Growing your own Happy as an Expat

For Today’s Wednesday Wanderings – or Onsdag Wanderlust as I like to call them – I’m taking you local. A simple outing to a beautiful place right here in Copenhagen. The Botanical Garden in the middle of the city. Botanisk Have in Danish. If you are interested in going further afield on this hump day – see my last post about charming Torekov, Sweden.

Continue reading “Growing your own Happy as an Expat”

Explørdag – Volume III – Nørrebro

It’s Explørdag once again. We’re staying local and I have the distinct pleasure of introducing you to our neighbor, Nørrebro. One of the 10 districts (burroughs, ‘hoods, areas) that comprise Copenhagen’s capitol region. This Saturday it was an Explørebro. The Danglish continues to evolve. Forgive me.

Harken back, if you will, to medieval times – Copenhagen an emerging trading port in the Baltic has become the center of Scandinavia. Historically speaking, a city’s evolution into grandeur is rarely without challenge. A walled edifice, traditional throughout Europe, was erected to protect this growing economic base on the Øresund. From what I have learned, there were four original “gates” (unfortunately all dismantled in the mid-nineteenth century) that offered access to the growing Copenhagen centret. As for these historic ports, their impact remains solely in name and geographic location to the center city – Vesterbro to the west, Nørrebro to the north and Østerbro to the east. (Amager to the south). Literally translated in our modern languages they mean west bridge, north bridge and east bridge respectively. A little etymology again; call me a word nerd and bear with me. But there was no actual bridge at these points and rather the titles evolved from the Old Norse word brolagt meaning paved. These were the original paved entrances to the main city.

We live in Østerbro – the eastern bro. Standing in the historical old center of Copenhagen – we are the furthest ‘hood to the right, in geography alone – I can not attest to political leanings at this date, although it is definitely more family-oriented and ostensibly more conservative. In stark contrast, nearby, radiating from the city center to our left is Nørrebro. You can ride, walk, shuffle, skip, bus, dance down the man-made lakes that separate the old town from the “bro’s” and find yourself in Nørrebro. The northern bro is the wild one. Exotic and gritty. Complex and crazy. Graffiti and grunge and good food and young people.

The Northern bro - Nørrebro
The Northern bro – Nørrebro
Nørrebro-fiti
Nørrebro-fiti

Colors are different here. Smells are different here. Sounds are different here. I like it. Many of the city’s immigrants have pooled together in Nørrebro, which is part of the reason it feels different from other neighborhoods. Traditional Danish culture comingles on a daily basis with a diversity of cultures from many of earth’s corners here. It’s spicy, colorful, flavorful and exciting.

One of the most flavorful coffee purveyors in Copenhagen hails from Nørrebro. Myself migrating from Portland, Oregon where coffee micro-batch roasters, coffee houses and baristas with skilz were second only in popularity, diversity and unique flavors to our world-famous craft brews and microbreweries – I will admit that I may have moved here dragging a suitcase full of coffee snobbery. Insert The Coffee Collective. Mid-way down on Jægersborggade, an underwhelming (on first impression) street above the Assistens Kirkegård (Cemetary) in the middle of Nørrebro. (An aside – a veritable who’s who of Danish super-peeps are buried or memorialized there… heard of Hans Christian Andersen? Søren Kierkegaard? Lots more.) But I’m not seeing dead people today, I’m here for the coffee. And it is delicious. A tiny step down into the – dare I say “garden-level” – original shop collects a LINE every time we’ve visited. It’s not quick, but worthy. And they have converted me from my normal latté of yore. In Copenhagen – my order is a cortado. Less milk, more rich espresso. Short, beautiful, luxe. I’m in love.

Cortado luxe from The Coffee Collective on Jæegersborggade
Cortado luxe from The Coffee Collective on Jæegersborggade

Caffeinated and happy, I’ll share my next love in Nørrebro – can you guess? It might have something to do with Kunst. Art. Korrekt! Slicing through several northern bro blocks is a fantabulous public art space known as Superkilen Urban Park. We met Superkilen by surprise when dropping our eldest off for practice with the Copenhagen Lacrosse Team (of which he is the youngest player – lacrosse is not big here – more on that in another post.) They were practicing at the amazing sports facility Nørrebrohallen, the entrance of which is on Red Square – one beautiful and interesting segment of Superkilen.

