The Things You Leave Behind

Going abroad for an extended period of time presents one with many challenges. You’re thrown outside your comfort zone, forced to adapt to new cultures and customs. You walk around the majority of the time not understanding a word anybody’s saying—it can be isolating and lonely. The tiniest little task can turn into an all-day (even multi-day) adventure as you try and figure out how things work.

But the biggest challenge of all? Packing.

If I had a 20 kroner coin for every time over the past couple days I’ve heard someone say something along the lines of “How am I going to pack this all? There’s no way it will fit!,” I’d be able to pay the fee to check an extra bag and not have to worry about it. But, since I don’t get paid for that and I have my travel pride to keep up, I was determined to make it home in only the number of bags alloted to me.

In order to do this, I had to be selective about what I really wanted to bring back with me and what things I could afford to part with. Leftover studio materials? I left them for next semester’s poor, unfortunate souls. The novels that I brought with me and didn’t particularly like? I found myself running around town looking for a used book store to buy them before finally going to the public library and all but begging them to take them. “We can’t pay you anything,” said the librarian, looking at me skeptically. That’s fine, as long as I don’t have to pay overweight fees, I though as I happily handed the stack over to her. Little by little, I whittled down my belongings until they just barely fit in all my bags.

Now that the suitcases are all zipped up and my room here is empty, it’s time to leave behind some bigger things that definitely can’t fit in my bags—everything I loved about Copenhagen. Once a good friend of mine explained to me that he doesn’t take photos with the goal of making them look incredible or so that he can show other people; He takes photos so that he can remember things. So this week I took my camera out and tried to capture all the things I will miss about Copenhagen. Although I didn’t get pictures of everything—and this list is in no way all-inclusive—I wanted wrap up this trip by sharing some of the little things I’ve neglected to talk about.

The little things that I want to remember.

Taking the train

Okay, admittedly the train and I had a love-hate relationship. I loved having a public transportation system that covered so much area, was well-run, and very reliable (ehm, DC metro…). I sometimes loved the fact that, no matter what, twice a day I had to sit down and slow down for 3o minutes. I just hated having such a long commute. But in the end I have fond memories of waiting at the Glostrup station for my happy green B train with the plush blue seats to take me into the city.

Street musicians

Especially the accordion players I commonly heard on my walk to school (I know, how European is that?). Their repertoire all seemed to consist of the same three songs, but it was still nice.

Torvehallerne

I can’t believe I haven’t talked about this place yet, since it’s one of my favorite haunts in the city. This giant covered food market opened up about a month into my time here. I would regularly go, people watch, seek out the free samples, and just enjoy watching the urban life and food culture of Copenhagen. Totally my jam, right?

One of two glass market buildings at Torvehallerne

The vendors inside the buildings were permanent, but what happened between the building changed all the time. My favorite was when they had a tent with fire-pits inside.

In one of the market stalls they have this sort of test kitchen where they prepare things for people to try. One day there was this HUGE fish they were giving raw samples of (it was delicious). On the right was my free sample today—a chocolate tart with buckthorn berries, tarragon, and a hazelnut praline topping. Pretty snazzy.

Street art

Seriously, seeing street art all around the city has been one of my favorite things. From the graffiti that covered everything in sight on my train ride to school, to the varied art I documented, to the little tag below that I saw many times throughout the semester (that for some reason always made me smile): I will greatly miss seeing decorations like that all over the place.

Taken during the first week and on the last day.

Street names that end in “gade” and “stræd”

Kids all bundled up

Parents here like to dress their kids in these one-piece snow suits starting around November, snow or not. It’s always so funny to see their little blue-eyed faces sticking out of these puffy masses when it’s really not that cold out.

Danish meat-food

It was hard getting used to eating so much meat, and I’m admittedly excited to get back to the states and have a vegetarian cleanse of sorts, but it was worth it to get to try such delicious dishes as the buttery frikadeller (Danish meat balls) and crunchy pieces of stegt flæsk (basically really thick bacon), pictured below.

Pastries with seeds

The ones on the left—frøsnappers—are my favorites.

Open flame

I love how much they’re into fire here. But seriously, on my walk home from school (at 4 pm when it was dark) I would usually pass tons of huge outdoor candles by restaurants, and almost every night my host mom would like candles around the house. It was so nice. So…hygge.

Finding places like this in the middle of a city

All of the bikes

As much as I’m sick of having to navigate around huge, tangled messes of parked bikes, it’s going to be weird to go back to the states and not see people biking all the time.

p.s. This might be the most Danish picture I’ve ever taken.

All of the potatoes

The other night I had a holiday dinner with my host family that included three different styles of potato on the side. I had to laugh. It’s another thing that I’m excited to have a break from, but I enjoyed our time together.

Danish modesty

Okay, so it’s not actually modesty. It’s an advertising law here that you can’t say something is the best unless it’s somehow proven that it is, in fact, the best. But every time I see a “probably the best” sign, it makes me chuckle.

