“There is no such thing as bad weather, only badly dressed people.”
Sounds like a Dad quote, doesn’t it? (But it’s Danish. And accurate. They bike in rain, snow, sleet, hail, you name it.)
ALSO I’m sorry about the lack of posts (gah). I’ve been caught up in a tornado of business papers, goodbye dinners, Danish exams, architecture critiques, interviews and final bike rides to our favorite spots in the city. I leave Copenhagen this Saturday morning (in ~36 hours), and soon as I get home and catch my breath (AKA squeeze my dogs and sit on my siblings), I’ll post updates on everything!
WHAT A CRAZY TIME OF YEAR. Wow. I feel like I’m running on one of those little plastic hamster wheels, you know?
It was a busy week here in Copenhagen. Since I knew I’d have trouble writing posts, I remembered to take photos of everything I did so I could give a little bit of a visual narrative.
But you’ll never believe it. My computer deleted all the photos that I imported from my now-empty camera. Why? I don’t know. But that basically sums up my whole week right there.
So I’m sorry, team, lots of text coming your way.
Hightlights from the week:
1. Tia & I went ice skating! It was a DIS-sponsored event, and it was a total blast. I slipped and slid – but I never fell. (Which is a huge relief. I’m not sure they let you return to Pennsylvania if you dishonor the state with poor ice sport abilities.)
2. My Danish class took a field trip to see Eivor Palsdottir in concert with the Danish Radio Big Band, and they were truly outstanding. They performed in a beautiful, repurposed church and left a prime seat available for the queen in case she decided to come. (She didn’t.) The music, which included recorded sounds of waves and caves, told the folktale of the Seal Woman. It was a powerful and moving performance, even though I knew none of the words, and I loved it.
3. My LLC floor discovered microwavable Danish popcorn. Game-changer.
4. My 20th & 21st Century Danish Architecture class took a field trip to visit a co-housing project and the office building of the Disabled People’s Organization in Denmark (DPOD)*. This building has been called “the most accessible office building in the world” – and for good reason. The architects took extra care to design for individuals with handicaps. The entire building is color-coded, for example, to help those with cognitive disabilities. The floors are grooved and the hand rails are pierced with small, directional metal knobs to help the blind navigate. Six (six!) different types of bathrooms exist in the building – each type uniquely suited for specific disabled users. The list of considerate design details goes on and on. It was fascinating.
5. I took my final exam in my Danish language class. It consisted of a listening exercise, a reading in Danish, translations, and an in-class essay on Danish culture. Kinda tough, but Tia & I studied together and I think we prepared well. (The class is far from over, though. We still have a final oral assignment, a paper, and a presentation due.)
6. My floor exchanged names for Secret Santa! I have Tia. Don’t tell her! *wink*
7. Lindsay visited me!! Her arrival was magic. The sun peeked out from behind the clouds (which is a big deal in Denmark – you should have seen the Facebook statuses), and the rain stopped (until she departed, at which point it promptly began again). We had the best time exploring the city together.
Anyway. My final project for architecture is due this weekend. The timing isn’t very fun. We don’t have vacation time for Thanksgiving here at DIS, and a large portion of my final project is due Friday – so although my floor has planned a make-shift Thanksgiving dinner (I’m in charge of pies!!), most of Thursday night will be spent (where else?) at my desk, following four hours of afternoon class.
Although I hate that I’m missing Thanksgiving (read: homesick), the good news is that I’m really enjoying Christmastime here in Denmark. There are adorable markets, lots of lights and wreaths and bows, a plethora of warm drinks, and a socially acceptable excuse to sing carols just a little bit early.
I’ll write again soon! Vi ses!
*The webpage of DPOD will open with photos that match the architectural features that I discussed. But!! If you click “In English” on the upper right-hand side, you can get a more thorough description of the building.
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.
PS. Update on J-Day: the bar nearest our apartment is bringing in snow by trucks and shoveling it onto the sidewalk.
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.
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?
Because you can never have enough context, right?
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.
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.
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!
PS. I’d just like to say that the free wifi in the London Starbucks felt like a gift from America.