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.

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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!

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

Haunts & Halloween in Copenhagen

Happy Halloween everybody!

Although I’m incredibly sad to be missing my yearly dose of pumpkin stew and watching Snoopy prowl around as the Red Baron in It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, it has been interesting to see how Halloween is handled in Denmark. Here are a few things I’ve noticed:

Danes aren’t very scary…

You may be asking yourself: what am I looking at and what does this have to do with Halloween? That, my friend, is a Danish cemetery and it’s about the least scary place I could possibly imagine. Each person gets their own little plot that is usually very landscaped and personalized. It’s so cute and kitchy–and a terrible setting for anything Halloween related.

…but they think Halloween has to be.

Last Friday my friend and I went to a Halloween party hosted by DIS (my study abroad program). She dressed up as a leek (porrer in Danish), because she always dresses up as food. While everybody loved her costume (she made a two-foot tall leek hat for goodness sake), all the Danes we encountered were confused how it was a Halloween costume. “What’s scary about porrer?” they asked us. “Are you an evil porrer?”

Try as they might, Danes can’t quite get Halloween right.

The one place in Copenhagen that did go all out for Halloween was Tivoli. I didn’t get to go myself, but according to a friend who went there were thousands of pumpkins all over the park, pumpkin lights strung in the trees, and renditions of “This is Halloweentown” from The Nightmare Before Christmas played.

Sounds pretty Halloween-y, but unfortunately Tivoli closed until the Christmas season on October 24–a week before Halloween. It was so strange to walk by that day and see them already taking down the decorations.

 

 

 

Their tricks may be lacking, but they’ve got the treats down.

Beyond the delicious pastries that I enjoy far too often (or not often enough?), Danes know how to enjoy their sweets. Keep an eye out for my next post, where I’ll tell you about my favorite Danish treat!

The Day of Inspiring People: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Welcome to chapter 4 in a series of posts about my week-long trip through Germany and the Netherlands! If you missed the first posts, check them out by clicking on the links below. Otherwise, read on!

1. Remembering Why I Came Here

2. Spiritual Spaces

3. Design-gasm

4. The Day of Inspiring People

The rest of our journey was spend in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Amsterdam was certainly a character-filled city. With canals running every which way, bikers doing the same, and “coffee shops” on every corner making no effort to hide what they’re actually selling, Amsterdam had an air of chaos that I hadn’t yet experienced in my European travels (For those of you who don’t know, coffee shops are where it it legal to sell and consume marijuana in Amsterdam. If you actually want to sit down for a cup of coffee, go to a cafe. And if you want coffee to-go good luck–remember, you’re in Europe now.)

To me, Amsterdam felt a little like Copenhagen cut loose. For example, they’re both extremely bike-focused cities, but Amsterdam seemed to do this at the expense of pedestrian friendliness. I’ve gotten used to the bikes in Copenhagen, but here it felt like learning how to ride again (pardon the pun). I definitely almost got hit on multiple occasions. And while jaywalking is somewhat frowned upon in Copenhagen (many people will wait for that little green man until the day they die), the streets in Amsterdam almost forced you to jay. Every time I crossed the street it felt like playing Frogger: get across the bike lane, then one car lane, then the above-ground tram lane, then do it all again on the other side of the street. I honestly don’t know how people enjoying Amsterdam’s, shall we say, cultural freedoms survive.

One thing Amsterdam may be less well known for are its museums. It is full of them, with over 50, and they range in subject from art to Anne Frank to bags and purses (?). As I’ve mentioned before, I have a slight obsession with museums (if I could, I’d go to a museum of museums), so one free afternoon a couple friends and I made stops at several.

Inspiring enough for you, Rembrandt?

First, we went to the Rembrandt House. As it sounds like, this museum guides you through the artist Rembrandt’s old house, and then ends with a gallery displaying a rare collection of his etchings. My favorite room was the one that housed his collection of “objects d’art” aka objects that inspired him. This was an odd menagerie of busts of random people, shells, preserved animals or animal parts, etc. With so many different things it was definitely my kind of room.

Making canary yellow paint!

Throughout the museum we also got to see demonstrations of some of Rembrandt’s art processes, such as how he made his pigments or did his etchings. These demonstrations definitely made the museum that much better, so if you are visiting I would highly recommend sticking around for them.

After a quick pancake dinner, we found ourselves at a very different hosue: Anne Frank’s. Even though this visit could have easily been depressing–and don’t get me wrong, it had it’s very sad moments–for me it was surprisingly more inspiring than the house of a master artist. Like Rembrandt, Anne Frank too had her collection of inspiring things: postcards and magazines showing her dreams, inspirations, and aspirations pasted on the wall of her tiny room. Anne wanted so much for her life and, despite her bleak situation, dreamed huge and worked furiously towards her dreams. Seeing her attitude towards life was both a sobering reminder and an inspiration for me to get absolutely everything I can out of life because I have so much freedom and opportunity. Although I hadn’t thought about Anne Frank since middle school, I’m so glad we went and am now itching to read the diary again. Another highly recommended museum.

Finally, we ended our day by going to a Brazilian Jazz concert at the big concert venue in Amsterdam, Concertgebouw. The concert featured a famous Belgian harmonica player (who knew?!) along with some of his Brazilian friends. Toots was hilarious–this guy couldn’t even walk on stage on his own he was so old, but as soon as he put that harmonica to his mouth he was jammin’. It was a great concert, and I only wish I could have gotten up and danced!

Our remaining days in Amsterdam were largely spent doing academic things and dealing with very sudden downpours (the weather was even more schizophrenic than in Copenhagen), but I did manage to hit up one more museum before I left: Van Gough.  No photos were allowed inside, but if you’re into art it’s another great stop in Amsterdam!

Finally, we were headed back to Copenhagen where an interesting “welcome home” was awaiting me…

5. On Going Away and Coming Back