Danish Field Trip

A few weekends ago, Thomas and I returned to Skanderborg to visit our Danish friends, Martin and Lisbeth, and see Martin’s bookbinding exhibition at the local museum. He does amazing work (click here to see the gallery of his work, a few samples below).

M1 M2

After that, we went back to their house for coffee and a snack. When we were planning our trip, they asked us if we had additional time to go to a place called Klostermølle, and even though we had no idea what this place was, we of course agreed to go! So after coffee, we hopped in the car again. It had been pretty windy and foggy all day, with intermittent threats of rain. After a beautiful drive around one of the largest lakes in Jutland, Mossø, we arrived at Klostermølle, which turned out to be a nature area with a twist. In the Middle Ages, monks had built a monastery in the area, and diverted the small river in the area so they could build a mill. After the monastery was destroyed during the Reformation, the mill was still used, but converted to use as a paper mill. The mill still exists on the site and you can climb to the top where there is a great view of the area.

papermill    S3

S4

There are also some purportedly nice hiking trails in the area, but we decided that would wait until another visit, since it was rainy and too foggy from the hill to see much of anything. Next they drove us to the site of another demolished monastery, which we could only peek at over the fence because it doesn’t open for tours until May. Speaking of the Reformation, our next stop was Sct. Sørens Church, which was where the first Lutheran Danish king was elected. This ticked off a few people and resulted in a two year civil war. You can guess who won. Subsequently, many monasteries were destroyed and the bricks used to build Skanderborg castle.  Unfortunately the church was locked (on a Sunday) and we couldn’t go in, but the church was unique in that the church building was separate from the tower.

rykierke

So, we got back in the car for one more stop. In the area there were several archaeological excavations because the sites of several battles from the Iron Age had been found. I guess at one point there were tours and M&L wanted to take us there to see if you could still see the excavations. It turns out they are not doing any excavations currently, so we got to see a really nice bog, but reading about the site later, it sounds very interesting. Hopefully they will do another excavation soon and we can go on a tour! Here is some more information to those who are archaeologically inclined (in English!): Alken Enge. That was our latest Skanderborg adventure and I’m sure we will be going back sometime soon for another.

In other news, we’ve both been keeping busy going to Danish class, preparing for our module one test in May. Our class has gone from about 30 people down to just about 10, on a good day. The last time there were only five of us. While Thomas is at work, I have been going to events put on by the International Community specifically for spouses. The last event was at Bora Bora dance theater. We got a nice little tour and one of the choreographers explained the process for making a performance (and free coffee!). I’ve also been knitting with my new friend from New Zealand, so that’s been fun! I’ve started doing some online volunteer work doing grant research and writing and am going to be volunteering for Denmark’s Cancer Society in the near future. Lastly, we can’t complain about the weather here, its been pretty mild compared to what our fellow Minnesotans are enduring. Here is a Danish phrase I hope all Minnesotans can be saying soon: Solen skinner (the sun shines)!

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Copenhagen, the final 1.5

The last part of our Copenhagen trip ended up being unintentionally food themed. Midmorning we wandered to Torvhallerne, an indoor food market. There was an amazing amount of really tasty looking traditional and modern Danish food, which made it hard to pick a place to start the food adventure. We decided on Palæo, whose theme was “primal gastronomy.” (Probably affiliated with the new trendy Paleo diet fad?) I had the most amazing hot dog ever and Thomas had duck wrapped in an omelette.

    

After strolling around a little more, we came upon what looked like cupcakes and I became overjoyed at the prospect of cake and frosting.

Sadly though, it appears that Denmark doesn’t do cupcakes like the US. These were basically muffins with some kind of frosting that was not buttercream. (Insert rant about wanting real cupcakes here) They weren’t bad, just didn’t satisfy the cupcake craving I’ve had since we moved here. As a consolation prize, The Coffee Collective, recommended by our guidebook, had a stall at the market and I had one very good latte!

After walking some distance back toward our hotel, we were again hungry. So, duh, we ate more hot dogs!

These hot dogs were from Andersen’s Bakery, conveniently located right across from the central train station, and were recommended by our guidebook.  Summary: nom!

After a glorious post-hot dog nap, it was time to head to the other side of town to visit Assistens Kierkegaard, take a stroll, and visit H.C. Andersen and Søren Kierkegaard. (See Thomas’s previous post for details about Assistens)

Dinner was in the same neighborhood as Assistens at a lovely place called Manfred’s and Vin, which I would go back to in the future, repeatedly. Their concept was small plates with a focus on local and seasonal ingredients. We let them choose our wine and ‘chef’s choice,’ which meant they brought us 7 small plates to share. I love surprises! They were all fantastic and I got to try pork tongue for the first time. These guys even made beets taste good! The other great part about the restaurant was our “table.” We got to sit at a bar overlooking the kitchen so we could watch some of the food being prepared. So many great smells. This was by far the best meal we’ve had since arriving in Denmark. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t eat like that everyday, but it’s what I imagined grown-up dining would feel like.

Sunday was “free day” at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, so we thought we’d catch a few old statues and some unique architecture before we headed home.

 

 

We didn’t get to see everything we would have liked in Copenhagen, but we had a great introduction to a lovely city that I’m sure we will be visiting again in the near future.

København, Part I

Thomas had Thursday, Friday, and Monday off of work for the Easter holidays here in Denmark. To take advantage of this time, we decided to explore Denmark’s capital city, since previously we had only visited the Copenhagen airport (which was very nice). Travelling from Aarhus to Copenhagen by train takes about three hours, depending on how many stops it makes. It was comfortable ride and a great way to see the Danish countryside. The train travels south from Aarhus to Odense and then crosses the Great Belt Bridge to Zealand.

