Sometimes it’s a drag not having a car.
Oh, I’m not denying that there’s a lot to be said for the auto-less lifestyle. Walking is cheap and healthy and doesn’t muck up the environment. You have a chance to spend more time really looking at the landscape, experiencing the things you might otherwise have missed: the musical gurgle of a tiny waterfall set back from the road, the intricate complexity of a bird’s nest nestled in the trees. Reykjavik isn’t a terribly large city, but it’s not terribly crowded, either. With only about 120,000 residents, Europe’s northernmost capital has a lot of open spaces to explore on foot
On the other hand, getting groceries is almost infinitely easier with a car. My knees make alarming noises sometimes and there’s a spot between my T4 and T5 vertebrae that reminds me of its existence when I schlepp a few bags of food and household supplies home from the market. Still, as my Marine friends used to tell me, pain is just weakness leaving the body (and as my Air Force colleagues usually followed up, being replaced by clichés).
For me, the deciding factor is time. Even though Reykjavik isn’t huge, there aren’t enough hours in the day to explore everything I want to see on foot. Once classes start, time will become even more a constraint. I still plan to hike to and from the university, but if I need to run errands, I need to conserve time when doing it. So – I need a car.
I started tracking the prices and availability of used cars in Iceland before I arrived, using a handy website (www.bilasolur.is) that aggregates the holdings of dozens of dealerships throughout the country. I didn’t expect any of the cars I was looking at would still be for sale when I arrived, but it gave me a sense for what to expect in terms of availability and cost. It really is a great resource.
One thing that’s less than perfectly clear, though: just because a car is listed as being “at site” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s actually on the dealer’s premises. Sometimes, the dealer acts as a broker for a private owner, who may still have the car in his possession, but will bring it in to the dealership when asked. Sometimes, the owner takes the car off the lot without mentioning it to the dealer.
That was the case with two of the cars I wanted to see on Friday and unfortunately neither owner was answering calls that day … so I’m still exploring Iceland on foot. I haven’t given up though: it’s only a matter of time.
Main photo: Reykjavik sunset, 11:15 pm July 4th 2015.