How to turn 28 in the middle of the Atlantic

Posted in:Foreign Exchange Department & People
Anna Spyzs sitting on a rock in Reykjavík, with the ocean in the background
Image: Anna Spysz

A few months before she turned 28, Anna Spysz, a Polish-American living in Krakow, noticed her birthday would fall on 10/10/10 — the 10th of October 2010. She decided she had to do something very interesting to celebrate.

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On 10-10-10 I turned 28 years old. Perhaps a shindig with more than 10 people? Nah, too much effort. How about a trip halfway around the world to an island I’ve always wanted to visit? And better yet, how about convincing my better half to fly halfway around the world in the other direction and meet me there? No problem!

And that’s how, starting in Krakow, Poland and after a pint-filled overnight layover in London, I found myself touching down in Reykjavik on October 9th, with only my digital SLR and a few changes of clothing to my name, and meeting Kevin, my partner in birthday celebrations and everything else, at the airport.


A Flickr slideshow with a few of the hundreds of photos Anna took on her trip to Iceland

We spent the first few days of our week-long adventure in Reykjavik, walking a lot — it’s good for that — admiring the graffiti (we’re both big fans) …

Graffiti on a wall in ReykjavíkWall of colorful graffiti in Reykjavík

… and nature (ditto).

Sculpture of a ship in Reykjavík harbor

On my birthday, the sun warmed the city enough to wander about in just a sweater, before coming home to warm up with wine and then hitting the town for “the best lobster soup on the planet” (as told to us by two very enthusiastic New Yorkers while queuing for hot dogs the night before) at a restaurant on a boat. It lived up to the hype.

The rest of our time in the city is a blur of taking photos and running around exploring the nightlife with newly-made Icelandic friends.

Perhaps this photograph will best illustrate how charming and odd Reykjavik is.

An unassuming backyard in Reykjavík at night, a few sheds and a beam of light in the background

This is the backyard that was the setting of an Icelandic documentary called The Backyard, in which the filmmaker gets his friends who play in various local bands to perform in, well, his backyard.

We caught the film one afternoon during Airwaves, and as we were walking back to our apartment straight from the cinema, I noticed the scenery suddenly looking familiar. A bit of inquisitive wandering into gardens and there it was: the backyard from The Backyard! Only in Reykjavík. (In Texas, where Kevin hails from, I’m pretty sure we would have gotten shot.)

When planning this trip, and taking into account that unfortunately neither Kevin nor I are millionaires or even close, I more or less counted on subsisting exclusively on hot dogs and hitchhiking to get anywhere. However, upon arriving, it turned out that while the recent financial crisis had been devastating for the Icelandic economy, it was great for us (sorry, Iceland).

Not only could we afford to share a lovely little apartment in central Reykjavik for a few days, it turned out that the price of a car rental was substantially less than I had assumed (one’s firstborn plus half a college tuition), so we decided to rent an economical little European motorcar so we could explore the island at our own pace. Our chariot:

A rental car in a barren Icelandic landscape

With Kevin at the wheel and myself in position as navigator/photographer extraordinaire, we set off for three days of adventure from Reykjavík to Vík that had us sleeping at a horse farm, riding said horses, driving up to a glacier, seeing more waterfalls in one day than I had in the past decade, and generally gawking in awe at the incredible natural richness the island has to offer (not to mention meeting some very nice people).

Of course, in this case more than ever, the pictures say so much more than words can.

Þingvallavatn, a lake in IcelandIcelandic poniesÞingvellir, the ancient site of the Icelandic ParliamentÞingvellir, the ancient site of the Icelandic ParliamentThe sandy beach at VíkGeothermal hot spots in Iceland

Anna Spysz is a 28 year old Polish-American living in Kracow, who visited Iceland in great company from 9 to 16 October 2010. But you knew that already. Apart from having an excellent taste when it comes to islands in the middle of the ocean, she is also a very talented writer, blogger, photographer and keyboardist. You should say halló to her on Twitter.

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