Denmark Europe Study Abroad

Copenhagen: A Love Letter, and A Goodbye

24 hours until I’m in Colorado again.

It’s so strange that my time here is ending.  Unlike when I left for college, or when I go home for summer breaks, there’s a finality about the goodbyes that I’ve said here.  Although I would love to travel in the US and see all of them again, it’s not as easy to do that when we’re settled back into our regular lives.  Sadly, there is no budget airline where I can book $100 roundtrip weekend flight to see the wonderful people I’ve spent time with here (some of whom are pictured above).

It’s funny, because when I went into this experience, making friends was very low on my priority list.  This was always meant to be an experience where the goal was my traveling, my personal growth, my self discovery.  And yet I’ve come out of this with awesome friendships, where I’ll wonder how it’s possible that I’ve only known (most of) these people for four short months.  And, while I can always come back to Copenhagen, part of what made it home for this semester were the people I was experiencing it with.  So many people touched my life this semester, and I’m so grateful that they were a part of my time here.

In the spirit of reflection, things I will miss about Copenhagen in no particular order:

1. Personal space- not talking to strangers on public transportation/on the street/anywhere really is amazing.  The US should seriously adopt this aspect of the culture.

2. Kanelsnegle- the Danish obsession with cinnamon rolls is wonderful and I love it (unlike the Danish obsession with licorice.  Why.)

3. (Mostly) Reliable and Clean Public Transportation- the trains and buses in Europe are a massive step up from what I’m used to.  And as someone who hates driving, I’m a huge fan.

4. Tivoli- my absolute favorite place in Copenhagen.  Between this and Legoland I’ve sort of fallen back in love with amusement parks.

5. Ability to Travel- I’ve gone to so many new places this semester.  In Europe, you can do things like take a day trip to Sweden or go to the Czech Republic for a weekend.  I’ve loved having that freedom and ease to see and experience new things, and go to the places I’ve always dreamed about.

(I could add many more items, but I think that’s enough for now.  Also, expect another list that’s things I’ve missed about the US once I’ve returned and adjusted to the 8 hour time difference)

Study abroad has been everything I dreamed of, and more.  I’ve gone to 11 countries, climbed 3 mountains, and had conversations in my 2nd and 3rd language.  I’ve seen the place Hitler died, and a place where over a million of his victims died.  I’ve seen Viking memorials, Russian churches, medieval fortified churches, many other churches, magnificent palaces, the Berlin Wall, and the Queen of Denmark.  I met my German family for the first time and I saw the church my grandma originally painted in Prague in 1938.  I drank beer in Germany, wine in France, and vodka in Russia.  I traveled alone for the first time in my life, even though that part was unplanned.  And throughout all of this, I took 17 credit hours and wrote well over 60 pages of papers.  It’s been quite the journey for these past four months, and I wouldn’t change any of it.

Jeg kommer til at savne København og mine venner her.  Jeg synes byen er fantastisk og jeg skal at rejse til København igen.  Vi ses, Danmark.

Denmark Europe Study Abroad

Copenhagen: Christmas in Christiania and Tivoli

Page Count: 46

Word Count: 15,105

And with that I’m done with all of my finals.  This was my last week of classes with DIS, and my last full week in Denmark.  It’s hard to believe, but this time next week I’m going to be back in Colorado.  It’s been a whirlwind week, with essay writing, classes, and trying to spend every spare moment with the wonderful people I’ve met in Copenhagen.  After the past four months, it’s sad that I may never see some of my friends here again.  I’ve had amazing adventures with them, and they’ve helped to make my study abroad experience wonderful.

Friday, Paige and I celebrated the end of classes by going to Christmas season at Tivoli!  It was a little cold and rainy, but we still had fun.  Christmas is my favorite holiday, and Tivoli decorates with fake snow and trees and lights everywhere.  They also have an adorable Nordic themed market where I found some decorations to bring home so that I can bring a little bit of Copenhagen back with me.

Christmas continued when Emmy and I went to the Christiania market today.  It’s in a giant room where all of these stalls are set up and people are selling handmade scarves and artwork and jewelry and other fun things.  I also ended up having a conversation with a Danish man, who was telling me how Christiania has its own Christmas celebration for people who are hard on their luck.  He said it’s a really cool experience.

Tomorrow, I’m leaving for Berlin.  It’ll be my last trip during this amazing semester, although unfortunately it isn’t going to be exactly as planned.  For now, though, I’m going to make the most of the short amount of time I have left!

