The distance makes the mountains blue

Today is the longest day of the year in Iceland.

What I have heard from my clients is that having so much light can both be positive and negative. Negative because it is hard to sleep. Positive because you need less sleep and you can enjoy more, even during the night.

But why is this time of year so precious to the Icelanders?

Imagine 3 hours of daylight in winter. You still have to  go to work and school at 8 in the morning anyway. No mercy when you need to have a functioning society even though you are a rock in the middle of the north Atlantic.

When I was a kid in the memory, it was never that dark. We had loads of snow in the winter so we would be stuck inside, the electricity went out and my mum wanted to iron, because there suddenly was time. But no electricity so no ironing.

When we could go out we used to go skiing in any nearby hill and build snow houses and drink warm chocolate until our toes were frozen and we went home.

There was no TV on Thursdays when I was a kid in Iceland and no TV for 6 weeks in the summer. No video games. The book nation read a lot .

In the past my grand parents and great grand parents lived in very hard conditions in horrible weathers as fishermen and farmers on the Snæfellsnes peninsula and in the Westfjords. Then life was about surviving or not and many had to give in to harshness of nature.

Because of the hard conditions of winters of Iceland, long summer nights and midnight sun add this romantic atmosphere, where everyone is just enjoying, hiking at midnight and even playing golf in the middle of the night.

In the poetry I read in school as a child, our most loved authors, who often spent majority of their lives abroad, mainly in Copenhagen, would write about the summer of Iceland. Their writing was filled with longing for the colors of nature and the freshness of the landscape. The distance makes the mountains blue, is a saying we use i Icelandic.

In summer time children forget time and their parents do too, and there is nothing like receiving a very tired and dirty child after a whole day and evening of adventures outside with friends.

Collecting energy, vitamins and memories is imporant to the Icelanders during the summer months in our beautilful country, to get through the winter ahead.

The shortest day of the year in Iceland in December is important for the Icelanders because then the days start to get longer again.

The longest day in the summer is important because you have constant daylight and the hidden people and the elves come out during that time of  year. That is not a common event as it happens only also duing New Years and on the 13th day of Christmas. After the longest day the days start to slowly get shorter again so there is no time to waste in enjoying the daylight.

Jónsmessa is the time of year when the day is longest.

It is said that people get magical powers if they dance and roll naked in the dew of the longest night of the year. I won´t say they don´t, but I guess you have to try it out when you are in Iceland in June next time.

Happy Summer – Happy light – Happy playing outside all night..before it starts to get dark again.

More information on personalized travel planning and connecting with the Icelanders and their culture on www.icelandunwrapped.com

HUH – Football Iceland style now at The World Cup

At the moment the Icelanders are in a dream, after the Icelandic football team managed to get a space in the World Cup in Russia this summer 2018.

It‘s an unbelievable results for a nation of a bit over 300.000 people.

I have been  thinking since I saw one of the games of this team in France last year at Euro 2016, how it was possible for these guys to manage to get to where they are and I think that is a very important story to tell.

The fact is that the guys who are playing for Iceland in the World Cup this summer are known for a good group spirit where no link is more important than any other. This is an ideology and management approach used in many workplaces in the world with success.

But why are these guys so humble? Why are they not flying around in a cloud of self love and arrogance because of their acheivements?

I think the answer is that they have had to work for it and they know that football isn´t life.

I have a personal experience, where I actually was the boss of one of these players. He was 21 years old at the time and starting his career as a starter for his team. To be able to keep on playing, he had to attend two practices every day. One in the morning and one at noon because they had games in the evening. To be able to do this meant he had to get special permission from his boss to attend these trainings. It wasn´t easy to make it work but boy I am glad that I gave him that permission.

Distances pay a big role too. If it takes only five minutes to get to your training location from work, it makes everything easier. That is the case in the Reykjavik area and in most other towns in Iceland.

This has been the reality of these players to work and play football as well in any kind of weather. At the time there were not many possibilities to train inside, like there are today as a result of Iceland‘s investment in indoor football training facilities, so these guys who now are entering the World Cup are truly modern-time Vikings, and the joy of playing and community in the team is their trademark.

