The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
- Saint Augustine

Monday, October 31, 2011

We got us some castle weather.

"Darkness weep thy holiest tears"- Percy B. Shelley

Morbid? Perhaps. Creepily beautiful? Definitely. A correct representation of Copenhagen's weather? Absolutely.

Today at the office (just thought I'd throw that in there to sound like I'm mature enough to have an office job. It's scary that I almost do.) my supervisor was telling me that the cloud cover outside, that's been here for a few weeks, isn't many little clouds (oh, you foolish Californian, you never see individual clouds!) but rather one enormous cloud that spans across nearly all of Denmark. Therefore the chance of sun peaking threw is only about one in forty million. (Did you also know that 75% of all statistics are made up on the spot?) But this little tidbit of information put me in the poetical groove and I needed me some prose inspired by the divine. Shelley and his burning coal of godlike creativity smoldering deep from within was just what I needed! (If it's your first time reading this blog, I am a literature major, not a freak)

Bottom line is, he has some great poems about weather.

And as my good friend Caroline says, it's perfect castle weather! So to the castle we go!
Fredericksbrog Castle is about 45 minutes outside of Copenhagen and I tagged along with the other international students to get a free ride and admission into the castle of Christian the 4th.

Above is my friend Jahon and I in the main square. Note the pumpkins in the background! It's Halloween in Denmark too. The green roof was once a shining copper. Not too bad Christian! (BTW fun fact about kings names. They are either Christian or Frederick. They switch them each time they birth another male heir.)

Now when I say "tagged along" I mean dodged the sign in sheet people who are counting those in their class and pretended to be a student of the "Danish Culture Course". Although I doubt if they found out I wasn't enrolled they'd hardly be angry, Danes have a funny way of being thrilled when anyone is interested in their culture. However, because of these organized field trips I've been able to go to the Louisiana Museum, a canal tour and later the Opera, all paid for by the government! (take a hint America, if you want people to like you, force your culture down foreigners' throats. Maybe that wouldn't work out too well, actually)

But the church inside was really quite something.
As was the portrait of the small danish child with a rifle... Oh the Danes...

On further cultural news I recently returned from The Netherlands from visiting my bestie (shout out to Christine Homan woot!) and pretending to go site seeing at the same time.

To be honest the first night after a few dozen hugs and many "I can't believe you're here"s (and people at the train station looking fondly at us thinking we were an out and proud couple) we just settled down in her hygge apartment with some gluten-free noms and talked. Indeed, we talked so much the entire week that when I returned to the Cop-land I had lost my voice. But I had some darn good looking polished nails.

We did get out quite a bit though, and I got to see some great Dutch sights. (Remember it's the Netherlands, in which Holland is a provence- not the country- and they speak Dutch, got it?) I climbed to the top of Dom Tower, the highest church point in the Netherlands with a friend from my work back home. She quite conveniently was in Utrecht the same days and we talked about all things 'Leg'gy (back home I worked at a lingerie shop called "Legs" and developed an unhealthy appreciation for lace underthings, my friend Johanna has helped me cultivate it)
Above is Johanna and I at the top- looking a bit weary and nauseated from the climb (500 meters up)
And below the lovely Christine and Dom Tower in the back ground. 

Also in Utrecht, we visited the Botanical Gardens and felt very "zen'

Christine and I ventured out to Rotterdam, one of Europe's main ports for the day and saw some great museums, enjoyed a vino and cheese platter and generally felt like very civilized europeans. 

The picture above, of the two of us, might be one of my favorites of all time. It reminds me of when about a year ago, Christine would come from her room next to mine and sit on the edge of my bed as we would fantasize about going abroad together, what a foreign, removed concept it seemed then. It reminds me how I ran into her room screaming when I checked my e-mail at 1:00 am and saw that I had been accepted to the University of Copenhagen. It reminds me of when we would shake our heads at the (stupid) people at the foreign affair department who managed to royally screw up more of our paper work and we'd come home in near tears that this adventure would never happen. It reminds me of when a month before we left, we'd sunbathe on the front porch of our house predicting what it would be like, and how wrong and how right we were. It reminds me of when the night before I left, at our bon voyage party, she gave me the biggest hug and said, smiling "I'll see you in Europe." We made it, Christine! We're here!

After the love friendfest that happened in Rotterdam, we went to the one and only, Amsterdam.
It was loud, it was busy, tall buildings, cobblestone and mayonnaise with french fries were everywhere. As was the sweet scent of some local herb and neon titties. There was also a ferris wheel!

But we opted to take a bit of a walk outside of the main downtown and went to the Van Gogh Museum. After a polite security guard nearly karate chopped my camera from my hand, I was encouraged to take mental pictures.

Unfortunately for you, I take incredible mental pictures.

