Iceland – our run at Dynjandi

We made a run at the Dynjandi waterfall this afternoon. I picked Kaety up from her last conference session and we ventured into the long single lane tunnel towards the waterfall. It was supposedly only 24 miles away, but the torrential rain, and poor visibility made the journey much longer. The weather was shifting radically every five minutes. Rays of sun would punch down on the landscape and highlight a patch of color in the grey. At one point the sun was behind a bank of clouds making the sky a freaky blue black color. The little farm houses dotting the sweeping landscape gave us an epic perspective on just how huge the mountains were around us. At one point we dropped down into a fjord and a small town and its net pens were spotlighted in the sun. Overlooking the town were some slightly goofy looking norse god totems.

When we found the turn-off to the waterfall we realized that we’d never make it. We had 26 more miles of snow covered gravel road ahead of us to navigate in our roller-skate…nope!


Iceland – Cod drying houses

As I drove from town to little town I noticed these cod drying houses. Some communities had many locked drying houses scattered all over the hillsides, and other communities had large open structures that look almost like range fencing for drying. I’m sure there’s a story…


Iceland – The shared bathroom in the GentleSpace

Isafjordur is a small enough town that when Kaety went to book a room for the conference everything in the traditional hotel realm was full…so we found a room in one of two boarding houses. Our boarding house was called The GentleSpace, which for some reason cracked us up, “Kaety, the GentleSpace doesn’t like dirty clothes on the floor”.

The 4 rooms shared a common bathroom. It was a pretty rockin bathroom with heated floors and enough space to host a yoga workshop, but neither of us fully appreciated how complicated a shared bath could be.

When we arrived we got a detailed bathroom orientation from the owner. After our 9 hour drive I didn’t hear a word she said. I did notice all the slightly shaming signage urging you in ambiguous terms to ‘speed things up’. I wondered absently how competitively I’d fair in the common bathroom race and what the measure for success exactly was.

The most troublesome aspect of the common bath was trying to figure out if it was available. There was no place to hang out and wait that wasn’t weird.

We took to making our run at the bathroom a group activity. It would start in our room – one of us mentioning that going to the bathroom might be in the future. Then we’d lay in the bed until the need became urgent. It reminded me of camping where getting dressed and going out into the cold was so odious you would risk kidney damage.

Once one of us decided – a multi step prep began. Getting dressed to socially acceptable limits had to happen, then navigating a complicated skeleton key lock on the room door, then creeping down the hall and peering into the bathroom to see if it was occupied. The peering became part of the process after being surprised several times by the owner standing silently in the dark bathroom doing…something.

When all the bathrooming was completed we’d reverse the process.

Last night Kaety announced during one of many such forays, “Ok, I’m really OVER the shared bathroom thing now!”

I looked up from wondering if laying on the bathroom’s heated floor would be weird and said, “Kaety, the GentleSpace doesn’t like loud voices”

Iceland – More Tjöruhúsið

We tried to go somewhere else, but when you are convinced you’ve had one of your top 5 best food experiences in your life, you pretty much go back for more. We plopped down at Tjöruhúsið (AKA “The fish Resturaunt”) and awaited another culinary delight. The menu was completely different – Spotted catfish (ocean going), salt cod, and blue ling were new dishes that blew us away.

Mid way through the meal two older British guys behind us struck up a conversation that started with, “Exactly what does the north remember?”. They ended up moving themselves and their wine to our table and we talked and talked until the staff started putting on their coats. We enjoyed them immensely – Two long lives full of a lot of perspective, adventure and love!


Iceland – Visual literacy

I’m a big fan of visual literacy. During my life as a designer I must have made hundreds of unique icons all built to describe complicated processes at a glance. My icons didn’t always translate to all markets, especially overseas markets. I remember getting all offended when I got the critique that my icon for ‘print’ that had been applied to some F-key wasn’t playing well in Spain. Well…after a few of those I started really diving in and paying attention to international symbology that seemed to work in every situation. There aren’t a lot of these. So much of our cultural visual literacy is built from local experiences and local contexts…and just like language and reading, we teach our kids how to read symbols as well.

I love traveling and running across a high level informational symbol that I can’t figure out.

Corinthian columns with roofs?


Iceland – Signs of warning

I love these digital signs. They sit at the entrance to any road where the weather might kill you.

I like the heads-up that I’m about to casually drive into a possible shit show and I like that it gives a driver a way to factor your own odds rather than just saying, “No”.

Temp and wind speed information are transmitted from a little weather station at the point of greatest danger to the sign. The trouble spots seem to be at every mountain pass and at every finger tip of a fjord.

Yesterday I explored the road out of Isafjordur and hit one of these signs. 1 degree and a wind of 7. I assumed 7 was expressed in kilometers per hour, but after thinking about it wasn’t sure if maybe it wasn’t knots. Either way the math bored me after a few minutes and I drove on to discover to numerically expressed weather for myself. The signs have another box that I haven’t seen lit up with information. Without a label or any clues I can only assume that when weather gets bad it lights up with some percentage sign forecasting your survival rate.

The roads around the fjords are built pretty much at sea level with not much more than a few boulders keeping the sea back. If the winds were to pick up waves from the arctic sea would be breaking in the road. I noted that a wind speed of 7 meant that the road and the ocean were not in a mingling state.iceland-4640

Iceland – Isafjodur and the Westfjords

While Kaety was discovering that it will be GIS scientists that will save the world I spent time poking around Isafjodur.

It’s one of the largest towns on the northern side of Iceland, and it’s about the size of Depoe Bay. It looks like it was once a large fishing town that is going through a transition as its local fisheries change.

Net pens for aquaculture dot the mouths of the fjords to the east and west of Isafjordur and the tenders and processing plants are positioned just north of town.

Traditional trawl fisheries are also present but you can sense that the energy has gone elsewhere. One troubling thing we learned is that while Iceland fisheries implemented catch shares and have a quota system, they did not put accumulation limits in place. Eventually the large processors bought up the smaller guy’s quota – small towns like Isafjodur have very few independent vessel operators left. All over the hillsides are old drying houses for fish – very few of them look to be still in use.