Padres in Prague

So I told my parents that if they didn’t come meet me in Prague I was going to run away and become a pastry chef.

It was a total bluff because I love Wofford and I’d never leave but IT WORKED and I got to spend an incredible week with them. We did everything you’re supposed to do in Prague and then a little extra. We ate pork knuckle and rode the trams. Dad learned how to say “poppy seed pastry” in Czech and invited David the World-Traveling Waiter to stay with us in Carlisle (if he does, we’ll get to hear even more about the Velvet Revolution). We waited for the astronomical clock to chime the hour, passed by the Dancing House, and spent time combing through thrift shops. The three of us visited the Infant of Prague, trekked through the city streets in search of pho, and drank bucketfuls of ginger tea by the river in Český Krumlov. Mom guided us towards trdelnik and a year’s worth of gorgeous churches. We saw original Beethoven manuscripts (not Czech), listened to Vivaldi (also not a Czech), and watched a marionette show (in Italian).

I have to say that the Czech people (the ones we met) were delightful – really, really kind and friendly. I’m glad I was able to spend my third travel break exploring Czech culture, history, and architecture. The entire week was simply wonderful. The only thing that would have made the trip better is if my siblings could have been with us, too. Maybe next time I’ll say that we’ve decided – as siblings – to run away to the circus. And that we can only be stopped by way of family vacation in Budapest.

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This is a photo of the best cup of hot chocolate in history. (And I know what you're thinking: are those pistachios on top of the whipped cream? And the answer is: yes. They are pistachios and they are pure brilliance.)

This is a photo of the best cup of hot chocolate in history.

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Momma & the Baroque Churches: A Love Story

Momma & the Baroque Churches: A Love Story

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In Cesky Krumlov

The old architecture of the city was especially beautiful and interesting.

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Kastrup Søbad

This past Wednesday, my 20th & 21st Century Danish Architecture class took a field trip to Kastrup Søbad, seabaths that are located near Copenhagen in Amager Strand.

This past Wednesday, my 20th & 21st Century Danish Architecture class took a field trip to Kastrup Søbad, seabaths that are located near Copenhagen in Amager Strand.

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Our class is discussing the sensory experience of architecture. How a structure sounds, feels, looks – and tastes, if you’re feeling extreme. Our professor wanted us to experience the sea baths. 

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The sun is setting earlier and earlier in Denmark. Right now, the sunset occurs at around 4PM.

PS. Update on J-Day: the bar nearest our apartment is bringing in snow by trucks and shoveling it onto the sidewalk.

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Happy J-Day!!

Happy Friday everybody!

Today is an especially happy Friday in Copenhagen because it is J-Day! Or, in other words, it’s the start of the Christmas season in Denmark. (I know, I know. It can’t be Christmas until after we’ve loosened our pants to make room for more turkey and watched the DVR of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. But the poor Danes, they don’t know the beauty that is the fourth Thursday of every November. So instead they have a holiday for the first Friday. Gotta give ‘em what we can.)

Taken directly from the Carlsberg site:

The annual launch [of julebryg beer] in Denmark, known as “J-Day”, takes place the first Friday in November and is a day of celebration across Denmark. Carlsberg employees drive around to bars and cafés singing a traditional Tuborg Christmas Brew song and handing out a free beer to the guests to mark the start of the festive season.

The J-Day event in Denmark was established in 1990 as a tradition. Today the event is so large that the Danish spelling dictionary has included in its next dictionary published in 2011 with the following description: “J-Day is the day, a brewery’s Christmas beer comes on the market.” 

Isn’t that great? A whole celebration dedicated to the release of the Christmas brew? The streets of Copenhagen are currently, as I type and breathe, decorated with fake snow and mini Christmas trees. It’s very hygge. What’s more, the brewery advertises J-Day (as if they needed the marketing help) with an adorable little cartoon of Santa Claus.

This cheery display is right outside of my architecture studio! I can't lie, the bars' Christmas decorations are kind of making my day.

This cheery display is right outside of my architecture studio! I can’t lie, the bars’ Christmas decorations are kind of making my day.

