Nordic

Catch 1000

The Danish university system emphasizes different things than the Canadian one does. I am in five hours a week of classes for what would be twelve hours a week back home. Evaluation is also more lenient. Instead of a midterm/paper, a paper, and a final/paper we only have either a paper or an oral exam. That is it. I will write about fourteen pages this semester.

So I was thinking to myself what is the catch. Well, there is a catch. Reading, lots and lots of reading. I am expected to read 2000 pages in four months — each syllabus prescribes a certain number of pages that must be read for the number of credits given— which is how they balance out the limited amount of class time. It is an adjustment for sure and requires a lot of discipline to get done. For my one class this week I had to read an article and 120 pages of one of the textbooks — that is just one.

It’s not like back home there were no readings, they were often just considered to be optional. The key to being a good student was to figure out which readings needed to be done, and which ones didn’t. Perhaps that is the key here. We will see.

It is also nice to know that we are indeed covering a lot of material, just not in class.

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I do not like rye bread

Rye bread is a big thing here. Everyone tells you you have to eat it, it’s the Danish thing to do. I fell for it. I bought into the trap of trying out Danish cultural things. I have an entire loaf of rye bread in my kitchen and I have made an informed decision that it does not taste good. Sure it has lots of nutritional value but it also tastes like it has lots of nutritional value. It tastes like eating seeds, and not in a good way. I regret not just going for the delicious (and potentially far less nutritious) white bread that I am so fond of. Perhaps rye bread is like wine you hate it at first and then if you drink enough it becomes tolerable and then if you drink more you might actually grow to like it — it is presumed that this processes occurs over a period of time longer than one night. Maybe. Probably not. I will let you know in about fourteen slices if I feel any better about rye bread. I know one thing for sure, it will not be on the list of things I miss about Denmark.

Everyday is a winding road

So it has been a while since I posted on this blog. Too long probably. Traveling and school got in the way, but that is no excuse.

I had an awesome idea for posts a while back and I am going to try and put those into motion before departing this lovely city. My plan is watercolour sketches of my favourite things about Denmark and Danish culture like bike lanes, candles and bakeries.

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One month

I have a little over a month left in Copenhagen, this crazy city that has grown quite dear to me. It sometimes feels like I am running out of time, that there are too many things I want to do still, neighbourhoods to explore, and baked goods to consume. I feel like one semester is not enough — but then again in life we only get so much time and we have to do the most with what we get.

I feel like I have begun to know this city very well. For the most part I no longer get lost — except when I go new places and have minor disagreements with my navigation app. I know which streets lead where, and where the cool coffee shops are. I have my spots and places that feel quite at home to me. I even now know of a place where I can take my bike when I get a flat — yes I have another one and don’t feel excited to deal with it.

There are still so many places to explore and so many readings left to do. One month and counting.

 

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Christmas time in Copenhagen

Everything in Copenhagen seems to have become very Christmassy all of a sudden. One day I was walking down stroget and noticed that there are now Christmas decorations everywhere. They are in coffee shops and all over the place.

Danish Christmas decorations place a strong emphasis on hearts — hearts also appear on Danish money and in the Danish coat of arms — and garden gnomes — the second one I don’t quite get.

Now that fall is over it is quite a lovely time to be in Denmark. It may be cold and gets dark quite early but the Christmas feel is lovely.

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Tivoli x Christmas

Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to got to Tivoli for Halloween but I have heard it was gorgeous. Thankfully I did get to go for Christmas and was impressed by how full out they go for their theme. The entire amusement park is covered in decorations, lights and fake snow. There is a Russian winter theme — Emily Gilmore approves.

Since first going to Tivoli I have come to appreciate it far more as a part of Copenhagen. It is in a fantastic location right between the central station and town hall. I ride past it every time I go into town. I overheard two Danish people at a hotdog cart discussing when Tivoli was going to reopen for Christmas.

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Culture? shock

Before going on exchange I was warned that there was a chance that I would get culture shock, and find it strange to adjust to fitting into a different culture. This hasn’t entirely been the case. Ultimately the most confusing thing about Copenhagen is the zone system used on the S-tog and metro (mostly because the penalty for having the wrong zone ticket is almost as much as my bike cost and the maps are as clear as mud).