Vi ses!

Denmark Europe Study Abroad

Kronborg Castle: Dramatic Reenactments of Hamlet

Today’s adventure was to Helsingør to see Hamlet’s castle!

Ok, technically it’s called Kronborg.  But you can get a tour with a man in tights who’s pretending to be Horatio and loosely reenacts the whole play, so…. Paige and I signed up for that one based on a recommendation from our friend Emmy.  Which was pretty great.  The phrases “to be or not to be” and “something is rotten in the state of Denmark” were both uttered, and at one point he pulled a skull out of the vent and waved it around.  If you ever go, definitely do this tour.

We also went into the creepy basement section where we saw a statue of Holger the Dane, who is supposedly the great defender of Denmark.  At times, we used our iPhone flashlights because they didn’t really have a whole lot of lights down there… and when we came back up one of the employees looked at us and said, “You survived!”  …..thanks.  Really comforting.

I’ve crossed off another Denmark bucket list trip!  I can’t believe I have less than 40 days left in this wonderful country.  Next week is another travel break, so I’m headed to Kraków, Poland and Paris, France.  Details to come.

Hej hej!

Denmark Europe Study Abroad

Copenhagen: Tivoli at Halloween and the Crown Jewels

This weekend Kelcy came to Copenhagen!

Her flight got in pretty late on Thursday night, but the next day we still got up early because I had to go to class.  After some pastries, I dropped Kelcy off at the museum and we met up again after criminology to go to Tivoli!  It just reopened for Halloween season, so everything was decorated with pumpkins.  We went a bunch of rides, including one that went upside down super slowly (and I don’t think either of us recommend that one because it made us pretty dizzy).  We also got shouted at in Danish at the upside down ride because we were supposed to empty our pockets.  Seeing as that is not a phrase I had encountered before, I was unable to translate this time.  In general though now I’m at the point where when people speak to me in Danish I usually can tell what they want me to do, so that was a pretty exciting realization.

Saturday was basically an informal walking tour covering most of Copenhagen.  We went inside Rosenborg Castle (which used to be the summer castle for the royals) and got to see the crown jewels and some other gorgeous artifacts.  Then we stopped by the Little Mermaid, Nyhavn, the sidewalk trampolines, Amalienborg, Christianborg, the old stock exchange (which, fun fact, the Danes tried to put crocodile statues on but no one knew what a crocodile looked like and so they look pretty weird and everyone just calls them dragons) and walked down Strøget.  As the day progressed I realized that I’ve learned quite a bit of history about Copenhagen, so it was exciting to put that to use and tell someone else about my favorite sites.

Kelcy, I know you read this, so thanks for coming to visit me!  It was great to see you again.  And we’ll be reunited in a month in Paris 🙂

Hej hej!

Denmark Europe Study Abroad

Copenhagen: Sculptures, Suburbs, and Christiania (again)

A few things I’ve done in Copenhagen since getting back from Russia:

1. Met my visiting family- they live in this gorgeous suburb called Holte and back up to a lake.  Having dinner at their house was great, although it was unfortunately scheduled the evening I got back from Russia so I was proud of myself for not falling asleep at their table.  They’re really nice though!  They made me a Danish dinner (for those of you who have seen me eat, I did better than one might expect) and then told me about their grandkids and the classic car convention they went to.  They even lit a fire, so it was very hyggeligt (a Danish word meaning cozy, more or less).

2. Went to the sculpture museum- whoever designs museums in Denmark needs to get a new job because I swear they’re all mazes.  It’s free on Sundays so I went in and wandered around for a long time.  I snickered to myself throughout most of my exploration because at some point during my Russia trip we talked about some author who’s friend wasn’t very…well endowed… so the two of them went to an art museum and the author pointed out that all the statues were smaller so it was fine.  I of course forgot this story until I was in the museum.  It made looking at the art more entertaining though….

3. Toured Christiania- I’ve mentioned Christiania before because I went one day with a few friends, but this time I went with my Danish class and got a guided tour from someone who had lived there for around 15 years I think.  Quick recap: it was founded in the 70s by a bunch of homeless hippies and is now pretty much just a communist society in the middle of the city.  You can build a house and live there but you don’t own it.  They’re big on street art, a sense of community, and nature/gardening.  Part of the reason that it’s well known is Pusher Street, which sells marijuana.  Since I’m from Denver this doesn’t seem like as big a deal to me, but it is still illegal in Denmark so you’re not allowed to take pictures.  Also something we talked about in Danish class is that there was a court case a few years back against the state over the land that Christiania is on, and the state won which means Christiania had to buy the land from the state.  They sold “people’s stocks” and so some Danish people put in money to finance Christiania, and now Christiania owns the land that it’s on.  It’s a pretty fascinating area!

