Dreaming of Iceland — and its big supermarket

The World
Iceland's Blue Lagoon.

Iceland's Blue Lagoon.

Chris Ford/Flickr/Creative Commons

At the oddest times I'm vividly transported to the oddest place. A supermarket somewhere on the eastern outskirts of Reykjavik.

There's nothing special about it. It's like every other Bónus in Iceland. And not that different from a small downmarket grocery store in anywhere USA. Maybe a little more spartan. The shelves a lot higher and everything quite a bit messier.

The shelf height shouldn't come as a surprise. Everything in Iceland seemed designed for 8-foot-tall Vikings. At 5 foot 2, I couldn't see into bathroom mirrors without standing on my tiptoes. Closet shelves were way too high for me to possibly reach.

The mess at the Bónus was more surprising. Everything else in Iceland was clean and orderly beyond belief. The lace curtains on all the homes were bright white. Bedsheets were crisp and dust was not to be found. But the towering shelves in Bónus were stacked willy-nilly — pricetags and cardboard scraps strewn about. Some things on those high shelves were familiar to those back home and others weren't. Dried puffin, what? Organic and recycled paper products were run of the mill. Decaf coffee? Nonexistent.

Still, it was just a store in a suburban shopping center. Yet my mind jumps to it on a Sunday morning sitting in my home on the sofa, on a Wednesday afternoon coming back from a meeting and at random times for no apparent reason.

It was just a chain grocery store on a remote northern island country. Just a store with some emotional resonance I can't define.

This trip was full of majestic whales breaching next to me, photogenic fjords, and storybook waterfalls. It was a land of my favorite things — ponies, sheep and quiet beauty. Fast rivers coursing by and jagged mountains cutting the sky. Freshly caught sushi and freshly baked bread. Endless super hot water smelling of therapeutic sulfur. Quirky people in fashionable clothes speaking a beautiful sounding language I couldn't understand.

Bonus supermaket in Iceland.

A Bonus supermaket in Iceland.


Robyn Lee/Flickr/Creative Commons

Of all of this, I keep coming back in my mind to the Bonus supermarket.

I often fantasize about running away to Iceland when I'm stuck. When situations and life put me up against a wall, I dream of heading to the chaos of the nearest international airport and flying into the quiet of Keflavik International Airport. Of catching a soak at Blue Lagoon, lunch at a Rejkyavik cafe and then of disappearing into a life of long summer days and dark winters — a couple sheep, a cat and an Icelandic pony. I'll write poems, go for long walks and spend days without speaking.

My fantasy is more in line with what visiting Iceland is about. Living there would be more about long drives to the Bonus. It would be counting out diminishing kroners in the hopes I can afford enough food for the week.

The random mental flashes to the Bónus might be my brain putting the breaks on my fantasy. To bring a dose of reality to those grand schemes, secret desires and irrational longings. Most of my visit to Iceland was a dreamscape made real. The Bónus supermarket was the glimpse into waking life there.