Black Friday in Denmark

Danes don’t celebrate Thanksgiving (for obvious reasons). However, the Black Friday experience seems to be catching on here, sorta. The online scene consists of many Danish companies having online sales starting at different times on Thursday and Friday. And what were these great offers? Answer: 20% off.* You know you’ve lived in Denmark too long when 20% off actually sounds like a pretty good deal. Yes, I bought a vase. To be fair, it is a really awesome vase. But it still sounds lame. I’ll make it less lame by giving said vase it’s own blog post. It’s very special. Ok, enough about the vase. I’m obsessed (with the vase).

In real life, for at least the past two years, and probably longer, Santa brings Christmas to Aarhus on the last Friday of November. In Denmark, Santa is called Julemanden. Julemanden arrives in the harbor from Greenland (not literally, at least I hope not) and then gets in his white Cadillac to lead a parade around Aarhus. Santa then lights the 23 meter tall Christmas tree in front of Aarhus City Hall and everyone sings a few carols.

"Black Friday" in Danish

“Black Friday” in Danish

Since Santa always brings Christmas to Aarhus on Black Friday, many shops in the city, including the mall, are open for “night shopping.” This means that they open on Black Friday at a regular time (9 or 10am), but stay open until 11 or midnight, which is special because normally retail stores here close around 6 or 7pm. In typical Danish fashion, the weather was windy and cold with intermittent spits of rain. Perfect for a night out. After watching Santa light the tree, I decided to go on a cultural field trip and see what Denmark’s Black Friday had to offer. I hit the mall first because it was closest and I’m lazy. There was a huge crowd and the predominant “deal” was 20% off any item at all stores.

The most popular discount.

The most popular discount.

A few of the stores had DJs and from 11pm-midnight there was free champagne (which I didn’t stick around for, dumb I know). The other main attraction at the mall was a Justin Bieber-esque Dane playing the piano and singing top 40 tunes. People seemed entertained. I then decided that drinking a large latte at 8pm was good idea. (Rookie mistake).

Next, I decided to take a walk down the pedestrian street . Although there were a lot of people out, it was a rather relaxed atmosphere. Nobody seemed to be in a hurry and lots of families were strolling down the pedestrian street eating candied almonds and sharing hot drinks they had bought at the various Christmas themed specialty stands that pop up this time of year. So overall, my Black Friday experience in Denmark was more relaxing than the US version of the tradition. For a little taste of the festivities, here is a short and lovely video featuring the aforementioned Aarhus Christmas activities: Click here!

Thanks to the latte, I was up that night until probably midnight. So really, I should have stuck around for the free champagne at the mall. Next year?

*Disclaimer: Obviously I’m not aware of every single sale occurring on the interwebs, there may have been deeper discounts available. If you are looking for an amazing sale in Denmark, they all happen after Christmas.

The Deal With Cinnamon in Denmark

A good reason not to be single and 25 in Denmark….brought to you by our friend Allison over at Our House in Aarhus!

Our House in Aarhus

(Stick with the video until they get through the introduction. It’s worth it to see the guy get covered in cinnamon.)

 

So it turns out that the piles of cinnamon we’ve been seeing around are the result of a Danish birthday tradition. If you reach the age of 25 and are still single, you get doused in handfuls of cinnamon. (Sometimes it’s much more than handfuls, as you will see if you watch the videos in the links below.)

If you turn 30 and are still single, you get covered in pepper. (Or maybe you’re just given some pepper in a pepper shaker, people disagree a little bit on how this ritual is enacted.)

This post on the Huffington Post travel blog claims that the birthday ritual dates back to the time of traveling spice salesmen, who often remained bachelors because they traveled so much. And it has a video…

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Exploring Zealand

Thomas and I decided to take a quick trip to that other part of Denmark to do some exploring before we became a two income household. (Yes, I got a job! More about that later.) Our main destinations were the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art and Kronborg Castle, both of which are less than an hour north of Copenhagen by train. Thomas took Friday off from work and we rode the train from Aarhus to Copenhagen. After spending Friday night there, we took the train north to the town of Humlebæk (yeah, I can’t pronounce it either), where the Louisiana Museum is located on the shores of the Øresund (in English, The Sound). I don’t claim to understand or like modern art, so if you would like a review of the art at the museum, ask Thomas. I did really enjoy the sculpture garden and architecture of the museum.

