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!

Spiritual Spaces: Cologne, Germany

Welcome to chapter 2 in a series of posts about my week-long trip through Germany and the Netherlands! If you missed the first post, check it out by clicking on the link below. Otherwise, read on!

1. Remembering Why I Came Here

2. Spiritual Spaces

Our next stop was Cologne, Germany, where we visited two vastly different spiritual spaces. First, we went to the Kolumba Museum, which is perhaps the most beautiful museum I’ve ever been to. It’s foundation (quite literally) is the ruins of an old catholic church that was destroyed in World War II. The museum is built up around the ruins, so they become part of the exhibit space. The room where visitors can view the ruins (seen below) is open air–those little dots of light along the back wall are places where the bricks have been left out to allow natural light and air into the space. It gave the space a very peaceful and meditative quality, which is a side of religion and spirituality that speaks the most to me.

The ruins room at the Kolumba Museum

While the other floors of the museum were slightly more traditional gallery spaces, they kept this feeling of modern contemplative spirituality with the use of light and simple materials. The pieces in the gallery were an interesting mix of religious artifacts, more modern archives, and very contemporary art pieces. There was no text placed next to any of the works because the curators really want the viewer’s experience of the art to be their own.

Beautiful use of light and shadows throughout the space

Modern art next to ancient ivory cross

Unfortunately, after only an hour in the Kolumbo (I could have easily spent an afternoon there) it was time for them to close and for us to move on.

Our next stop was a much more traditional religious institution: the Kölner Dom or Cologne Cathedral. This massive work of Gothic Architecture is a Roman Catholic Church, and UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the most visited landmark in Germany. Oh, and did I mention it was HUGE? It was too big to fit in a picture, so I took a video instead (the music in the background is courtesy of a performer in the square in front of the cathedral).

Unfortunately, due to air pollution and environmental wear-and-tear, this cathedral is constantly under repair so there will never be an opportunity to see it completely scaffolding-free. Fortunately, these rennovations have led to some interesting additions to the cathedral, such as the controversial pixel stained glass window pictured below.

Stained glass window by Gerhard Richter

While many of my fellow students were enjoying the architecture, I was enjoying the people watching. The best moment was when I watched a mischievous little girl entertaining herself by blowing out the little memorial candles that people were lighting, despite her mother’s best efforts to get her to sit down and pray. Sacrilege? Maybe. Adorable? Absolutely.

My best moment at the Dom however, was later that night when a couple of my classmates and I went back to see if they light the cathedral up at night. They didn’t really, at least not in any spectacular way, but while we were walking around suddenly hundreds of bats flew out of the top of the cathedral and started flying around it. They must live up in the spires, which makes the place that much cooler. It’s a hard to capture on my little camera, but I tried!

Up next: my visit to the Ruhr Valley. Never heard of it? Neither had I! Stay tuned…

3. Design-gasm

4. The Day of Inspiring People

5. On Going Away and Coming Back