Monday, December 10, 2012

Danish Julefrokost

This past Saturday the Danes on my hall hosted a julefrokost which means Danish lunch.  This never really made sense to me because it's a dinner and not a lunch but just go with it.  Basically it's just a huge spread of delicious food and lots of schnapps.

My friend Anne who lives on my hall with me and I decided to volunteer to help cook the dinner.  We first ventured with the other three volunteers to our local grocery store to buy the food.  A traditional julefrokost includes three courses but we decided to cut ours to two.  We bought lots of fish and meat.

When we returned to our kitchen Anne tried her hand at cooking bacon while I made some meatballs.

Anne and some other volunteers cooking

My meatballs!
We started the preparations at 3 pm and the dinner began at 630.

Our feast included:


Course One:
salmon, shrimp, pickled herring, breaded fish filets and other Danish spreads that I wasn't familiar with
rye bread, white bread, more rye bread

The idea is that you put the fish along with some sauce on top of a piece of bread and eat it as an open faced sandwich or "smorrebrod"

more schnapps

Course Two:
liver paste (which looked like cat food but I was a good sport and tried it and it wasn't bad when served with bacon and mushrooms), my meatballs (!), a roast, lots of sliced deli meat
cheeses, cucumbers, tomatoes
rye bread, white bread, more rye bread

schnapps again

And you also had to take a shot of schnapps when anyone said "skal" or "cheers" in Danish.  I'm sure there was more food that I can't even remember, but suffice it to say that I was stuffed and we still have leftovers in our refrigerators (two days later).

Carlsberg Brewery

Carlsberg is Copenhagen's signature beer.  There's signs everywhere that say: "Probably the best beer in town"  Not the world - just in town.  And not definitely - just probably.  But humble as they are, they are definitely Copenhagen's beer of choice.  Their brewery is located right in the center of town and is open to the public, so one day last week my friend Jordan and I decided to stop by and check it out.

For 70 kroner - somewhere between 10 and 15 dollars - we decided to go on a self-guided walking tour of the brewery.  Our adventure started with one of our two included drinks.

I think I got jipped - mine was the one on the right.
After finishing our first drink, we headed into the next room which was full of horses.  Still don't really understand why but they were huge and really pretty so we were all right with it.  It really did smell like horses in there though.

We became friends with one who was named Louise.
After the horse room we walked through their sculpture garden (quickly because it was blizzarding outside) into the third room.  There was a large exhibition in there about the whole brewing process with a lot of history about Carlsberg as well as the world's largest unopened bottle collection.  They had a plaque from the Guinness Book of World Records and everything.

Rows upon rows of bottles from many different decades.
Once we finished checking out everything this building had to offer we went to our final stop and picked up our second included beer.  In this last building there was a table full of different scents that are added to the various flavors of Carlsberg beers.

Bottles filled with scents from corn to cocoa to citrus.
The idea is that you go around smelling all these different scents, pick your favorites and then go over to a chart that lists all their beers and the scents incorporated into each one.  From there you should be able to pick out your favorite beer based on which of the scents are included in it.  Pretty interesting.  After finishing our second beer we braved the snow once more and headed back home to Hvidovre.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Giving Thanks with the Danes

This Thanksgiving was the first Thanksgiving in my 21 years of life that I've spent away from my family.  I was a little upset about this, as was most everyone else in my program.  So, as soon as my friend Jordan invited me to a Thanksgiving dinner with her visiting family (basically a host family from Denmark but you don't live with them) I jumped at the offer.  I was thrilled to have somewhere to go and some family and friends to share it with.  And, as with most everything I do here, it was quite an experience.