Because We Need a Little Christmas

Hello all! Sorry for the lag in posting–I’ve been bogged down with finals and projects as the end of my semester rapidly approaches. Despite the work (or maybe because of it) I’ve managed to enjoy a little Copenhagen Christmas cheer during the past month. The Christmas season here kicks off in early November on a day called J-Day, which is when the breweries release their Christmas beers. Unfortunately, I missed J-Day because of my travels but certainly noticed the addition of many new “juleøls” when I got back. I also noticed a slew of Christmas markets popping up across the city and lights strung on all the shopping streets. It was nice, but it didn’t really feel like Christmas.

Until I went to Tivloi.

Tivoli is the famous amusement park of Copenhagen. I’ve heard rumors that Disney World was inspired by Tivoli. Think like a Six Flags if it were more quaint and classy and placed smack dab in the middle of a city instead of out in the middle of nowhere. It is usually only open during the summer, but it opens specially (and goes all out) for Halloween and Christmas. I hadn’t been yet and was so excited when a friend invited me out one night. Walking around Tivoli all lit up and bustling with happy people made me really get excited for the season.

The entryway to Tivoli

Tivoli hotel all lit up

For some reason the danes are really big on their heart decorations around Christmas...

The next day, I was full of Christmas spirit and so decided to go see the Christmas tree lighting in the town hall square. I’ll let you see for yourself, but let’s just say this was not what I was expecting:

Later in the week, I went to meet a Danish friend for what she described as a jazz concert. Really, it was a Christmas service/concert at a church near her school. The Danes aren’t really a religious folk (I heard that nobody ever goes to church) and Christmas here doesn’t actually have any religious ties, but there were plenty of people who showed up to the church on a Thursday night to hear the student choir sing. I’m sure the free gløg (like mulled wine) and æbleskiver (like spherical pancakes eaten with powdered sugar and jam) after the show didn’t hurt either!

Seeing the cozy Christmas traditions around here has been nice, but for me the holidays are family time, so I’m really excited to get back to the states and celebrate with my own family. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on what mood I’m in) that return is really coming up–exactly one week from today I will be on my journey back to the US of A. It’s crazy thinking that my time here is almost done… The rest of this week is basically going to be trying squeeze in all the last things on my Copenhagen bucket list, so when I find some time I should have some good stuff to share!

Until then, happy holidays!

The Happiest Breakfast in the World

This article was originally published in AmWord, a student magazine at American University. If you’re on campus, make sure to pick up a copy to read this in print and check out other great articles!

Breakfast has never been my favorite meal of the day. Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of breakfast foods. It’s just that the actual act of eating breakfast always seems to turn into a rushed affair involving some sort of processed junk, shoveling down a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats or grabbing a granola bar on my way out the door.  Breakfast in the States has just lost the respect it deserves. If people even bother to eat it, they regard it as an annoying yet necessary act; an afterthought.

In Denmark, things are different. My first breakfast here involved a variety of rolls (called boller, pronounced ball-uh) picked up from the baker down the street that morning, along with a spread of butter, jams, sliced meats, cheeses, and the infamous leverpostej (a kind of a Danish liver paté). Oh, and then plenty of fresh pastries for breakfast-dessert (no, they are not called Danishes here).

Even on a regular morning, I’ve noticed that everyone in my host family will at least sit down for five or ten minutes to eat breakfast. Some school mornings I’m even lucky enough to wake up to the smells of fresh bread wafting from the kitchen. There are few things that can get me up faster than the thought of eating a warm roll straight from the oven with melted butter dripping off the sides…

But there’s no need to feel breakfast-envy; these Danish overnight rolls are easy for anyone to make. I get fresh bread in the morning and you can too!

Photo cred: Margo Greenawald (thanks, sis)

Overnight Boller

Although these breakfast rolls take a little bit of advanced planning, they require almost no hands-on preparation time. Just make sure you start them the night before you want to eat them and leave enough time before class to actually bake them (so, you should put them in the oven before you get in your morning shower). For the full Danish experience, make sure to pick up some jam, cheese, and possibly even salami or other deli meat. And, of course, plenty of butter.

  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1 ½ cups cold water, divided
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole-wheat flour
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, put ½ tbsp vinegar in a measuring cup and then add regular milk to the ½ cup line)

In a microwave safe bowl, warm ½ cup of the water in the microwave for 20 seconds. Add the sugar and the yeast, and stir to dissolve. Wet a paper towel with warm water, and place over the yeast mixture. Put the bowl in a warm place and allow it to sit for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine flours, oats and salt in a bowl. In a measuring cup, combine remaining cup of water and buttermilk.

After 10 minutes, check to make sure the yeast mixture is bubbling. If not, it means your yeast has not worked and you should try step 1 again with a new yeast package.

Once the yeast mixture is ready, put it in a large bowl and add about ½ cup of the flour mixture. Stir to combine and then add some of the buttermilk mixture. Continue alternating wet and dry mixtures, stirring to combine after each addition, until all ingredients are in. You should have a sticky dough.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a dish towel, and place in the refrigerator overnight. Line a pan with parchment paper and place on the counter so it’s ready for the morning.

When you wake up, preheat the oven to 375 °F. Plop large spoonfuls of batter onto the prepared pan (don’t worry about shaping the rolls). Set in a warm place to rise for 10 minutes, and then put in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

Tip: To add a little variety to your boller, you could sprinkle the tops of some with sunflower, poppy, or sesame seeds before baking. Get creative!