Stepping into Keflavik International Airport, it was instantly clear that we were far from home. Gone were the grumpy TSA officials. Gone were the blaring television sets suspended from every corner of the airport. Our first priority was to find toilets. We followed the signs down an elegant flight of wooden stairs and rushed into the ladies WC. My friend and I uttered a duet of OHhhhs. This public rest room looked clean enough to double as a surgical unit. What we call stalls in the US were true individual bathrooms here, complete with a sink right beside the toilet all with the privacy provided by a floor-to-ceiling door.
Next line of business was the duty-free shop. We’d been warned that liquor is expensive in Iceland. It turns out that there are several duty-free shops at Keflavik, however tourists coming into the country can only buy from one of these shops. Our journey-weary legs limbered as we hiked up and down a confusing array of stairs trying to locate the appropriate shop. At 7:30 in the morning, we were outnumbered by the three store employees who eagerly answered questions about the exchange rate and wine selections. I limited out, purchasing four bottles for my ten-day stay. I paid less than $45 for my bottles; three of the four were typical low-end, grocery store grade wines. The fourth, however, I fell deeply in love with. When I got back to the states I discovered it’s an $18 bottle, if you can find it here.Did I mention there are only about 350,000 people calling Iceland home? And yet, they support both an international airport as well as a domestic airport. They even have their own airline, Icelandair, which we found punctual, relatively comfortable, and liberal with free wine and beer—although meals are not included and purchasing them on board is pricey, so its recommended that you purchase your meal in the airport and carry it on board. Honestly, I’ not sure you save all that much in this process.
Did I say the airport is spotless? It is. It is also comfortable—with coffee shops that serve food on real plates with real cutlery. There are also comfortable easy chairs, grouped into sitting areas as well as lined up along wall outlets that provide charging stations for electronic gadgets.However, we were eager to go exploring so we passed up the airport coffee shops this time around. We located our bags, stacked neatly beside the now-empty carousel. Gee, where’d everybody go? We seemed to be the only people left in the airport who were not employees.