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.
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!
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 storytelling, myths & 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.
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. 😀
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 !
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?”
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.”
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.