Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Alright, this is the end of the line.  I think you're supposed to stop an abroad blog once you pass through immigration, so I am already three days overdue.  I hope you guys have enjoyed reading updates as much as I have liked writing them.  Here are a few of my favorite pictures from Denmark to wrap up with.  Thanks for reading!

Botanical Gardens 
Dining room in Gavnø Castle
Kongens Nytorv in August 
One of the hundreds of thousands of bikes in Copenhagen 
A movie that was filmed on my street - photo taken hanging out of my window 
Fredensborg Palace 
View from the Louisiana Museum - Sweden in the distance 
The lakes surrounding the center city of Copenhagen in October
Skatepark in Nørrebro 
Winter Garden, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
My street on a foggy morning 
November, trees
A view from the bridge to Christianshavn; the Royal Library, or "Black Diamond" on the right
A building in Christiania, the Bohemian commune of Copenhagen
Sky reflected under one of the bridges in Christianshavn
Nisse, or Danish elves 
Kongens Nytorv in December 
One of the many storefronts in Nyhavn, dressed for Jul 
Hearts and stars garlands, lit up at night

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tivoli (Tih-Voh-Lee)

Tivoli Gardens is a famous amusement park in the center of Copenhagen.  It is the second oldest amusement park in the world, having opened in 1843.  It is also the most popular seasonal theme park in the world.  Normally, the park is open in the summer so that visitors can ride roller coasters and other rides during the warmer months.  After closing in September, though, the park opens up two more times.  Once is in October, when the park celebrates Halloween (even though Halloween is an American tradition that the rest of Copenhagen doesn't really recognize).  The second time, Tivoli opens for Jul celebrations for about a month.

I did not go inside the gardens in October, but did take a shot of the old entrance to the park.

I did get to stop by to see the Jul-time park, though.  Tivoli was my last stop before leaving Copenhagen, and I was able to see all of the amazing decorations.  They are honestly nothing short of beautiful.  Everything is lit up, reindeer and hearts hang from trees and sit on the tops of buildings, and decorated Christmas trees are everywhere.  There are also hundreds of shops that are set up in small buildings just for the holiday season, selling their wares.  Everyone from a mom and pop shop to Georg Jensen have stores inside the park for this one month.

While I was in Copenhagen, I repeatedly said that I hoped it would snow before I left.  Well, it may not have snowed, but that night there was a serious wintery mix coming down.  What started with freezing rain turned to sleet, which was later following by tiny hail.  I wrapped my scarf around my head and kept moving despite the weather - how Danish of me!

We also rode The Flying Trunk, which is a ride devoted to Hans Christian Andersen's fairytales.  You step into a suitcase and then ride around, seeing dolls depicted 32 different stories of his.  The trunk also lets you choose if you want to hear the narration in Danish or English, which was quite convenient.  There were scenes showing scenes from tales like The Emperor's New Clothes, The Ugly Ducking, The Little Mermaid, and The Steadfast Tin Soldier.

There were also live reindeer being held in the park for people to see.  I like to think that the little guy pictured is Dasher, just because I always have liked that name.

Three of the roommates in front of the gates 
Main walkway inside

Russian-inspired (look at the reindeer on the roofs!)

One of the lakes, with weeping willows all lit up

Close up of one of the trees 

"Dasher" in front of the Pantomime Stage

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Jul ≠ Christmas

There is one lesson that must be learned if you hope to comprehend December in Denmark.
Jul ≠ Christmas

Christmas in the States makes me think of many things.  First and foremost, that stifling church service you (and 99% of the parish) attends on Christmas Eve, hoping God hasn't noticed your mysterious absence since Easter.  Second, the nativity scenes carefully arranged in the homes (and occasional yards) of your city's homes, some with and some without THE baby in the manger.  Third, the Christmas tree, covered in ornaments and lights and surrounded by gifts, most likely wrapped in papers printed with Santa Claus or religious sentiments.  And finally, the Christmas parties thrown over the two weeks before December 25, celebrating the holiday season with friends.

In a country where 68% of residents polled are either agnostic or atheist (Eurobarometer Poll, 2005), Christmas is understandably sans-Christ.  The holiday here is called Jul, and Jul involves a lot more drinking and partying than is traditional in the States.  For example, instead of wishing, "Merry Chirstmas!" it's typical instead to say "At drikke Jul!"  This translates as "To drink Christmas!"

Also, the holidays really start on J-Day (J-Dag) which was November 4th this year.  J-Day is when Carlsberg/Tuborg releases its Christmas beer (Julebryg), and typically everyone in the city is at bars or with friends buying the beer and celebrating the season.  The beer typically has a slightly higher alcohol content (5.6%), and is only available during Jul. Honestly, I don't see anything particularly special about the taste, but as far as traditions go, this one isn't too bad.

Credit to Chribban, Flickr
Another odd Christmas tradition I've seen here is that Danish Jul symbols are hearts, stars and evergreens.  All the major pedestrians streets where I live are strung with lighted evergreens and red hearts.  Coming from an American culture where red hearts =  Valentine's Day, it's an odd association.  Still, the streets look pretty both during the day and at night.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dansk Musik

Wow, I just realized that this blog has been in travel mode for the past three weeks... I'd say it's time to get back to Denmark and some of the things that have been going on here.

I think under the About Me section it says something about "music enthusiast" (who writes this cheesy stuff, anyways? Oh, wait...). Regardless, I do love me some music and have done my best to listen to some of the good stuff here. Below is a small playlist of some of the popular songs in Denmark. Also, I couldn't find Odd Collection on Grooveshark so I linked one of their videos below - I LOVE these guys, and have seen them perform a couple of times. If you like their sound, also check out PUAF //.