What to expect at a Danish Thanksgiving:

1 roasted turkey

2 servings of "sweet potatoes" (potatoes cooked in butter and sugar)

1 host dad who picks you up from the train station wearing a Patriots jersey

1 giant bowl of a traditional Danish radish type dish

1 roasted duck

1 untouched bowl of turkey neck, heart and other internal organs

2 grandparents who speak a great variation of broken English

5 servings of a delicious homemade gravy

78 (approximately) toasts - the Danes like to drink

2 different types of stuffing - one for the duck and one for the turkey

1 banana cream pie that they were convinced was a very traditional Thanksgiving dessert because they saw Americans eating it on TV one day

1 giant vat of "lemon fromage" - a Danish dessert that tasted like lemon mousse or something

16 minutes spent watching a traditional Danish clip that's played every year on New Years

8 extremely full and drowsy people at the end of the night

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Milan, Budapest and Madrid

For our third and final travel week my three best girlfriends from my kollegium and I went to Milan, Budapest and Madrid.  Kind of random places to go but we picked based on the flight prices (one was less than 8 euros - hard to pass up)

Day One:

Our flight to Milan left early in the morning so we all met bright (actually still dark) and early to catch the bus to the airport together.  At one point during the flight we looked out the window and saw this...

Just flying over the Swiss Alps
We got into Milan in the early afternoon and spent about an hour or so trying to find our hostel.  We had to take a bus and a metro and then walk.  Gotta love public transportation though

We tend to get lost a lot
When we finally got to our hostel (soaked from the rain and exhausted from all the traveling) we were greeted with a welcome drink.  Obviously, being in Italy, we all got a glass of red wine and signed into the hostel which was great.  I think it's rated one of the best hostels in Europe.  We paid a little more than we did in the other cities to stay there but I think it was definitely worth it in the end.  Each morning we got a free breakfast of eggs, yogurt, cereal, etc. and at night if we bought a drink at their bar (for about 4 euros) we could help ourselves to their dinner buffet.  It was usually homemade pasta and salad which was great.

Anne, Gaby and Sasha enjoying our welcome drink.
We were all starving so we went to the nearest grocery and picked up some snacks (a baguette, mozzarella and pesto - very European of us) and ate it in the "living room" area of our hostel.  Then we relaxed for a little before getting the dinner buffet and resting up for the night.

Day Two:

For our first full day in Milan we began by walking around the Duomo, a very large cathedral and pretty much the only touristy thing to do in Milan.  It was gorgeous both on the inside and the outside but it seems like all cathedrals in Europe are.  

The outside of the Duomo

A woman who I thought was praying but was actually reading a tour book

Milan isn't the biggest touristy city there is, so after visiting the Duomo we just wandered around for a little bit.  Then we wandered around a little bit more before getting our daily snack of mozzarella, baguettes and pesto.  Our nightly routine was pretty much the same every night and we weren't very busy at all in Milan but it was nice to have a different type of touristy experience.  We felt very European just sitting and talking and sipping wine without having anywhere to be or anything to do.  

Day Three:

We started out our third and final day in Milan by heading over to the main square and finding a bull that is supposedly a good luck charm if you spin around on it.  

Spinning around on the bull
Afterwards we went to the big fashion street because Milan is such a fashion capital but of course none of us could afford anything there.  After hitting up an outlet store or two we found a grocery store and stocked up on our nightly snacks, had some of our dinner buffet and went to bed before our early flight the next morning.

Dusk in Milan
Day Four:

Our alarms went off around 4 AM for our flight to Budapest.  It was rough waking up so early but I'm so so glad that we had a full day in Budapest; it was definitely one of my favorite cities that I've visited in Europe so far.  We arrived in Budapest before 10 AM and made it to our hostel (via a bus and metro) sometime before noon.  [By the way, the currency in Budapest is hilarious.  1,000 Hungarian forint is equal to about 4.5 US dollars.  So I was spending thousands of forints left and right and felt like a millionaire but was really spending less than $10.  It was unreal and so fun.]  We only had two days in Budapest so even though we were all exhausted we decided to take advantage of how early we landed by exploring the city a little bit.  Budapest is actually two separate cities connected by a couple big bridges - one side is Buda and the other is Pest.  Our hostel was located on the Pest side so we spent most of the first time exploring that area.  

Exploring Pest

Pest in the foreground - Buda in the background

One of the big bridges connecting Buda and Pest
Anne's twin brother has a friend who's studying abroad in Budapest so he met up with us after our little self-guided tour and showed us a few more monuments and a castle that was gorgeous all lit up at night.

That night Anne's friend Andrew took us to a "ruins bar".  It was really unique I don't even know how to describe it really.  It was super casual with a lot of really cool and random accessories and lights all over the place.  

