By Sarita Rajiv
It's time for another travel gift guide in my ‘a piece of a place’ series. After my Italian gift guide, this time I'm thrilled to share some ideas for gift and souvenirs from Iceland. Yes Iceland! I had the opportunity to explore a little bit of Iceland this summer with my family and some friends. It's not your typical tourist destination in Europe but it's absolutely beautiful and lived up to everything I had seen and read about it.
I found that lava or molten rock figures prominently in some of the Icelandic products. Being a country built on volcanic land, the Icelanders have made the most of natural resources at their disposal. They've taken solidified lava or molten rock and transformed it into things of beauty. So here goes part 1.
1. Nordic table cloth
You're probably thinking what's so special about Icelandic table cloth right? Well, the ones I chanced upon at the gift and souvenir store near the Gulfoss waterfalls had this distintive nordic print on them. Called Blóm lífsins or the Flower of Life, it’s a beautiful floral pattern common to Nordic visual art.
2. Black lava sea salt
The black lava sea salt isn't actually made of lava. It's flaky sea salt that's coloured with activated charcoal which acts as a natural detoxifier. The salt is made using a traditional Icelandic method and using geo-thermal energy, making it environment friendly to boot. This would be good pick for salads and for marinating meat and fish. A perfect gift for the food lover. Though not quite my taste, they even have a liquorice version!
3. Icelandic sweaters and blankets
The traditional icelandic sweater with its distinctive pattern is called lopapeysa. In fact, it's quite the fashion uniform among the Icelanders. The sweaters are made from yarn called lopi from the Icelandic sheep. The lopi wool is water resistant and light. The wool is also used to make blankets and throws. You can find the sweaters and blankets in several stores in Iceland. Price alert: It’s expensive and can cost in the range of $125-200 or € 100-170.
4. Lava stone jewellery
Here's another example of how enterprising Icelanders are when it comes to using the natural resources at their disposal. The lava stone jewellery is made out of black lava rock cut into beads. While the lava stone jewellery is made in Iceland, not all the beads are made out of real volcanic lava from Iceland. Some of them are imported. The way to identify authentic lava from Iceland is to look for two things: the shape and smoothness and if it’s encased in silver. If they're smooth and perfectly round, they're probably not Icelandic. Apparently Icelandic lava is too soft too be shaped into perfect, round beads. That's why they are encased in silver.
While lava stone jewellery would be a good Icelandic souvenir to carry back home or to gift someone, the jewellery being mainly geared towards tourists tends to be on the expensive side. What you can do is purchase just the beads and make your own set. The Litir og Föndur craft store in Skólavörðustígur is a good place to get some.
5. Troll story book
Trolls are classic Icelandic folklore and we found a couple of places in Rejkavik and Keflavik that had trolls for kids to see. Pretend trolls as they were, they packed quite a punch with their size and the strange accompanying sounds. My daughter couldn't quite believe that they weren't real and was quick to scurry off after the initial peek. But troll stories? Now that was more than welcome. Instead of picking a troll key chain or a troll figurine for my daughter, we picked up a book called Trolls by Brian Pilkington. It's got interesting facts combined with Icelandic folklore and is quite funny in places.
That was the first five of gifts and souvenirs from Iceland. Catch the remaining five in part 2 of my Icelandic guide next week!
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