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Dear Kay,

It’s not that I didn’t have any knitting with me—I mean, I had my official Wanderlust TravelPakTM stoked up with 1.25 pair of socks, my Field Guide No. 11 to take into the literal field with me, spare skeins at the ready like spare tires strapped to the back of a SuperJeep.

I knit four rows in the Newark airport, and that was it. It was the longest I’ve gone without knitting since the Great Drought of 2014.

It felt kind of great, to tell you the truth.

Hubbo, the lads, and I headed out to Iceland for a ramble. Up top is a bunch of scenery. It is a dazzling place, Iceland. More than 130 volcanoes underneath, glaciers above. You think a lot about gravity, inexorability, the puniness of humans, and what it takes to survive in a place like this. We heard a lot about sagas, and elves, and the legendary trolls.

One thing was clear: a sense of humor carries Icelanders through a lot of stuff. This was maybe the best takeaway of our trip. A good joke will take the edge off just about anything.

Settle back with some knitting and enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of a very special place.

Parade of Home

This place, the Commonwealth House, is a reconstruction of a superfancy turf house circa way back when. Game of Thrones was reportedly filmed here. (There is no square foot of Iceland where Game of Thrones did not film.)

This would have been a palatial set up, back in the day.

Weaving—back when weaving was weaving.

Celebrating Human Ingenuity, Part I

An excursion to the Shark Museum resulted in a tutorial in how to make shark into fermented shark. Hint: all you need is a pile of shark, a wooden crate, somewhere to bury it for months, a drying shed to let it dangle in the wind for some more months, and the strongest possible stomach.

Pro tip: if you surround your morsel with six pieces of rye bread, it goes down real good. Until you remember the fermented shark part.

Season’s Greetings from the Shaynes!

Also in the Shark Museum: a knitting machine.

Also: a stuffed puffin.

Lava Field?

There are so many lava fields that you start to think it’s weird when there’s not a lava field.

Celebrating Human Curiosity

David and I went for a boat ride to see icebergs in a glacier lagoon. Here you see us both acting like we’re not pegging the meter on flotation suit claustrophobia.

Later, we confessed that we were both seconds away from clawing our way out of these things and diving overboard.

Icebergs apparently roll over a lot. In a rubber-raft-wipeout kind of way. Pro tip: when you fall out of a rubber raft, you’re not supposed to grab your two friends.

Breakfast of Champions

We were told the food in Iceland is spotty. I was all: anything after fermented shark is going to look pretty great.

Food Photography by David Shayne. Used by permission. Yes he ate this.

Celebrating Human Ingenuity, Part II

Clif now has a lifetime supply of album covers for his future music career.

Lopapeysas Spotted in the Wild

You couldn’t fling a fermented shark without hitting a lopi sweater.

I really loved seeing jillions of them.

The Melting

It is sobering to see what is happening to the glaciers in Iceland. The one behind us is greatly diminished in a matter of a decade or so, global warming really taking a toll.

Adorable Statue of Icelandic Hero

This is Snorri, who was the kind of guy I would have totally fallen for back in the medieval Icelandic day.

Portal to the Center of the Earth?

Here’s a former geyser/dormant geyser/wormhole to a new dimension? We stared at this thing for a long time.

More Album Cover Options

The Black Church at Budir.

Langjökull. (Icelandic for “long glacier.”)

This tube led into a manmade tunnel inside the glacier. Confidence inspiring! Recurring thought during our hour under 100 feet of glacier dripping onto us as we wandered the slushy, dim path through pure ice: is it dripping in here in a festive way or a collapsing way?

The view from our room one night. I found this weirdly comforting. They could bury me here, and I’d be fine with that.

The Library of Water: an installation with tubes of water from Iceland’s many glaciers.

How Our Guide Kept Us In Line

Flosi was our guide—a brilliant driver, patient with the peculiar Shayne ways, very funny and game to pivot the conversation from Icelandic currency fluctuations to hardcore volcanology. He definitely didn’t think we were weird, at all.

Hard to get back on the plane home. But, needless to say, I cast on a new project within four hours of landing. It was like I’d just invented knitting or something. The most fun thing ever!




  • Love, in travelogue form !

  • Loved this entry!

  • Dear Ann

    I thank you so much for your Iclandic experience…I’m so in love with this place and you were lucky to visit the water library. It was closed when we were there :-o. That’s when you travel in the more silent times. Island brings me back to myself when times are crazy as they sometimes are…I was already twice there and I know it wasn’t the last time for sure. And I knitted there in the evenings and also brought some wool for a nice shawl…And there will be a day I try to knit one of these Icelandic pullovers…

    Thank you – and all the best for you – Andrea

    • Andrea, knit the sweater! They are surprisingly easy.

