On Monday, June 17th, 28 members of the Chicago Consort along with 24 family members boarded Icelandair Flight 852 for Reykjavik. After clearing immigration and customs, we departed by coach to the Alda Hotel in downtown Reykjavik to drop off our bags and hop back on the bus for a short sightseeing tour to get the overview of the city. One stop of particular interest was the Perlan Museum.
In the heart of Reykjavík, Öskjuhlíð Hill rises 61 metres above sea level. On the top of the hill stands Perlan, one of the most visited attractions in Iceland. A landmark building composed of an immense glass dome that sits on six hot water tanks. Perlan was first opened to the public in June 1991 and became the home of the largest nature exhibition in Iceland in 2017.
The next day was probably one that everyone in the group will remember forever. A trip the Blue Lagoon. This amazing geo thermal pool is one of the largest in the world. People travel from all over the world to experience the Blue Lagoon’s healing properties, and the members of Chicago Consort enjoyed it tremendously.
Our first concert took place in the small town just outside of Reykjvik called Hveragerdiskirkja. Please don’t try to say that! The Iceland Suzuki Institute was happening there during the time we visited. The organizers of the event invited me to give a talk for the Suzuki Parents, and the concert followed. All of the faculty from the Institute were so happy to have the opportunity to hear the Consort Perform live.
After a rocky trip through the Reykjavik airport, we finally made our way to Stockholm, Sweden. The luggage system had failed, so the entire airport was backed up and everything had to be done manually. We never appreciate all of our automated systems until they aren’t working.
Our first day in Sweden coincided with the is the first day of Midsummer Festival which celebrates the summer solstice. Raising and dancing around a maypole (majstång or midsommarstång) is an activity that attracts families and many others. Greenery placed over houses and barns was supposed to bring good fortune and health to people and livestock; this old tradition of decorating with greens continues today.
We spent the day at Skansen, the open-air museum and zoo in Sweden which is located on the island Djurgården in Stockholm, Sweden. It was opened on 11 October 1891 by Artur Hazelius (1833–1901) to show the way of life in the different parts of Sweden before the industrial era. Of course because of the holiday, the park was filled with Swedish families celebrating with music and dancing around the maypole and lot’s of Swedish food as well.
Our next stop in Stockholm was the gorgeous Vasa Ship Museum. A maritime museum located on the island of Djurgården, the museum displays the only almost fully intact 17th century ship that has ever been salvaged, the 64-gun warship Vasa that sank on her maiden voyage in 1628. The Vasa Museum opened in 1990 and, according to the official web site, is the most visited museum in Scandinavia.
Our next concert took place at the gorgeous Västerås Cathedral. The concert was well attended by the members of the church as well as from the town. And there were several young Suzuki students too.
The highlight of our trip was undoubtedly the concert in Stockholm at Kungsträdgården, or King’s Garden. This spectacular outdoor venue in the center of town was the ideal location for a noon time concert. Tourists and locals alike flocked to the park as soon as we started to play. The park was lined with outdoor cafes and restaurants, and the acoustic was perfect for all of the diners to enjoy the concert along with their lunch.
Stockholm is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Built on a system of islands, there are waterways all through the city which makes for very beautiful photo ops, and lots of waterway excursions. Several of our group took tours to the various islands and I even got to go on the Archepalago tour. It is always a bit sad when our tour ends, and it is time to head back home, but we always leave with fond memories of the places we’ve visited and the new friends we’ve made along the way.