Great Belt Bridge

After we arrived, we navigated to our hotel, which was literally on the other side of the train tracks. Before traveling to Copenhagen, I did some research to narrow down the list of things to see while we were there. Our Danish coffee date hosts advised us to buy a postcard of the Little Mermaid instead of seeing it in person because it was the Danish equivalent of lame. So with some vague plans, we were ready to conquer Copenhagen Our spacious hotel room.

Our first vague goal was to find dinner and go to the Mikkeller bar, which Thomas had come across magically, and is rumored to be the best brewery in Denmark. After wandering around, rejecting the Hard Rock Cafe twice, we found a nice Indian place that was super tasty. We made our way to Mikkeller and tried several of their beers. Mikkeller

The beers were all very good, pretty comparable to what you might find on the American craft beer scene. Then, like the party people we are, we went back to the hotel and went to sleep.

In Denmark, the weather never cooperates with anyone. On day two we woke up to snow, wind, and overcast skies. We had heard about a tour of the Danish parliament, conducted in English, so we went early to get tickets. After taking our tickets out of a stack at the Parliament’s public entrance, we decided that since we were so close to many other obligatory tourist sites in the center of Copenhagen, we would explore until the tour, which was at one. The parliament is in Christiansborg Palace, which houses all three branches of the Danish government. From what I’ve read, it has burnt down multiple times since 1167 and the current palace is the third iteration.

After walking along the canal, we ran into Nyhavn, one of the major tourist attractions in Copenhagen. I’d seen many pictures of Nyhavn, but seeing the real thing was more impressive than I thought it was going to be. Lunch was multicultural; I had the worst craving for a burger and fries and Thomas kept it more traditional Danish style.

Nyhavn

In Copenhagen, you are never more than a stones throw away from a palace/castle/church. Our next stop was Amalienborg, where (some of) the Danish royals reside. Obviously, the royals have other residences, including one that is used in the summer in Aarhus.

We didn’t stay long because we didn’t want to be late for our tour, which, wait for it…..was cancelled. Without explanation. Boo. After our disappointment, we decided to make our way to the Royal Museum for Fine Arts via the pedestrian only shopping/eating street called the Strøget. On the way we ran into the Rundetaarn (aka The Round Tower). For a small price, this was a very cool place to visit. It has been around since 1642 and was used as an observatory by University astronomers after the king kicked Tycho Brahe out of the country for some reason. Attached to the tower is a building that once held the University’s  library, which has been converted into a gallery and concert venue.

No stairs!

No stairs!

Royal Museum for Fine Arts was fine and looked like this:

Look, another castle! This one is called Rosenborg. It was originally built as a “summerhouse” and now serves as a giant closet where the Royal collections (of various things) are stored, which, for a price, you can tour.

Feeling snacky, we stopped at Lagkagehuset, which was a recommendation from our Danish instructor back in Minneapolis who had studied in Copenhagen. I had a glorified pop tart called a hindbærsnitter (okay, it was much better than a pop tart) and Thomas had some cake thing.

Poptart

We were pretty tired after walking around all day and headed back to our hotel. Given that it was a holiday, there were not many places still open, so we ate street food for dinner. Little did we know the next night we would have the best dinner since we’ve moved to Denmark. To be continued……

Cemeteries

For some reason, going to cemeteries is a tourist activity. This is pretty strange, considering that travel brochures for most towns – except perhaps New Orleans – generally don’t mention all the great cemeteries that you can visit while staying in such and such town. Yet, I always seem to end up going to cemeteries when I visit European cities. This past weekend, when Heather and I were in København, we stopped in just one cemetery: Assistens Kierkegård. As some of the photographs on that Wikipedia page will reveal, Assistens has somewhat more of a park vibe than a cemetery vibe. Though we didn’t see any sunbathers, we did come across some wildlife:

Magpies Squirrel

 

 

 

 

But, aside from chasing magpies through a park full of graves, we actually stopped at Assistens to see the graves of a couple of famous Danes: Hans Christian Andersen, Niels Bohr, and Søren Kierkegaard. (That last of these, ironically, has a surname that means cemetery.)

AndersenBohrKierkegaard

 

 

 

 

 
While the locations of these graves is public knowledge – and the cemetery provided a convenient map to help locate them – they didn’t seem to have the same extravagant appearance of some other graves I’ve been to in Europe, like those of Beethoven and Mozart that I saw in Vienna in 2006. (Note that despite the pattern of cemetery-related behavior, I still find it weird that graves are tourist attractions.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 
Indeed, the pictures of the gravesites of Andersen, Bohr, and Kierkegaard, show that these incredibly famous Danes have relatively modest graves that are hardly prominent or excessively decorated with flowers, candles, and the like. Indeed, Kierkegaard doesn’t even have top-billing on his own gravestone. Assistens was actually surprisingly nice and had little of either the awe-inspiring characteristics of large American cemeteries nor the creepy, haunted vibe of some European cemeteries (i.e., those in Prague).

Instead, the cemetery was – as would be appropriate for anything Danish – cozy. Full of trees, shrubs, and flowers (though they weren’t really in bloom at the moment), the cemetery was just a nice place for people to walk their dogs, chat with friends, or spend a somewhat chilly afternoon. I guess that coziness is what makes Danes want to visit cemeteries. And tourists, as well. I still find it strange that cemeteries seem to always fall on the travel agenda, but this cemetery really exceeded expectations.