thank you, Copenhagen

I am now back in the United States, and I’m hoping my blog will be just one of the things that remind me that the past few months was not merely a dream. When I look back at my first few posts, I can’t believe how the time is flown, and how I have matured over the course of the semester. Four months is a pretty long time to spend on another continent, and I am proud now to call Copenhagen a home away from home. I know I will be back to visit one day.

For those of you who read my Facebook post, a lot of this content will be very similar. However, I’ll elaborate a bit more within this blog post. My plan is to make a Study Abroad Guide this summer, but I’m only going to include things from Copenhagen and not the other cities I visited.

I have always wanted to go abroad. I remember looking at study abroad programs as early as high school; it was something that each potential college would promote as an opportunity. On the surface, studying abroad may just seem like a chance to travel the world without any real responsibilities. It is true that I have not yet graduated from college (1 year left!) and that I did travel to several different cities during the course of my time in Europe. However, my four months was so much more fulfilling than bouncing around from city to city. I won’t say that “abroad changed me,” as I hope it didn’t; rather, I know for sure it did grow me in a way that simply would not have been possible without this experience.

Prior to landing to Copenhagen, I had never even visited Europe, let alone lived there without any family members or friends for several months. Those close to me know that “nervous” for this experience is an understatement. I was apprehensive about being alone in an unfamiliar city, where navigating around has never been a strong suit of mine. I would know no one, and all the people I cared about would continue with their lives in the United States. I knew I was only a phone call or facetime away, but, still, it’s different.

Luckily, I didn’t have much time for confusion. DIS, the study abroad program that I participated in, carefully outlined exactly what I would do when I arrived in Copenhagen, and a representative even walked me to my room. There was a 5-day orientation period, during which I had the opportunity to attend several different sessions about everything from adjustment to a new culture, to how to sign up for a gym membership, where to rent a bike, and the regulations of my specific housing location. In addition to regulating my sleep cycle and recovering from jet lag, this period was helpful to get a preview of the months that lay ahead, especially in regards to my “core course,” Positive Psychology. After comparing my study abroad experiences with friends who participated in “exchange” programs or other types of programs elsewhere in Europe, I can say with confidence that a program specifically for American study abroad students was the right call for me. I briefly considered going somewhere more unique than Copenhagen (meaning that there wouldn’t be a bunch of Cornell students going there, for example), but I realized that both the academic program and the city itself were very appealing. I was also drawn to DIS because of the traveling they build into the semester; it’s not always about going to as many cities as possible–traveling every weekend in the semester. Instead, it’s about diving deeper into the places students intentionally choose to visit, in addition to learning about various places with the context lens of your “core course.” My core course, Positive Psychology, traveled to Western Denmark (including the city, Aarhus), as well as Budapest, Hungary.

DIS was an exceptionally organized program that helped me adjust to Denmark in many ways. I’ll skip the embarrassing stories of my acclimation to Europe, as you can find those in other blog posts. However, here is a short recap about some of what I’ve learned this semester. First and foremost, Copenhagen made me realize that the United States is not the be-all, end-all of all countries; there are far more flaws in the United States than I realized before living away from the country. My previous educational experiences had certainly included facts and discussions occasionally about other countries and continents, but the primary focus was the United States: the government, the way of life, and the customs. Living in Copenhagen has taught me that there is a whole different approach. Of course, it’s difficult to generalize an entire country of different people. With that said, people in Denmark—even the city itself—are slower-paced than New Yorkers. There is a focus on “hygge,” which roughly translates to “coziness,” and this includes a variety of different activities, especially time spent with loved ones, good food, and a welcoming and warm environment. People are environmentally-conscious, and they don’t just do that for the sake of conversation. Most Danes bike to and from work, even if they live outside of the city center. Danes are trusting of others; they leave their children outside in bicycle baskets while they do their errands! The first time I saw this, I was shocked. I learned that, despite having lived for all of my life within the United States, Denmark’s culture and way of life very much suites who I am as a person. It was an absolute honor to call Copenhagen my home, and I cannot wait for my next visit there. See some of my previous blog posts for more detailed accounts of things I witnessed in Denmark.

