Tag Archives: lava

Metal, Rock, and Wooden Willies. Where am I?


Yes I know I look like an idiot but stupid poses are compulsory on holiday. Also featured – new hat #2!

On Monday I may have mentioned I was off to see Dimmu Borgir. Whilst I am here in Iceland for a music festival, I’m not there yet, and Dimmu Borgir aren’t playing it anyway. The Icelandic Dimmu Borgir is in fact a lava field containing large and imaginatively shaped lava formations, many of which resemble castles or trolls’ houses (or in fact trolls themselves..). This is where the name comes from (it means Dark City in Icelandic). It was much less noisy than a metal gig, although fear not ear-assault fans, the musical variety of rock and indeed the odd bit of metal will begin later today! Dimmu Borgir is also home to the troll-family of cheeky Yule lads, their troll-parents and their evil Jólakötturinn. They hide in caves here during the summer then appear over the winter and cause mischief in the run up to Christmas. Who needs Santa Claus when you have 13 yule lads?

Dimmu Borgir

I really just wanted to show you some pictures of the rest of yesterday’s explorations around Mývatn. The scenery is utterly stunning, and we were lucky with the weather too. No rain! No fog! No snow! No wind! Ok so no sun either and so much cloud there was absolutely no hope of the Northern Lights later on, but it did mean we didn’t need to wrap up like mummies and that the lake was as still as a mirror:

Mývatn from Höfði

We also found some mud geysers at Hverir. These aren’t really much to look at in a photo but there’s a small plain full of teeny tiny hissing, steaming and bubbling spots in the ground. There’s so many of them that every time you look you see more of them, and the grin gets bigger and the pointing gets more excited. Well it does if you’re me – the ground ain’t supposed to bubble! There’s also a bigger pool of mud, about 2m x 1m, which noticeably (and audibly) bubbles and gloops at you like a mad scientist’s cauldron. Which as you might expect, is enough to keep me enthralled for hours.

Bubbly Mud

You probably don’t want to hear that after seeing these bizarre and uniquely Icelandic sights, we drove to Húsavík where everything was shut, including the pubs and the famous Phallological Museum. Yes, that’s right, a museum of penises. Or is is penii? Anyway, it prides itself in having an example of a penis from every species of mammal that can be found on Iceland, apart from a human one (although if you’re desperate I’m told you can go and find one to take home on any Friday night in downtown Reykjavík). A helpful notice on the door from the curator left a phone number to ring if we were “keen to see the exhibits”, offering to open the museum up if he was in town. We thought about it for about 5 seconds but despite being keen, we reckoned we didn’t really want to admit we were keen, so went to pester the man next door at the Whale museum instead. )Just to clarify we went to look at the whale skeletons, not to ask to see his bits).

The Whale museum was opened up specially too, but remember it’s the winter season in Iceland, and that’s how things work outside of the capital, seeing as there are better things to do than hang around in museums waiting for odd foreign tourists to take pictures of themselves standing next to 10 foot high wooden willies (phallological museum, remember…). With the levels of excitement running this high, we decided we’d best get going back to Mývatn as we didn’t fancy driving on this road in the dark:

Route 87 to Húsavík

On our way to Mývatn Nature Baths (an outdoor, geothermically heated swimming pool and spa, along similar lines to the Blue Lagoon but in a much more stunning setting), we had to drive past the lake itself just before sunset. I’m going to leave you with a couple of pictures of it, because a) I need to get on a plane back to Reykjavík, and b) I don’t think sunsets need words.

I may see some of you at Airwaves, where I have absolutely no idea where I need to be and when. All I have is a schedule with some scribbles on and some beer money, so I’m just going to turn up at a bar and see what happens. I could list all the bands I want to see but I suspect that would just involve showing you the schedule…. So. To Reykjavík!

Sunset at Myvatn

Icelandic horse at Myvatn

Sunset at Myvatn


Filed under Europe, Iceland, Photography, Travel

Icelandic Design Fortnight


Continuing the theme of 2-week chunks of time,  I have been asked to blog about Icelandic design to tie in with Inspired by Iceland‘s Icelandic Design fortnight, and well, if you’ve twigged how awesome I think Iceland is (clue – it’s over there in the post-cloud in letters the same size as the word “GIGS”), it won’t come as a surprise that I said yes.