Hej hej 🙂

Denmark Europe Study Abroad

Jyderup: Observations from an Open Prison

When you speak of culture shock, you might expect it to hit you right away when you arrive in a new country.  However, someone once told me about a theory of culture as an iceberg: you can see some of it as you walk down the street, but there’s so much more that isn’t obvious.  It only starts to become apparent later, when you learn about the underlying values of that culture and how they think about things differently than you’re used to.  For me, I feel culture shock whenever I spend time in my criminology class.

Today, we went to the Danish open prison in Jyderup and got a tour from a prisoner and a guard.  An open prison means that prisoners are often allowed to leave the grounds for work and school.  Even if they aren’t granted leave, the inmates are still allowed quite a bit of freedom.  In open prison, they are each given cell phones where they can text and call people at any time, they just can’t access the internet.  Denmark also has closed prisons, which are more similar to the type we see in the US, and are usually where prisoners with longer sentences start serving their time.  Criteria for a “long sentence” is 5 years.

We didn’t go through a metal detector or have any kind of search to enter the prison.  The inmate met us wearing regular street clothes, which is completely normal for Danish prisoners.  In the cells, most of the prisoners bring their own furniture, so the rooms end up looking quite nice.  We went inside two of them (but of course we weren’t allowed to take pictures).  The first was someone who I gather was from a rich family, as the inmate and guard warned us that most cells were not like that.  The room looked as nice, if not nicer, than my bedroom at home, with a TV on the wall and a personal bathroom.  The other cell was a bit smaller, but that one was in the drug treatment ward so it was less personalized and looked equivalent to most dorm rooms I’ve seen in the US.

When we saw the kitchen, one surprise was that there were knives hanging on the wall.  They were attached to the wall, but as the guard talked about that area of the prison she told us that she wished the knives were not attached.  It’s interesting, because Denmark’s philosophy on that is that anything can be made into a weapon if you try hard enough and so they would rather make it a little more normal for the prisoners.  Their entire criminal system is about normalizing the prisoners as much as possible.  Visitors are allowed to spend time in the prisoner’s room, and they’re allowed to cook together in the kitchen or play football in the yard.  Girlfriends or wives are even allowed to have sex with the prisoners- the guard told us it was nicer to be able to use your own bed than the one in the visiting room “that would be used probably six or seven times before you got there.”

We went to see the gym, where they told us that Denmark restricts weights in prisons.  To use the heavy weights, the inmates must have a ‘green card’ from an organization that tests for steroids, which the prison implemented to stop steroid users from bulking up and being more aggressive.

Both the inmate and the guard said that the prison we saw was Denmark’s nicest open prison, mainly due to its policies for family visits.  The prisoner talked about how it made him want to follow the rules more, because there was more at stake and he didn’t want to go back to a closed prison where he couldn’t see his wife and children as often.  He had served approximately four years of an eleven year sentence for trafficking cocaine, and also spoke about how difficult it would be to adjust to life outside since he had never known a life where his primary source of income was not criminal activity.

For me, coming from a summer of working in the District Attorney’s office, it was fascinating and shocking to see this type of system.  I’m still somewhat baffled as to how it all works, since that level of social trust is a foreign concept to me.  They have open prisons, open public transportation systems, and most of their society relies on people doing what they’re supposed to.  And people don’t take advantage of it!  I’m so glad I got to go see open prison while I’m here, since the legal system has always fascinated me and Denmark’s is so incredibly different.  Even after this, though, I’m sure my criminology class will continue to surprise me.

I leave for Russia on Sunday, so the next time I post I will hopefully have pictures and stories from that!  Vi ses!

Denmark Europe Study Abroad

Aarhus: Rainbow Fog in AROS and Taking a Taxi to Legoland

This weekend, my friend Emmy (who lives in my kollegium) joined me in traveling to western Denmark, specifically Århus and Legoland!

