Writing a blog about an expatriated family – our growing pains and exploits in a new local and as we travel is a fun, cathartic way to explore oneself while sharing our adventures. But when the world goes and throws crazy at you in every iteration – like organized terrorist attacks in the City of Lights; Stateside school shootings in your “from” and now NOT your from; bombs in Middle Eastern cities; or refugee babies dying on beaches next to their families trying to escape an unspeakable horrific only to encounter more horrific and unwelcome. It makes me stop. It cramps my fingers. I can’t write. It cramps my heart. It makes me sick. It wakes me up at night. I have to breathe through it all to survive.
When moving abroad – honoring your own family holiday traditions while sampling those of your new home can feel like a balancing act. Especially, in a country like Denmark. Small and fierce and proud of their heritage and customs – Jul is a set tradition that you don’t mess around with. Just ask any Dane you know – where Julemanden (Santa) is “from” and what he eats on Christmas Eve when leaving presents for your kids. Hint: it’s NOT the North Pole and there is nary a cookie. And the specific ritual and menu for the Julefrokost or Christmas dinner is not to be adapted, tweaked or innovated neither. No modern new Nordic cuisine here, this is tradition. Who would dare suggest wood ants on moss during Jul. And when do you celebrate Christmas in Denmark? December 24th of course.
Danes take their Christmas customs very seriously. And Christmas is somewhat of an obsession here – celebrated through the entire advent season. It makes sense as the days get shorter and shorter and darker and darker. We all need reasons to light candles and bake cookies and hang wreaths. I personally love the Dansk passion for tradition and family and community and when you are allowed in to share theirs, it is lovely. Sometimes intimate, sometimes raucous but always interesting. One Danish tradition I can completely get behind is the annual trip to cut the juletræ – your Christmas tree.
This is something that feels very familiar as we have always done this every year no matter where we have lived. From Michigan to Ohio to Pennsylvania to Texas to Oregon and now here in Denmark. And while we may be a little earlier than the average Scandi with our tree procurement and installation, I can highly recommend the experience. This was our second annual outing to one of the seriously most hyggeligt Christmas markets and tree farms in Nordsjælland – Rosendal Julemarked. You can take a historic train ride from Hellerup Station or Hillerød Station to reach Rosendal Farm in little Ålsgårde near Helsingnør. From the train depot, it is a short walk to the farm where you follow the tree-lined path down to the barn where all the Jule activity is happening.
There are chickens and roosters roaming around the pre-cut trees. Warm your hands on the open burners before grabbing a saw and heading out to the field if you want to pick your own. Wear boots as it can be very muddy.
There are only two kinds of trees available here – Nordmann Firs and Rødgrans (a traditional Spruce tree.) Being an Oregon girl from the land of towering Douglas fir trees – I always go for a fir. Scurry on out to the field and take a look. Just don’t let your wee lass get too fixated on any specific one only to be drawn to tears when that wasn’t the family’s selection (second year in a row). I do not negotiate with terrorists, but I am somewhat remiss to admit – I buckled and we took hers. Red-faced and muddy – with our heavy, green, fragrant fir in tow, we head back to the Julemarked.
While Far (Dad) has them tie up the tree, we are welcome to explore the barn – there are bunnies to cuddle and round pink little piggies to pet. Small children might want to ride a pony or be pulled in a cart.
Walk in past the caught pheasants and deer for your dinner and be instantly charmed. Little white lights twinkle through the hay-lined market. Tucked in amidst baubles and trinkets and décor for your tree – small Julegaver (gifts) are sold – and everywhere wishes of “Glædelig Jul.”
But more than the tree drama and fluffy lop bunnies, my favorite part of the Rosendal experience is the warm Gløgg* or Cocoa and fresh æbleskivers with jam and powdered sugar. You order per person, with three to an order, but they are so fluffy and yummy that you might need a second round. I’m not saying that we did. But YOU might. Cozy and candle lit, with a live roaring fire – the back hall of the market is a perfect respite. Our first year here our visit was timed closer to Christmas and the tables were packed. But this year, we had no trouble finding the perfect spot to enjoy this first Sunday of the advent season!
A quintessential Danish Jul experience. And while I can probably not pronounce Glædelig correctly – I can still wish you one. Glædelig Jul! Cheers from Copenhagen! – Erin
GOOD TO KNOW:
CHRISTMAS MARKET | JULEMARKED OPENING HOURS:
19 November to 23 December 2016
Wednesday – Sunday from 10-17
Entrance is free, but they only take cash, Dankort or mobilepay for your christmas goodies. Enjoy!