But here's one real photo I was able to take in front of the "I AMsterdam" building just outside the Van Gogh.

After the Van Gogh, we thought we'd get some culture with a Sex Museum, instead we got some 1800's porn and some questionably dressed mannequins. We also went to a lovely cafe (the owner must have been a Marley) to further experience some "culture". I find that mental photographs are also best for both of these locations.

Lastly, before I bid my friend farewell, we took a night canal tour, waving at the Anne Frank House and some pretty incredible Opera houses. We also enjoyed some Asian food (Wok to Walk!) on the tour and felt very well rounded. 

As we were walking back to my hostel in the dark, we found the Red Light District was just a block away (I only choose the finest of accommodations for myself, however, my window was less well-lit) so we took a little stroll. 

It was... strange. Part of me wanted to point and gawk because of the absurdity of it, but another part really pulled at my morality. It was like walking through a zoo. Except that these were humans. Over sexualized, made-up, silicone filled humans, but still, women none the less. I wanted to look away, but looking away wouldn't change the fact that these people exist out in the world. I began thinking that the girl in the cheetah bikini on my right knocking on the glass at a Persian fellow, might be hailing her second or third customer for the evening. She was probably a year younger than me. 

So feeling icky and fortunate at the same time, Christine and I tightened our scarves and finally said our good byes. "4 weeks until I get to see Copenhagen!" "So glad I'll be with family on Thanksgiving" (the normal mushy stuff) and I waved at her from my corner (not MY corner, I wasn't out for business) and went into my hostel above the waffle house. 

Overall great trip, and as with any trip, it was good to unload my pack into my apartment and take a nap. It was good to be home, and Copenhagen, in this part of my life, is my home. 

I get the unique ability to make it a part of both places for me. Meaning I get to spread the American traditions here, and learn some new ones.

The professors at my internship FREAKED out when I came in drinking tea from a jam jar. This one I understand people never get. I was pretty against the hipster implications of it myself upon it's rising popularity, but with an airtight lid, the perfect amount of tea on the go and the convenient purse size, I got on the coffee in a jam jar band wagon. The 50-year-old egyptologists were not quite so open-minded. 
"You don't do this?" I joked when the director looked at me like I had folded papyrus into fourths to make it "easier for travel".
"NO!" he spat incredulously, "In Denmark, we use mugs!" Even Thomas, my faithful counterculture grad student found it "a bit odd" 

On Wednesday I went over to my friend Sam's for pumpkin carving and burrito night (how American are WE) and we taught 2 germans and 4 Australians how to gut a pumpkin, roast seeds and - get this- how to wrap a burrito. 
Quote of the night "Wait, why are you putting your rice IN the burrito. Rice goes on the side!" Nej, sweetie, nej. 

The next night Brittany came over to make caramel corn and my housemates huddled around us until I finally gave in and asked if they had ever tried it. "Why are you putting caramel ON the popped corn. Doesn't it get soggy? Wait, now it goes in the oven too??" 

While us Americans have some weird things, the Danes can definitely groove with the Halloween trend. Although they lack the enthusiasm I went to a great halloween party on Saturday. 

See if you can guess. I was bloody. My name nag says Mary. I am wearing white and have celery in my hair, I am a ______ _______.

Bloody Mary

One thing I have discovered that the Americans are loved for is their candy. After burritos the other night the Australians drooled over our conversations of Snickers and Kit kats (Oreos are by far the leading favorite) while they had to explain to us what a Bounty bar was. 

Alright lastly, this is long overdue, but I have to address this issue of Robbie Williams.

Have YOU ever heard of him?

If so, props, you can live in Europe.

If not, "WHAT, it's Robbie Willams, R-O-B-B-I-E Willams, come on, "Shame, You Know Me, Bodies...?" He's Robbie Williams!"
Ok number one, repeating his name really isn't helping. Number two, if he really was that big, sorry but shouldn't we have heard of him?

The first time I encountered this reaction my friend Brittany and I were at pub in Vienna talking to some German business men at the table across from ours. We both did the shrug to each other but the men wouldn't have it and one of them played three of Robbie's songs off his iPhone and then tried to sing them. Telling him we'd never heard of him didn't stop him either. "He's like Elton John, he's your go to man! He's Robbie Williams!" 
We didn't hang out with those guys much longer after that. 

So there you have it, we put rice in our burritos and caramel on our popped corn, and Europe listens to Robbie Williams. Other than that, I'd say we're pretty much the same. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Royale With Cheese

At international trivia night last evening the question was "What is a quarter pounder called in Europe?" John Travolta helped me out with that one.