On the weekends (for fun) and during some of the weeks (with my DIS classmates), I was fortunate enough to have the ability to travel to 12 cities that spanned 10 different countries, which is pretty darn cool. While I did not have the same immersive experience in all those places as I was able to have in Copenhagen, I still learned a great deal about so many other cultures. And, because my home base was Copenhagen, I was more aware of the differences between each city: language, food, lifestyle, clothing, culture, etc. I learned that I love sightseeing, trying new cuisines, and even just walking around the streets of each city to get a feel for the place. While I traveled with DIS friends for many of the trips, for other trips, I met my school friends in various cities, which required me getting around these cities by myself, at least from the airport to where we were staying. Or, in Barcelona, for example, I commuted by myself many, many times as I switched between being with Emma and Adina’s family. Before studying abroad, being alone in a city was a very scary concept. Now, however, I feel so self-sufficient in that manner. I have a better understanding of how to read a map and understand where I am in the world. I’m also okay with the knowledge that I won’t always know where I am, knowing that as long as I stay calm, I can figure it out. This was a big growing experience for me, and it makes me look forward to my future travels. The world is such a beautiful place, and at several different points in new cities, I would feel breathless—with chills—as I looked at different sights or lookouts. A few moments that are worth mentioning was when I looked up at the Colosseum in Rome, the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, and the city of London from the top of the London Eye. For me, this experience was my first opportunity to see so much of the world from a young adult perspective. It allowed me to challenge what American customs I’ve never thought twice about previously. And, it’s funny: seeing all these places was such an enriching experience, but nothing made me happier than each arrival back in Copenhagen, my cute neighborhood, the bikes, and the Danish language. If I had to do it all again, I’d choose Copenhagen hundreds of times over. And, I know this Copenhagen pride will stay with me long after the semester is over. If I ever heard people speaking Danish in the United States, I’d recognize it instantly, and I’d probably strike up a conversation. Studying abroad (especially with my writing assignments from Travel Writing) made me better at talking to strangers, too.

I feel tremendously grateful to the people in my life who helped make this semester possible. First and foremost, my parents. Fundamentally, they are the people who graciously allowed me to have this life-changing adventure. I am so grateful to them for giving me the gift of a lifetime to explore, travel, learn, and grow. I am also thankful for my Cornell advisors and professors, who have been nothing but encouraging for me to have this enrichment as part of my curriculum. Ever since the beginning of sophomore year when I just started to consider where I could study abroad, I have received so much personal attention and support from Human Ecology and Cornell in general. Paul Fisher in the Human Ecology Study Abroad office was especially helpful when he listened to what I hoped to accomplish within a semester of studying away from Cornell, and he was the one to recommend DIS-Copenhagen in the first place.

Throughout the semester, several highlights included visits from friends and family members. For each of these occasions, I was so excited to greet my loved ones and show them around “my” city. I’m so grateful to mom, dad (missed you, Eric), Josh, Bella, Sherry, Aunt Sheila, Emma, Rachel, and Hannah, for bringing the ultimate form of hygge to Copenhagen. A big part of Danish culture is spending quality time with people who matter to you, and it is only because I feel so loved that I had enough courage to study abroad in the first place. I hope all of these people enjoyed their visits as much as I did. 🙂

Last but not least, I need to thank Adina and Goldie for being my support system and closest friends in Copenhagen. The way the DIS housing system matched me with Adina is truly one of the best things that happened to me this semester, as living with her made even mundane tasks and random evenings the most fun. We not only lived well together, but also became very close friends, and she knows me and my stories incredibly well (in addition to everything I tell people via facetime), which makes her a person I can literally talk to about anything. Even though Adina and I compared our housing essays side-by-side in the beginning of the semester (and, yes, we did very much sound like we’d be good roommates from those essays), I’ll never know how I got so lucky. DIS is a huge program, which is great, but it also means that I went the entire semester without meeting hundreds of people. That makes the start of my friendship with Adina all the more incredible, and I am blessed to have someone that will forever understand each and every part of this semester we shared. Goldie, as you may remember from an early blog post, came into my life in a similar way, in that I never would have met her if it wasn’t for a mutual friend she shares with Adina. Goldie and I didn’t have any classes together, nor did we live in the same part of the city. However, seeing each other was a priority for both of us this semester, so I still managed to spend plenty of time with her. Goldie and Adina have lots of mutual friends (they’re both from Boston), but from the first day when we sat in Emmery’s and chatted, I think we all immediately felt so comfortable. The rest is history. The semester would have been very different had I not had these two incredible people in my life, as you can probably tell from all the blog posts. 🙂

Anyway, thank you to my loyal blog followers for keeping up with my adventures this semester! It was always fun to get comments (on the blog or via text) about your reactions to reading my stories, as it reminded me that blogging was a good choice for me in terms of keeping everyone up-to-date. I hope I have been able to convey some of what I learned and experienced through writing, but I also have to say that if you ever get the chance, Copenhagen is an incredible place with warmth and energy that’s worth seeing in person. I think I know someone who can give you lots of suggestions for your trip. 🙂

xoxo,

Amanda

the last days

It is absolutely crazy that I’m now writing my last update from Copenhagen. (I’ll have one more blog post reflecting on the experience, but that will come later this week.) I have been trying to update the blog every night since I last posted, even though I’m only posting now. I tried to pack a lot into these last 10 days, so be warned that this is a long one. Also, by the time I post this, I’ll be at home, but I’m finishing the post in the airport and on the plane.