Nevertheless, indoor facilities are not accessible everywhere for all clubs in Iceland, so many of these guys and girls have to play outside in all weather possible on this rock in the North Atlantic.

They take this task seriously but  they are also aware of that this is the time to enjoy the game, the challenge and the friendships with their fellow team members and other players at the World Cup.

I have my favorite team already and, you guessed it, it´s Iceland. Fee free to join team Iceland. We would love to have you.

If you can’t make it to Russia I think being in Iceland for this event is going to be an adventure of a lifetime.

To organize a custom Iceland Football Tour, or attend a match of the National Team or one of the country´s top club teams during your visit, contact me on www.helgastina.com

Woolin’ around in Iceland 2018/2019 – Meet the designer of Hanna Felting

Tell me a bit about yourself and your background both personally and in connection with wool, design, knitting and the arts.

I‘m Icelandic. I was born in Reykjavik and grew up in Isafjordur. In my teens we moved back to Reykjavik. I have always been fascinated with fiber, whether it is in clothing or interior textile. And I truly loved dressing my Barbie dolls when I was  little. Around the age of 13, I started to design and make my own clothes. I liked being different in my teenage years, acting out my emotions through my clothes.

Living abroad and Inspiration

Somehow I knew early on that I was going to live abroad later in life.  I studied Fashion & Textile Design at the Hogeschool voor de kunsten in Utrecht, NL & obtained a European Master of Arts at the Institute de la France in Paris. I live and work in Utrecht, and travel regularly to Iceland for inspiration and work at my studio in Reykjavik. Family is very important to me. The love of my husband Bas and my two daughters, Nina and Julia, fire me up to make things happen, but also keep me grounded when needed.

Inspired by the raw Icelandic nature, I use different types of wool in combination with other textiles to create items that bring the feeling of nature into our lives and homes. My love affair with wool started when I did my internship at Istex in Iceland. There I saw endless possibilities in working with wool. My graduation collection was my first with wool, mainly made from felted wool  – and was selected for the Barclay catwalk as well as for the Hyeres Fashion Festival. Together with Ullarvinnslan in Iceland, I helped set up a felting studio in Seydisfjordur with the support of the Ministry of Agriculture.

The felting adventure begins.

For several years my focus was on Fashion and felted and knitted wool in clothing – all made in Iceland. I later moved back to Iceland, opened my own design shop, and sold my designs there as well as abroad. In 2013 we moved back to Holland and now I have a studio and shop with other artists and designers in the heart of Utrecht. My focus has altered towards interior textile design, as I always try to work instinctively and somehow have more breathing space within that area. I live and breathe textile. I think it is so important to use textile in interior for the calming of noise, as well as the feeling of warmth.

My desire in design is to liberate myself from all conventions and limits. Designing at my own pace and and on my own terms, doing what I love and not conforming to fashion schedules is how I work best.

Photo by Hanna Felting
Felted wool pebbles by Hanna Felting – Photo by Hanna Felting

Why would you recommend Iceland as a knitting exploration possibility?

Iceland has so much energy and fantastic raw nature where you can get endlessly inspired and feel at one with nature. The Icelandic wool is also very special, one of a kind really. The sheep have been roaming free since  the settlement of Iceland in the ninth century. There are so many artists and so much creativity around Iceland to enjoy. Everybody can knit – with needles or just with your hand–and you can also make your own freestyle knit expression..no limits. Just enjoy being in nature and feeling creative.

The Icelandic Lopi wool is popular for knitting because of the dual-fibre structure that makes lopi garments warm, waterproof, and light. Whether you want to make a hat, scarf, or the famous Icelandic lopapeysa, Icelandic wool is easy to knit with, light and makes a beautiful fabric. Icelandic wool also felts easily, making it great for felting projects.

Lava – Photo by Helga Stina

Where in Iceland do you feel best and why?