A picture of the bar that I found online
Day Five:

One of the things that we were most looking forward to in Budapest were the famous baths.  We spent most of Tuesday there.  They had a bunch of hot swimming pools and thermals and saunas.  For about 20 dollars we got a couple hours in the baths and a 20 minute massage (I think that was our first massage for all of us).  I'm so glad we got the chance to do that - it was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity.

One of the outdoor swimming pools

A thermal - it was almost too hot in there
After we finally dragged ourselves out of the baths and got to see Parliament lit up at night.

Parliament in Budapest
Then we met up with Anne's friend again for a traditional Hungarian dinner.  We ordered a lot of their famous goulash soup and veal tarragon soup.  Between 7 people we split a bunch of orders and the bill turned out to be 750 forint (about 3 bucks) which was great.  

Day Six:

Our flight for Madrid took off around 4, so we had one more morning left to spend in Budapest.  Sasha Jordan and I woke up relatively early and went to the market.  I'm really glad we did - it was a lot of traditional Hungarian food on the ground floor and little souvenir stands on the top floor.  I spent the rest of my forint and then we went back to the hostel to get a train to the airport.

Hungarian market
I'm pretty sure this flight was the one that cost 8 euros and it soon became clear why.  We got to the "gate" which was a tent with a concrete floor and a couple overhead heaters.  And the flight was delayed an hour or so but they never told us this.  They just had us waiting in this cold concrete tent without any information for an hour.  Then we finally boarded the plane and there was no room for anyone's carry on suitcases in the overhead compartments.  So they were shoving suitcases under people's seats and mine got literally kicked into a very tiny space behind the back row of seats.  And throughout the entire flight they tried to sell us everything from calendars to lottery tickets.  But we made it to Madrid safe and sound.  We took a cab to our hostel and all just fell asleep immediately.

Our room wasn't exactly the biggest
Day Seven:

We started our time in Madrid by meeting up with a bunch of our friends from America who are studying abroad there.  They took us to a "fast food" type place that served tapas which is a very Spanish thing.  We all ordered a bunch of little dishes and shared everything.  Our friends took us to do some sight seeing and saw a giant church, palace and the market.



Traditional (and delicious) paella at the market
After leaving the market we went back and hung out at the hostel for a little before going out later that night.

Day Eight:

This was our last day in Madrid and we started it by going back to the market and actually eating there (we were too full of tapas the day before to eat anything).  We got paella and a really good mango smoothie and our friend Merry got this unbelievably fresh mozzarella.  I've never had anything like it.  It tasted like whipped cream and mozzarella combined - it was weirdly fluffy but so good.  After we left the market we walked over to a really big park area that also has some museums.  The rain held off and it was a really really pretty and huge green area.

We eventually made our way back to our hostel and got ready to go out for the night.  We went to the most famous club in Madrid.  It's seven stories and each story has a different theme to it.  For example, the second floor was karaoke and the third floor was hip hop themed.  It was a lot of fun but because we had such an early flight we ended up just not sleeping and going straight to the airport afterwards.  We got on our flight and made it back to Copenhagen safe and sound.

And now we have less than a month left here before we all go home.  Definitely a lot of mixed emotions but it's been an unbelievable experience so far - so lucky to have had so much time to travel during my time here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


This past weekend I went with my Holocaust and Genocide class to Hamburg, Germany to tour concentration camps from the Holocaust.  Not exactly one of my more fun trips but I'm definitely glad I went.  I learned a lot and it was definitely something else actually walking through all the buildings where it all happened as opposed to just reading about it on a sheet of paper.

Day One:

We left early Saturday morning by bus for Hamburg.  The total trip was 6 hours from Copenhagen to Hamburg and included a 45 minute ferry ride.  I slept for most of it - the only good thing about early morning trips.  Our bus came with us on the ferry and everything which was nice because we were then given everywhere around Hamburg.

Our first stop was what is currently a kindergarten.  During WWII the building was abandoned and was therefore the "perfect" place for the execution of twenty Jewish children: ten girls and ten boys between the ages of five and twelve.