On Friday, we took the train into Århus after classes and walked around the city a little, but we went to bed early, since we got up the next morning at 6 to travel to Legoland.  We walked to the bus station, where we were supposed to be able to take the bus the hour and a half to Billund.  The bus was late, which to us Americans is not that weird.  The Danes also waiting for the bus were far more concerned than we were, though, and so one woman actually called the bus company.  Apparently, there’s a policy where if the bus is over 20 minutes late, the company has to reimburse everyone for a taxi.  The woman who called was amazing, and she took care of everything.  She came over to explain to us in English what was going on, got the taxi, and fronted the money for all six of us at the stop who ended up taking the taxi.  The whole thing was incredibly lucky, because we ended up not having to pay for transportation to Billund at all!  Once we got to the airport, we walked three kilometers to the actual entrance of the park, in time to actually watch it open.

Legoland was awesome.  Just the mini Lego landmarks alone were totally worth it (as you can probably see from the number of pictures I took of them), and after we finished looking at all of that we went and rode as many rides as we possibly could.  A couple highlights of the day:  I managed to order us ice cream in Danish, I touched a starfish, I bought my first set of Legos at the world’s largest Lego store, and we split a giant plate of french fries in the shape of Legos.  All in all, an excellent day.

We spent the night in Billund, and headed back to Århus the next morning.  Our main goal in Århus was to see AROS, a modern art museum.  One of the coolest parts of that was a room with mirrors in it, so you could stand in a hallway or stick your head out of a window and see yourself infinitely reflected.  I felt like I was in a sci fi movie and I was staring at clones of myself.  There was also a room entirely filled with fog and it turned brilliant colors as you walked through it.  The lack of visibility meant you couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of you.  Then, the top section is a giant rainbow hallway where you can walk through it and see the city.

Once we’d seen the whole museum, we walked around Århus for a while and enjoyed the feel of the city.  It’s Denmark’s second largest city, and it’s more quiet than Copenhagen.  Sitting in a square and eating a late lunch was lovely.  I’m glad I got to see a little more of the country I’m living in.

Vi ses!

Denmark Europe Study Abroad

Copenhagen: Canal Tours, Ballet Shows, and Turning Twenty

I turned 20 on Sunday, and it was pretty weird to have my birthday away from home for the first time.  My friends from the kollegium celebrated with me, which was really nice.  I got to blow out candles, and they got me a card and a few things from Tiger (which is essentially Danish Target).  I ate a lot of cake, so I definitely qualify the day as a success.

I’m taking two one-credit classes while I’m here, which allow me to take guided trips after learning about the areas, and both of those classes started yesterday.  I had Impressionism in Paris first, where we went over Parisian architecture and how it was essentially redone in the 1850s.  Our teacher told us Paris is not really older than Chicago, which seems very strange to me!  We also discussed our study tour, which is going to be amazing.  I’ve wanted to travel to Paris for years, and going with my class will let me do a lot of things I might not do on my own, including a Seine dinner cruise!

My other class was Auschwitz: Genocide to Memorial, which goes to Krakow for four days. (side note: my teacher pronounces it Krakoof?  Is that how it’s supposed to be pronounced or is that just the Danish accent?)  We’ll be spending a full day at Auschwitz and Birkenau during the trip.  Despite the heavy subject matter, I can already tell I’m going to learn so much in that class.  My teacher knows so much about the subject and his lecture on the structure of the camps was fascinating.

Tuesday night, my Danish class went to the ballet!  The theater is gorgeous, and the Queen showed up to watch the ballet as well.  It’s interesting to see how everyone stands up when she arrives and waits to leave their seat for intermission until she does.  The ballet was pretty hard to follow… apparently it was based on some opera.  Here’s how I think the story goes: a rich girl is in love with a poor boy, but her rich younger sister loves a rich boy and his family isn’t thrilled that her family is associating with poor people so they all want the older sister to break up with the poor boy.  Also, somewhere in there she gets tuberculosis and dies.  To add to the confusion, there’s a ballet within a ballet where the main dancer is a character but then sometimes is also the rich older sister….?  The man next to us tried to explain the plot, but his English wasn’t quite nuanced enough…. “How do you say it in English?  Whore.  They thought she was a whore.”

Today I met up with Sarah and we did a canal tour and ate pastries and ice cream.  It’s cool to see the city over the water for a different perspective.  It’s also amusing to see the tourists who clearly just got here…. “Look!  Graffiti!  Take a picture!”

Danish word: blåbær:  blueberry.  One of the types of ice cream I got today (the other one was oreo)

Denmark Europe Study Abroad

Fanø, Stargazing, and the Jelling Stones

I just got back from a trip to western Denmark with my core course!  It’s nice to be back to my kollegium with wifi, and more importantly, hot water.