Speaking of places Vincent Vega enjoys, I am going to Amsterdam tomorrow to visit a very dear friend who lives about thirty minutes outside of the city in a place called Utrecht where she is studying. There I am looking forward to the rituals of girl bonding including (but not limited to) painting our nails (we have yet to graduate from our fourth grade mentality) cook delicious food, doing tours of the city and generally enjoy one another's company. This will be the first time that I am visiting a place where I get to not plan, but simply be guided around the city. I am extremely looking forward to it.

One thing that we do plan on doing while I am there is the NewEurope walking tour of Amsterdam. If you are doing any traveling in the major cities of europe, you seriously have to go on these walking tours. My first was in Berlin. Don't be turned off by the 4 and a half hour time frame, for I don't think it's possible to do Berlin in any less time. The tours are completely free (tips encouraged at the end) and they are lead by young students or recent graduates who are trained to make the tour a little out of the ordinary, but all the more informative and exciting. When in Berlin, we not only saw the Berlin Wall, the courtyard where book burnings during Nazi regimes happened, the "Murdered Jews of Europe Memorial" but also while walking by a parking lot we were informed we were standing on Hitler's Bunker where he later committed suicide.
Murdered Jews of Europe Memorial

Berlin Wall

The next day my friend and I decided to pay for a tour through the same company of Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. Although it was hard to take, the tour was tastefully lead, and very informative as well as moving. If interested in visiting a work camp while in Europe, I would recommend this tour- but only for the strong of heart. I sat out on a few exhibits because I started to feel woozy towards the end. 
The sign above reads "Work Will Set You Free"a cruel promise by the Nazi's. To a prisoner it was implied that if they worked hard enough they would be discharged, but to the Nazi officers, it was clear that they would be worked to death, and only then obtain freedom. 

On a lighter note, Sandeman's NewEurope Tours are awesome! I've included the link for your own enjoyment 
In Berlin we did the walking tour, the Pub Crawl, the concentration camp tour. In London we did the free walking tour (only 2 hours) and I also did it in Copenhagen (3 hours-although, this one is still in it's developmental stages and needs some work). 
Long story short, I am also planning on doing one in Amsterdam.

In Copenhagen, all students have this week off of classes. But do they know why? Potato picking my friends. Students were given this week off to help their families harvest potatoes before the frost set in. I made myself a potato meal to celebrate this evening. 

Because classes have been cancelled, I have been enjoying the leisure of an underworked college student. I read a book yesterday. No joke! As cheesy as the title sounds "Enduring Love" by Ian McEwan, the book is not a romance novel and actually about a psychological disorder and a stalker. It was made into a movie staring Daniel Craig in 2004.
Got to say though, after the first chapter, it kinda goes downhill. Almost worth buying just for the first fifty pages thou, Ian McEwan (author of "Atonement") has some effortlessly beautiful prose, and at just 250 pages, it's well worth the read. 
Just started "Becoming English: The Making of Mr. Hai's Daughter" which is a nice breezy memoir for a class. Also finished "In Our Time" by (the AMERICAN woo woo!) Ernest Hemingway. I find I have quite a bit of national pride when someone/ something turns out to be American. There is far too few things to be proud of here, especially when it comes to welfare. They get paid to go to college. And we get... well... metaphorically "shat" on (to use the british form of the word) 

Speaking of Britain, I went to London! We saw Wicked, went to Buckingham Palace, the National Museum, Big Ben, Chinatown, Minstery of Sound (nightclub), Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral the London Bridge, the Tate Museum of Modern Art, and London's Chinatown
Above left: Big ben and the iconic double decker bus Brittany and I had quite the night with one evening. For those of you who have never rode a double decker bus, if you've ever seen the third Harry Potter film with "The Knight Bus" that should give you a pretty realistic idea. Above right is me eating Mochi in Chinatown. 
Below is me (Where's Waldo?) in front of Westminster Abbey 
If you've managed to locate me, you can also note the tank top and skirt. It was 85 F the entire time, in October. Needless to say, I throughly enjoyed London. 

I think packing for Amsterdam might be a little different. I finally finished my scarf and am starting on another one. I also shamelessly gave in and created a profile on "Ravelry". If you're a knitter and haven't heard of this site (I can't imagine what circumstance that would be, but regardless) it's by far the best way to find patterns. Furthermore, I threw humility to the wind and took pictures of my knitted items and uploaded them. (For shame!) But here is the one for the scarf. To compare, I included the original picture. 

Besides, knitting is cool, right Russell? 
I really don't even want to know the circumstances surrounding this picture. It gets me every time. 

Another fun thing by way of European Culture was that I bar-tended for an Oktoberfest party in full apparel. My name was also Heidi for the evening. It went grand except I had to explain to a few inebriated people that I did not understand drink orders in Danish and they had to speak English to me.

Anyways, off to pack to see my lovely friend in a lovely place! I may even order "A Royale with Cheese!"