  • You are a beautiful family. Thank you for this fun travelogue. Those Lopi sweaters take me back to the 70s when Icelandair let you out of the plane for an hour at the airport where they hoped you would spend a ton of money at their gift shop. I remember mainly the sweaters, maybe some dried shark, and just how clean everything looked.

    • I did my layover in ’70.

      • My layover was in 1977. My first plane trip. Keflavik looked very different when I returned in 2012.

        • I did that flight in 1976. Then tiny Luxembourg, then Paris x train. My first air flight too.

      • ’67 — with the Wright brothers.

      • $250 round trip NYC to Luxembourg, roundtrip.
        Just got an email – $199 one way Chicago or DC to Iceland. Haven’t read the specifics. Still an incredible bargain. Also non-stop specials from Boston, Minneapolis, Denver, Seattle, San Fran. Everyone must go. Take some yarn, buy some yarn.

    • Yes! Cheap flight to Luxembourg via Iceland. Still have the sweater from 1979.
      Have been wanting to go back since.

      • The airport was a Quonset hut. Ah yes! Cheap flights to Europe! Those were the days.

  • Always wanted to go back and see the rest of the country, which in a way I did through you. (Sorry, realized I hadn’t completed my thought:-).)

  • Visited Iceland in 2017 accompanied by our 14 year old granddaughter. Drove around the entire island. Will always hold a very special place in my heart… It’s beautiful; it’s primal. Although now 75, I hope to go back. Oh, and some of the best food (other than shark) I’ve ever eaten was served in Iceland – but terribly expensive for sure!!! Loved your travelog… More please!

  • I loved your commentary. My brother went to Iceland about 10 years ago and his photos were just stunning, showing the land as yours. Both of my children who’ve been within the past 2 years and I was the recipient of lovey Lopi yarn. My daughter and fiancé are heading back for their honeymoon in November! Iceland is on my list to visit and seeing your adventure makes me want to move it up, but I want to knit that lopi sweater to take with me. Thanks for sharing. Emily

  • Check out the “Trapped” series on Amazon Prime. An Icelandic crime drama that rivals “Shetland”.

    • Christine, I was thinking the same thing…we’ve just started season 2…such an interesting language and the story is pretty good.

  • Thank you for this. Fantastic photos and funny commentary.
    Hope to be able to knit well enough to do a MDK KAL one day!

  • Seat Eject?? Icelandic joke or did they know you were coming?

  • Hi Ann … this so brought back such happy Icelanduc memories, amazing facinating place, thank you … right up until the nasty fermented shark. Happy knitting!

    • “Pro Tip: when you fall out of the boat, don’t grab your two friends!” Haven’t guffawed in quite a while, but did after reading this! Love the way you write! Now I’m bugging my hubby to take me!

  • Great pictures and commentary! Cherish these family vacations, as they get harder and harder to organize as the young ones get older.

  • Love this! Now on my Bucket List! Gorgeous photographs…

  • Hi Anne, I honestly apologize it I misspelled your name. I will have to click out of this note to double check. Seeing you survived/enjoyed your trip to Iceland , I think you can pardon my misspelling if that’s the case. I did the family trip to I Iceland/Reykjavik a couple years back. It was nice, flight easy pleasant the rest was day to day. My husband will be envious of some of things he missed. He is a trip planner, TripleA , itinerary junkie.. We did a lot of the things you did as well. The only thing I didn’t see was the Blue Lagoon Spa.. You truly lucked out. Yes it was pretty etc… No I didnt to enjoy it. Too many people , too much warm h2o, all I kept thinking “ is my tetanus up to date? I ended up with a awful rash … I did go to the Lopi store, did knit some. I’m so glad you had a lovely time with your gents. After all, it’s whats important & all about. Too bad the cat couldn’t go .Happy knitting welcome home

  • Wonderful photos! I hope now you will read Snorri’s book.

    • and, when you finish Snorri’s book, I hope you will find time for “Independent People”. I purchased that book at the Reykjavik airport when we arrive in Iceland the first time, reading in mostly in tents as we camped across the island. It remains my favorite novel of all time. It’s incomprehensible, probably, to anyone who has not been in Iceland and met the people.

    • I haven’t checked, but I’m pretty sure Snorri is the guy who pulled together the Edda – Icelandic tales and myths.

