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You wouldn't be here if you weren't curious.*

Hi! I'm Elena! Welcome to my travel blog Creativelena.com.
For me, it is all about “life-seeing instead of sightseeing”: Join me as I create, eat & live my way around the world. Curious?

*Check out my book, “The Creative Traveler’s Handbook”, for learning more about what we mean by creative travel. Travelling means the world to me, makes me fit for everday life and sometimes, I trust, also calmer on the inside. Read this blog with a smile, share what you love and remember to check back regularly: After all, when was the last time you did something for the first time?

Creative Iceland: The Reykjavik Of Elves, Dwarfs, Artists & The Hidden People

Exiting the plane, I take a deep breath in this far-flung country of Iceland, sitting right below the Arctic Circle some 60° latitude north. I realize I have never been this far north in my whole life. Iceland. What a mystery this name bears, even – or especially – to a world traveller like myself. Footsteps echo in the hall as I walk down the aisle of Keflavík Airport to collect my luggage, a backpack with the respectable weight size of 18kg. Round the world trip it is, dear readers! After the hustle & bustle of London World Travel Market, arriving in peaceful Iceland some three hours’ flight from Central London is a real treat. And especially because I am about to meet the very people that make this country so unique: Let me introduce you to Creative Iceland and what I found to be the very essence of Icelandic culture, as seen through the eyes of the local people in & around Reykjavik city.

Tuning into the very mysterious nature & unique "sound" of Iceland ... I love this place right from the start, walking down Keflavík Airport and into the capital city of Reykjavik.

Tuning into the very mysterious nature & unique “sound” of Iceland … I love this place right from the start, walking down Keflavík Airport and into the capital city of Reykjavik.

 

On the second day of my visit, Iceland offers me this picture-post-card opportunity to say Hello to the world! :D

On the second day of my visit, Iceland offers me this picture-post-card opportunity to say Hello to the world! 😀

 

And it so happens that the focus from above has shifted ... Iceland as the centre of many connections up North!

And it so happens that the focus from above has shifted … Iceland as the centre of many connections up North!

 

Creative Iceland: Reykjavik Letterpress allows me to create my very own, first ever postcards from Iceland!

“You realise that I will essentially be sending out your business card to friends & family around the world?”, I laugh, beaming at my first ever postcard, printed & designed thanks to Olöf & Hildur from Reykjavik Letterpress. Less than three hours after having arrived in Iceland, I have already been able to enjoy the warmth & hospitality of a true Icelandic welcome – in the creative space of the two lady designers! Olöf & Hildur share their personal history with me, offering to take me through the very creative process they experience on a day-to-day level. “Have you thought of what you would like to print?”, Hildur gives me a wink and invites me to follow her on the path to inspiration. “Let’s print something typically Icelandic”, I suggest. Þetta Reddast! it is then – “We’ll fix it!” Such is the Icelandic approach to almost everything, I learn from charming Olöf & Hildur. And such is the first lesson I receive in “Icelandic”: People up here are charming, welcoming, easy-going and naturally at ease with the world. No wonder I immediately feel like going with the flow here!

Arriving at Reykjavik Letterpress Creative Workshop thanks to meeting Nicolas Barreiro, of Creative Iceland ...

Arriving at Reykjavik Letterpress Creative Workshop thanks to meeting Nicolas Barreiro, of Creative Iceland …

 

... I am back to being my usual self in no time - a creative traveller with a natural sense of curiosity for the world, however foreign or far-flung it might be!

… I am back to being my usual self in no time – a creative traveller with a natural sense of curiosity for the world, however foreign or far-flung it might be!

 

Olöf introduces me to the "mastermind" behind the printing operations, a large, traditional Heidelberg German printing machine!

Olöf introduces me to the “mastermind” behind the printing operations, a large, traditional Heidelberg German printing machine …

 

... while Hildur has come up with the layout & design of my very first postcard from Iceland!

… while Hildur has come up with the layout & design of my very first postcard from Iceland!

 

Here we go: Let's fix it!

Here we go: Let’s fix it! Now, all the special people shall receive a copy of that in the next few weeks …!

 

Thank you so much for this wonderful start of my Icelandic experience, dear Hildur & Olöf! I look forward to staying in touch with you.!

Thank you so much for this wonderful start of my Icelandic experience, dear Hildur & Olöf! I look forward to staying in touch with you.!

 

Creative Iceland: Checking out the Crafts & Design Fair at Reykjavik City Hall …

… allows you to meet many more like-minded, creative spirits here in Iceland. A country being so rich in terms of storytellingmyths & legends about the Elves, dwarfs as well as the Hidden People, it is simply delightful seeing a lot of that reflected in the visual arts at Reykjavik Craft & Design Fair. Only two steps away from where I stay, at SIM House Artist Residence in downtown Reykjavik (great company! Great atmosphere! Great creative match!), I meet with some of the artists over coffee and a chat while getting a first feel for the capital city of Iceland.

Before heading out to the actual fair, dear Kristjana, of Promote Iceland helps me to organise and understand my creative stay here in Iceland based on the country's national tourism development strategy - Iceland Creative Festivals, it is!

