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!

My Shocking Revelation

I’m about to say something that may be controversial. It could be shocking. Are you ready?

The Charles Bridge at night

I didn’t love Prague. 

Enjoying a Prague Thanksgiving (yes, we did find pumpkin pie)

I’m not even sure if I really liked Prague. Maybe it was a classic case of overhype–almost everyone I talked to before going raved about the city and insisted it was their favorite. Maybe it was the weather–the whole time I was there it was cloudy and below freezing, limiting the amount of time I could spend just walking around (my favorite way to discover a city). Maybe it was because a big part of me was really homesick since I was missing Thanksgiving. Maybe it was because it just wasn’t Spain.

Whatever the case, I was less than impressed. Even my pictures from Prague were disappointing (possibly because I wasn’t even allowed to take pictures in a lot of the places we toured).

It’s hard for me to come to terms with not liking everywhere I venture in the world, but I supposed it’s bound to happen as I expand my travel horizons. As my parents said, “Well, that’s just another place you can cross off the list.” The world is big and there are a lot of other places for me to fall in love with.

My friend Rain and I trying to metamorph.

Not that going was a total bust. Copenhagen weather now feels nearly tropical compared to the winter chill in Prague. I ate some delicious cheap baked goods and drank some good cheap beer. And I got a picture posing like a cockroach (or trying to) in front of Franz Kafka’s statue. That was most definitely a success.

Happy Hygge Holiday!

The word “hygge” is one that I have heard discusses since I arrived in Copenhagen. It’s one of those words that has no direct translation–it’s more of a concept than a word–and is supposedly a uniquely Danish thing. The adjective form, hyggeligt, literally means cozy. Hygge is much more complex but is very often associated with an extended gathering of friends or family, usually in the home, complete with plenty of delicious food, drinks, and candles all around. There is definitely a sense of coziness to it, but it is also about warmth, comfort, togetherness, and feeling content.

In other words, it is all the things I love about Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday because it is all about gathering with loved ones around a huge table full of food and just spending hours eating, talking, and enjoying being together. It’s about finding a cozy haven from the cold for a day with some great company, usually complete with candles or even a fire in the fireplace. If you ask me, it’s proof that hygge is alive and well outside of Denamark too. They may have a word devoted to it, but the States has an entire holiday.

I hope everybody back home has a fantastic Thanksgiving. I’m really bummed to be missing it, so enjoy it a little extra Thanksgiving hygge  for me! I love and miss you all. 

Image source: Courant.com TVEYE

Camina de Esta Manera

For those of you who have stuck with me through my week of Spain posts, I have one more for you! Don’t worry, this one is all pictures of the street art I saw in Granada. Enjoy!

p.s. If you are interested in reading more, one of my partners in crime (or travel) just posted his perspective on our Spanish adventure. Check out Eric’s blog here!

7:30 AM: Our first graffiti sighting in Granada.

It's always a party in Granada.

It's always a party in Granada.

Translation: Friends for life

This one's a little harder to spot...

Some mischievous art hiding behind the fence.

Performance art! Thanks Chris...

Now we get a little more political. Translation: Houses without people, people without a house! A street that talks.

I'm having a bit more trouble with this translation. Anyone have any ideas? I think "poyas" is some kind of Spanish slang...

Translation: TV is house arrest and a <something> routine.

Viva el arte de calle en Granada!

The Top 5 Things I Did in Seville

So funny story. After our time in Madrid, Eric and I were supposed to head to Barcelona to wrap up our trip. But it had been overcast and drizzly in Madrid and looking at the weather forecast they were calling for rain in Barcelona as well. While Eric may have more than his share of sunshine in Cairo, it’s severely lacking in Copenhagen and I really wanted to soak up some rays before returning. So we looked at the weather around Spain and noticed that it looked especially nice in Valencia and Seville. One coin flip later and we were booking bus tickets to Seville.

Best coin flip of my life. Read on to see all the things I enjoyed doing so much in Sevilla!

1. Eating, drinking, and drinking some more

(Photo cred: Eric Fleddermann)

No, I was not an alcoholic in Seville. But we did enjoy  plenty of Sangria: a pitcher during our first lunch, a pitcher after dinner to enjoy the lovely evening, a pitcher by the water on our last day. The delicious drink was almost always accompanied by some equally tasty food. The best food memory from the trip was the night Eric and I decided to try our hand at making paella at the hostel. While we were cooking one of the adorable women who ran the hostel came in and started making Spanish tortilla and some sort of spinach and cheese dish. Then a couple girls from the UK who were staying there came in and mixed up a couple (more) pitchers of sangria. In the end, we all gathered around the table on the outdoor terrace and shared our culinary concoctions. The food was good (really really good), but the company was better.

2. Seeing the sights (and soaking up some rays)

We really knew nothing about Seville before we arrived, but we quickly realized that there are a lot of cool things to see in Seville! And most of them–blessedly–allow you to be outside in the sun. While this might be awful in the middle of a hot Sevillan summer (when it’s the hottest city in Europe), I was loving it in Novemeber. Over the next few days we went back and visited:

The Seville Cathedral: the massive mosque turned cathedral in the center of town, which includes a very tall minaret turned bell tower that has a great view of the city (more on that later).

Alcázar: the moorish fort turned royal palace which is architecturally similar to the Alhambra but quite possibly has even more extensive and beautiful gardens (Photo cred: Eric Fleddermann)

The Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza (The Bullfighting Ring): Though we did not actually get to see a bullfight (I'm not sure I really would have wanted to), the ring was pretty beautiful, especially on such a sunny day. Hint: Click on the photo to make it bigger and you can see the ring in Eric's glasses!

The Waterfront: Although it's a beautiful view on it's own, the waterfront is especially good for people watching and enjoying a little sangria and cheese! (Photo cred: Eric Fleddermann)

Oh, and then there was the Plaza de España. But more on that later…

3. Enjoying the view (and soaking up more sun)

As I mentioned above, the view from the Cathedral tower was pretty incredible...

But we were also lucky enough to have a rooftop terrace at our hostel (which was in a 500 year old jewish mansion, by the way) with a view that was not too shabby. One of my favorite afternoons we just sat up there in the sun with the towers of Seville surrounding us, enjoying an afternoon snack of Iberican ham and manchego cheese, while Eric attempted to teach me to play chess. Not a bad life, eh? Watching the sunset from up there wasn’t too shabby either.

Sunset from the roof (Photo cred: Eric Fleddermann)

4. Plaza de España, Plaza de España, Plaza de España (sun, sun, sun)

I probably could have spent my entire time in Seville just hanging around this sunny plaza. We first came as part of the walking tour and then returned on our last day and spent almost the entire afternoon there just lounging around on the stairs and listening to some street performers play flamenco. I could talk more about it, but I think I’ll just show you pictures…

Approaching the Plaza

Beautiful bridges and tile work

Enjoying some flamenco music (Photo cred: Eric Fleddermann)

Just hanging out on the tiled balconies. Pretty standard.

5. Watching flamenco

On our last night we went pretty classy and made reservations at this restaurant that had a free flamenco show. It was the perfect way to wrap up our Spanish vacation: several hour long dinner, paella, Sangria, flamenco. I was enjoying myself too much to document the show there at all, but if you aren’t familiar with flamenco you should definitely check out the video below of a street performer in Granada!

In case you couldn’t figure this out, the trip was all around fantastic. Thank you for bearing with my long posts–there was just so much I wanted to share! And with another trip in my near future and the Christmas season already here in Copenhagen, there will be many more things to share during my final month abroad.