It’s Onsdag. Its on. Let’s travel somewhere – virtually – together! (For previous Wednesday wanderings – click on the menu above and read earlier versions – we all need inspiration!) Time to add some color and graphic imagery to your wanderlust this Wednesday. Today I want to share one of my new favorite cities. I know, I know – I have a lot, maybe I’m just a lover. Of new and beautiful and amazing. And THAT is Stockholm. Well, new to me anywho. It’s actually chock full of history and culture and art and action and water and all the trappings of a city that will charm your socks off. I almost felt like I was cheating on my Scandinavian partner with whom I have entered into a committed relationship. Sorry Copenhagen – I still love you, but Stockholm was quite a flirt and I enjoyed the performance!
Onsdag is almost here in Denmark! That’s Wednesday peeps. In Danish. There is still time to inspire a little mid-week wanderlust. Where to today Erin? I’m so glad you asked. Ready, steady, go! Today I’m taking you to Liverpool baby – yeah! We’re going Merseyside people.
Onsdag means Wednesday in Danish. I realized today, on this Onsdag, that I started something back in Januar and then promptly let it go, sleepily, by the wayside. My current mobility-impaired perspective from my 5th floor perch, as I sit here elevating my broken ankle and watching the epic Danish clouds float by, promotes a resurrection of my original Wednesday wanderings post. Maybe my lack of mobility makes virtual escapes more valid. As a side note -– you will be pleased to know that I successfully exited the flat, boarded an aircraft and spent a long city-break in London and Liverpool recently. It was exhausting on crutches, but so worth it. But that will be for another post. So further than my apartment in Østerbro and even further than the United Kingdom, I can virtually go and take you with me today, if you are willing this Wednesday.
A little back-story from my first post on Onsdags, also known as Oden’s day: “For me Wednesday is a longing – we still have things to do on Wednesday. We have responsibilities. We don’t get a break yet. So from now on, Wednesday is furthermore dedicated to wanderlust. Let’s look outside, maybe even gain a little knowledge, plan travel, cement dreams. Thanks Oden – we could use the inspiration.“ Today, I will take you to the Big Island of Hawaii. Have you been there? If you are reading this as one of my Stateside friends, especially those hailing from the best coast (the West Coast, also known as the Left Coast) you have most likely been to at least one of our 50th State’s beautiful islands and most likely have your own favorites based on your families’ priorities. I love the Big Island. (I also love Kauai and Oahu for different reasons. And Maui, I know you have your fans, but as I haven’t laid feet on your soil since I was sixteen, I don’t feel I can offer advice and will defer to those better suited to wax on about your virtues.) But the Big Island is just that. Big. No island fever here, too much to see and do. There are 8-10 different micro-climes on the Big Island alone. From arid desert-like conditions, to mountains with snow, to lush green rainforests, to volcanic lava fields, to beautiful beaches – there is something for everyone on the Big Island. “Take your pick. On the Big Island you can (to paraphrase an old song) live where the weather suits your clothes.”
Slow as… molasses. Paint drying. Grass growing. Slow as … insert your own metaphor here, but it will probably fit. If the boot fits, wear it I guess? Oh, that’s me in the boot, remember? Due to recent events properly constraining my personal mobility, everything takes a little longer to accomplish and necessitates much assistance. Like just getting my morning tea and breakfast over to the table. But especially like traveling. Around the world.
Hjælp! (That’s Danish for help and pronounced exactly like the website Yelp!) Ask and you shall receive, at Copenhagen airport, at least. CPH offers mobility assistance from almost every point of entry – from parking garages, metro stops, arrivals drop-off – they will assist those mobility impaired. You can go online and pre-register with your flight # and specifically what assistance you require. They recommend registering a minimum of 48 hours in advance of your departure, but I didn’t. Being discharged from the hospital less than 48 hours before our first flight precluded me from attaining this deadline. But even with only one-day advance notice, my request was acknowledged and accommodated I was.
Backing up a wee bit, my journey really began hours before our actual arrival at CPH. What emotionally felt like the longest travel segment in recent memory, was actually the FIVE flight descent from our building and the three block crutch over cobblestone bedecked sidewalks to the bus stop. Still car-free, you see. Luckily our local bus connects to the airport Metro easily and we only need to switch once. The Kongens Nytorv stop is tremendously accessible with elevators directly in front of the elegant Magasin du Nord department store, taking you right down to the Metro level and transporting you directly to the airport. Designated seating for wheelchairs, elderly and mobility impaired – which I had yet to need use of – suddenly extremely convenient and beneficial. When you reach the København Lufthavn, near the Metro exit, you will find easily identifiable signs with a phone to call in your pre-registered assistance request. What if you didn’t call ahead, but realized that you do need help getting from A to B once there? I’m confident they would still be able to help – it just might be a slightly longer wait. But patience is a virtue here in Denmark. 😉 Yes, we have you here – someone will be there in five to ten minutes. Sure enough, he was. Then wisked ahead and zoomed through I was – the family scurrying behind with the bags, trying to keep up. I was pushed through the check in and security process, transferred right up to the door of the plane. Mange tak for the hjælp!
