Going to a foreign country always seems to be a challenge in some way, whether it is a new language, new cuisine, new geography, or even new driving rules! However, all seems forgiven once you meet up with a true native who cares about people in general. Please allow me to share…
My husband and I were joined by two good friends on a trip to Iceland before it became the happening place it is today. We had many challenges to overcome because of the fact we went in the dead of winter, which meant research of their weather and the ensuing appropriate clothing, which, in turn, led to extra baggage and weight, which, again, led to renting a large enough car to hold us all AND our luggage! After two car rentals we finally were able to head out to our hotel in downtown Reykjavik IF we girls held our luggage on our laps in the back seat.
We were pleased with our hotel and spent the first two days walking the city (it is a walking city) discovering both historic museums and wax museums to city water towers used also as a Convention Center to modern Music Centers. As serendipitous as travel may often be, we even happened to be there on “Woman’s Day” when ALL women are honored. My female fellow traveler and I happened to be in a flower shop when a man breezed through and gave each woman he saw a long-stemmed tulip. He cared nothing for the fact we were strangers to his land. Needless to say, both she and I coveted our tulips the rest of our days there in Reykjavik, having put them in an empty plastic bottles on our window sills.
However, we encountered our first challenge the moment we arrived: There is very little parking in the city of Reykjavik. Had we missed the fine print somewhere? Hmmm. What to do with a rental car? Get up early and move it quite often! We needed that car to get out of town and see the many sights we’d read about in our research, but now we knew why the rental cars were mostly of the small variety.
It was on our third day we attempted to venture out of the city. Believe it or not, accomplishing this became a major challenge. Unbeknownst to us at the time, the reason for this became two-fold: The main city streets and the major highway roads were often labeled with the same numbers, something I can’t understand to this day. After literally driving past the same boat marinas, water towers, restaurants, houses, etc. for an hour in what seemed like circles, the guys finally gave up and went into a gas station to (yes) ask for directions. AGAIN, serendipity befriended us, as there were two Icelanders in the station talking with the owner. Our men waited for a break in the conversation and then asked the owner how the heck one gets out of Reykjavik. He showed them on the map and also explained the duplicate numbers the best way he could. The two men listening looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders, adding, “Hey. We’re going that way. Just follow us!”. We then also figured out why they were selling T-shirts in the local tourist shops with “Lost in Iceland” printed on them.
An hour and a half later, over the mountains and past the sea, the Icelanders we were following finally turned on their left turn indicator. They turned and pulled off to the side of the road. We followed as we wanted to thank them greatly! They came over to our car and told us to continue on up the road for about a half hour and we would see signs in English for the geyser we were interested in experiencing. In thanking them, I noticed my friend studying their faces. She finally added, “You look like a Viking!” To which one of our guides replied proudly in a very loud voice, “I AM a Viking!”! (Apparently, she was a Viking, too, in some past life).
So. Without the help of these two kind men, we would probably to this day still be circling Reykjavik, be it spring, summer, fall, or another winter. Their helpfulness was so greatly appreciated. After that day, we had no trouble figuring out the layout of Reykjavik and its outskirts. I personally was hoping for a Man’s Day in Reykjavik after this. My friend and I would have had the perfect gift to give them, fresh from the window sills in our rooms, beloved as they were.