This September I was over the moon to have the opportunity to visit somewhere that had been on my wish list for some time – Iceland.
Not only was I keen to experience the extreme landscape, the culture and try the food and drink but I was also interested to find out more about the traditional knitwear.
I headed north west leaving directly from Orkney late on the Friday afternoon to arrive just in time for Happy Hour at the hotel. There I planned for the Saturday – the only full day of our trip! So much to see in such a short time!
After finalising my plans and having a few cocktails, I headed for the recommended hot dogs at Baejarins Beztu Pylsur.
The next morning was an early start with a quick visit to the spectacular Opera House Harpa.
I was also drawn to the beautiful boutiques in the city – Maia (link to – https://www.facebook.com/MAIAReykjavik) Systur & Makar (http://systurogmakar.is) and 66 Degrees North https://www.66north.com.
After a speedy whistle stop tour of town I headed on the first trip out of the city, to see the sites of the Golden Circle. The day’s weather was mixed and felt like a typical day in Scotland – rain, sun and hailstones.
The first stop was Thingvellir national park where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulled apart at a rate of a few centimetres each year. As I walked between the plates I was struck by the sheer magnitude of the countryside. Thingvellir was the centre of Icelandic culture, a meeting place for everyone in Iceland. It was there that the foundation for the local language and literature, which is still a prominent part of people’s lives to this day, was established.
Onwards I travelled past farms, fields upon fields of Icelandic horses and a beautiful white church
to the magnificent Strokkur geyser in the geothermal area adjacent to the Hvita River.
The last stop on the golden circle trip was the mightly Gullfoss waterfall, one of Icelands most popular attractions.
Tired and weary I headed back to Reykjavik to board a bus that would take me for a memorable Saturday night at the Blue Lagoon. How I wish we could had geothermal pools in Scotland! What better start to a Saturday night than getting out out the cold, meeting up with friends, putting the world to right over a few drinks in a warm sulphurous bath! It was bliss! I left 3 hours later feeling mellow. Back to the city to sample the highlights of Saturday night in Reykjavik – a city that knows how to party into the wee small hours.
Sunday morning was a chilled out affair. I visited the local shops and found out more about the Lopapeysa or Icelandic sweater. Throughout my short travels I noticed lots of people proudly wearing their traditional jumpers made with lopi yarn, which surprised me as, unlike Scotland where national clothing is worn mainly for special or patriotic occasions, here were people popping in to the shops, at work whether in the office or rounding up your sheep on horse back, wearing the Lopapeysa jumper.
I spoke to an assistant in a specialist knitwear shop who told me what’s different about the lopi wool is that it’s a blend of fleece and hair which is not spun. This means it contains more air and therefore has more insulating properties that our normal yarns. This traditional knit along with other fantastic knitted accessories are alive and well in Iceland, which is great to see. Icelandic brands like Farmers Market are embracing the tradition with a modern twist.
As quickly as it had begun, my trip to Iceland was over and I was flying back home. There wasn’t enough time to explore completely and for this reason I would love to go back. Iceland felt so familiar and yet it’s so different to Scotland. Its clash of old and new, the culture, landscape and nordic mindset all reminded me so much of home. If only we had some of their geothermic pools and Lopi jumpers!