to learn more. There is even a story of The 13 Santas or Yule Lads (Jolasveinar) – we have one, and they have thirteen!! And some of them are evil! Amazing!
Icelanders eat well, but there were times I wondered if some of their favorites were originally based on a dare. For instance, eating whale meat is pretty common, as is puffin, as is cow’s head, as is harðfiskur [a ye olde sort of wind-blown, sun-dried fish jerky snack that’s eaten with butter]. So, I recommend getting into your courage pants if you want to eat traditionally, but, we’re always up for an adventure, and as always, if you ask the locals where to go, then just submit to their ways! After all, centuries of tradition and experimentation has to have more cred than our measly few years on earth so far! We did find an insane fusion restaurant in Reykjavik called The Fish Company – the menu always changes, but it may have been the best meal we’ve had all year – again, just submit to what they want to serve you and all will be doused in deliciousness and wonder!
As we departed Iceland for Norway, I felt a sense satisfaction, but more so the beginning of a grander adventure that I know I am willing to continue. Iceland is a bizarre and wonderful land. We don’t necessarily understand it, but I think that is the beauty and mystery to it. The intrigue of legend, history and culture excites and invigorates, demanding that you explore further, and we will. Oh yes, Iceland, we will!
Gleðileg jól! (Merry Christmas!)
The Blue Lagoon (a geothermal spa!)
The eerie moss that covers most of Iceland
a freestanding structure we came upon — completely unguarded — with hundreds of fish hanging out to dry
the geothermal valley of Haukadalur still has geysers that are active every few minutes
the sun setting just after midnight
the Mid-Point ‘Midlina’ Bridge connects two plates that move 2cm each year
a building in downtown Reykjavik covered with portraits of women breastfeeding their babies, by artist Fiann Paul
more beauty in Reykjavik
the stunning Hallgrimskirkja (Lutheran) Church
the Perlan (or the Pearl) outside of Reykjavik
the view of Reykjavik from the Pearl
the Baejarins Beztu Pylsur Hot Dog Stand in Reykjavik — apparently the best hot dogs in the world, and the national food of Iceland — although I’m still not convinced
road-tripping eastward along the southern coast of Iceland, we came to Skogafoss Falls
that’s a normal person’s backyard. i mean … come ON !
Jökulsárlón, or the Glacial River Lagoon, is a river of icebergs and runoff from the massive glacier, and might be the most insane thing we’ve ever seen. Choice words were uttered when we first saw it from the road as we approached it in our car.
how about some humans in a boat to help understand the scale?
ahh, tourists 🙂
ok, so we had to stop a second time … how could you not, right?
good ol’ Raj
some of the Vatnajökull Glacier spilling out from between the mountains
bustin’ a move on the national highway
more of that crazy moss that covers all of the hardened lava … it so feels like Mars …
what planet are we on, again?
Holga goodness in Vik
black sand beaches
the beaches of Reynisfjall
ahhh, the iPad. our personal favorite way to photograph the wonders of the world.
it required quite the effort to find this cliff. for one thing, it’s called Halsanefshellir(!), so we didn’t really know how to ask the locals where it was because we couldn’t even pronounce the darn thing, (although with us, it’s affectionately referred to as the Jonsi Cliff because of his Go Do video, and you may have also seen it in the Bon Iver video for Holcene) but we just had to find it. and we did. and it was so worth it.
(having Robert along has a definite perk… we get photos of us together for once! thanks, Raj)
[some more Holga goodness]
Gullfoss (or Golden Falls) — Iceland’s most famous waterfall
We hope you’ve enjoyed the recap of our adventures. (Robert is currently editing a video of our trip, which we cannot wait to see/share… so there’s more to come!) If you’re planning a trip to Iceland, we’d be glad to lend you more specific recommendations, (and even what not to do), so be sure to write if you’re heading that way! In the upcoming days, we’ll be posting our photos from Norway + Sweden, too.. Until then, Team Yes signing off with our motto: We believe in the greater things! 😉