Korea, Random Rambles
Comments 7

Iceland Calling

Ha! Hope that got your attention!

I was going to do a nice sunshiny post this time to reward readers who stuck with me through that sorry — and rather chilly — Jeju saga. I’ve done 16 hikes or prolonged rambles (the lines are blurring) in my five weeks in Korea and I’ve only been bone-chillingly, pre-gangrenously cold on a couple of them, so I have a lot of more temperate tales to choose from and a lot of catching up to do. But I’m being spontaneous here, tonight, sitting on my heated floor in my lovely little apartment, thinking about Iceland.

Yes, Iceland. I’ve never been to the place, and given my recently documented aversion to extreme cold, you might think me mad for even contemplating going there. Well, there are five or six countries higher on my list, but it’s there. It just appeals: the fabulous remoteness of the place, the volcanoes, the Viking history, the sound of the language and the place names. And I love that old “Iceland is green and Greenland is white” paradox. Maybe one summer — and I won’t be packing a tarp…

Here’s what got me started on Iceland tonight. It’s not exactly new, but I haven’t been hip for approximately 24 years. This was filmed in Iceland and premiered on the National Geographic channel. Even with all that, er…ice, it makes me want to put on some appropriate footwear and a nice wooly jumper, grab a handy stick and get walking.

Bon Iver is a favourite of mine. Nearly everyone knows the story (legend?) of the creation of his “perfect break-up record” (Rolling Stone), For Emma, Forever Ago. I’m drawn more and more to music that evokes the outdoors in a gentle, haunting way, and that one got to me almost immediately. I suppose this is where we ageing punks in hiking boots end up if we’re not careful.

Those ethereal, intimate vocals were in my head a lot in 2010 as my little group pushed through the High Sierra. God only knows what some of those lyrics were about — it didn’t really matter. It was the perfect soundtrack to the isolation and terrifying beauty of those snow-blanketed peaks and icy lakes, and made me think of my girlfriend of the time as I trudged, wearily and/or fearfully over the umpteenth high pass, Justin Vernon’s gentle anguish washing through my head via the iPod…

Anyway, this song is off the eponymous (always wanted to use that word) follow-up LP, and if you haven’t seen this clip, you’re in for a treat. Nothing flashy, but beautifully shot — it could almost be an ad for Icelandic Tourism — and it moves wonderfully between the intimate and the grand, with nice creative use of focus. And that house!

But son, that ain’t no way to treat a nice jumper…

Bon Iver: ‘Holocene’:

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote


  1. Exquisite music and video. I’ve wanted to go to Iceland ever since I first read the Iceland chapter in Chris Townsend’s first book ‘The Great Backpacking Adventure’.

    All punks age into old romantics in the end!

    • It’s true, there’s something inherently romantic and passionate behind the gruff exterior of punk. One thing I’ve noticed also is that punks get back into vinyl and rootsy Americana as they get on… The search for authenticity, I suppose.

      Must read that Townsend book. What a lucky bloke, making his living out of adventuring and backpacking.

  2. Just learned that Bon Iver means “Have a good winter.” Music that invokes the outdoors. Yes indeed. When I was a girl, I used to walk for hours, alone except for our family’s dog, in the coast hills south of San Francisco. That video brought back what that felt like. Iceland looks like a good place to be walking when there is no snow on the ground! Imagine all those hours of sunlight!

    • Yes, I love that kid! He also reminds me of myself when I was about that age. I was drowning in nostalgia watching it (five times so far). The freedom to amble and think about the world at your leisure…

      If I remember the story, the singer saw some French-speaking characters in an episode of ‘Northern Exposure’ who wished each other “Bon Hiver”, which is of course pronounced without the “I”.

      When I’m rich I might build a summer house in Iceland…

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