My favorite place at the moment is Borðeyri in Hrútafjörður. Once a flourishing trading centre, it has seen its population and level of service decline in the last couple of decades. This quiet place is located at what feels like the middle of nowhere, at the bottom of the fjord directly at sea. Looks like the calming sea is endless from here…magical. It´s a place where I can easily gather my thoughts and feel refreshed. For more excitement I choose Thorsmork in the South Highlands of Iceland between the mountain glaciers of Tindfjallajökull and the world famous Eyjafjallajökull– hiking in that area is quite the experience – and the view is breathtaking. An escape to the Highlands means travelling over rivers on bad roads and no wifi. Away from it all.

What do you like in Iceland that you cannot find anywhere else?

What I miss the most besides the nature in Iceland is the fresh fish. All the lovely fish shops with endless fish to choose from.  And the outdoor thermal pools in Reykjavik with such a nice temperature. Going to the swimming pool in Iceland is a must, exercising, socializing and relaxing all  in one.

What is special about the knitting and wool community in Iceland?

The Icelandic sheep breed is unique and for centuries its wool has kept Icelanders warm and almost everybody has something to do with knitting or Icelandic wool. A lot of people knit at home when watching tv, and a lot of groups come together to knit and eat and drink together. Knitting is such a part of the community and such a normal thing to do. An everyday thing.

Because of the special, loose way the wool is spun, when the yarn breaks it’s easily fixed as two yarn ends can be attached by twisting them together.

Hanna Pétursdóttir

www.hannafelting.com

instagram  @hannafelting

hannafelting@gmail.com

Hanna Pétursdóttir, Fashion and Textile Designer, has a BA degree from the Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht (HKU) and a Master of Arts in European Fashion and Textiles Design from the Institute of Fashion Paris (IFM). Hanna has designed a number of clothing and product lines, with the main focus on the use of Icelandic wools in felting and knitwear. She has participated in numerous design and textile exhibitions along with sales exhibitions overseas and marketed and sold her own designs to stores across Europe, the United States and Japan.

HANNA felting is a Fashion & Textile label designed by Hanna Pétursdóttir based in The Netherlands.  The process is slow, a collection of various designs in limited numbers inspired by the raw Nordic nature of Iceland with nature as a motive to work instinctively. Committed to prolonging the active lifetime of textiles. The look is natural and vibrant with mean edges in bright yet muted colors. The freshness and quality of each item is derived from the unique way of processing wool. The goal of HANNA felting is to combine design and value to create something beautiful, timely and long lasting.  HANNA felting’s calling card is the creative use of wool. The designer, Hanna Pétursdóttir, works closely with local wool farmers and artisans to produce beautiful natural fabrics . Hanna’s artistic side then takes over as she plays with texture and shape to develop a style that offers an exciting approach to fashion. All designs are produced locally using ecological and up cycled materials all year round with no special seasonal collections.

Banner picture: Felted wool sculpture – photo: Milette Raats –  https://miletteraats.com/

Iceland Unwrapped thanks Hanna Felting for the inspiration and help with ideas on making Woolin’ around in Iceland a possibility.

 

Woolin’ around in Iceland – The knitting nation

The knitting nation

The scene is set in one of Reykjavík´s cafés. You are drinking Icelandic coffee (yes there is such a thing even though there are no coffee plantations in Iceland..yet). You are trying out Kleina, the icelandic pastry and sipping on some pure Icelandic water from the tub. Straight from the ground it comes, nothing added.

Lava

Around you, you see a couple of  knitters. Knitters of all ages and if they are not knitting, many of them are wearing these Icelandic wool sweaters, with patterns and colors of all kinds. If there is a place to wear such an item, it is in Iceland.

Knitting in Iceland has a long history as in many other countries. Icelandic wool has kept sailors, farmers and other Icelanders warm for decades and safed their lifes at times from the freezing temperatures, wetness and difficult conditions.

Knitting has often been related to women knitting clothes for their families but the fact of the matter is that men have always knittet in Iceland as well.

In modern times wool and knitting has become both a way of living and a trend in design and culture and some even say the best meditation method there is. Ways of working with wool, mixing the wool, coloring and designing new patterns and garnaments is an exciting development not only in Iceland but around the world.