+45 20 82 19 77
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*Gløgg is a Danish Christmas drink made of warm mulled wine with spices, raisins and sliced almonds.
Sharing this little Danish Christmas sip with Faraway Files Travel Blog Community. Skål! Cheers!
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“What drew me to dance specifically is the [ability] to tell a story without the limitation of words.” – Jason Karman, independent filmmaker of Muse.
Having spent my youth from age three to nearly nineteen in a ballet studio or on a stage, dance for me can be a powerful portrayal of personal expression within a given framework. It requires no words, but uses the body as instrument. It is the means to communicate story, emotion, pattern and art. The body is the medium AND the message. But do we communicate through dance differently? Does where you are “from” impact your means of expression?
As an American currently living in Copenhagen, Denmark with my family from Portland, Oregon – the question of where you are from has been an intimately intriguing one as we grow our lives here abroad. When I learned that the Oregon Ballet Theatre was sending six of their company dancers here to Copenhagen for a week’s immersion into the famous Bournonville Method – a most Danish ballet tradition that has been practiced by the Royal Ballet here continuously since the 19th century – I was immediately curious how their “from” would color this experience. As a former season ticket holder the past six seasons in Portland, I was extremely excited to know Oregon Ballet around the world.
When our American family of five expatriated from Portland, Oregon to Copenhagen, Denmark in the depths of December’s dark Danish days, everyone said – wait for summer. It’s amazing here. And it is. Summer in Copenhagen. But, speaking from experience, just don’t expect perfect weather. When it’s blue blue skies over head, there are few places better. Be prepared for some good days and some potential grey days. Remember to bring layers! Even if you turn up during a few of the more lacking days weather wise, you can absolutely still enjoy this beautiful city and have a great time exploring. So, without further ado, here are my favorite things to do in summer in Copenhagen, so far.
My Top 10 Danish Summer Experiences in Copenhagen – in no particular order:
Tivoli is the 2nd oldest amusement park in the world. (Bakken, right up the road in Klampenborg is the oldest, but we bought annual passes to Tivoli so it makes my list and should yours too!) Tivoli is all sorts of charming, but it can be crowded with tourists in the summer. A small luxury having annual passes, we can hop in and out as we please if the lines are too long. Just chilling on the lawn while the kids dart in and out from ride to ride is truly a lovely way to spend the afternoon. Most Fridays in the summer – there are free concerts (after you pay admission) from the lawn stage. My daughter loved Jessie J recently and we can’t wait for Snoop Dogg arriving soon! You can find the current events listing here as well as visiting hours and park plans.
2. Picnics –
There is a ton of green space in Copenhagen – large parks and gardens where you can enjoy the outdoors. We love our nearby Fælledparken in Østerbro and the Kings Garden (Kongen Have) by the Rosenborg Slot in the center of town. My absolute favorite place to picnic is really anywhere by the water, particularly a beach. Bellevue Beach in Klampenborg is worth the effort to get to (just jump on the C train and get off at the Klampenborg stop – then head towards the water). If that is too far from town for you try Amager Strand towards the airport with views of the Øresund Bridge. Our go to local hangout is Svanemøllen Strand – perfect for a dip, instant grill and a game of football. (And by football, I mean American football.) You can pick up a 20DKK disposable grill (approximately €2.7 or $3.00) at most grocery stores during the summer months. There are many excellent places to procure picnic provisions – but my favorite has to be Torvehallerne – the Glass Market near Nørreport Station in the middle of town. Lots of great take away options to eat there right there or take to nearby Botanical Gardens.
3. Boating in the canals –
Really – you must do this. Copenhagen is a harbor town. There is water everywhere. You must get out on it. Especially in the sommer. Don’t have a boat? No problem. Go Boat rents charming electric picnic boats by the hour. There is also a boat rental outlet near Fisketorvet. You can also rent kayaks from several places. But I adore the slow, cozy, picnic table centered Go Boats for their charm, ease and maneuverability. Highly recommend it at least once. So very fun fun!
4. Swimming in the harbor –
This is a so very Copenhagen thing to do. There are several Harbor Baths on the main canal where you can swim free of charge. And by baths – don’t think large men in towels – this is just a swimming pool on the water with lifeguards. Islands Brygge can be quite a scene when the weather is nice. People go to see and be seen hanging out on the lawn. My kids ignore the masses and LOVE jumping off the platform into the cool canal. Don’t like swimming with the masses – try the Copencabana Harbor Pool by Fisketorvet Shopping Mall – you can still jump off a slightly lower platform, but there were FAR fewer people there. More geared at lap swimmers and kids who like to jump in and out repeatedly. Worked for us!