Overall most of the people I hang out with are international students — there aren’t a lot of Danish students in my housing and all of us English speakers seem to gravitate to one another. We are a jumble of people mostly from Australia, the U.S., Canada and New Zealand, as well as the Netherlands and Finland. There is really no natural culture amongst us. Some of us say elevator, while some of us say lift, while all of us complain about how slow it is — sadly I live on the top floor and have managed to paint several masterpieces in the landing while waiting for the elevator. We use different terms, with the Australians and Kiwis sharing a lot, and the Canadians and Americans sharing others. There is an on going disagreement on whether brunch is a favourite meal or a favorite meal — Americans do not use the British spellings of words.

Then there are other subtle differences. A Canadian invited me over for tea and I happily went over, while my Australian roommate fretted about showing up empty handed — apparently tea means a meal in Australia, whereas in Canada tea means a hot beverage. I never know whether to take my shoes off inside, usually it is split but I take them off because wearing them inside is weird. Apparently in Australia only lowbrow people drink beer out of cans or tins, whereas for me it is more efficient than having to clean out a glass unnecessarily. There isn’t really a culture to shock us, because we don’t really have a particular dominant culture. Sometimes differences are quite noticeable, other times they are funny.

Otherwise Danes are a very efficient and sometimes cold people. If you ask someone for help they tell you whether or not they can help you. That is all. Canadians are not so efficient. We are also far friendlier when checking out. One day I will train myself to stand stoically at the grocery check saying only ja and tak. No “have a great day” you crazy Canadian.

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Construction

There is construction everywhere. Next door they are building an apartment building, the metro and S-tog are being expanded, and a lot of apartments still have the new building smell.

Parts of Copenhagen have the feel of a classic European capital with cobblestone (a paving material that is far more aesthetically pleasing than it is comfortable to walk on), while elsewhere there are signs that it is a growing city.

Growing up in Calgary I was always surrounded by construction, as the city’s skyline expanded and neighbourhoods gentrified. The city was booming and constantly expanding. I get some of that feeling here. There are no sky scrappers going up, or a massive new C-train line, but it feels like a city that is growing, especially in the newer suburb where I live. It feels like it is expanding and becoming more modern.

I am surprised by finding that feeling in older more established cities — I felt it in parts of London too. It seems fitting to a city like Calgary that is still so young, and is really just taking shape. I guess that other cities are never finished either. Copenhagen is not done growing yet, as new buildings and suburbs spring up, and people move towards urban centres.

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I seem to have accidentally purchased a pamplemousse

Buying things in a foreign language can always be fun. This is how I ended up with a duvet cover instead of sheets — although I have found a way to make my duvet cover function as a sheet — and how I ended up buying grapefruits instead of oranges. I was at the store and found round, small, and orange fruits. A nearby sign said Citron and I was like citrus that must be referring to the delightful orange fruits that are obviously oranges (wrong). It so happens that citron was in fact referring to the nearby lemons. Instead the not oranges were called grape and I couldn’t figure out why. I thought what a strange language Danish is to call oranges grape, but it turned out that they are grapefruits as opposed to their actually edible cousin the orange. I had the unpleasant surprise of peeling a fruit that turned out to be red on the inside, to which I thought maybe they are just blood oranges. Wrong again. No, they are grapefruits. I have half of the one I ate sitting on a plate — I can not bring myself to finish more because it is a grapefruit, which has a fairly vile taste. Oh well at least I have a reason to say pamplemousse.

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Tivoli Gardens

While on our walking tour we were told that Tivoli Gardens is a must see in Copenhagen, that even the locals go there to hang out and grab a beer or a meal, so when some friends invited me I though why not check it out (admission without rides is only 100DKK).

The thing is I hate amusement parks, or more specifically I hate rides. If it’s fast, or involves heights I probably don’t want to get near it. A ferris almost guarantees a breakdown of some kind. So I tagged along, and did not buy the ride pass — though I do enjoy bumper boats and cars, I would rather spend the money on overpriced hot chocolate. The other value that amusement parks have is that they are a great place to take pictures, though this was limited by the rain.

All in all Tivoli was not a bad place. It is said to have inspired Disneyland and I can see why. It is right beside Copenhagen’s central train station, and you can see the Radisson from parts of it. Most surprisingly it is filled with various restaurants and bars. One can find really good (somewhat overpriced food) all over Tivoli. This is definitely a more European approach to amusement parks.