DANSK MUSIK by Ashley A. on Grooveshark

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dublin In Pictures

All my life, I have had this romantic vision of Ireland: it would be charming but not kitschy, clean but not pristine, rainy but not torrential, old but not deteriorating.  I don't want to be melodramatic or mislead you, but for me, all of my dreams came true.  I am in love with Dublin, Ireland, even though my time there was entirely too short.  Dublin was the last city that I visited while on my two week travel break, and despite all my best efforts to stay well-rested and energetic, we were all dragging when we arrived in Ireland.

I honestly don't know what to write about the city.  I'll just show you what I loved most.

I love the colorful doors on an otherwise boring brick building.  Also, blue is so much more original than red!

Sunset on the first day (blue skies!) 
Maybe aimed at tourists, but the band was a lot of fun
Nighttime view of the Samuel Beckett Bridge in the distance (right) and the Convention Centre Dublin (left)

Statue of William Conyngham Plunket, during the rain

View of the city from St. James Gate

Nollaig Shona Duit - "Happy Christmas to You" in Gaelic

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Amsterdam's Finest Dining

Sometimes, I discover new things.  Occasionally, I really like these new things.  Rarely, these new things can be described as life-altering.

In Amsterdam, I discovered two such rare things.  People, meet Wok to Walk and Maoz.  W2W and Maoz, meet the people.

Wok to Walk is an ingenious Asian-inspired dining establishment, with one location handily positioned on the same street as my hostel (dangerous).  You have the ability to customize a dish - choosing the noodles/rice, meats, vegetables, and sauce - that is then cooked in front of you.  Just take a look at their menu and you'll see that this is the kind of place you can visit again and again to try out a variety of options.

Trust me.  I WOULD KNOW.

Wok to Walk is the place to be at 11 at night
And then there is Maoz.  Thankfully, there are currently Maoz locations in the States, namely on the East Coast and Berkeley, California.  The next time I get to D.C.... I will need my fix.  Maoz is a vegetarian falafel restauarant.  You choose to make either a salad or pita, and then have free reign over a salad bar loaded with different vegetables and salads.  Maybe this description doesn't do Maoz justice, but it's the best I can do.

Ohh, yeah.
I am seriously considering opening a Wok to Walk wherever I move after I graduate, just for a little money on the side.  I promise you it would be profitable.  Any potential business partners, just let me know.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Amsterdam, A Rapid-Fire City Tour

Look, I know that Amsterdam has a reputation for easy access to certain things.  I also know as well as you do that college students going to Amsterdam on a travel break are pretty transparent in their motivations.  What you may not know, though, is that there actually is a whole other city outside of the Red Light District!  And the city is beautiful, charming, friendly and cozy!  Sit down if you're feeling faint, I know it can be a bit shocking.

Possibly my biggest regret of my travel break is that I did not spend more time in the real city of Amsterdam, instead opting to sit in coffee shops and along the canals.  However, I did work in one solid, packed day of sightseeing, which was great.

After starting off a little later than expected, a friend and I went to the Anne Frank Huis on Prinsengracht.  Magically, we beat the lines, paid our €8.50, and started climbing the leg breaking stairs.  I wish that I could say that the Anne Frank Huis totally enhanced my perspective on the book, or was really touching.  It wasn't.  It is a place to say you have been, worth maybe €3 and a few pictures.  As is, pictures are not allowed and Otto Frank never wanted furniture placed in the house - it is therefore very hard to actually picture how the Franks lived when they were in hiding.

Exterior of the Anne Frank House
The one major positive of the Anne Frank House is its close proximity to a certain establishment.  No, not an "establishment" (get your mind out of the Red Light District) but a place that specializes in...


Enter The Pancake Bakery, established in 1973.  With a three page, double columned, 18" long menu, baby, you've got options.  The Bakery is famous for it's "international pancakes," 18 sweet or savory pancakes with ingredients taken from the country that inspired the recipe.  For example, a Greek Pancake is filled with lamb gyros, tzatziki and a feta/olive salad, and a French Pancake has apple, raisins, vanilla ice cream, Cointreau and whipped cream.  These are not your Mama's pancakes (but Hi Mom, yours will always be my favorite).  I had a banana Nutella pancake, but I was with people who had the apple and cheese, the Egyptian and the Belgian.

That's a larger-than-normal sized plate...
Another cool part of the restaurant is that they put big pots of syrup on each table so you can heap on as much as you want.  The syrup was a cross between molasses and caramelized simple syrup.  Super fun to play with, as you can see.

Don't kill me
Refueled and refreshed, we started the trek over the to Van Gogh Museum.  Again, there are no pictures allowed - really cramping my style! - but trust me when I say that it was SO worth the time and money.  The permanent collection possesses more than 200 of Vincent Van Gogh's paintings, 500 of his drawings and more than 750 letters.  Also on display were some of Paul Gauguin's works.

Outside of the Van Gogh Museum are the famous I Amsterdam letters.  Yes, I took pictures.  No, they aren't cute.  Settle for a wide view of strangers struggling to climb! (Looking at you, white "a")

To wrap up the day, we went to the Heineken Brewery.  I do not want to say too much now, because I have plans for a future compare/contrast post about some of the breweries I have visited while being in Europe.  Suffice it to say: Heineken put a lot of money into creating a multimedia-focused, advertisement-laden museum/brewery.

Heineken Horsies! 
Requisite beer
I thoroughly enjoyed my time exploring the city of Amsterdam, and if I could go back, would see even more museums and real neighborhoods.  And eat more pancakes.