The sun was slowly creeping above the horizon as my friends and I walked out of the Reykjavik bus station into the chilly summer air. It was around 3 a.m., and tired as we were, it was nice to hear a friendly voice as we ventured out into this foreign land.
The welcome had come from a lone young man leaning against the wall of the bus station with a cigarette in hand. “Where are you headed?!” he asked excitedly as he took a puff of his cigarette.
“We’re going into town to pick up some things before we leave for our hike,” I answered matter-of-factly.
“Ohhh, you’re going into the city?” he said half amused and half concerned. “Watch out for the drunk people! There are lots of drunk people!” He grinned and staggered as he struggled to hold himself up against the wall. Smiling, we thanked him for his warning.
My friends and I laughed to one another about the encounter as we walked away. We had heard that the Icelandic locals were exceedingly friendly, and our first encounter certainly seemed to confirm this stereotype. We also knew that Reykjavik was famous for its party scene, but by the time we got into town it would be nearly 4 am. How crazy could it be?
No more than two minutes later a small SUV pulls up next to us on the road.
“Hey! What’s in your bags?” There were five young men crammed into the vehicle. The surprisingly friendly voice came from the man in the passenger’s seat while the others looked on in anticipation.
“Camping equipment,” my friend responded as we continued walking.
“Oh,” the man responded before adding, “are you sure you don’t have anything useful in there? Like money or jewelry?”
My pulse quickened and we picked up our pace. “Nope,” I replied trying to sound confident, “just camping equipment and food.” The SUV continued creeping along beside us, and I slowly reached down to my waist pocket to feel for the outline of my knife.
“It would be better for you to tell us now if you have any money in there than for us to find out ourselves,” one of the men in the backseat chimed in. We insisted that our big bags had little of value in them as we clenched our fists around the straps preparing to run or perhaps even to fight.
“Ok then,” the man answered, and then added after a pause, “have a nice day!”
With that the SUV quickly drove off leaving my friends and I completely dumbfounded. After a moment of silence and some nervous laughter we continued our way into the city.
Were these men actually robbing us or did they simply get joy out of scaring tourists after a night of partying? I’ll never know for sure, but one thing is certain, even the robbers in Iceland are polite and friendly.