People knitting while talking, hiking, singing is something you can experience in Iceland. Of course there is nothing like sitting with a group of knitting friends in nature, overlooking beautiful scenery and enjoying strong Icelandic coffee.

@peturknits

Are you interested in meeting interesting people in Iceland and to knit in nature?

More info on a knitting trip of a lifetime

Knitting in Iceland September 2018

The unexplained – Iceland and the Westfjords

I just finished reading a chilling book by Yrsa, a leading Icelandic crime-fiction writer.

The story happens in the Westfjords, actually where my mother‘s side of the family comes from and where people really had to fight for their survival on a daily basis, not so long ago.

The Westfjords have always been isolated from rest of Iceland. The country‘s ring road,Route Number One, goes around Iceland but doesn´t include the Westfjords.

In a way, that makes the Westfjords the country‘s most authentic scenic region. An area of high and steep mountains, fjords, and some areas unreachable by cars, the Westfjords have maintained a sense of isolation and mystique. On my visit to the area recently, I was amazed by the entrepreneurship of people living there, their great ideas in tourism to get people to understand the nature, the people and the way of being in this area, where the sun doesn´t reach over the mountain tops for months during the winter months. The roads can be a challenge but the nature is unbelievable, powerful and raw. That is the true charm of this area in my opinion. This is a place to get away from it all, to get peace to recharge and to visit one of the most beautiful areas on earth.

And it‘s a fitting setting for a fearsome book..

As someone with extensive knowledge of the Westfjords I couldn´t put the book down. It kept me awake and it gave me goosebumps. It made me feel sick and it made me curious.

I have never been a fan of Yrsa. I have always preferred other types of Icelandic writers. The only crime writer I occasionally like is maybe Arnaldur Indridason, especially during Christmas when the so called „Book nation“ goes crazy over all the available books published before the book festival of the year in Iceland (which happens to be Christmas).

I realized, when reading this book by Yrsa, that I was captivated by the scenery, the way of living and looking at life and perhaps, even though I have often denied it, the belief of the Icelandic nation in supernatural things such as hidden people, elves, ghosts and unexplained phenomena. The Icelanders are not generally religious, but many of them believe in supernatural powers and the common saying is, „How can we know, we also don´t know if it doesn´t exist“.

Living in the Westfjords, especially in areas that now have become deserted, must have been challenging. The endless sea accidents where families would even see their family members drown, right in front of their eyes. Or when seamen have never been found, in so many cases. I totally get why these kind of books capture the folk beliefs and how people, now and then, seek answers to the unexplained.

I reccomend reading a book by Icelandic authors. May it be crime fiction or something else. To capture the atmosphere, the Icelandic spirit, the way of being, thinking and behaving; reading a book can get you there. That is at least the first step.

For more information on authors, on personalized trips to the Westfjords and all over Iceland, focusing on books, authors or other artists, please contact Iceland Unwrapped by helgastina at:

www.helgastina.com

Iceland – It is all in the water

I’ve just spent the last three months in Iceland. I had the possibility to explore the country, meet my fellow Icelanders, get to know amazing entrepreneurs, and experience amazing food and cultural events suitable for a country of millions.

But what struck me the most was one of the things that‘s most basic about the place: water.

Firstly, and I am not putting you on, Icelandic water is the clearest you can find, coming straight from the glacier, nothing added. You might as well drink it straight from a river on the country side because it is exactly the same water.

When I first moved to Copenhagen, I brought coffee from Iceland back to Denmark after my  visits home. When it tasted different, I realized was that it wasn´t the coffee that much, it was the water. The water makes the coffee taste, and indeed, Icelandic coffee blenders match the beans to the water to a large extent. It was a shock and an important factor in my endless homesickness during my time in Copenhagen, where the water was filled with calcium and other taste-altering ingredients.

The beer in Iceland, the sodas, the Ice cream, everything benefits from the purity of the water and that is why some of the local ingredients cannot be transferred to other countries. They will never taste the same.

 

 

Swimming, and, more precisely, visiting the local pool is another watering factor in terms of understanding the Icelanders and their culture. The social hot tub is in the hot spot in the swimming pools around the country. Almost every tiny village has one, and in  the capital you have more than one in many neighborhoods.