In honor of the start of the Christmas season, and in deference to our rapidly-approaching return to the States, my floor has decided to decorate for the holidays after class today! I’m very excited. Tia is determined to wrap everyone’s door in cheerful, colorful Christmas paper. And Akshi and I are collecting scissors so we can cut out a bajillion paper snowflakes.

BUT, speaking of Christmas, my Danish class discussed the role of religion in Danish culture this morning. We watched this video. And looked at statistics that state, while 80-something% of Americans believe in life after death/heaven, the percentage of Danes who share this belief falls between 10-18%. I found this article from the Copenhagen Post in support of our class discussion.

When we arrived in Copenhagen (way back in August), we were informed that religion is a taboo topic in Denmark. It is considered by most to be a personal matter. So I haven’t talked to many Danes (read: I’ve talked to none) about their faith. But I’ve been watching. Very few people go to church – actually, so few people go to church that the buildings have been converted and repurposed. I’ve been to a church-turned-bar, and our LLC planned to visit a church-turned-gallery.

I’m Catholic (wooooooooo!), and luckily I’ve never had trouble finding a Mass. But there aren’t many of us Catholics here in Denmark. The entire country, plus Greenland and the Farrow Islands, is one diocese and has one bishop. That’s pretty small. For reference, the United States has 195 dioceses and 266 active bishops (so not counting retired bishops or cardinals). Admittedly, the United States is a lot bigger than Denmark, but still.

Anyway. Just a little bit of cultural background to spice up J-Day.

In other news, the Pit is alive and well! This photo is from last night. Some of the girls on my floor have started a pattern of watching American Horror Story together. I don’t stay for that, no way no how, but they’re pretty cute anyway, huh?

The Pit! Full of some of my favorite people in Copenhagen.

The Pit! Full of some of my favorite people in Copenhagen.

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Yay, more links!

Because you can never have enough context, right?

Here’s an interesting article on music + hygge and here’s another video about Copenhagen.

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Scary, Spooky, Freaky

Last weekend was both Halloween (!!) and our Arts & Culture LLC Retreat Weekend.

SO, in other words, it was one of the freakiest weekends of my life.

It started out pretty normally. I was a 50’s housewife for the LLC Halloween party on Thursday, and even though I had to duck out of the festivities a little early to go back to studio, I had a blast. I ate all of the chocolate-covered popcorn and mac-and-cheese that I possibly could, and participated (avidly) in my floor’s ridiculously awesome photo shoot.

Friday, Halloween Day, was a little spookier. I dressed up as a goth. With my black lipstick, army boots, and raccoon eyes, I felt pretty darn scary. A few of us spent the night running around Tivoli, one of the world’s oldest amusement parks and a prominent Copenhagen attraction. The park was beautifully decorated – glowing lanterns hung from the trees and ample piles of fake fall foliage, complete with small mountains of pumpkins, lined the walkways. It looked magical, especially with the classic Copenhagen fog creeping around the moon and through colorful amusement rides. Connie & I rode the giant swings, which lifted us so high into the air that I could see the outskirts of the city, and together we dodged Tivoli’s wandering zombie clowns.

Saturday, the first official day of the LLC Retreat, was pretty relaxed. Our LLC made a mural and pizzas (yum) before venturing off to see a very odd, very modern performance art piece. Three artists – two guys and one gal – performed for two hours with minimal props and no set. The theme was, loosely, “Variations/Interpretations of Monsters”, and it was largely conducted in complete silence. For fifteen minutes, I watched them stick rolled toilet paper up their noses and sneeze through a light mist. For another fifteen minutes, a girl and one of the guys ran into each other, repeatedly and persistently – often falling down, but getting up immediately (only to ram into each other and fall down again). For the next fifteen minutes, the same girl and guy got into a sweatsuit together, with two legs in each pant leg and two arms in each sleeve, and ran laps around the stage. On and on it went.

To be honest – I didn’t really appreciate their performance. Maybe I was supposed to take away the awkwardness of humanity and how we are the monsters, all of us – but I was really just sitting there wondering how many times they’d had to stick the toilet paper up their nose and sneeze during performance practice, and how they came up with that and thought it would be a good idea to do it with fifty people watching.