This trip was the first time I’ve actually been on continental Europe, since Copenhagen is on an island.  Driving through western Denmark is pretty much the same as driving through the Midwest in the United States, except you have to replace the cows with sheep, add a lot more trees, and give about half the houses the European-style red roof.  Driving across the entire country east to west was also much shorter than basically any road trip my family has ever done, too.  With the same amount of driving, you might be able to get out of my state at home.  If you’re lucky.

Our first stop was Ribe (pronounced like Reeba) which is the oldest town in Denmark.  It used to be an important city in the Viking times, and now it’s adorable and quaint.  I really wanted to spend more time in the city, but we only had about an hour.  Part of it I spent at a café getting “pancakes” (crêpes) with ice cream.  This café was established in 1583, which is incredible!  It’s been around longer than our oldest monuments on the east coast. The rest of my time was spent wandering through the streets and looking at the architecture of the houses.  Then, we were marched back to the bus so that we could go to Fanø.

Fanø is a tiny little island off the west coast.  It has two main towns, and we went to the less populated southern one.  Our class stayed in cabins on a campground, where “luxury” meant your cabin had a bathroom in it.  Luckily, my group of girls got lucky and ended up in one of the nicer cabins.  We spent a lot of time walking around on the beach and in the sand dunes, and went into the village as well.  Most of Friday was free time.  We went out as far as the sand was (which was pretty far since the tide was out) and stood in the North Sea.

Friday night we went to a folk musical festival as a class.  The musicians were very impressive, and it was great to hear the rhythms of another culture and watch them dance.  I ended up leaving a little early with another girl from my class, and we went to the beach and did some stargazing.  Laying on the beach and looking at the stars with no lights around us was….incredible.  It’s hard to describe in words.  It was more stars than I’ve ever seen before, and probably ever will see again.  It’s hard to find a place that’s so removed from humanity’s influence, and Fanø also had the advantage of being flat so the stars could be seen all the way down the horizon.  It was truly beautiful to experience.

The next morning we headed out, stopping in Jelling en route for lunch and a tour.  Jelling is an important site in Denmark, and is actually one of only a few UNESCO world heritage sites in the country.  The stones are the first place where the name Denmark showed up in reference to the country, and the entire area is a Viking monument.  They used to have a pagan burial ground there, but when Denmark became Christianized they added a church and the site is still currently being used as a cemetery in Jelling.

I’m so grateful that our short trip to Denmark included places that aren’t easy to get to alone.  The experience in Fanø was one that I can’t ever replicate, and it was great to see those pieces of Danish history with knowledgable guides.  In two weeks I’ll be going to my first European country outside of Denmark (I’m starting with Russia.  Go big or go home) but it’s been wonderful to get a better sense of the country I’m living in for these next few months.

Denmark Europe Study Abroad

Copenhagen: The Round Tower and Vikings at the National Museum

This week is core course week, which means I don’t have normal classes.  Yesterday, my core course (the one that will eventually go to Russia) met with a Danish poet and talked about the inspiration for his work.  He also read aloud to us in Danish.  Tomorrow, we’re workshopping our writing in small groups.  The assignment is to write something based somewhat on his method.  Thursday we leave for three days in western Denmark, which will be our first class trip for the core course!

Since today was completely free, I figured I should do a few more ‘touristy’ things.  I climbed the Round Tower first, which had some cool views from the top.  There was also a museum inside with some exhibits of furniture and design ideas from women.  The tower was designed so the king at the time could be taken up in a horse and carriage, because clearly he couldn’t just walk up to his observatory….

Afterwards, I went to the National Museum, which was super cool and also free.  The exhibits are kind of confusing, so I probably should have picked up a map.  But instead, I wandered around aimlessly, which is more or less how all exploring goes for me in Copenhagen.  There were a ton of artifacts from other societies, and Danish history from around the Viking ages to the 2000s.  I also saw an exhibit on toys and one that was Interiors from the 18th Century.  Probably the best thing I saw is pictured above…. in the exhibit with ancient Greek artifacts, there was a section on Hercules, and someone who works for the museum included the Disney version of Hercules and Meg.  Definitely an ancient artifact.

In other news, I bought myself a copy of the first Harry Potter book in Danish last week, and as I flipped through it last night, I found that the four Hogwarts houses are referred to as kollegiums.  My takeaway from this is that where I’m living is basically Hogwarts.  Also, the Mirror of Erised is Drømmespejlet (no idea how to pronounce that, sorry), which literally translates to ‘The Dream Mirror.’