    • Yes, What’s the name of his book?

      • Found it: “Prose Edda”. A compilation of Icelandic/ Nordic myths. There’s a free version for Kindle. There’s also Poetic Edda, much older.

    • What is Snorri’s book? (Preparing to go to Iceland in 3 weeks.)

  • Beautiful pictures and great commentary

  • Wonderful! I wish we had gone 10 years ago when it was uncrowded and cheap… that didn’t last long, though!

    But why didn’t you knit in the evening, after all your lava and glaciers?

  • Great travelogue!!
    I was a bit worried when I saw “seat eject” in the car photo!! Were you in a James Bond movie!!!!???

    • Wow amazing trip! With so much to see and do I wouldn’t have even missed knitting at all (until I saw the Lopi sweaters)!

  • I just returned from a holiday in Iceland and left via Newark. I knitted a few stitches and then boarded the plane. There was so much to do and see that I didn’t knit for 10 days. My trip basically mirrored yours. I did get a chance to see the first Mini wool Mill of Iceland called Uppspuni. Had a great tour and bought lots of yarn to make my own Lopi sweaters.

  • I have been checking the weather in Iceland for the last couple of weeks as two friends of mine have been there on a ten day walking tour. It certainly has been very wet, so pleased to see some blue sky in your pics. I did advise them to leave space in their luggage to be able to bring home a Lopi sweater or two.
    Now I’m looking forward to seeing their photos and hearing if they had as much fun as you guys and if they ate any fermented shark! Thanks for sharing

  • Wow to all of this – what an adventure! (And those Lopapeysas!)

  • Thanks for interesting photos and trip description – must have been quite an adventure.

  • Where was the hotel with the beautiful view of churches and cemetery?

    • That was Fosshotel Reykholt, really lovely because it’s adjacent to the home site of my beloved Icelandic hero Crush Snorri. They even found his hot spring hot tub from 1200 or so, so you can see exactly where this brilliant man would chill out.

      • Did you run into any of Pall Gudmonsson’s art in the Reykholt area? He’s actually in Husafell on the way to Into the Glacier from Reykholt.

    • Lovely travel post! We went s couple of years ago and I only knit a hat. The scenery from the car kept me so riveted that I only got any knitting done in the evening. As soon as we got home I dipped I to my new souvenir yarn and knit a lopi.

  • Thanks for the pictures and great story! So glad you had such a special time! It’s an unforgettable place.

  • Love the comment about your guide’s ability to pivot from currency fluctuations to volcanology. The joys of traveling with Merle Hazard! Hope he’s working on a commemorative song!

    • I actually thought they had hired a guide and was looking through the comments to see if anyone else asked Ann for the reference! Iceland is on my bucket list!

  • Thank you for the gorgeous photos, your humor and sharing family weirdness.

  • I went last year. I did knit while there and had a wool adventure, which included driving myself to the far and a couple of yarn related locations. Will go back at the first opportunity with more adventures in mind. Love this beautiful land of fire and ice.

    • Farm not far

  • Thanks so much for the travelogue and pictures! I spent sometime in Iceland (and Greenland!) a few years ago and absolutely loved it. Geology! Volcanoes! Did not eat fermented shark, though.

  • Love your knitted hat, accessory to the floatation suit!

  • “Lifetime of album covers” made me laugh out loud which caused my own son to say “there she goes again.”

  • Budir! Love it so much. If you ate there, you could not possibly call Icelandic food spotty. Some of the best food ever. My husband had business there; went monthly for 5 yrs. I got to go with 8 times. Recharged there. The entire island must be a vortex. Miss it so. Your photos grabbed my heart.

  • We’ll be in Iceland at the end of August on a 2-night stopover on our way to Norway. Probably will just be in Rejkyavik (how the heck do you spell that?). Any comments on city life and what to do in that-city-I-can’t-spell?

    • It would be a shame not to get out of Reykjavik, and you can see a lot in one day. Reykjavik is charming but it’s small. You will orient yourselves there instantly.

    • Icelandair has day tours you can arrange, so you can get into the countryside. I believe the Golden Circle Tours get you to most of the main sites/sights. Check them out on the Icelandair website.

    • I really enjoyed the Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum and the Hólavallagarður cemetery.

  • I sent this to my daughter (not a knitter) because your writing is hilarious. Congrats on surviving in style!

  • I love everything about this post!

  • It looks like a wonderful trip, but your travelogue omitted some important details: How many Icelandic sheep and lopi sweaters followed you home? What did Foodlady get for Kermit?