However. Saturday’s performance, monsters and all, was a children’s choir compared what we did on Sunday. In the name of interactive performance art (or something), my LLC group checked into a “mental hospital” for five hours on Sunday. A “mental hospital”, in quotations, because it was a simulated universe and nothing like a real health treatment facility. It was a little more like a collective combination of everybody’s nightmares.

In defense of my LLC: it was art and it was an experience that I will never have again. (Thank God.) And it was the first time that the mental hospital had ever been performed, so there was no way for our coordinators to know what was going to happen.

In defense of everyone who went through the mental hospital: we probably should have walked out.

I can’t describe what happened in the mental hospital on my blog, because A.) I’m not sure I have the appropriate vocabulary and B.) you really don’t want to know, I promise. But. Don’t go. Don’t ever go, and dissuade any friends you know from going. Tia’s Visiting Mom (her Danish mom) had been thinking about attending, and after the performance Tia wrote her an email.

We’ve recovered sufficiently and are back in our normal school routine – at least until this Friday, which marks the beginning of our third (and final!) travel break. Which means!!! I get to see Mom & Dad soon!!! I’m counting down.

 

Me & my roomie Connie

Me & my roomie Connie

Tia & I were housewives, but secretly we fought zombies.

Tia & I were housewives by day, zombies-fighters by night

You can't tell, but Connie dressed up as Harry Styles for our Tivoli night. And I went goth.

You can’t tell, but Connie dressed up as Harry Styles for our Tivoli night. And I went goth. It helps that I’m so pale, huh?

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Happy Halloween!

Except for a couple housing dilemmas, it’s been a quiet (but busy) week here in Copenhagen.

We fell back an hour on Sunday. Even with the time change, it is still (still) dark in Denmark by 5PM. We go to class, do our work – and at night my floor tries to be as hygge as possible. The Danish concept of hygge, or “cozy”, resists direct translation. It’s a certain atmosphere. And we Americans do the best we can! We try very hard to be hyggelit. We light candles and have grilled-cheese-and-tomato-soup dinners. We push the couches together to make what my floor affectionally calls “the Pit”. We turn the lights down low and wrap ourselves in blankets.

I’m increasingly grateful for my floormates. The ten of us get along like ten peas in a pod, like ten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Like ten characters of some new NBC sitcom. We’ve become an indispensable support system. We’re there for each other in good times and bad. No matter the emotion – homesick, elated, frustrated with the dumb washer – we’ve got each other’s back.

My floor (the first floor AKA the best floor) is a micro unit of the Arts & Culture LLC. I’m also very happy to be living in an LLC. Tonight we have a Halloween party. We have one tomorrow too, of course, because the more Halloween the better but!! Tonight is the Halloween party for the whole LLC. We’re making the scariest dinner we can think of – Mummies in a Blanket, Witch Fingers…..

Halloween isn’t really celebrated in Denmark. (Neither is Thanksgiving. Cheers to America for working some pretty fantastic holidays into the fall season.) But since I live with Americans, we’re bringing Halloween to Copenhagen and inviting all the Danes we know!

The party is going to be a nice way to relax – everyone has been working pretty hard since we got back from our second travel break. Although I did most of my midterms before I left for London, I just turned in my final project for my 20th & 21st Century Danish Architecture class. I studied Egebakken, a senior co-housing project located an hour or so outside of Copenhagen.

So, anyway, Happy Halloween! Some mood music for ya.

The Pit, all candlelit (ahhahahaha the rhyming). Akshi is putting on some music.

The Pit, all candlelit (ahhahahaha the rhyming). Akshi is putting on some music. There might be someone underneath those blankets…… Also, I apologize for the bad quality. My camera hates taking nighttime photos.

Missing my flock this Halloween!

Missing my flock this Halloween!

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Touched Down in Londontown

Hey team!

I just got back from an amazing week in London.

