Published: October 19th 2011October 19th 2011
(To see all 64 pictures, you just need to click on one and you can scroll through!)
Iceland! Wow! What a trip! My mom and I seized the chance to do some traveling during my employment gap, and a knitting tour to Iceland seemed like the right move! We went with a group called Knitting Iceland run by a fantastic woman named Ragga. Getting enough of her, knitting, nature, food, Reykjavik, geothermal pools, horses, sheep, crazy weather, and creativity was impossible!
The airport is located about forty minutes from Reykjavik so right off the bat we were able to get a taste of the incredible landscape through our sleepy eyes. One part of the drive is through a lava field which is covered in lush green moss, while other moments offered views of a rather stormy ocean and far off mountains. As we landed at 6:30 am the sun was rising, but what struck us as different is that it kept on rising for what felt like hours. Dawn and dusk here seem to carry on for hours, owing to the latitude, offering this lovely golden slanted light. We were thankful that our room was available and immediately crashed
for a few hours in our cozy sun soaked room.
Eventually, we mustered the strength to stroll about Reykjavik and were instantly struck by how unique the city is. The city’s location within nature is constantly clear, as at the end of every street is a view of the ocean or mountains. Shop doors were ajar in spite of the chilly day, perhaps inviting us in or just for some fresh air. The shop windows were the first glimpse that this place was teaming with creativity and a culture that supported artists. We started scoping out what Ragga had promised us we would see- Lopi sweaters galore! The Lopi sweater is extremely popular! It was in shops of course, but more than that, it was on the people! All different ages rocked this sweater in all different styles- we were getting excited to knit one of our very own!
Clearly the Icelandic education system is doing something right, because everyone we met spoke at least three languages fluently, and many spoke more. At one point I purchased a pattern for some gloves not thinking only to realize the pattern was not in English! I assumed it was in
Guest House Sunna
Stark, but wonderful rooms! Fantastic breakfast! Excellent location! A great home for a week.
Icelandic so I troubled Ragga to give me a sketch of what it was about, but it was in Swedish! That didn’t slow her down at all! Anyway, the knowledge of English was quite helpful to us especially at meal times when I needed to be clear about being vegan. Reykjavik is full of vegetarian restaurants, which was admittedly quite a surprise! I ate some of the best food I’ve had there while I was expecting to have to make due with sides! Others enjoyed the fresh fish, one woman had whale- a cross between ahi tuna and beef she said!, and others feasted on the local lamb. No one I know ate puffin or the fermented shark, but both were available! I did have some guilt about what Barbara Kingsolver would say about my avocado being flown to Iceland! This guilt drove my mom to eat a mealy looking tomato that accompanied her shrimp.
Prior to our group dinner, we scoped out the Hallgrímskirkja Church and the Einar Jónsson sculpture garden. The church is on the highest point of the city and conveniently located across the street from our guest house. The interior was incredibly austere and simple.
I would need a step ladder to get into this car! What exactly is in the interior of Iceland that requires this?!
The only color happening inside was the sea foam green used on the seating, a far cry from the explosion of colors in Chartres. The group dinner was a great start for the trip. While waiting for the meal to arrive, many people had their knitting out and were working on a project while chatting!! One man had a “keep calm and carry yarn” t-shirt on, so I guess we knew we were among our kind, though it was clear we are not nearly as hard core as most in the group!
Godan daginn to our second day in Iceland! We learned from the exceptionally talented Franklin Habit how to best photograph our knitted pieces. He was an excellent teacher and very patient. It was great to have this class so early on as I tried to play with some of what he taught for the rest of the trip- yup, I took my camera off the auto setting!! The afternoon was a guided walk around the city where Ragga pointed out all the important places, and even some places that weren’t knitting shops! We visited collectives of artists and started to get a sense of the Lopi yarns
that were begging to become sweaters! After getting our tour and our bearings, some of us visited the Harpa Concert Hall, which is an impressive building right on the water’s edge. Bjork played there that night to kick off Iceland Airwaves. The city was packed with musicians and concert goers from around the globe, adding to the creative vibe.
Most tourists who visit Reykjavik take what is called the Golden Circle tour for a day trip to see Geysir, Golfoss- Golden Waterfall, and Th i n g v e l l i r National Park. For us, day three was the Woolen Circle, meaning all those awesome stops in nature AND knitting collectives and yarn shops! Plus, we had the exceptional tour guiding of Ragga who entertained us with stories of the trolls, elves, witches, and more while many knitted their way between stops. Being outside of Reykjavik proved inspirational, as I knew what my palate would be for my Lopi sweater.