    • Ann, please tell us that you brought back some fermented shark for Kermit.

  • What an interesting place…..deb

  • Your pictures are magnificent, your words are stunning and you are hysterical!

  • First time commenting, but I just loved this post. Ironically someone today asked – ‘Quick – If money were no object where would you travel?’ Without thinking I said Iceland. I’m not sure why. I just returned from a visit to Finland? This was amusing and amazing. (I loved the hat you were wearing). And I hate to be cold, but Iceland? Fascinating!

  • Loved your green hat pattern. ( Oh, and the icelandic tour, of course!)

  • wow…that’s all, just wow!

  • Oh, My!! I love your writing! So funny and yet, at the same time, so informative. Thanks for sharing your amazing family journey. And thanks to your good-looking family for being good sports as well! xoxo

  • Ann, such an enjoyable and comprehensive album of your trip! I especially love seeing the four of you together. Also, your knit hat is a particularly lovely one, with a beautiful pattern and soft color.

  • I’ve become quite fascinated by icebergs and have painted a few – from photographs on the twitter account that tracks the icebergs passing along the Canadian coastline. I like to think someday I’ll get close to one, and was imagining doing it in a kayak…hadn’t heard about that rolling thing.
    “you’re not supposed to grab your two friends”??
    *hurriedly checking Iceberg Kayak Daydream Journal notes. Adding “NOT”*

  • Thanks for the tour! I kept thinking how great to be weraing that wool sweater (and sometimes a hat) in July!!

  • I just returned from Iceland Thursday night. Similar experiences except my fermented shark was soaked in schnapps first. It did not help. Beautiful beautiful country. One of my favorite anecdotes: police do not carry guns. There is a locked box with a gun in every police car. For the police to use it, they must call in and get the code to open box. Usually the only time this happens is when a sheep is hit by a car and they need to put it down. A peaceful place.

  • What a wonderful adventure you shared with family. Thank you for sharing we us as well. Priceless

  • We are going to Iceland next Sunday, my 4th trip, husband’s sixth. I think all the woman knit in Iceland in restaurants, on the bus, in cafes, and bars. I do too!

  • Enjoyed your travelogue! I don’t know why but I started watching Icelandic shows on Netflix last year (summertime heat relief?). Anyway, started with Lava field, then went on to the movie Rams (lots of sheep & sweaters & turmoil) then to both seasons of Trapped. Then on to Amazon Prime for Cruelty & Fortitude (all seasons). My husband started watching these with me, now I’m knitting him a Lopapeysa (too itchy for me). Now I’ve never been to Iceland but I feel like I have with all these shows & they sure don’t display any kind of sense of humor that I’ve picked up on (dry, wry or otherwise). Maybe I’m getting a skewed impression from these shows but they all have a dark, depressed outlook. If this is the wrong impression, then maybe someone should suggest that they start importing some series representative of a different humor?

    • Check out Woman at War for more Iceland culture. Well done, funny.

      I also have my sweater from my Luxembourg layover from ’85! I bought 2 kits too and made a sweater for my dad and my boyfriend at the time. Yeah, Boyfriend Sweater Curse. Broke up shortly after. Foolishly, didn’t get that sweater back.

      Fast forward to present. Heading there soon (yeehaw) with hubby and two knitting pals. I’m literally working on what knitting to pack right now.

      We booked a self-drive tour through Iceland Unlimited. Can’t wait to meet our organizer. She’s been fantastic! We’re going to Westmann Islands. Super excited!

      Thanks for this story and pictures!

      • Good memories in reading this! Waited for a joke – none, so will tell you my favorite:
        What should you do if you get lost in an Icelandic forest?
        Answer: Just stand up. (No trees are over about 3-4″ tall.)
        Do they still put out the bottle of cod-liver oil on the breakfast buffet table? Everyone was encouraged to have a spoonful with breakfast for good health. I did that for old memory of such from my own childhood.

  • Do you know Olafur Arnalds’ Island Songs album!? Each piece inspired by an Icelandic city…

  • I felt as if I had a short visit to Iceland. Looks lovely.

  • Iceland is on my bucket list, so many places I want to see!!

  • I just read this in the ATL airport on the way home from Shakerag. What fun. My daughter and I drove Ring Road in 2015. We too visited the Commonwealth House. What I remember the guide saying was that the woman weaver would walk about 30 miles going back and forth in front of the loom. Whew! Glad knitting doesn’t require that mileage!

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