I may have mentioned it before – but the DIS program allows students three week-long travel breaks. One of the first two is dedicated to our core course, which is why I spent a little bit of time studying architecture in Switzerland/Austria/Germany this September. But the other two breaks are freeeeeeeeee for us to organize.

So for our second travel break, Kelsey and I booked cheap round-trip tickets to London. Lindsay (my incredible roommate from Wofford) met us in the city. I can’t tell you how good it was to see her. You can read her blog, which is full of tips and tricks for visiting London, here.

The three of us travelled really well together, luckily, and had some great adventures. We found henna at the Camden Lock markets and Kelsey (a graphic designer) tattooed us. Lindsay washed Kelsey’s hair in a hostel sink, and Lindsay and I bought a batik for our dorm room next semester.

We did a lot of hunting while in London – for the world’s best fish & chips (we found them), for an ele-octo mural (no luck), for the perfect Harry Styles t-shirt (check), and, of course, for Kelsey’s next boyfriend, Harry Styles himself (an elusive chap, really).

We walked along the Thames, ran through Platform 9 ¾ (but decided Wofford was better than Hogwarts), and met Fiyero after a pretty wicked Wicked performance. We made a real phone call from a real British phone booth and got our very own Oyster cards (so we could ride the tube and the double-decker buses).

The trip was practically perfect in every way – and it made me want to move to London. But I’m back in Copenhagen, deep in the Land of the Danes, which I guess isn’t half bad either. *wink*

Until next time! CHEERS!

My roomie looking gorgeous in London

My roomie looking gorgeous in London

Kelsey with her Harry Styles t-shirt

Kelsey with her Harry Styles t-shirt

This British coin (50 pence) explains offsides - how funny is that?

This British coin (50 pence) explains offsides – how funny is that?

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Oh, also. The British drive on the wrong side of the road. (Although our tour guide maintained that WE, the Americans, drive on the wrong side of the road. Silliness.) While we were in London we had to be super careful not to get hit by traffic. Luckily, the Brits have painted helpful reminders on the road.

Oh, also. The British drive on the wrong side of the road. (Although our tour guide maintained that WE, the Americans, drive on the wrong side of the road. Silliness.) While we were in London we had to be super careful not to get hit by traffic. Luckily, the Brits have painted helpful reminders on the road.

We stopped at the Globe! I was so excited. The lady at reception told me that performances in the Globe only occur during the summer months, so it looks like I'll just have to go back to London.

We stopped at the Globe! I was so excited. The lady at reception told me that performances in the Globe only occur during the summer months, so it looks like I’ll just have to go back to London.

Me & Kelsey on our walk along the River Thames

Me & Kelsey on our walk along the River Thames

 

PS. I’d just like to say that the free wifi in the London Starbucks felt like a gift from America.

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These Are Danish

LEGOs! Headquartered in Billund, Denmark, the LEGO Group was in the news most recently for a potential partnership with Shell, the oil company. (See this article from Forbes for details.) Greenpeace stepped in with a pretty powerful video – the video went viral and the contract was canceled.

The Sydney Opera House. I know, right? Did you see that one coming? Jørn Utzon, a famous Danish architect, designed the building. Although he didn’t see the building through to its completion (and actually refused to ever return to the Sydney Opera House, quite a drama), Utzon’s plan for the building was hand-selected by the renowned Eero Saarinen during the design competition. My current studio professor, a native Copenhagen-er, was living in Australia at the time and worked with Utzon’s son on the Sydney Opera House. She laughs it off, saying that she was only selected because she is also Danish, but I’m in awe.

Aqua. Remember this song? Well, guess what? It’s Danish.

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Punk 101

Hey, remember how I live in the Arts & Culture LLC? And remember how every week we do something artsy and cultured, just for the heck of it and (actually) because if we didn’t we would lose our street cred as THE Arts & Culture LLC of DIS?

Well, last week was graffiti.

(Whoops. No, I mean “street art”.)

It was totally legal (pretty sure) and it was possibly definitely the best LLC event so far. We discussed the history of street art, as well as some issues related to the street art movement – the lack of consistent documentation, for example, or the impermanence of the art and its questionable ownership.