Before heading out to the actual fair, dear Kristjana, of Promote Iceland helps me to organise and understand my creative stay here in Iceland based on the country’s national tourism development strategy – Iceland Creative Festivals, it is!

 

Back in the city centre, I have a look around the actual Crafts & Design Fair in downtown Reykjavik ...

Back in the city centre, I have a look around the actual Crafts & Design Fair in downtown Reykjavik …

 

... meeting the likes of charming local artists Rósa, who originally hails from South-Eastern Iceland, a creative district I have yet to explore and discover!

… meeting the likes of charming local artists Rósa, who originally hails from South-Eastern Iceland, a creative district I have yet to explore and discover!

 

What a beautiful spot for a lunchtime break - coffee with a view over the city centre "lake" in Reykjavik!

What a beautiful spot for a lunchtime break – coffee with a view over the city centre “lake” in Reykjavik!

 

Nextdoors, I find one of the concert venues for Airwaves Iceland Music Festival that I am also here to check out - some great bands lined up for the nights here!

Nextdoors, I find one of the concert venues for Airwaves Iceland Music Festival that I am also here to check out – some great bands lined up for the nights here!

 

Creative Iceland: Salt Eldhús offering a “Local & Focal” cooking class on learning how to go totally Icelandic!

“I must come back!”, is what I keep saying to Audur who welcomes me at her kitchen loft studio on the sixth floor of one of Reykjavik’s “skyscraper” buildings. She beams at me after having successfully, and mouthwateringly, described her so-called “Local & Focal” cooking classes to me. It is aimed at all those wishing to understand more about the country’s distinct food culture. Right up my alley, I think running over all the recent food (tour) explorations I have done on my travels. 😀

A beautiful welcome awaits me here at Audur's Salt Eldhús cooking school in Reykjavik, taking the actual time to sit down over tea and having a chat about life, the universe and everything ...

A beautiful welcome awaits me here at Audur’s Salt Eldhús cooking school in Reykjavik, taking the actual time to sit down over tea and having a chat about life, the universe and everything …

 

... as birds of a feather do flock together, or so they say: See you next time for a great "Local & Focal" cooking experience, dear Audur!

… as birds of a feather do flock together, or so they say: See you next time for a great “Local & Focal” cooking experience, dear Audur!

 

Creative Iceland: “Búrið is a quirky Reykjavik cheese shop … and Eirny a dedicated curd nerd!”

“You must meet Eirny”, Nicolas beams and walks me past beautiful Reykjavik Harbour on this still November morning. Close to the city’s Maritime Museum, several former storehouses have been converted into creative (shop) spaces. One of them has busy Eirny rush back & forth: “Next weekend is our cheese market with over 50 producers! Last time we looked, more than 30.000 people attended – that’s one tenth of the Icelandic population!”, she tells us with pride. Besides running a cheese delicatessen shop, Eirny & her team also organise regular Icelandic Cheese & Skyr Masterclasses for the locals as well as overseas visitors. Over the ensuing cheese tasting, I am tempted to buy every single Icelandic cheese I taste: They are just so creamy and melt-in-your-mouth delightful !

"Want to ... ?" YES, please!

“Want to learn about and taste skyr and Icelandic cheeses?” YES, please: Burid really is the place to go for a cheese lover tasting in Reykjavik!

 

Besides cheese, the delicatessen shop features lots of different produce all sourced from local farmers around the country.

Besides cheese, the delicatessen shop features lots of different produce all sourced from local farmers around the country.

 

As a first, I am offered to try this deliciously creamy, intensely-flavoured "Korkur" cheese made from Icelandic cow milk.

As a first, I am offered to try this deliciously creamy, intensely-flavoured “Korkun” cheese made from Icelandic cow milk.

 

Really love that taste !!

Really love that taste !!

 

And guess what (a surprise)! They even have blue cheese coated in Port wine here - the perfect marriage of northern & southern gourmet style, I'd say. :D

And guess what (a surprise)! They even have blue cheese coated in Port wine from Portugal here – the perfect marriage of northern & southern gourmet style, I’d say. 😀

 

Creative Iceland: “Over half of Icelanders admit to believing in some sort of nature spirit, or Elven-folk. That is many times the average percentage in Western society!”

Magnús is a storytelling genius of a kind. And even if you do not believe in anything he tells you – and believe me, as President of the National Association of Paranormal Activity, Sightings & Elf-tales in Iceland, he IS able to tell you a lot! – you must make sure to go and see him at the Reykjavik Elf School. Why? Because. He is one of the single greatest storytellers I have ever met. He gets you completely hooked, with hours fusing into minutes, seconds even, glances of life-changing tales that so many of the records he collected throughout his life have told him. His mission to date is to have a museum on the stories of the Elves & Hidden People, of the many times they have actually and truly helped saving people’s lives in the unforgiving, highly energetic & often very mysterious country that is Iceland. “Record the witnesses many times over”, he replies at our puzzled faces, swaying between disbelief and fascination, “and you will find that some of them tell a totally accurate story of meeting and sharing gifts with the Elven-folk and the Hidden People of Iceland. Take this pot here for instance: It belongs to an Elf-lady and was given to humans as an offering, a gift. Fascinating, right?”