Passing through the security checkpoint was interesting. The wheelchair went through alone first with my courier. I’m seated awaiting directions on how to proceed. Can you take the boot off? Yes. But. I can’t walk on the foot – no weight bearing for eight weeks. She is processing, I can see the gears whirring, as she holds my metal crutches. Yes – I would love to take off the metal filled leg brace, the metal screws out of my foot and ditch the metal crutches, so that you can accurately screen me without setting off your metal detector too. But to do so, we’d all have to Superman the globe backwards to a week ago when my foot could accommodate your request. Something about this makes me a wee bit snarky. Ha! Says those who know me. You’re always a wee bit snarky. Maybe so. Ok. We’ll put the crutches through. Yes, leave on the boot. (Good idea.) We’ll screen you over here atop this small wooden box. Really? You want me to get up there? Good gravy. Ok. Complied. But, I had to chuckle to myself as he “patted down” my hard black go-go boot cast. I never did actually take it off. Who knows what I could be smuggling in there. Just kidding. No really. I have a prescription for those meds.
And so there we were aboard our first flight towards family. So far, so good. But rolling through crowds of people, the bulk of them on two healthy legs, at speeds brisk enough to put a breeze in your hair, you notice things. The perspective change that comes from a two foot decrease in height while aboard a – dare I say it – “roly chair” is remarkable. First of all – eye contact, or lack thereof. Upon first impression – there was very little. With me anyway. When following oncomers’ lines of site, there was a clear diagonal right over my head to, I can only assume, the driver of my speedy roly-chair. Now this could conceivably have been because they were worried for the safety of their own toes due to, let’s say, the “efficiency” of my driver. But it felt strange. Strangely anonymous. This new perspective.
I’m a smiler. I make eye-contact. I say hej. (pronounced hi) Even if Danes don’t respond back or look at me incredulously. I learned this from my dad. It was his nature. I remember asking him as a girl – did you know that person? Why did you say hi to him/her if you don’t even know them? Because it’s nice. He didn’t differentiate – the janitor, his peers, his friends, his kids’ friends, the grocery store clerk, the guys who made his coffee – actually these would usually become his friends too. But they all received his goofy gap-toothed smile and hi. Its just one of the things I loved about him. I still love about him. Maybe because of this, I do it too. I’ve internalized it. It’s part of my nature. When my opportunity to do so is intersected, it feels odd. Enough so, that I noticed it. It made me feel invisible – until that is, I was hyper visible at the screening check-point up on the block feeling wobbly and being ineffectively screened. Or while slowly making my way down the airplane aisle to my seat. But back in the roly-chair, it was like a Harry Potter-esque cloak of invisibility. No one could see me again. Perspective changed. Do I ignore people in wheelchairs? How awful. But I couldn’t definitively say one way or the other to be honest. At the kids’ former schools in the States, there were disability awareness days. Activities were planned for the children to maneuver through several stations “trying on” if you will, how being blind, not having use of your hands or being confined to a wheelchair felt and how that impacted your mobility. I thought it was a great idea at the time, but I certainly didn’t internalize anything personally. Being in the chair yourself, out of necessity, definitely hammers the sensation home. A difference of perspective for sure.
In Copenhagen, in stark comparison to many large cities in the U.S. and Europe, there very few homeless, beggars, or “street” people. But the few that you do see – anomalies in your new socialized landscape at first – become recognizable and familiar features in your everyday. If you live in Copenhagen, maybe you’ve met them also. There is the accordion player under the bicycle/pedestrian path along the lakes near Nørrebro. He always smiles and plays a wee bit louder as you walk by. There is another toothless smiley accordion player at the Nordhavn S-tog station – we smile and nod as I ride with my littles to school. His maybe not as altruistic as mine while his dish of coins beckons passersby, but I like to think it is just that – a smile shared. Others are less musically gifted than these gents, like the funny hunched over recorder man who works the Strøget, Copenhagen’s busy pedestrian shopping street – his huffy-puffy recorder sounds stop when he gets tired or is not getting the coinage he desires. So he shifts a few paces down and starts his huffy-puffy again. This shtuck must work. That’s his perspective. At the Svanemøllen train station there is a regular who sells the Hus Forbi street newpaper, but I can’t read much Danish (yet). I smile – he smiles, and he always says “Tak for smilet.” Thanks for the smile. This gives me perspective. And it makes sense. Above all, and I don’t think it’s just me, we all want, need, crave basic human connection. Even as a marginalized member of the highly organized socialized state of Denmark, he just wants connection. At its simplest – just some eye contact. Just a hi or hej. Just a smile. It doesn’t take much. It surpasses language barriers, it defies disabilities, it provides perspective. We aren’t alone.
