The Great European Adventure

Iceland: First Impressions

My friend Grace and I arrived in Iceland around 11pm. After quickly getting our passports stamped and collecting our baggage, we headed out into the parking lot to meet the bus that would take us to our guesthouse in Reykjavik.


This is Grace, by the way. She’s been my travel buddy in Iceland.

Don’t be deceived by how sunny it is in that photo, Iceland is freezing. We knew summer had ended here, but, when we walked out of the airport, it felt like winter–a harsh change from just a few days earlier when I’d gone swimming at the beach in Rhode Island. After registering the cold, the second thing I noticed was that familiar ocean smell. Iceland is an island (as I hope you were already aware) and the airport is close to the coast, so the breeze was carrying that salty sea scent inland.

I turned to Grace and commented, “it’s just like home!” I think she rolled her eyes at me.

We made it safely to the Reykjavik bus station where our driver informed us that depending on which hotel we were going to, we should either stay on the large bus or switch to a smaller one. Unfortunately, when he read off the list of hotels we had no idea which one was ours. We were staying at Baldursbra Guesthouse, but weren’t sure how to pronounce it, so we just said the beginning of the word and trailed off.

“We’re staying at Baldurshbrahdgjk… Guesthouse?” Luckily the driver knew what we were talking about. It turns out it’s pronounced Bal-doors-brow.

Unsurprisingly, Icelandic is really difficult. All the street names on our maps blur together, and we can’t ask for directions because we can’t pronounce anything. Despite this, we’ve blended in well. On our first day sightseeing, within 15 minutes of walking out of our guesthouse, someone asked us for directions!

…It’s too bad we couldn’t help.

Emma Holliday is well-traveled. After 5 years in Boston, she and her husband upended their lives to move to Berlin where she is currently writing a (funny) book about travel and grief and attempting to learn German.

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