Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Icelandic Souvenirs

So during our epic trip to Scandinavia this summer, my younger son and I visited Iceland. We had spectacular weather, which no doubt contributed to the very positive experience we had there. It's a lovely country - expensive though - with absolutely amazing scenery. And of course, lots of sheep. And woolly sweaters. And very tasty lamb!

[leg of lamb ready for the BBQ on our last day in Iceland]

During our 6-day trek (the Laugavegur, which is quite famous), we saw quite a few semi-feral sheep on the hillls around us. The sheep are tagged - they aren't "wild", but left to run loose in the country. In September the farmers collect them all, in a sort of public roundup called Rettir, which naturally involves a lot of drinking!

The sheep we saw were usually in very small groups of 3-6, apparently a mother or two, her lamb(s) of the season, and a ram. They eat their way through the landscape. They were shy so I couldn't approach very closely. While there were white sheep present, not all were white - not by a long shot! Unlike in Canada, are no natural predators in Iceland. The biggest predator they have is the arctic fox, which can't down a full-grown healthy sheep.

[icelandic sheep in natural habitat]

[these were 2 days' walk from anywhere]

We visited an open-air museum, a sort of pioneer village affair where they had collected old houses and people in costume did traditional crafts. You know the type. They had sheep there too so we could get up close. These sheep struck me as smart, independent,  tough little "four-by-four" types. The ewe (below), was using her foot to pull the fencing down so she could get her head through. The ram - with 4 horns!! I didn't know Icelandic sheep could have 4 horns! - followed us around after we fed him apparently much tastier grass from our side of the fence. 

[icelandic ewe attempting escape]

[BFFs now that we have fed him]

Iceland has been experiencing a tourist boom since their currency crashed in 2008 (thanks to the global  financial crisis), although the prices have come back to eye-watering levels by now.  Like most of the tourists,  my son and I both bought sweaters - not the full-on traditional round-yoked ones - those are much too warm for Vancouver winters - but slightly lighter-weight ones in non-traditional patterns. There is so much choice in wool wear in Iceland! I found the prices reasonable, too - CD$175 or so for an excellent-quality 100% wool sweater is not bad. I mean, Norwegian Dale sweaters will cost you double that! The sweaters are very, very light and very warm. They aren't particularly soft but they are very fuzzy. Some of them come with a little bristle-brush to keep the fuzz looking nice. I've been wearing mine a lot, now that the fall rains are here.

I did not buy any knitting yarn, I didn't have much room in my backpack and I can get this stuff online (there's only a single yarn mill in Iceland, so it's all the same yarn) at reasonable prices. I do have some ideas in my head, inspired by the country!! Apparently, thanks to the offshore demand, there's a yarn shortage now!

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