Spicy colors of Nørrebro
Spicy colors of Nørrebro
Red Square of Superkilen
Red Square of Superkilen

Swings, kids, skate ramps, a boxing ring and workout equipment set in an open pinkish red plaza with nod to Russian iconography. Hunh? It works. Warm and inviting and fun and piquing and entertaining and interesting all at once. There are several other sections to Superkilen that will have to be adventured on another Explørdag. For now – enjoy the warm tones and exciting colors of Nørrebro. It’s Saturday night – I’m going out! Skål!

Man what a dag.

Some days, life has a funny way of reminding you of important lessons. Things we should know, but often our requisite daily minutiae occludes access to the personal database. Today was one of those days.

It’s Monday. Mandag in Danish. Mandags are beginnings – love them or hate them. For our family, the beginning of this week was a wee lethargic after staying up late (Copenhagen local time) to watch the Seattle Seahawks clinch the NFC Championship sending them on to Super Bowl XLIX. (From hereto forward known as Super Bowl “CLICKS”.) GO HAWKS! Watching NFL with Danish commentators is always interesting. At least they don’t translate “TOUCHDOWN!”

I decided to take the beginning of this week by the proverbial horns. Got up, rallied kids, got myself dressed, actually put on gloss, made lunches, found socks, found shoes, found backpacks… found car (no parkering ticket!), deposited them at school and was on my way. I was going to get my kunst on today. That’s right peeps. Kunst. It’s ART in Danish. Those who know me, know that this is my happy place. If you don’t know me – two second background… studied Art History at University of Washington and more currently: was part of a team running the Art Literacy program at our elementary school back in Oregon, recent former member of public art committee in my “home” town. 2 seconds. I would love to become more involved in an art community here in Copenhagen, but for now – I will enjoy playing the student again.

Today’s lesson was to be in modern art. In Louisiana. WAIT. Record skips. Louisiana? The state? Oh no you sillies. Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, in Humlebæk, Denmark. I had read about it – it looked amazing. Why hadn’t I been there yet? It isn’t exactly IN Copenhagen proper. It’s 35 km north of the city. They have an Alexander Calder sculpture that overlooks Øresund (where we went fishing). I am dying to compare it to his Eagle that stands bright red in the Olympic Sculpture Park overlooking Puget Sound (also known as “the sound” by locals) in Seattle, Washington. So. It’s Mandag. I am beginning my week with Danish modern art. Or so I think.

Lesson reminder #1. When venturing afield, remember to check the opening hours AND opening DAYS. I knew that Louisiana opened at 11 am. I had no problem with the 90-minute gap between repositing the children at their skole and finding my way north to the museet. I found a cute coffee shop in Helsignør, got my handcrafted double latté and enjoyed the wait. Watching rain turn into snain and then almost into snow from the window of the café; inside warm with candles and people and wafting coffee (dare I say – hygge?), it was difficult to leave. But – I’ve got art to see.

Parkering was easy. And FREE?!? Did I miss a sign? Nope. All good. Why isn’t anyone here? One of the largest modern art collections in EUROPE people… come see it! Oh. It’s lukket. Just my luck – it is closed on Mandag. What a beginning. Somewhat deflated, I debate returning to home and battling Fran or the parkering meter or the grocery store, all still requisite minutiae for today. But no. I came out to see something. I don’t have a sick child at home. My requisite minutiae is actually not too troubling today, and I’m already out here. I put gloss on, for Pete’s sake. I want to see something. How about that slot that I saw a sign for driving up here – that didn’t seem too far back. Yes. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll go visit a slot. In my head already making checklist for slots that I can physically check off as I visit them. Yes. That is what I will do.

Meander through Danish countryside (which I can relate feels somewhat like rolling Hillsboro sans Evergreen trees); albeit the Danes are very nice at labeling all direct intersections – fairly easy to find my way to Fredensborg Palace (slot). I will admit that as an American, the Royals are still a baseball team to me. We ditched our king hundreds of years ago. Happy 4th of July. We’re independent. Sort of. Politics aside, I am beginning to understand the fascination with these Royals here. They have very lovely and very fancy houses with very gorgeous gardens and tons of sculpture. KUNST. Oh happy girl. So the palace is only open in July and August because apparently they use this one a lot. A lot. As I roll up, the Royal Guard is changing again. How many of these guys are there? A lot. Lucky for me – the Palace Gardens are open to the public alle dage. Every day. Sure, why not. Let’s take a stroll.