Not only is this privilege essential for the well being of the Icelanders, an endless source of exercise and relaxation in a country that is cold and dark for much of the year, it is saving the mental health and health in general of the Icelandic people.

Water is all around Iceland – The Atlantic ocean has been a main provider of fresh food for the nation since the settlers decided to take a chance on this island 874.

We have endless songs about the ocean, about the fishermen who provided food for the whole of society and also songs, stories and memories of seamen lost at sea, never to be found again, sometimes even half of towns would go in such a dramatic way in the last centuries, while trying to feed their families. My family included.

Much of Iceland‘s water also comes up from the ground, hot, steaming and sulphur-smelling.  Attractions like Geysir and the hot springs are showplaces for Iceland‘s miraculous geothermal waters. But in nearly every home, hotel room and hostel, there are no water heaters, only water from a geothermally-heated source and a glacial cold source.

Water and ocean has therefore so many meaning for us the Icelanders and to understand us, a background on how it has and is affecting all life, is important to the visitor. In the meantime, when you are making coffee in Iceland, it tastes better if you are a little patient and start with heating the cold water for your coffee or tea. And by all means don´t buy normal water in the Supermarket. Better to fill your water battle with the glorious and free water that is available from the many taps around the country.

More info on personalized travel planning to Iceland on www.helgastina.com

EXCLUSIVE EXCURSIONS

Unwrapping Iceland’s gifts

If you think visiting Iceland is only glaciers, mountains and Northern Lights then think again! There is so much more to this unique and magical country than meets the eye. That is why I love showing visitors just how much they can get out of their stay in Iceland. The reason why I called my company ‘Iceland Unwrapped’ is because that is exactly what I do. Visiting Iceland is a gift no one will forget, but most people only see a small part of it… Through my exclusive excursions I reveal the best this wonderful country has to offer bit by bit.

And the best part? Every trip is tailor-made to your specifications.

What exciting and authentic treats do I have in store for my clients?

Connecting to a network of professionals in Iceland. Are you a company or an institution and would you like to get insights from the Icelanders and from Icelandic society? Please contact us for more information on what is possible.

Professional and educational trips

Tours for professionals in various fields. Iceland Unwrapped has planned trips for professionals in various fields. Iceland has a lot to offer for professionals that would like to be inspired by other professionals, and by the nature and culture of Iceland. Have a look at these options for the possibilities of connecting and being inspired in Iceland. And because Iceland is located almost half way between Europe and North America, you can have your team meet in the middle.

Unique experiences and adventures

Moon Trip – A possibility of stepping in the footsteps of the Astronauts that went to the moon 50 years ago.

Wool in Iceland – Knitting in Iceland and getting into the world of wool in Iceland.

Dining with the Icelanders – The very best food, hosts and produce the country has to offer.

Geothermal Health clinic – Read all about how our healing spas and lagoons can revitalize you and heal.

Female-empowerment trips – We connect successful women with the locals and teach you about Iceland’s fascinating history and how women have emerged as a driving force behind the country that you see today. This is a trip that both women and men should do, as gender equality can never be reached without the participation of all humans.

unique exclusive excursions iceland

Nature and wildlife

Nature photography – Join our local experts and learn how to capture the magic of the country.

Fishing, sailing and diving – You can’t escape the sea when you come to Iceland, and the surrounding oceans produce some of the freshest fish you will taste.

Animal and whale watching – Year round Iceland has some spectacular whale sightings!

Hiking, biking and extreme sports – From horse riding and biking to adventures in the wild windswept wilderness.

Family travel and culture

Iceland for families – Did you know we offer walks in nature where your little ones can discover elves in Hafnarfjordur? Not to mention some amazing days out, museums and family friendly outdoor pursuits.

Iceland and the arts – Meet local authors and artists and learn about how the amazing history and culture of the country has influenced their work. You might even be invited for a private concert in a musicians house.

Glamping and eco-travel – Immerse yourself in the beautiful countryside the responsible way.

And this is just the tip of the Icelandic iceberg!

