Denmark Europe Study Abroad

Copenhagen: I See My First Swan

Yesterday I went with a couple friends to Copenhagen’s lakes, and we rented a paddle boat for an hour.  If you’re in Copenhagen when it’s warm, I would highly recommend doing this.  It was a great relaxing afternoon, and the views from the water were beautiful.  We saw Danes bringing wine and food on the boat as well and are considering doing that if there’s another nice day and we go again.

Most lakes or canals or general water around water here seems to have swans in it, which is strange to me since I don’t think I’ve ever seen a live swan in the states.  I never realized what large birds they are!  I definitely do not want to anger one.  Also, fun fact, the swan is Denmark’s national bird.  Which is also why they’ve shown up in several of the Hans Christian Andersen tales we’ve read for class (see: The Wild Swans, where one unfortunate person ends the story with a swan wing for one arm, and the better known Ugly Duckling).

Danish word: chokolade (shock-o-lell).  Chocolate is an important word to know in any language.

Denmark Europe Study Abroad

Copenhagen: Classes, Churches, and Christiania

It’s almost the end of my third week here, and classes are starting to get busier!  Next week we have Core Course Week, where we just focus on one class and travel to Western Denmark.  My core course is A Sense of Place in European Literature, and we go to the island of Fanø.  We got the itinerary today, and it should be an interesting experience (although a little rural for my tastes I think).

On Tuesday, we had a movie night for criminology, where we watched the movie R.  It was fairly depressing, as it focused primarily on two characters in Danish prison who got caught up in gangs and the prison drug trade, with some unfortunate endings for them.  Afterwards, our professor brought in the screenplay consultant and one of the main actors.  The screenplay consultant had been to prison ten times, evidently for low level assault, so his stories and opinions on the criminal justice system were fascinating.  He advocated for creating working education programs in the prison to help prevent some of the impressionable youths from ending up in a life of crime.  I also learned far more about the prison drug smuggling techniques than I ever wanted to know….

 I had another class activity Wednesday morning.  My Hans Christian Andersen class went on a walking tour of Copenhagen.  Unfortunately, we didn’t go to the really relevant spots like the Little Mermaid and his grave, but we walked around the city center and our teacher pointed out some spots where the buildings were the same as they had been during the early 1800s.  At the end, we saw the oldest building in Copenhagen and went in a beautiful church that was somehow affiliated with Copenhagen University, I think.  It was a good day for a walking tour, since the sun was actually out!

After the tour, I went to lunch at a café and then met up with some other friends.  We headed to the Church of Our Savior, which you might remember I climbed about two weeks ago.  They climbed the spire while I checked out the lower part of the church.  Again, lovely sculptures, as you can see above.

We headed over to Christiania next.  This is Copenhagen’s hippie commune, where basically it’s fenced off and relatively separate from the city.  They have their own laws, and people basically construct their own houses and live where they want.  One street, called Pusher Street, is where people who live there can sell marijuana and hash.  As I’m sure you could guess, they’re not really big on pictures, so I don’t have any to show.  Main takeaways: it was a lot bigger than I would expect for a hippie commune, I’m impressed when people are that good at using spray paint to create art, and it’s somewhat surprising that the Danish government doesn’t really interfere with the sales of drugs there.  I’m going back with my Danish class later in the semester for a guided tour, and I might try to buy a pair of the earrings one guy was selling there because they were really cool.

The picture of the view from that pretty glass building is at the Black Diamond Library, which is a decently long walk from class but is also gorgeous.  I’m not usually the type to study in libraries but I’m pretty sure I would make an exception to go to this one.

I tried to post this last night, but our internet in the kollegium died.  I’m very glad they fixed it, because the lack of ability to do homework, search things when I wanted, and communicate with anyone was fairly frustrating.  Hopefully this isn’t a regular issue…

Danish word: smørrebrød (pronounced smur brull) is an open faced sandwich that usually has herring of many varieties or other fish.  Apparently smoked eel is a delicacy on this.  Not my kind of food but we discussed it at length in Danish class today.

Denmark Europe Study Abroad

Odense: Hans Christian Andersen and Missing My Train

The other day, in a moment of (almost unprecedented) spontaneity, I booked a train ticket to Odense since I didn’t have class today.  This is the third largest city in Denmark (read: not actually a large city), and its claim to fame is that it’s the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen.  (side note: I find it amusing that they’re capitalizing on this fact when HCA left there some time in his early teens and almost starved on the streets of Copenhagen to avoid going back)

My journey did not start exactly the way I had hoped, because I accidentally set my alarm for 6:50 p.m. instead of a.m.  Oops.  Luckily, with Danish train tickets, you only have to buy a new seat assignment instead of a full new ticket, so it was only $5-6.  And the trains here are incredibly nice.

Odense was more or less what I imagined when I thought of Europe.  It seems exactly like the kind of place that would produce one of the best known authors of fairy tales in the world.  Of course, at the time it did produce HCA, the town was fairly poor and was probably not this pretty.  Now, it’s idyllic and old fashioned.  I started out following the Hans Christian Andersen walking tour, and hit all the spots on that, including the museum and the childhood home.  It’s so strange to me that they have the belongings from him and his parents just sitting there.  I could have picked up the china if I wanted to.

Since I’m learning about HCA in class, it was pretty cool to see the places I read about in his autobiography.  Odense also has a lot of statues relatedto his tales, like the paper boat that’s mentioned in The Steadfast Tin Soldier (which, incidentally, was the inspiration for Toy Story).  I spent quite a bit of time in the park pictured above as well.  The rest of my time I spent walking around the city center.  Like Copenhagen’s Strøget, they had a pedestrian street running down the middle with many of the shops.  I ended up stopping for Danish ice cream, which was very rich but delicious.  Although, the whipped cream was a little too heavy/sweet for my tastes.

As Odense is not as catered to the international community as Copenhagen is, it was much more difficult for me, a non-Danish speaker.  English proficiency was still excellent, but whereas Copenhagen has many of the signs in English, Odense was entirely in Danish.  People seemed significantly more surprised when they spoke to me in Danish and I answered with a blank stare or an English response.  Sometimes, if I think I know what they’re asking, I just nod.  Looking forward to learning at least enough in my Danish class to avoid the total “deer-in-the-headlights” look.

Danish word for you: jordbær (pronounced your-bear).  Meaning strawberry.  This is a very important word for me, because strawberry flavor is usually safe for things like yogurt.  Also, strawberry whipped cream was also an option at the ice cream shop but I didn’t try it.