Fredensborg Slot, Denmark
Fredensborg Slot, Denmark

IT IS BEAUTIFUL. And seeing as it is the middle of winter truly might have made it all the more amazing. Really? I can hear you. Across the interweb. A garden in the middle of winter? Nothing alive, nothing blooming, no leaves on the trees? I feel your scrunched nose and questioning eyes. I’m telling you … it was BEAUTIFUL. Did you hear me? Like 300 acres of my own private baroque frenchy garden beautiful. I literally saw 4 people in the 2 hours that I wandered. FOUR PEOPLE. I could get behind this. I see why these Royals like to be royals and use this slot a lot.

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So… this is Esrum Sø

It’s on a lake. Esrum Sø. Sø means lake. So there. The snain had stopped and I made my way down to the Sø. (After watching another changing of the guards on the back porch of the slot. As if just for me. But don’t get too close. You aren’t allowed EVERYWHERE here. You aren’t ROYAL.) But the rest of the grounds – where you are allowed – are lovely. And quiet. And contemplative. Best to be experienced in the quiet I think. Solo. It was surreal. Like a movie set. Like a twilight zone movie set. 300 acres by yourself. Birds. Snain melting from the trees … dryp, dryp, dryp. Feet crunching on the path. Just me. (And the birds, oh and those random other 4 people.) Luckily I took a picture of the map at the beginning because I did have a destination for my wandering.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset“The Valley of the Norsemen.” Sounds epic doesn’t it? It’s about as far away on the map as I’ve started from. Good thing the snain has stopped, cuz I’ve also got a camera with the big lens, no umbrella and my new (vintage) fur on. (Remember I was going to a Kunst Museet to begin with.) After serene views of the Sø and a charming path along the lake, I find the path to the Norsemen. Nordmandsdalen is home to 70 sandstone sculptures of Norwegian and Faroese working class people – fisherman, bakers, teachers, mothers, shop keepers, farmers. You and I. Ok, I don’t know you per se – but I related to these life size (isk) peeps. More so than the palatial property up top with the furry-hatted-gun-toting-heel-clicking guards on watch. Norwegian though – did you read my last post? Norwegian Vikings were the enemy I thought? But this was commissioned by King Frederick V and Queen Juliane Marie between 1764-1784 when Norway and Denmark were a common territory. Hunh. Who knew? Not me. What I know is that I was really taken with this valley. Of common Norse men AND WOMEN. Not just a few women either. Every other sculpture was a woman. And with child some. Very progressive. And not nudes. This wasn’t idealizing beautiful female figures with art. This was real valid appreciation of their roles in the Norse everyday. I appreciate that. I appreciate that now. In my everyday.

And so I come to the second lesson (that I already knew, but needed to be gently reminded by the universe every once and awhile)… more than “one door closes, another opens”… But … be ready. Be open. Be willing. One says no. Another says – try this. And you do. And it is good. And valid. And worthy. Happy Mandag. Man, what a dag.

Enjoy the dag’s galleri (click on the first pic and a slideshow will pop up) – it was epic. Even though not as planned. Skål from Denmark.

Explørdag Volume II – Roskilde

Here’s a test. Can you remember what Saturday is in Danish? I told you last week. Ok. I know – they’re strange words. I am taking pictures of the street names and will give you a laugh with those soon. It’s Saturday though and Saturday is Lørdag. (pronounced lor-da) Which means…. it’s Explørdag again!

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetToday – I’ll take you to Roskilde. You may or may not have already heard of this Danish coast town from its beautiful and majestic fjord.

Definition of fjord: fēˈôrd,fyôrd/  noun: fjord; plural noun: fjords

  1. a long, narrow, deep inlet of the sea between high cliffs, as in Norway and Iceland, typically formed by submergence of a glaciated valley.

Oh. That’s Norway. This, is Denmark. Even the fjords are flat here. See for yourself.