Picture of the house taken from Wikipedia because I didn't know if it was appropriate to  bring a camera.
**If you have a weak stomach feel free to skip this paragraph.  A "doctor" named Kurt Heissmeyer wanted to do experiments involving tuberculosis.  These experiments had no real medical value.  He first conducted them on guinea pigs but then decided to conduct them on humans.  He ordered twenty children from Auschwitz to be sent to Neuengamme concentration camp in Hamburg.  There, these children were infected with tuberculosis of the skin and later of the lungs via a catheter which was put down their throats into their lungs.  Heissmeyer then cut out the lymph nodes from under their armpits for further study.  He said the children's skin was melting like cheese (this is when I started to get nauseous).  Nothing conclusive was found from these experiments and he decided to have the children murdered so no one would find out about the experiments.  That is when they were transported to the Bullenhuser Damm school were they were hung in the basement.  But the children weren't heavy enough to die from their own weight so members of the SS basically hug the children in order to hang them.  Later when asked on trial how they could do such a thing the SS members said it was quite simple and described how they physically accomplished it.  Of course the judge was talking about how they could do it emotionally.  Just goes to show how messed up these people were.

There was a rose garden out back which was a memorial for all the children.  It didn't look like too much now because it's basically winter time but it's still pretty neat that people are still planting flowers for the children so many years later.

There were plaques for each of the children.

After leaving the school we checked into the hostel and then went to a group dinner at a traditional German restaurant where we had tomato soup, schnitzel and lemon sorbet.  So that was a fun end to a rather depressing day.

Day Two:

Our second (and last - it was a short trip) day in Hamburg started out at a church.  At first I was confused as to why we were going to a church because it didn't really seem relevant.  I was wrong.  Apparently this church was used as a target for Allied bombers during the war.

The tower was used as a target for the bombings
They were bombing the city of Hamburg and the civilians in particular in an attempt to demoralize the country.  Apparently they succeeded in bombing pretty much everything except their target.  Pretty much everything around the church was leveled except the church's tower.  It was pretty powerful to see.  Then we got to go up inside the church to the top of the tower which was also unreal because it was completely hollowed out (I think from the bombings).

At the exhibition there were pictures of what the town looked like after the bombings.
I love going up to the top of things (feel free to look back at those pictures from the top of Notre Dame) so I was excited.  Hamburg is a surprisingly beautiful city.

View of Hamburg from the top of the tower.

After spending some time at exhibitions there we went to a delicious brunch.  Then it was off to our main stop of the trip: Neuengamme concentration camp.  This camp had about 100,000 prisoners come through and about 55,000 die, making it the concentration camp with the highest mortality rate (not included death camps like Auschwitz).

Our professor gave us a tour of the grounds which were huge.

Buildings where the prisoners would've slept.  Most of them are burned down by now

What used to be the crematorium.

The best jobs to have were jobs that were indoors because prisoners didn't have proper clothing for outdoor jobs and the outdoor jobs generally required greater manual labor.  The worst jobs, according to our professor, were those involving creating this canal.  The prisoners were forced to dig all day in the cold water with just clogs on.  If they clogs fell off (which could happen easily since they were backless and could easily get stuck in the mud) the prisoners were at risk of being shot on the spot for losing the "property" of the SS.

Beautiful canal until you realize how it was made.
After walking around the grounds for a couple hours we went to the exhibition then headed back toward Copenhagen and I got home around 10 pm.  Again, it wasn't the most fun or exciting trip I've had but it was definitely a sobering experience that I'm really glad I had.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

London Study Tour

DIS, the school that I'm studying at here, has what they call "core courses" which usually are similar to what your major is at home.  Throughout the semester, you go on two extended trips with this class; one to western Denmark and one week long trip somewhere else in Europe.  I went to London with my core class, European Trends in Communication, last week.  I've never been to London before so I was definitely excited.  I also love these trips because they're completely planned for us and as you probably have figured out by now I much prefer to be led around by a guided in a super touristy group than to try to figure out big cities on my own.

Big Ben and London rain with some friends

Day One:

We left for London early Sunday morning, checked into our hotel and went into the city for the first time for lunch.  One of the first things I noticed about London was that it reminded me a lot more of America than anywhere else I've been in Europe.  There are Fridays restaurants, TJ Maxx's (didn't exactly have time to shop though), LA Fitness, Costco, etc.  So being the Americans that we are, for our first lunch on our own we were determined to find the fast food chain Chipotle.  It's a super Americanized Mexican restaurant with really good burritos, etc. that they don't really have anywhere else in Europe.  We found Chipotle, ate our burritos, then, being the stereotypical Americans we are, killed some time in Starbucks (which they also don't have in Denmark or anywhere else I've been) before meeting up with the group again at the National Portrait Gallery.  We walked around the National Portrait Gallery for awhile as a group.  It's basically just a museum of portraits of famous people.  It was all right.  Definitely not one of the highlights for me but still kind of interesting.  After leaving there, we went to the London Eye which is a giant ferris wheel that takes about a half hour to complete one rotation.

