Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Just Another Great Socialist Country


            After a week home in the Netherlands cooped up in my room doing homework, I was definitely very ready for my next adventure to Copenhagen! Before I left, I did manage to make another trip to Amsterdam! I do have to say it’s growing on me quite a bit. I met up with my Dutch friend, Soleil, who guided me through different neighborhoods, a fantastic market, and to the Stedelijk Museum (VERY modern art). By Thursday, I had given my presentation on mountaintop removal in Appalachia (the Dutch students commented that I talked to quickly for them but, appreciated listening to a passionate American hippie), completed my paper on the fish markets in Urk and Tsukiji, Japan, and finished my paper on Germany’s decision to phase-out nuclear power by 2021! Phew! I was able to celebrate by going to all you can eat pancakes (Dutch pancakes look more like giant crepes and are incredibly delicious).
All you can eat Dutch pancakes!

Soleil was not so impressed with the art
I was also a little skeptical

Amsterdam's canals
            From class I grabbed my bag and caught my flight to Copenhagen. Just like the Netherlands, I was able to take a train directly from the airport to the city where my friend Josh was waiting for me. Since, I arrived at night we didn’t get to see much, but were able to relax and catch up at his dorm which is about a 25 minute bus ride or bike ride from the city center. The next day we joined the masses of other bikers going into the city so I could wander around while Josh was in class. It's amazing how similar Denmark and the Netherlands are with similar languages, a love of biking (although the Dutch are far more reckless), a lovely queen, and progressive policies.
A church turned into an art museum
The weather was PERFECT!
            My first stop was to a 7-11 (my favorite coffee) which I was delighted to see that they have all over the city, but was outraged after I calculated kronners to dollars to see how overpriced it was (Denmark is not a cheap city). From there I walked down their main shopping street, Stroget and to their glass market where low and behold I ran into an old friend my high school also visiting Copenhagen for a few days! It’s a crazy world! Josh and I then met up after class so he could give me a tour of the city by bike! We rode past Tivoli (it’s not open yet, but it’s the amusement park that apparently inspired Disneyworld!), Danish Parliament, many statues of kings on horses (all of their kings are either Frederick or Christian with a Hans thrown in there somewhere), the Black Diamond (one of Copenhagen’s architectural stars), and stopped at City Hall where a massive protest was happening. The government is trying to extend the school day without paying teachers more, rather than the teachers striking, the teachers have been locked out of the school!
Parliament and a statue of either Frederick or Christian

Teacher's Protest, the Lockout, in front of City Hall

Next we met up with some of Josh’s friends from University of Maryland and climbed the Round Tower for some lovely views of the city, offshore wind turbines, and even a sliver of Sweden in the distance. Then we headed to Nyhavn an area near the water with ships and colorful houses and the iconic shot of Copenhagen. As we walked closer to the water we found public trampolines (if they weren’t such a hazard to personal safety I think every city should invest in them). We soon hopped on our bikes again and rode through the royal palace and royal church, which is particularly interesting because I learned that church and state are not separate in Denmark! Unless you opt out, 1% of your taxes there go to the Protestant churches. Before journeying back to Josh’s dorm we stopped at the Little Mermaid statue built in honor of Hans Christian Andersen, which has become a major landmark in Denmark (I was underwhelmed by it). That evening Josh and I made a lovely dinner before heading out to experience some Danish nightlife in their Meat Packing District.
View from the Round Tower with wind turbines and Sweden WAY off in the distance
Josh and I at the Round Tower
Nyhavn 
Public trampolines!

The Little Mermaid

            

















             
Guards at the Royal Palace (he yelled at me for getting too close)
              We slept in the next day then began prepping for the Final Four Party Josh was hosting (college basketball for those just as clueless as me) by taking a shopping cart down the bike lane to their big grocery store, Fotex. Afterwards, we took the metro to one of the strangest places I’ve ever been called Christiania. It’s located on one of Copenhagen’s many islands and holds a sectioned off area in which there are 3 rules: 1. No photos. 2. No running (it causes panic). 3. Have fun. Inside the area are places to eat and drink, but mostly small stands selling marijuana! Technically, marijuana isn’t legal in Denmark, but it’s also not illegal. Christiania thinks of itself as autonomous from both Denmark and the EU, so they do as they please and are occasionally raided by the police. What a place! That evening the Final Four party was fun until the game started at midnight and all the other women left. Sports, ugh.
I had to take a photo very sneakily of Christiania

Josh at the lake in Christianhavn
            Sunday, Josh and I went to his visiting family (like a home stay, but they only get together every few weeks). We walked around the old harbor town then returned to their home for 2 hours of coffee, DELICIOUS danishes, and chatting about everything from cars to Danish politics. Finally, we had a very traditional Danish meal of beef (I passed) and potatoes (like the Netherlands vegetarians are not very common).
Harbor town
            On my last day, we got up very early for Josh to go to class while I did some thrifting in a neighborhood known as the Latin Quarter or the “Piss Gutter” (for a place known as the piss gutter, nothing was very cheap here either!) Afterwards, Josh met up with me at the Post and Tele Museum on his break before we parted ways. I then walked past the Rosenburg castle and gardens and through the Norreboro neighborhood (a lot of immigrants and loads of falafel and shwarma). Finally, I visited the city’s main cemetery, which contains the city’s deceased VIPs and most notably Hans Christian Andersen’s grave. Then once again I took a quick train ride and flew back to Amsterdam!
Natural born operator at the Post and Tele Museum

Practicing for a future career as a postal worker

Rosenburg Castle

            This weekend I will make my way  to the Netherlands neighbor and fellow Dutch speaking country, Belgium!

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