My perspective while finally boarding our last flight from Los Angeles to Kona, Hawaii three hours late, nearly 30 hours after starting down those stairs, thousands and thousands of miles away and nearly almost able to see my extended family for the first time in four and a half months was nothing prophetic or quote-worthy. I could NOT WAIT. And to be honest, my broken foot couldn’t either. OUCH. But my flip-flop was calling (only one) and they’ve saved me a lounger at the pool. Til later – tak for smilet and Aloha! (and Cuchi Cuchi!)
WHEN VINTERFERIE TURNS WEIRD
This past week was vinterferie here in Danmark. Vinterferie is a beautiful word that conjures up magical sparkly winter wonderland-y kind of images. At least in my head it does. Maybe too much Hans Christian Andersen on the brain. Vinterferie really just means Winter Break (or winter holiday or winter vacation – you get the gist.) The littles had 10 days off of school. Our plans may not have been grand, but they seemed easily achievable from a geographical, financial and emotional vantage point. But, as we were to find out Something Strange This Way comes. Our vinterferie also included Danish influenza, macabre modern art, Friday the 13th, a terrorist attack and a Nissan Leaf.
MISGUIDED CROSS-COUNTRY ROAD TRIP IN AN ELECTRIC CAR
We started in Aarhus – Denmark’s 2nd city and the world headquarters to Vestas – the reason that we are here in Scandiland. Piggy-backing on my husband’s work visit to headquarters, the rest of us took the high-speed ferry from the tip of Sjælland (the island that Copenhagen adorns) to meet him in Aarhus which sits on the east coast of the continental hand of Denmark known as Jutland. Look on a map – you’ll understand. What should be about a four-hour trip can’t be concluded in one straight shot when you’ve taken a mini-lease of an electric Nissan Leaf. Nope. No siree. Why – why would we do this? Try to road trip in an electric vehicle? Well – here was the basis of our misguided and underestimated decision:
- Mini-leases on electric cars are half the price with heavy government subsidies.
- There are fixed and almost always OPEN local parking places specifically for electric cars. NOT true for other cars in our hood.
- Duh. It’s good for the environment peeps.
- Other than that? I honestly don’t know – I hate this car.
DON’T TURN ON THE HEAT IN FEBRUARY
To make it from our home in the Østerbro neighborhood of Copenhagen – you must carefully drive with efficiency. Read – don’t turn on the heat, even though it is February in Denmark. Keep your coat on kids. Let all the cars zoom past you as you turtle along in the slow lane. And don’t plug in anything to charge that might suck any extra life out of the car. But my phone is dying mom. Tough titty! Even with all of these energy-saving measures, we still have to carefully plan a charging stop about halfway to Aarhus. And the further from metro centers you move, the fewer options there be. We can only use specific charging spots that our lease is registered with. Seriously? After a two hour break in Holbæk for hot chocolate and sweets, the car is charged enough to make it on the ferry and off in Aarhus. All the way there, we finally make it with only 4 km and 3% battery life left to spare. Sigh. Stress averted – til tomorrow anyway. Bring on the exploring. So we thought.
MAKE OURS MACABRE | MODERN ART AT AROS
Like the bizarre and somewhat macabre modern art exhibit we experienced at ARoS Museum in Aarhus called Something Strange This Way, our weekend brought many strange and macabre images and events into our world to round out our Vinterferie. Maybe because we were all at the tail end of an intense bout of the meanest Danish influenza, our frames of reference were clouded, but the dark and twisty emotional space purveyed on all layers of the circular ARoS Museum did not give my children warm fuzzy feelings about modern art or life in general. Exhibits with names like The Killing Machine and Carnie (a quickly spinning carousel with LOUD creepy music and floating figures) – and you can probably understand why.
Michael Kvium’s omnipresent winding Fools exhibit and Ron Mueck’s giant 4.5 m tall crouching Boy added to the sense of twisted and noir perversity. Hard-pressed I will be to elicit their interest in ANY modern art for a good long while.