5. Biking in the breeze –
No list would be complete that didn’t include biking in Copenhagen. This town is made for it. There are ROADS with their own stop lights for bikes here. Something about warm breezy weather and just biking bespeaks sommer to me. Perfection. Now that I can ride a bike that is! Yay me! Bike to your picnic. Or to a Harbor Pool. Or to a park! Or to drinks on the water… it can ALL be done on a bike in summer. (Or really anytime here in Copenhagen.)
6. Drinks by the water –
Literally anywhere by the water. BYOB and pull up a bench along the canal or on the beach. Copenhagen has a very tolerant open container policy which I will admit feels very strange to me, but seems to work here and with the price of a drink out, I appreciate the option. Or try one of the many charming spots right on the water. I love the little kayak bars that skirt Slotsholmen or sit on the super darling canals in Christianshavn. So cute. Not out and about in a boat? But still want to feel part of the canal action? Go to Papirøen and the home of Copenhagen Street Food. Yummy drinks and so many good food choices. Or on the opposite side of the canal down near the Kastellet (not far from tourist stop the Little Mermaid) – go to Toldbolden. Drinks are a little spendier here and the stylish crowd reflects it, but the atmosphere is lovely. Nab a lounger and enjoy the people watching on and off the water.
7. Fresh Danish Jordbær and Kirsebær –
Bright red, shiny, delicious and fresh Danish strawberries and cherries. You can buy them all over town. There is a fruit stand right by the Royal Botanical Garden. Another perfect spot for a picnic in the sommer to enjoy the flowers. You can also pick up fresh fruit and vegetables with your picnic supplies and excellent take away food at the Glass Market near Nørreport Station. A sunny late afternoon, early evening at a table outside at Torvehallerne is perfection. Grab a glass of cava or rosé and the duck confit sandwich from Ma Poule or tacos from Hija de Sanchez and enjoy. Delightful.
8. Flowers everywhere –
Speaking of flowers, they are abloom everywhere in Copenhagen. Hard not to notice them. Fragrant and lovely, the roses are beautiful here. Coming from a town known as the “Rose City,” (Portland, Oregon) I appreciate and adore this about sommer here.
9. Is –
I scream, you scream, we all scream for is cream! Danish ice cream is delicious. Paradis is a chain that is all over town and affords an excellent scoop or two. My personal favorite is Østerberg Is in Østerbro. It is a small shop on Rosenvængets Allé run by Catherine Østerberg and family. Every flavor we have tried here is fantastic, but my go to (if it is available) is the lakrids (yes, licorice! The Danes are seeping in!) and kokos (coconut.) YUM. My husband loves the avocado and the kids go for the havtorn and hyldeblomst – also very Danish flavors.
10. Carriage ride in Dyrehaven –
Get off at the Klampenborg Train Station and head up the hill to the bridge. Here you can hire a horse drawn carriage to take you to the oldest amusement park in the world – Bakken. Or you can ask them to take you through the enormous Dyrehaven (Deer haven) Park up to the castle and see the huge herd of royal deer. Dyrehaven is also an excellent place for a picnic.
More to add? Things so very Danish that I am missing? Please share. Cheers from Denmark! – Erin
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Exploring Viking Roots at Viking Museums Around Scandinavia
WHERE TO LEARN ABOUT VIKINGS IN DENMARK AND NORWAY
(Originally posted in 2015, updated June 2018)
Or where to go to learn about your fierce ancestors in Scandinavia. Not your ancestors you say? Could be! Read my last post for a wee bit of ancestral insight. So when in Rome – you know – you learn about Romans. And Italians and the Renaissance and such. (Can’t wait to show my kids!) When in Scandi-land, you learn about Vikings. And at every turn, there seems to be a Viking Museum. Ok, slight exaggeration. But we’ve been to three in the past 7 months. Not because we’re obsessed with the axe-wielding, long-haired, long-boat rowing, ancient warrior nation. I mean – I adore THOR. Especially Chris Hemsworth’s portrayal of Thor in the modern Marvel adaptation of the Avengers. We almost named our first born son Thor. Almost. Not really. But it is a good story. Ask me sometime. And there’s Oden (Thor’s dad) who gets his own day here – every week – on Onsdag. Or Wednesday in Danish. He inspires me to wander.