And then we put on some plastic gloves and got messy. I painted “DA QREW” in honor of my Spain friends and “WINN” with a skull and crossbones (family secret). I’d like to assert that – indeed – there is an art to graffiti. It’s harder than it looks. See my dripping paint? My lack of spatial depth and wacky 2D lines? I’d like to say that was done purposefully, in the true spirit of street art, but in reality I was just fighting with the spray can.

I don't love this photo but it's the only action shot I've got SO

I don’t love this photo but it’s the only clear action shot I’ve got SO

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Traveling with Architects + A Bad Day

Alright.

Let me tell you something about traveling with architects. I have never met a group of people more inclined to walk into a building and immediately begin diagramming roof structures. Or argue about window placement. The Architects are super observant, likely to point out street drains that match building designs, and they’re smart, drawing on an extensive knowledge of buildings in order to make intelligent comparisons on reflecting pools and curtain walls. What’s more – the Architects are artsy. Brilliant photographers, all of them, and good at sketching. They have tattoos, of course, but the tattoos are about architecture. Geometric houses, Frank Lloyd Wright quotes, Mondrian paintings, the window of a childhood home, the negative space of the letter A, for ‘architecture’.

They’re passionate. Very passionate.

Our study tour through Switzerland, Germany, and Austria was an architect’s dream come true. We flew to Basel and took day trips to see the Vitra Design Campus and Freiburg, Germany. We walked through buildings by Hadid, Ando, and Gehry – and made a pilgrimage to get cheese fondue. I found out that “passive house” doesn’t mean having neighbor hippies, and we saw a real-life Popeye.

our route

our route

On Thursday, we left Basel and spent a night at Therme Vals, a beautiful spa built into the Swiss mountainside. It was wonderful. (And very different from my last spa experience, in Morocco.) I didn’t want to leave the Vals – but I got back on the bus and traveled with the group up through Germany.

And now, I have to tell you a story. I have a confession to make.

Our last day of the trip (Sunday) was mostly spent on the bus driving back to Denmark. But we did make one stop: a huge, beautiful park in Potsdam, Germany. We got off the bus to sketch some of the historic buildings on site, and our plan was to grab lunch and get back on the bus by noon.

Anddddddddd I got lost. I got separated from the group. Not in a funny way, or in a “this-is-fun-let’s-explore” kinda way. In a very scary way. I didn’t have my wallet or my phone and I was lost for almost two hours, walking around this park-thing, getting sweaty and missing lunch and looking stupid. No one knew what I was talking about when I asked if they’d seen my group (if they even spoke English to begin with). I felt a huge surge of hope when I remembered that I had the address for the restaurant, but when I went to the restaurant no one was there. The address was wrongWhen I decided to skip lunch and go back to where the bus dropped us off, the bus wasn’t there. Everywhere I checked they weren’t there and nobody could help me contact them because most of the park didn’t have internet. I very obviously cried in the middle of the visitor’s center at the information desk in front of all these strangers because I thought the group had left me in Germany by myself. (The DIS policy is to leave people who don’t make the bus. It was my tour leader who decided to stay and find me.) When my group realized I was missing (and without my phone), and they called the DIS Emergency Line and sent out a search party. It was pretty humiliating.

They found me and there were hugs. Everyone clapped when I got on the bus because I’d been missing for an hour and a half, and my classmates gave me all of the Nutella they’d stolen from the hotel breakfast buffets. I felt really terrible. Really terrible. And I made the group so late that we missed our ferry to get from Germany to Denmark. We didn’t get back here in the city until 10PM (instead of the planned 7:15PM) and I cost DIS an extra 250 euro because (since we were so late) they had to buy everyone dinner.

Anyway.

Just a story to let you know that I made a huge mistake while abroad and it could have gone really badly. (Although I did find out later that my friends from the LLC had a back-up plan, if they couldn’t find me before the bus left, to stay in Potsdam with my passport and take me to Berlin before coming back to Copenhagen.)

I think everyone is doomed to a couple bad days per semester, but my bad days abroad feel exponentially worse than bad days at Wofford. I’ve never been so happy to see a tour bus in my life.
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