HTLaMus LaMus1 LaMus2 LaMus3

Here is the wishing tree from the Yoko Ono exhibit:

LaMusWishTree

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The museum also had a great cafe where we ate the most traditional Danish lunch I’ve ever had. It featured the typical things, like various cold salads involving cabbage, some new potatoes, a small amount of beef, and a cream soup. After refueling, we took the train a little further north to Helsingør.

helsign

We spent Saturday night at a cute little hotel in Helsingør. We had a very nice dinner in the cozy restaurant downstairs and then listened to people scream outside our hotel window until 4am. Yay. Helsingør is in a pretty strategic location. Super close to Sweden, which is just across the sound. So, back in the day, the Danish kings charged anyone entering or leaving the Baltic Sea through the sound and started raking in the cash. Today the city is strategic for another reason. I hear alcohol is very expensive in Sweden and since Helsingør is just a 20 minute ferry ride away from Sweden, you can guess where the Swedes might go when they get thirsty.

On Sunday morning, we toured the castle/fortress built to enforce the “sound dues,” as they were called. The abridged history of Kronborg:

-Built in 1420’s as crappy fortress to collect cash from ships

TCastle

-Late 1500’s, Frederick II upgraded the fortress, largest ballroom in Northern Europe was added. Great for a giant fredagsbar.

ballroom

-1629, some guys accidentally burned down the castle, except for the chapel, hate when that happens.

The Chapel.

The Chapel.

-1631, King Christian IV (or C4 as he liked to be called) dumped a whole lotta money into the property to restore it to its former glory, but this time Baroque style.

-In 1658, during one of the Danish-Swedish conflicts, the Swedes invaded and stole a whole bunch of stuff from the castle. Bye-bye cool fountain.

No fountain.

No fountain.

-Improved defense of the fortress. Thanks, Swedes!

My phone thought we were in Sweden for awhile.

My phone thought we were in Sweden for awhile.

-1740’s until 1900ish = prison. Not so exciting.

There are two other pretty cool things about Kronborg. The castle is the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which he calls Elsinore. Additionally, there is a pretty cool cat sleeping in the basement.

This is Holger.

This is Holger.

Holger will sleep in the basement of the castle until the realm is in trouble. At which point he will wake up and…….something. I liked Holger. Thomas wants to name our first dog Holger.

After this adventure, we took the train back to Copenhagen and had just enough time to rest up before a trip to Manfred and Vin, one of the restaurants we really like in CPH and that is actually open on Sundays.  A great way to end a wonderful weekend!

A tale of two cities

Thomas and I returned last week from a ten-day vacation (or, “holiday” as you have to call them here) in Paris and Amsterdam. Paris was – in short – hot and full of people. Amsterdam was – in short – full of prostitutes and smelled of weed. Here’s a bit of what we did.

Upon arriving in Paris, we took the RoissyBus from Charles de Gaulle airport – north of the city – to the Opera, near an apartment we’d rented for the week. Pleasantly, we were greeted by a motorbike on fire in the middle of the road, perhaps a portent of the hot weather we would experience. No one seemed particularly concerned.

IMAG1208

Aside from the uncomfortably warm temperatures and hordes of people on holiday, Paris was wonderful. Below are some photos of what we did while we were there.

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What did we do in Paris? What didn’t we do in Paris?! We hit most of the major sites but also skipped a couple because it was too hot, there were too many people, or we just didn’t feel like it that much. We had planned on going to Notre Dame, but once we saw the hour or so queue in the unforgiving sun and I started to get the visual symptoms that usually precede a migraine, we decided instead to go to the crypt, a place where I felt more at home, being half-vampire. They call it a crypt, but it’s the archaeological ruins of the heart of the city dating from 14 AD. They had some really impressive computer reconstructions of what the ruins would have looked like in the past. It was really cool because the crypt showed how street level had been raised 20 or so feet over the last two thousand years and that the path of the Seine had moved from where the Notre Dame currently sits to the river’s present location a few dozen meters south.

