Wassailing in Icelandic

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Hallgrimskirkja Church towering over downtown Reykjavik. 18mm, 1/60s, f/4, ISO 400.

In our first night in Iceland, my friend, Carla, and I decided to bail on our dinner reservations to attend a children’s Christmas concert at Hallgrimskirkja, the most prominent church and landmark in Reykjavik.

Earlier that day, we noticed flyers for a youth Christmas concert and just assumed it would be tiny Icelandic children layered in thick homemade sweaters and mittens and woolen hats, bundled up and singing sweet Christmas carols. And in an incredible white concrete minimalist church with a 70 foot tower and 5000-pipe organ? We couldn’t wait!

Imagine our surprise when we arrived to a near-empty church, three rows of chairs facing the entrance (and exit). The lack of crowds should have been our first hint, but Carla is the same friend I traveled to Montreal with three years prior, where we hiked through a massive winter storm while 17 inches of snow piled on top of us, the wind whipping our faces like sharp knives, to find one closed shop after another. In our openness to new experiences, it sometimes takes us a while to read up on the context clues…

When the show began, we quickly realize two things:

  1. This was not a children’s Christmas concert. It was a pipe organ concert – student show.
  2. The main doors were right next to the organs and there was no way to exit without causing disruption, particularly as in the dead of winter, you are wearing and/or carrying layers upon layers of distracting clothing.

I spotted a side door away from the organs that looked like it would open up to the main lobby. There was a line of performers each taking about 15-20 minutes at the organ, and about a 1 minute reset in between each performance. I motioned to Carla and told her to follow me the next time there was a performer reset.

I am one who believes that every minute in life is precious and should not be wasted. We had to get out.

When our moment came, I quickly led Carla to the side door, flung it open and plunged forward into… someone’s office. All was not lost. We were able to eventually exit the church. We dashed through the front doors and into the frigid Icelandic air, where new adventures and hopefully a good meal awaited us.

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One thought on “Wassailing in Icelandic

  1. What a beautiful church! The architecture is spectacular. And what a funny story! I can only imagine what the organ sounded like, and so close too. Your adventure was so funny it almost sounded like it came from a novel. 🙂

    Like

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