Then at the end of the night there was a huge Danish rap concert. It was crazy to see this huge crowd of Danish people waving their arms and totally into what sounded a lot like the Beastie Boys. I will hand it to them, they were really good. It helped that we didn’t understand a word they were saying and that the crowd had so much energy.

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Rain rain

Fall in Calgary makes up the two most beautiful weeks of the year. It is extremely fleeting. The weather is perfect and mild, and the leaves are changing. It is quite simply beautiful.

Fall in Copenhagen seems to mostly consist of rain — though there are rumblings that it will warm up later in the week.

People usually don’t take me seriously when I tell them that I love rain. I love it the way I love otters, or the colour baby blue. It is something simple that fills me with joy. They usually tell me to move somewhere rainy and see how long it takes me to get over it, how long it takes for it to become annoying.

The last few days in Copenhagen have been rainy. Yes, this does make it a pain to go outside and riding a bike in the rain can be a trying and cold experience — though I will take rain over wind if given the choice, but usually they are partners in crime. At times it makes you want to stay in and do the bare minimum possible. It makes things muddy, messy and grey. Those are just the superficial sides of rain.

Then there is the real side of rain, the simple pleasure of watching the rain fall down outside from a balcony, common room, or back door. Listening to it hitting the ground, steadily coming down. The look of the outline of rain on a balcony, coming close to the door but not quite. There is the joy of bundling up, sucking it up, and families wandering around with colourful umbrellas. There is something peaceful and serene about rain. Last night I went out on my balcony and just watched the rain come down. I thought it may be a bit of a pain, but isn’t it wonderful.

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Walking tour

Today I went on a free walking tour of Copenhagen. It was delightfully informative and such a good feeling to know more about this city that I am living in. I have now seen many of the most touristy bits of Copenhagen like the harbour and the royal palace (both of which I plan to go back to take more pictures in a non-group setting.

These tours are usually a great way of getting to know a city. As a backpacker I loved them and tried to do them in every city. They show you around, give you some fun facts, and allow yourself to get to know a city better. It was especially fun today where we would say oh yeah that’s really near campus or I was lost in this area yesterday.

While on the tour I spotted a bike submerged in a canal behind the parliament buildings. It reminded me of Amsterdam where I stumbled on the machine that uses a magnet to pull bikes out of the canals. Apparently it is a huge problem there. I have heard very little about it in Copenhagen but this one seems to have met an untimely watery end.

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ABC: Another bloody chore

One of the downsides of living somewhere is that there are always little things that you have to get done. You have to go pick up your bike, print off a copy of something, top up your cellphone. There are a constant stream of errands that must be completed and today is no exception to that.

Being a tourist has its downsides. The people you meet, especially in hostels are fleeting friends. There is no sense of loyalty and no bonds that are really built up. You do not have their back and they do not have yours. They are there for a good time, and a short time. However, you can meet some very interesting people and backpacking offers a very fun lifestyle. Living in one place you build up a network of friends, plans, hangouts and inside jokes. These friends are far more loyal and true than any friend I’ve ever made at a hostel.

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You get bogged down in the ABC (another bloody church/castle) problem — you can add museums to that list. But today I would like to go to the harbour, photograph the colourful houses and then go to the art gallery at Louisiana. Instead, I need to do laundry and a host of other small tasks, and maybe just maybe study. Today I want to just be a tourist. Another day and another time.

 

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Flat tire

Copenhagen is a city of cyclists. It is said that there are more bicycles in Copenhagen than people, and I don’t find this hard to believe. Owning a bike is part of the experience, and the downside of bikes is that they break.

Most international students buy cheap bikes, and along with this comes the risk that bikes are going to break down. From the beginning I knew that my bike was not a beautiful new machine carefully built and examined by trained mechanics. It is more likely that mine has been owned by a few too many students who don’t know the first thing about bicycles. The brakes aren’t everything they could be, nor is the chain but all in all it gets you from point a to point b.

Unfortunately, I got a flat tire — my tube went flat and then fell out of my tire and then got caught on my fork — and I got to explore the inefficient part of bikes. This is taking your bike on the S-tog to a station that you know has a mechanic and then dragging your bike to the mechanic — it also taught me that I lack upper body strength — maybe I should start doing pushups. My bike should be back up and running soon, and the repairs were not terrible expensive.

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