Thankfully Olafur Eliasson’s Your Rainbow Panorama sits above ARoS with 360-degree views of the city through multi-colored window panes. As our last stop, it thankfully washed off a bit of the dark and twisty we’d experienced downstairs with brilliant and beautiful color.
LET’S DO DJURSLAND INSTEAD
My culture pushing tactics almost always require ameliorating activities to balance the family accommodation scales. Something active outdoors or involving a fishing line or two usually does the trick. We decided to push the limits of our (patience… oh I mean) newly rented and soon-to-be-returned Nissan Leaf and continued our Jutland exploration out to the “nose” of Denmark – Djursland. A nose the likes that could adorn one of the Kvium Fools we just met at Aros. Djursland is normally a summertime destination with its prevalence of shallow watered protected cove beaches and ice-cream shopped cobblestone towns. But it is also home to Mols Bjerge National Park, which has… wait for it… HILLS. Yes, hills. Not mountains people. I said hills. I was seeking out some topography as I am often wont to do. Call me crazy, but I crave it. Ok so the Mols hills only reach 137 meters (449 feet) above sea level, but it’ll do. Yes Mols, that’ll do.
FRIDAY THE 13TH IN AN ISOLATED BNB
I found a wee BnB out near the park and confirmed that yes, we can plug our car in there to charge. What time will we be arriving from Aarhus? Between 18:00 and 19:00 (that’s between 6-7pm if you don’t automatically work in military or European time.) Ok – we won’t be here at that time, so let yourself in and you’ll see which is your room – we’ll be back late and check in in the morning. Super, thanks. Winding through little roads along the sea from Aarhus in a Nissan Leaf is lovely and scenic, but the stress of watching the battery life tick tick tick off knowing that there is nary a charging station before you reach your destination confounds any charm in the journey. We arrive in good stead, and find our room with ease. Fed, wined and watered – we snuggled in for a replaying of the Grammies on local television – all was well.
But wait. Did you realize that it was Friday the 13th? As I tuck littles in – all three to one tiny bunk room – it dawns on me. Here we are in an unknown BnB out in BFD (Djursland) with nary a light on around us. Wasn’t it charming that they just let us come in on our own? How trusting and provincial. I didn’t even enter a credit card for the booking – they don’t know us from boo. Wait a minute. This is exactly the recipe for a horror movie. Cue creepy inn-keeper stage left. I hear a car stop on the gravel outside, so peek through the window and witness a figure not unlike the shape and likeness of Kathy Bates in Misery. My minds starts reeling, fear rising and thoughts churning. Who knows we are here? The pizza restaurant across the street? I look up the reviews – how did I find this place again? 2 old reviews –the latest from 2011, I am not appeased but finally succumb to a fitfull and restless sleep.
SAFE FROM AXE-MURDERERS AND TERRORISTS
Were they axe-murderers? Of course not. Awaiting the birth of their first grandchild to their daughter in Aarhus – they were commuting back and forth. Sweet, lovely and possibly provincial – we extend our stay through the weekend. I think we were supposed to be there. Alone and cozy, away from dreadful happenings taking place in our neighborhood back home in Copenhagen. Being an American expat in Denmark is a strange thing when terrorism strikes way too near your new home. I believe that we were supposed to be across Denmark exploring little Jutland summer towns in the middle of vinter while learning that a man with a machine gun had opened fire less than a kilometer from our flat. Killing one, injuring more around the corner from where you buy groceries, from where the kids jump on trampolines and kick balls on courts and swing on giant swings. Across the street from the public swimhall and on the plaza where you have shared a date drink with your husband. All of this is hard to correlate. Thankful the kids weren’t privy. We are safe. But I have lost a sense of safety. Copenhagen is safer than many American big towns and we have given our children an extended freedom to explore it. Will I change that? I’ll let you know. For now – I am thankful they are safe.
Speaking out freely should not be the privilege of few.
Though when death comes for trying, what should we do?
Raise our fists, rail and wrest?
Suppressing fear will be our test.
Necessity needs love until the unspeakable is through.
VALENTINE’S DAY LOVE IN COPENHAGEN
Love is how Copenhagen responded. 30000 people turned out on the same plaza and the same street where the shooting had occurred only two days before.
Valentine’s Day, when the shootings occurred, is not a big holiday here in Denmark, but on this day – two days later – there was so much more love and support than roses and chocolates and cards could show. Vi ere Danskere. We are Danish. When something like this happens in your neighborhood, it is hard to know how to respond. Hugging my family is the easiest thing right now. Sending you love fra Danmark.