Iceland hotel offers US military barracks theme experience to travelers

The outside of the Base Hotel and Hostel, which used to function as U.S. Navy barracks, in Keflavik, Iceland, Tuesday, August 15, 2018.


By MARTIN EGNASH | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 15, 2018

KEFLAVIK, Iceland — Where there were once hundreds of American sailors and airmen, trying to catch sleep and relax in their barracks after a hard day of flying patrols around Iceland, there are now dozens of young people from around the world, sleeping and trying to catch a buzz on Icelandic beer after a long day’s flight across the Atlantic.

So maybe not that much has changed for the Base Hotel and Hostel outside of the Keflavik airport from the time the two buildings it occupies used to serve as barracks for the U.S. Navy and Air Force.

The United States manned Naval Air Station Keflavik from 1951 until 2006. The area outside the airport was once a barren lava field, covered in moss, before the U.S. military occupied the area. The Americans quickly built up the area into one of the largest cities on the island.

According to the hotel’s website, when the American troops left, the base turned into a ghost town, until Icelanders began occupying and refurbishing the large, concrete, rectangular buildings. And now, you can find ballet lessons being taught inside former ammunition storehouses, and partiers jamming-out at electronic dance music concerts held inside old aircraft hangars.

But the Base Hotel and Hostel tries to hold on to its U.S. military heritage, by offering unique, American military-themed lodgings.

“We’ve kept a little bit of the U.S. spirit alive here,” said Aron Eckard, a receptionist at the hotel.

Guests stay inside sparsely-decorated former barracks rooms, that retain some of the original doors, bed-frames, and bathroom fixtures.

On the second floor of the hotel, the original commanding officer’s policy board is intact, reminding sailors, and now civilians, about 2004 Department of the Navy sexual harassment, equal opportunity and fraternization policies. And although the commander’s policy on alcohol abuse clearly states that “alcohol is to be deglamorized” wherever possible, the full bar downstairs offering happy hour specials on shots and beer, indicates this rule has lately become more lax.

Throughout the hotel, you can find other details that remind you of its U.S. military past, like the Naval Air Station Keflavik plaque hanging downstairs, “American style” cookies and candy in the vending machines, and the “gearlocker” signs hanging above broom closets. Of course, nowadays, the occupants no longer have to “swab the deck” with the mops held inside.

“Guests find it interesting that they’re staying at a place where U.S. (troops) used to live,” Eckard said. “One of our rooms used to be the armory, where they stored weapons. Now it’s a game room. It’s part of the whole atmosphere.”

He added that some guests choose to stay here specifically because of the hotel’s history, but other guests simply choose this hotel because of its price or close proximity to the airport, without knowing it used to house sailors and airmen.

“I didn’t know this used to be part of a base when I booked my room,” said Agnieszka Mosioe, an American tourist from Wisconsin who stayed at the hotel. “Now that I know, I’m kind of proud. It’s really cool to stay where American sailors used to live.”

Twitter: @Marty_Stripes

The bar of the Base Hotel and Hostel, which used to function as U.S. Navy barracks, in Keflavik, Iceland, Tuesday, August 15, 2018.

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