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 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