In typical London fashion it wasn't exactly a bright and sunny day.

Some of my classmates in our little bubble way up above London.
It was kind of a bummer that it was so dreary out because it made it hard to see too far away but it was still a really cool, and kind of scary, experience.  After the London Eye we walked over to where we were eating our first group dinner.  DIS feeds us really well on these trips and for dinner we had a three course Indian meal.  Not really sure why it was Indian food.  I heard one of our tour leaders say that they were trying to feed us different types of food that we wouldn't normally eat in Copenhagen.  Whatever the reason it was delicious.  Spicy but delicious.  I like spicy.  Then it was back to the hotel where we all crashed since we'd been up since 5 that morning.

Day Two:

Our second day in London marked the beginning of our business visits.  We had a continental breakfast at our hotel then it was off to a law firm called Schillings.  They work with reputation crises of high profile individuals such as Tiger Woods, JK Rowling, etc.  We talked with them about managing reputation and the like because our core course is focused primarily on communication.  One of the most recent topics we discussed in class was the importance of reputation, how to manage reputation, etc. so the lecture fit in with that.  After Schillings we ate lunch on our own then met up with the group again for a lecture from a freelance journalist and media studies lecturer.  She talked about the changing landscape of television in the UK and showed us a bunch of video clips.  After she finished with her schpeal we headed off to the British Museum.  Meredith and I made the mistake of going to the bathroom before we all left for the museum so of course our group left us behind and we were wandering around London on our own for awhile but we eventually found the museum and met up with everyone else.  We had tickets to a special exhibit about Shakespeare which was surprisingly interesting.  They made a mini replica of the Globe Theater (didn't have enough time to see the real one) in the Museum.  It was neat.  After the museum we had some time on our own before meeting with the group again for a group dinner at an Italian restaurant.  So of course we went to Platform 9 and three quarters from Harry Potter.

Unfortunately we Muggles didn't make the cut.
DIS gave us the directions to the wrong restaurant so we showed up about 48 minutes late but no one seemed to care (probably because it was their fault).  We ate soup, pasta and some sort of pudding for dessert.  Then we had the rest of the evening on our own to do whatever we wanted.

Day Three:

We began our third day in London with an hour long bus ride out to Wimbledon.  This was definitely my favorite visit of the trip.  Our visit started with a mini lecture about branding and how Wimbledon distinguishes itself from other tennis tournaments, etc.  Then came the fun stuff.  We had a really great tour guide who led us around the grounds for about an hour and a half.  
Wimbledon was unreal.
Before I say anything else I have to talk about what our tour guide told us about the grass there.  Wimbledon is the only tennis tournament that uses grass courts and they therefore have to take extreme measures to make sure that the grass is perfect.  And I mean perfect.  Our guide told us that they have a separate 100 square meter location that is sectioned off into square meters.  On each of the square meters there is a different type of grass.  There is a tennis player robot who they make skid on each meter of grass for 13 hours a day for 13 days.  They then evaluate which type of grass holds up the best and if one is better than the grass that is currently at Wimbledon they replace all of it.  They also have one employee (poor guy) whose job it is to count every single blade of grass.  Our guide said that at the last count there were 54 million blades on Center Court.  If it starts to rain during the tournament they must cover up the courts as soon as possible so the grass doesn't get damaged.  Apparently they have competitions each year to see how quickly they can cover Center Court.  The current records holds at about 22 seconds.

During the winter they have to use artificial sunlight to keep the grass healthy.

The grounds are beautiful. 
After leaving Wimbledon we had a group lunch at a Lebanese restaurant.  It was a bunch of tiny samples of food that everyone shared which was fun.  They had hummus!  We were all stuffed by the time we left and headed off to the Hampton Court Palace.  This is where Henry VIII (and all of his wives) used to live.