After that we went to the Pompideu Center and saw their random collection of art. Weird building, good view. Thomas liked the modern art. From there we checked out St. Chapelle, which has gorgeous stained glass windows and is worth a short stop. The pictures in the above gallery don’t really do it justice. Then our friendly guidebook recommended we grab some ice cream from Berthillon’s on the Île Saint-Louis, which we gladly did and it was delicious! (You can see pictures of Thomas enjoying his above.) It seems eating ice cream or ice cream treats is an essential part of any European summer.

The next day was Bastille Day! All the buses and monuments, etc, were decked out with French flags. We decided to hit up the Musee d’Orsay, probably my favorite museum in Paris. They house an impressive impressionist collection inside a converted railway depot. We had lunch in the museum cafe, which was forgettable. After that we got on one of the hop-on hop-off tourist buses, and decided to ride around a bit to give our legs a break. We got off the bus a short walk from the Pantheon. Impressive architecture, lots of big names in the crypt. I guess the only way to get out of the heat in Paris is find a crypt. Somewhere in here we ate more ice cream. That night we decided we would try to see the Bastille day fireworks. We didn’t want to go all the way to the Eiffel Tower because we heard you had to get there hours ahead of time and the apartment we were renting was quite far away. So we opted for a spot more near our place, which turned out to be fine. Not a great view, but you got the idea, it was pretty epic. At the end, everyone was cheering and clapping, even though we were about a mile away. Here is a nice little youtube video, the grand finale starts at about 34:00 minutes. We had a lovely walk home; I think Paris really is its most beautiful at night.

Monday the first thing we did was hit up the Louvre. I think we got there shortly after it opened, but it was still super packed. We saw all the major art highlights. My favorite part was playing “avoid the massive tour group so you don’t get trampled” and “try not to run into the tourist in front of you who abruptly stopped for no reason.” Next we made a stop at Musee de l’Orangerie, which was my surprise favorite of the trip. You couldn’t take pictures, but they had several rooms full of Monet that stretched the entire wall of each room. They were gorgeous and had additional exhibits that were surprisingly enjoyable, showcasing a mix of impressionist paintings and a special exhibit on some not-well-known Italian painters from the 19th century. After that we decided we needed at least one aerial view of Paris, so we bused over to the Arc de Triomphe and walked up the 200 some spiral staircase to the top. This reminds me I need to get a gym membership because I almost died before we got to the top. It was well worth the exertion though, the view was great! That night we did a river cruise, which was refreshing, and then ate a super awesome dinner in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. Hilariously, both of the nice restaurants we ate at were full of Americans, which was fine, because the food was great, but it’s a contrast to Denmark where we rarely hear English when we are out.

Tuesday we went to Les Invalides, wherein that quasi-famous military guy is entombed. Last name Bonaparte.  There were several other small museums at Les Invalides that showcased armor, guns, and swords from around the world and from the history of France. They had a really nice exhibit on how the armor and weapons of knights had changed over the centuries. Additionally, there was also a nice explanation of the differences between guns with flintlock and wheel-lock firing mechanisms. After the guns and steel adventure, we hopped on over to the Rodin Museum, which was mostly closed for renovation. The grounds of the museum were beautiful and a perfect backdrop for his sculptures. Thomas really enjoyed this part and it was a surprisingly tranquil break from what was mostly a hectic, touristy city.

Our last day in Paris we attempted to visit Versailles. We found the correct train and followed all the tourists to the palace after getting off the train. Successful so far, but after learning we would have to wait in about a three hour queue to get inside the palace in the blistering sun, we decided that seeing the grounds would be good enough for us. The grounds were impressively vast, I couldn’t imagine one person owning that much land. We ate lunch at a cute little place on the grounds about a 15 minute walk from the palace and then started to head back to central Paris for our wine tasting! It was a short wine tasting, 3 glasses, but we figured since it was included in our ParisPass, we should take advantage of it. I learned quite a few things about wine tasting! For example, in Paris, when buying wine, they never put the type of grape on the label, just the region. It’s up to you to know what types of wine are produced in that region. Our sommelier also taught us this slurping technique that is supposed to enhance the taste of the wine, if you can do it without choking. Good times.

The next morning we were off to Amsterdam on the train. To be continued…..