I thought I was a proficient knitter, but I have to say that in Ragga’s little Lopi sweater class my brain about exploded from all that I learned!!! Thank goodness for helpful classmates and teachers! We
Corrugated metal houses
Popular building material here
each made a tiny version of a Lopi sweater together as a class which gave us the chance to work with the wool and, for some of us, to gain some new skills. I won’t bore you with what I learned, but needless to say, mom and I were ready for wine at the end of class! A scrumptious vegetarian meal at a restaurant run by a warm and jovial couple rounded out that day, well, I think the barley cake really put the finishing touch on the day.
On our free day, mom and I made the tough choice to skip a jaunt up to another wool collective and sheep festival to instead take in a museum and the Blue Lagoon. As we made our way to the museum, we continued to be impressed by the style of the women in particular and by the clothing available in the stores. What I had read prior to our coming was that everyone here is a poet and that Icelanders change careers often. This flexibility, I think, breeds some real creativity and risk taking, since failure is not as catastrophic in their culture as in America’s. Our plan to see
Lopi Sweater Stalking...
We were on the hunt for Lopi sweater wearers, didn't take too much effort honestly
the award winning National Museum was thwarted though as their art museum goes by the same name on our little tourist map, so we checked out some Icelandic art from the 1960s-present and headed for the bus to what we were told was paradise.
The Blue Lagoon was a real highlight, so excuse me while I gush! Here are the basic stats: a pool set in a lava field, sea water is pumped in every 40 hours, the pool is between the European and American tectonic plates, it is heaven. When looking into here, we noticed that one could get a massage IN the water, so we latched on to that idea pretty quickly! So, we made our way through their super organized facility with their computer chip bracelets out into the chilly air! We immediately hunkered down into the warm water awaiting our massage time. While we waited, it began to hail! Remarkably, it wasn’t unpleasant and the cool kind of felt good! Mind you, this was all over in about 45 seconds and we were back to our big sunny sky with fluffy clouds floating by! My mom is called first and so I see the drill,
but and quickly distracted when super hot Icelandic man approaches! I am not sure, but I think his name was Sven, he was too cute to worry about names, trust me. He has me lie down on my back on a yoga mat-ish thing and puts a floating pillow under my head, he then so sweetly puts a thermal blanket over me so I am toasty warm and floating around gazing at the huge sky with lava rocks in my peripheral vision. The massage was of course wonderful and completely unique as far as setting!! When it ended our time at the lagoon continued to impress. We made our way to a spot that had some silica mud, which we lathered on our faces while we kept moving around looking for “hot spots” in the water. We made our way over to the swim-up bar where sadly the smoothies weren’t vegan, so I made due with some sparkling wine. The sun set while we continued soaking and lolling around, and finally after three hours we dragged ourselves from the water. When I returned to my locker and found my thermos of Icelandic moss/birch tea had opened and all my stuff
If Mama moved here, this would be her home
was soaked, I hoped that my drenched passport might prevent me from leaving Iceland, but alas, no.
The weather was really surprising! In Colorado we always joke about how it can be sunny in the morning and snowing by noon, but in Iceland the changes were extreme! Overall, the temperature hovered around 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit, until the wind came along that is! A few times while we were in mid-step a gust came along and practically carried us away! We were fortunate enough to have three solidly sunny days, but the rainy ones were entertaining in a way. We would wake up to rain lashing on the windows and gale force winds, is this a hurricane?! And then by the time our teeth were brushed, the sun would be poking out. This would continue throughout the day so that each five-minute chunk held different weather. Ragga repeated, “what gets wet gets dry again” as people attempted to use umbrellas and ponchos- laughable in the wind! We never heard anyone comment on the weather; to me this showed how connected and appreciative Icelanders are of nature and how aware they are of their place within it.
Our final day
together as a group was a real treat. Franklin taught us a class on lace edgings that again made my brain spin! While the new information was a lot to take in, his handouts, explanations, and diagrams were so clear that I found myself making lace without breaking a sweat! The only real question now is which edging to put on my traditional Icelandic shawl! I zipped over to the municipal pool near our house after class because I was told there were geothermal tubs on the roof. It was no Blue Lagoon, but it was exceptional. The hot water and the chilly wind made for a relaxing soak. Our farewell dinner was exquisite, there was raw chocolate cake involved, and we sadly parted ways! Everyone expressed how enjoyable the group was and how enchanting Iceland is.
The list of what we would like to do another time in Iceland is very long, but if I never make it back, our time spent there was extraordinary and I have no regrets. Looking over our pictures, I am a little disappointed with the turn out! Partly I am sure that is owed to my novice skills, but I think another
part must be the scale of what was there and how hard it is to capture. We have enough yarn to make to make it through winter, though I wish I had more salted licorice and access to geothermal pools to make the separation from that great country easier!
There are more photos below