I wouldn't mind living there
We got a tour of the palace then had some time on our own to wander the grounds which were huge.  There was also a maze that we got lost in for a little too long.  After leaving the palace we had the rest of the evening on our own.

Our backyard is just a little smaller than this
Day Four:

We started the day with yet another business visit.  This time we went to Fishburn and Hedges which is a PR agency in London.  Two young employees talked to us for awhile about what PR is and what exactly they do as employees for Fishburn and Hedges.  After their presentation we had lunch and time on our own then we met up with everyone again at BBC.  

BBC headquarters 
At BBC we got a guided tour around the premises.  I was most looking forward to this visit in terms of relevancy to what I'm studied and was slightly disappointed that we didn't really have any time for questions or anything.  We were given a public tour (there was a couple families with us) which was still very interesting but not as personalized as I was hoping it would be.

Some friends and me outside the BBC building
On the tour we got to see some of the studios where they film their shows, we were shown how a green screen works and we played a version of the show The Weakest Link - Meredith won.  We had the rest of the evening on our own so a couple friends and I went to the Tate Museum which is full of modern art.  In order to get there we had to cross the bridge that the death eaters destroyed in Harry Potter.

Oh no the Death Eaters destroyed it!

Just kidding - phewf!!
Then it was back to the hotel for an early bedtime.  All of these days were exhausting

Day Five:

Thursday was our last full day in London.  We started the day with a bus ride out to Oxford.  Before touring the actual campus of Oxford we stopped at a palace.  It was another gorgeous palace but our tour guide was awful.  She was old and just talked about tapestries the whole time.  

Blenheim Palace in Oxford

Then it was off to Oxford the actual school.  We had some time on our own for lunch before meeting up with the group for a tour of the grounds.  I learned a lot.  For example, I had no idea that Oxford doesn't really have "classes" in the traditional American sense.  Our guide said that about 80 percent of lectures are optional and students instead learn primarily from a tutorship program.  They are paired with a professor who meets with them often to keep track of their progress.  Each professor has about seven students.  I also didn't realize how many colleges Oxford has - around 40 I think our guide said.  But he said to think of the colleges more as fraternities in America.  Students live in the colleges and belong to a specific college but there aren't really classes there because they don't really go to classes in the traditional sense.  It was all really interesting.  And beautiful of course.

One of the colleges at Oxford.
Oh and one more Harry Potter tidbit.  We saw the area of Oxford where a scene from Goblet of Fire was filmed.

Look familiar?

How about now?
Once we finished the tour it was tea time!  This was another highlight of the trip for me.  We went to a fancy hotel nearby Oxford and had high tea.  First they came around with tea in teapots for everybody - sugar cubes and all.  Then came the towers of goodies.  One of our tour leaders told us that you're supposed to start at the bottom of the tower and work yourselves up.  So, you eat the finger sandwiches first then the pastries and end with the desserts on top.  This is so that you fill up on the "cheap" foods before getting to the good stuff on top.


After tea we were bussed back to London where we had the rest of the evening on our own.

Day Six:

Friday was our final day in London.  It began with a lecture at the University of London about communication and social media.  After the lecture we had some time on our own so we just wandered around for a little bit before meeting up for our final group lunch.  We ate at Jamie Oliver's restaurant Fifteen.  The goal of the restaurant is to give young unemployed people a chance at a career.  I think most, if not all, used to be criminals.  Jamie Oliver takes them off the streets and instead gives them an apprenticeship in becoming chefs so that they can do something productive with their lives.  Pretty cool concept.  I think there's a TV show about it.  And the food was delicious.  Our first course was antipasto and Italian bread.  We had salami, mozzarella, olives, etc.  Then came the main course.  I ordered a fish which was great; I hadn't had fish in awhile.  And for dessert I ordered a brownie with vanilla ice cream.  Needless to say I was uncomfortably full after all this food and didn't eat dinner that night which was fine because it would've been an airport dinner.  We took a bus to the airport after lunch and got back to Copenhagen late that night.

All in all it was an unbelievable trip and a great mix of touristy things with educational visits.  It was sad leaving but I have to say that I have yet to find a city that I'd rather be studying abroad in than Copenhagen!