Arriving at the Elf School, I have absolutely no concept (yet) as to what to expect ...

Arriving at the Reykjavik Elf School, I have absolutely no concept (yet) as to what to expect here …

 

... clearly, the food served here in the form of these pancakes with whipped cream (what the Icelanders consider "afternoon tea"!) is very good ...

… clearly, the food served here in the form of these pancakes with whipped cream (what the Icelanders consider “afternoon tea”!) is very good for a start …

 

... and so is the storytelling, as the daylight fades and the magic grows, exemplified by this pot that according to Magnús is the fruit of an offering from another dimension. Fascinating, ever so fascinating !!! I am thrilled. :D

… and so is the storytelling, as the daylight fades and the magic grows, exemplified by this pot that according to Magnús is the fruit of an offering from another dimension. Fascinating, ever so fascinating !!! I am thrilled. 😀

 

Thank you so much, dear Magnús & all our students, for listening, sharing & telling stories! We are now official Elf students complete with diplomas of the Elf School of Iceland - yay!

Thank you so much, dear Magnús & all our students, for listening, sharing & telling stories! We are now official Elf students complete with diplomas of the Elf School of Iceland – yay!

 

Creative Iceland: Language & Culture served with love at the Tin Can Factory, hosted by charming Gígja Svavarsdóttir!

Gígja and I find it hard to part, as is the case with virtually all the creative people I meet here in Iceland. The Icelanders are just so charming. Welcoming. Open-minded. Well-educated. And giving. Every time I am endowed with more knowledge, understanding and little gifts & souvenirs, I feel like jumping up and saying, “You must come to Austria and visit me one day! Please! I want to show you what it is like for me and host you to my passion, wine & food lover stories from back home …!” And so it happens that we all create the connections. I know I will be back in this country at some stage, exploring all the famous tales & legends around its vast interior & exterior, perhaps meeting some of the Elven-folk or Hidden People myself. Iceland, it gets to you. The food, the people, the language, the culture: It all makes sense when you are here. “I hope there will be studies on why Icelanders keep coming back”, Gígja says with a knowing smile. “We all travel and are open to the world, but eventually, most of us choose to come back to live and look after our family here in Iceland. It is as if we feel bound to this place for one reason or another. And that is beauty of it, I guess.”

Gígja makes a point of welcoming Nicolas & me at her charming "Tin Can Factory" Language School & Culture Centre here in Reykjavik.

Gígja makes a point of welcoming Nicolas & me at her charming “Tin Can Factory” Language School & Culture Centre here in Reykjavik.

 

After learning some Icelandic words & history from her, we go right to the practical side of cultural immersion - the preparation of food, that is ...!

After learning some Icelandic words & history from her, we go right to the practical side of cultural immersion – the preparation of food, that is …!

 

And what food there is: Roast lamb ham served on buttered mountain herb bread from Iceland, both unique tastes I have never even imagined, let alone experienced before!

And what food there is: Roast lamb ham served on buttered mountain herb bread from Iceland, both unique tastes I have never even imagined, let alone experienced before!

 

Beautiful pâté with local berry gelée ...

Beautiful pâté with local berry gelée …

 

... ahead of making my own, very thin Icelandic pancakes for "afternoon tea"!

… ahead of making my own, very thin Icelandic pancakes for “afternoon tea”!

 

What a happy time here at the Tin Can Factory Language School & Cultural Centre: Thank you so much for this afternoon together, dear Gígja! Make sure to come here in order to get the full dose of intercultural experience while travelling to Reykjavik and Iceland!

What a happy time here at the Tin Can Factory Language School & Cultural Centre: Thank you so much for this afternoon together, dear Gígja! Make sure to come here in order to get the full dose of intercultural experience while travelling to Reykjavik and Iceland!

 

For more information on exploring Iceland the creative way thanks to Creative Iceland, please visit their website at www.creativeiceland.is! It is really worth getting in touch for a unique and complete database of creative, interactive culture activities around Iceland. Here are some more photos of my creative visit to Reykjavik for you to look at:

 

Disclaimer: I have been hosted & invited by Nicolas Barreiro & his team of artists & creative partners to experience several of the workshops & activities offered by Creative Iceland. All opinions are my own.

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Written by Elena

Elena writes about creative destinations, shares her personal travel stories and brings inspiring photography & interesting news updates home to you. Her mission is: "Continue to be amazed at this world, one creative travel experience at a time."

Ready for learning even more about creative travel?

Elena has recently published "The Creative Traveler's Handbook". Chock full of inspiratinal stories, travel tips and advice, it offers everything you need for planning and managing your next creative escape, addressing beginners and experienced travelers alike. Here's how to get your hands on it now!
#WTM2014: Top Creative Travel Blogging News from the London World Travel Market
#InspiredByIceland: A Most Magic Road Trip of Western Iceland.

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