Aww, you mean I *have* to write about Iceland?

Icelandic design for me is inherently Icelandic. I know that sounds obvious, but let me explain. It doesn’t have any pretensions to copy other Westernised cultures, and you can clearly see inspiration drawn from Icelandic tradition and landscape, things which the Icelanders are rightly proud of. They also understand the importance of individuality. When I was last there, I complimented my friend Klara who was wearing this fantastic salvaged dress made out of 2 t-shirts – one bright red and one bright yellow – chopped up and sewn together. (I wish I had a picture but I had to run for the bus). It was completely unique, looked amazing on her, (even though on paper you might think it sounds awful), and we got to chatting about why Icelanders express themselves so strikingly through fashion. Klara reckons it’s a product of the small community, where everyone knows your business and you’re fighting to be seen as you and not who everyone thinks you are.

Random Reykjavik graffiti. Unlikely to have been inspired by volcanic lava.

That’s why I think I like Icelandic creativity so much. It’s minimal, elegant, proud, personal. Evocative without being obvious, it draws you in and makes you want to immerse yourself in it. Whether that’s music, film, literature, fashion, shopping – or practical design from jewellery, through to furniture and architecture. They even make boring stuff (like making things go) lovely (Iceland has pioneered the use of geothermal power and a happy by-product of that is the creation of the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, seeing as how they thought the excess heat at the nearby geothermal power station shouldn’t go to waste. They also use it to heat the sea at a couple of Icelandic beaches. Who else woulda thought of doing something useful like that?).

So – pretty picture time! I’m going to show you some things that I really like from Iceland:

Reykjavik Harbour

As you can imagine, volcanic lava features quite heavily in the Icelandic landscape and architecture, and huge chunks of it are readily available. Reykjavik harbour is bordered by tons of the stuff, haphazardly arranged like it’s a really big rock pool in your very rich Auntie’s garden. I don’t know what it is I like about these huge chunks of the earth’s core spewed up to the surface, but I can spend hours sitting on them, standing on them, walking on them, and not doing much else. I should probably get out more, but hey. So I really like this series of stools that have been inspired by weatherworn rocks that Inspired by Iceland have sent me to look at (they’re called Fjörulallar by a designer called  Guðrún Björk Jónsdóttir). Love the way you can see bits of rock poking through!


I also wanted to show you a dress I bought on my last visit. Handknitting with wool from Icelandic sheep is big in Iceland. I got this one from a wonderful shop on Skólavörðustígur next to the Babalú cafe where they’ll be handknitting stuff in front of you. Here I take the opportunity to pose for you (whilst looking like a complete idiot) to show off my proper Icelandic dress, which not only is handmade by a very nice Icelandic lady, using wool from Icelandic sheep, it echoes the design of the traditional Lopapeysa jumper design, whilst being different enough to be definitely not a Lopapeysa. Four Icelandic things all rolled into one, oh and green is my favourite colour! Watch for me prancing around in it in Leeds:

It’s a dress. It’s green. It’s from Iceland. I’m happy.

I’d like to leave you with some pictures of Icelandic jewellery. There are tons of gold & jewellery shops on Laugavegur, which, despite being waaay out of my price range (and hey, I can melt metal, I’ll make things myself..), have window displays to die for, which translates roughly as a lot of striking use of gold and silver echoing Icelandic nature, or being minimal & sophisticated, or being individual & quirky (or if we’re really breaking it down – SHINY THINGS!).

Retro car Bracelet by Hringa Jewellery (www.hringajewellery.com)

Landscape inspired silver ring

Next time I go I’m making sure I have enough to time to get out of Reykjavik centre and check out what people are making outside of the capital. Now where’s my passport..?

InspiredbyIceland.com want to tell you how awesome Iceland is. Yes they’re trying to get you to go and visit, but honestly, why wouldn’t you want to? Tell them what you like about Iceland and find out about more cool Icelandic stuff on their Facebook page. Or just book a flight to Keflavik.



Filed under Europe, Iceland, Jewellery