Personalized travel

If you have a specific themed trip you would like to make alone, as a family, or with a group of people, please get in touch and my team and I will help you plan your dream Icelandic escape or work related dream trip.  We also cater for special needs and very specific requests… No request is too big or unique.

Your travel planner, Helgastina.

HIDDEN GEMS

Looking to discover Iceland’s hidden gems?

And discover the delights away from the tourist trail?

Iceland is on everyone‘s bucket list. Although just because it‘s an easy country to visit, it doesn’t mean that you can guarantee an amazing holiday by simply jumping on a plane and booking a hotel. With such a diverse range of things to do and experience, you need the help of an experienced travel planner.

Iceland travel planner

I can expertly plan your holiday to Iceland. Not just because I‘m a local and I know the country like the back of my hand – but, because I’m a local who knows everyone worth knowing. I can take my clients to places that no guide book or website will ever show you.

Intrigued? Let me give you an example…

Some  people ask me if I can plan a trip to visit shark hunters in Snæfellsnes. This isn’t something many people know about or would feel comfortable booking directly themselves. The old farmers use ancient methods passed down through generations to preserve the shark meat. When you meet these extraordinary people, you not only get to listen to their amazing stories but your create memories of a lifetime. I have a unique overview of both the country and the people that make up its rich and vibrant culture. Because of this you’re guaranteed to discover many hidden gems that you didn’t even know existed.

Surreal landscapes, hidden gems

You want an example of another Icelandic secret?

I bet you didn’t know Iceland is famed for some really great ales. I can take you to a father and son brewing team in the North of the country who decided to one day start creating their own beers in the middle of nowhere. Following an accident at work, the father could no longer continue working as a fisherman so decided to follow his passion. Now their business has grown from strength to strength. In fact their ales are so popular they can´t even fulfill orders within the Icelandic market and have vowed to not distribute outside of the country.

So if you fancy sampling the best in Icelandic beer – you‘ll need me to take you there!

Grotta lighthouse, Seltjarnarnes, Iceland

Hidden gems and happy memories

These are just two examples of some hidden gems Iceland has to offer that you won‘t be able to find yourself. There are of course plenty of other places and experiences. From breathtaking scenery not accessible via normal roads to fun days out for the most adventurous among you.

I can work around you and your interests, your budget and your capabilities. I will ensure that your holiday of a lifetime in Iceland will really be one filled with plenty of happy memories. And hidden gems!

Contact us for a free consultation.

YOUR PLANNER – HELGASTINA

Hi. I’m Helga Kristin Fridjonsdottir.

Native to Iceland, I created Iceland Unwrapped so I could bring the magic of my country to the rest of the world.

As a lover of all things travel, my vision for Iceland Unwrapped was always about connecting people with my homeland. My aim for every one of my customers is to provide a personal, unforgettable and unique experience. I want you to keep Iceland in your heart forever.

Globe trotter

Even though I was born in Iceland, I have lived all over the world – Brazil, Austria, Denmark, Portugal and Holland. Firstly I began my career as a teacher in Iceland, then went on to study an M.A in Global studies and Project Management in Denmark. I’m fluent in Icelandic, English, Danish and Portuguese.

Based in The Netherlands

Delft, in The Netherlands, is now home which I share with my husband Mike and son Gabriel. I’m also in the process of learning Dutch.

Iceland travel planner

My interests and experience

International relations and human history have always been a passion of mine. My life is about networking, travelling and learning about new cultures and languages.

Creating Iceland Unwrapped meant combining my experiences in:

  • Project management
  • Leadership
  • Teaching
  • Online marketing
  • Connecting people
  • Travelling

Iceland travel planner

There are plenty of ways to visit this majestic country, but to really get to know Iceland and its hidden gems you need a personal planner. You need a local who understands the country and understands her customers.

What are your interests?

What activities, sights and experiences would really make your trip to Iceland go from fun to unforgettable? Get in touch and let’s have a chat. I can’t wait to meet you and show you the very best of my home country!

CONTACT ME TODAY

Want to read more about Iceland and all that it has to offer?

Here you can read the blogs by Iceland Unwrapped.