The red, white, and blue

We’re back from our whirlwind tour back in the US for Thomas’s graduation. We spent the first few days in the Twin Cities basically eating all the food we’d missed while in Denmark. (By “we,” I mostly mean me.) Bases covered included Mexican, garlic mashed potato pizza, and a real cheese burger from the drive-in (stop putting cucumbers on my burger, Denmark!). After eating too much and ingesting ridiculous amounts of high fructose corn syrup, we left Minnesota for Chicago to attend Thomas’s graduation from Northwestern. I thought it might be a fun road trip because we haven’t really been in a car for any amount of time since arriving in Denmark, but it was just as boring as I remember. We did stop at the Mars Cheese Castle.

MarsCheeze

While in Chicago, or more accurately Evanston, we were able to visit with some of Thomas’s grad school friends before attending his hooding ceremony on Thursday. Doesn’t he look great in his fru fru outfit! Go Dr. Leeper!

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In all seriousness, it was really nice to be able to celebrate his momentous achievement because he has worked so hard the past few years. He’s always been an extraordinary thinker and I’m looking forward to a lifetime of listening to his extraordinary ideas. No pressure.

We drove back to Minneapolis just in time to get caught in a thunderstorm with 60mph winds. Good timing. After driving through this armageddon, I got to visit two of the most lovely ladies I know, which included wandering around downtown Excelsior. It was great to be able to see a lot of people we’d been missing, but I don’t think we saw everyone we would have liked to, which is okay because we’ll be back soon! (sorta, if December is soon).

Since we’ve been back, things have been pretty low key since everyone in the country has left for vacation. Except for these guys.

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I also went on a photo shoot with a photographer here in Aarhus because I’m one of 14 expats to be featured in a publication put out by the International Community. More about that later!

Coming up: A post about the tall ships that were here in Aarhus over the 4th of July weekend!

Botanisk Have and other happenings

It was a beautiful day in Aarhus yesterday, so Thomas and I decided to visit the botanic garden, which it turns out is basically just a giant park where the Aarhusians hang out with a minimal amount of actual “garden.” We did find a few nice flowers.

flower1flower2

flower3

We also made a stop downtown to pick up a new coffee press because ours had an accident. (P.S. Drip coffee makers are not very common here.)

downtownHedgie

Then we stopped by Cafe Jorden to get a refreshing beverage before we made our way home. It was a very Euro Saturday.

In other news:

  • Thomas and I both passed our Module 1 Danish test, we’re now Module 2 students!
  • Had a nice dinner with a bunch of Thomas’s colleagues. Realized that we still don’t speak or understand Danish that well.
  • We got invited to our first Danish birthday party next week, which should be fun.
  • Heather is taking a belly dance class taught by a Hungarian in English to a mostly Danish class.
  • Thomas went to Boston and came back. Heather got a shirt out of the deal.
  • We will be back in Minnesota in a few weeks!!

Return to the Inferno

Thomas and I went back to the art museum in Aarhus to finish the exhibits we had missed when we were there last time. In case I didn’t mention it before, the art museum has a spiral stair case, which is supposed to allude to Dante’s decent.

ARoS 3

At the end of the decent are nine rooms with different “in progress” art installations. The number alludes to the 9 circles of hell and the entire exhibit is painted black with minimal lighting. As if that wasn’t creepy enough, we found this. No words.

Thomasandboy

Then we moved on to Klien/Byars/Kapoor exhibition, which I enjoyed because it was an impressive use of color and light.

Byars

Byars

Klein

Klein

Part of the Kapoor installation was a cannon that fired a ball of wax every 30 minutes. If you were somewhere else in the museum and didn’t know about the cannon, it was a heart attack waiting to happen.

cannon

After our short, but sweet, trip to the museum, we decided to check out Sct. Oluf’s restaurant, which serves French fare. The menu is essentially fixed, but you get your choice of entree (meat or fish) and dessert. The three course menu was solid, classic French cooking, and reasonably priced (as reasonably priced as a meal in Denmark can be, given the high taxes).

Yesterday we visited R&T, Thomas’s colleague and his partner, for coffee and cake. We had a great time, learned a bit more about Denmark and Danish culture and impressed them with our singing rendition of “50 Nifty United States.” All in all, not a bad four day weekend!