Frozen fjords in Roskilde, Denmark
Frozen fjords in Roskilde, Denmark

You are more likely familiar with Roskilde from the music festival of the same name held here every year. It’s a huge, multi-day, camping and general raucousness of a concert that takes over Roskilde. See here for this years line up. It costs an arm and a leg to get in (doesn’t matter who’s arm and leg – this is Viking territory) but the line up looks pretty good. The kids get in free with us paying adults and are pushing for Pharrell. We’ll see. I’m sure when the schedules are actually announced suddenly there will nary be a ticket to find. No plans yet. But it looks cool.

So you can’t manage to get to the festival, there is still reason to go to Roskilde.

  1. It’s capital C – Cute! Anyway – I thought so.
  2. It’s only 30 minutes from downtown Copenhagen – you can take a train.
  3. It’s on a FJORD. I just like saying that word. This is no Norwegian cliff hugging fjord, but lovely nonetheless.
  4. It is home to the Vikingskibsmuseet (did you guess what it is? Obviously has to do with Vikings and it’s a museum. But of what? Viking ships! Ding, ding, ding – we have a winner.) The museum and ship yard – where they restore the Viking vessels, that you can operate your own darn self – is right on the water with beautiful views of the fjord. Alas, when we visited, it was winter and it was VERY cold. There was ice in the water and so no vessel faring for us that day. Definitely will go back in the summer, when there are no longer throngs and masses of concert-goers, and try a Viking ship ourselves.
  5. Home to the Roskilde Domkirke. Kirke = church in Danish, and just like the rest of Europe there are lots of them here and they are old and they are beautiful. The Domkirke sits up on a hill. Yes Virginia – they do exist in Denmark! In the sunset hours of 3pm, the pink light cast on the red brick of the church was amazing. It has a great little museum inside full of interesting history of the church from Viking days – late 900’s to today – none of which was very interesting at all to the kids. Oh well. Personally I paid the entrance to get to some place with views over the city for the amazing light and view. If you’re wondering – there wasn’t one. Access to an outside view anyway. If I missed it. Well then, shoot.
    Roskilde Domkirke at twilight in the snow
    Roskilde Domkirke at twilight in the snow

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    Roskilde Domkirke
    Roskilde Domkirke
    The Domkirke sits atop Roskilde ever watchful over the harbor with history dating back to the 900's.
    The Domkirke sits atop Roskilde ever watchful over the harbor with history dating back to the 900’s.
  6. Darling center of town with a walking street full of shops and restaurants. In warmer weather Roskilde would offer great places to sit outside with views of the water. Delicious.

Enough reasons? I think so. Highly recommend. Just for the Vikingskibsmuseet alone. In the 1960’s they dredged up fem (5) vessels from the fjords bottom and put them back together, from the bits they could recover. There is a recreation of the battle (in miniature) for which the ships had been sunk (on purpose) to create a barrier from those mean nasty Norwegian Vikings coming down to pillage Denmark. (I really have no idea which Vikings were nastier or meaner or who had the right or what the dispute was to be honest, I just live in Denmark is all and there was a slight bias in the Danes favor from the media at the museum.) Read more about the discovery of the skibs from the BBC here. The ships are huge and impressive and a bit like witnessing dinosaur skeletons being reconstructed. There is a fun kids section – geared at littles a wee bit younger than ours are currently, although my 8 year old adored trying on the traditional Viking costumes and spelling her name in runes. She was a tad disappointed that all the letters to spell her name did not exist. Guess we should have named her Brynhildr or Hlökk or Reginleif or even Prima from back in the day (good Viking warrior names.) Not exactly on our short lists.

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Traditional Viking Dress – they STILL wear a lot of fur around here to this day.
Viking Skib
Viking Skib

At the end of the day, I will divulge honestly that the kids had the most fun in Roskilde skipping rocks across the ice and breaking up chunks of ice to hurl and delight at it’s crystal-like shattering. Oh well, some culture AND outdoor pure kid fun is always good. Been to Roskilde? Have other tips to share? I’ll be back. Enjoy your lørdag.

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Frozen Fjord
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Frozen Fjord
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Don’t fall IN! Please!
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Proper Vikings in front of the reconstructed Viking vessel