On Thursday, I decided to wake up early before my first class to run, as it had been a while since I’d gone outside. Instead of running my usual route, I ran closer to the Marriott Hotel and long the hotels and dock there. It was beautiful, although a bit chilly. Unfortunately, this week’s weather has not been ideal for the last moments of my semester.

Half of my classes met for the last time on Thursday, while two classes still had one more session the following week. In Danish and Psych of Peak Performance, my teachers brought a spread of food and drinks to have while we discussed the lesson, which was a fun break in routine. We got a lot of time in Danish to practice with our oral-exam partners, which we definitely appreciated. Hopefully, the exam will be fine. In Travel Writing, I had a group presentation on a famous writer, and it went very well. My classes, in general, that day were pretty relaxing. Once I got home at night, I was able to submit the papers for them as well that I had written last week, so that was exciting to get them off my hands.

After my last class, I quickly met with my oral exam partner to practice our script one last time, as she was traveling this weekend. Luckily, Adina was also able to practice with me when I studied by reading my partner’s lines. I dropped my backpack off in my room quickly before heading to meet my Danish class at Tivoli for our culminating social event. Similar to core classes, all the beginning Danish classes treat DIS students to dinner and activity at the end of each semester. However, unlike my core class classmates, whom I know pretty well at this point, the people in my Danish class are just the people I chat with before my teacher starts talking each day. After walking around Tivoli (in the freezing, whipping wind–is it really May?), we went inside to have dinner in the oldest restaurant in Tivoli. The ambiance was cool, and we each ordered a glass of wine or beer. Unfortunately, the food platters were not gluten-free, so my teacher had arranged for me to get a separate dinner. This ended up being a few pieces of asparagus with these spicy wasabi-balls, which I did not eat. So, needless to say, I was very hungry. When I left Tivoli, the first thing I did was eat food at home.

I came home in a bad mood, as I felt like many things that day just hadn’t gone my way. Fortunately, Adina suggested we play a game, which just turned into storytelling and doing “casual work” together, which definitely lifted my spirits. We also walked to get a snack at Paludan, and I got laundry and other things out of the way at home.

On Friday morning, Adina and I went to the gym. Let me just say that it is now cold enough that people are wearing winter gear again, which is super strange…a few weeks ago, we were happy that it was finally getting warm enough for short-sleeves. Then, I had to go to a few banks to figure out how to get Danish cash for our tour guide from Wednesday. (Note to future abroad students: bring a debit card! It would have saved so many complications.)

When Adina’s class ended, I met her and Goldie at Paludan for lunch, where I switched up my typical brunch omelet and instead ate a tuna salad sandwich, which was, like everything else on the menu, delicious. The weather was fluctuating all day between pouring-similar-to-hail-rain and beautiful sun, so Adina and I didn’t know whether to follow through on our afternoon biking plans. However, we decided that we should take advantage of the sunlight while it was out, and if it got too rainy, we’d just go inside somewhere. I took my bike, while Adina rented hers from the Donkey Bike app, and we rode them near the hotel board walk I had run the day before. It was an incredible view and it wasn’t terribly cold since we were wearing so many layers, and the bike path was even wide enough that we were able to ride side-by-side and chat simultaneously. After an hour, we went back to the city.

Adina went to do some homework, but luckily Hannah Kahn was in the area, hanging out with her friends from school. We had planned to meet up, so I spent a few hours with them in the afternoon. We walked with Hannah to Tivoli, and then we had a snack at Matcha Bar, where we got those yummy pitaya bowls. I knew I wouldn’t be eating until much later at night, so it was good to eat something lighter beforehand. It was great to see Hannah, and I knew I’d have a lot more time with her the next day.

I went home to change for Shabbat–my last Friday night in Copenhagen! It was very full-circle, as I went to Shabbat with Adina and Goldie on the first Friday night of my semester. It was nice to be back; I don’t think I’ve been there since I took Emma in March. We had a great dinner, and despite our walk home in the pouring rain and wind, it was a fun night.

Adina and I started Saturday morning with another trip to the gym. While we’re disappointed it’s not running-outside weather anymore, at least we’re using our last week of gym memberships here. I came home to shower and change quickly before picking up Hannah from Norreport station to spend the day together.

First, we went to Kunstforeningen GL Strand museum, which was a great activity to do with Hannah, who loves art. The museum is right near Nyhavn, and I had first wanted to go during one of the weekends I spent here in January. However, the museum is only open periodically when there are specific exhibits. This weekend’s exhibits included a lot of abstract art paintings and sculptures, and Hannah and I talked as we walked through, especially about the museums Hannah had been to in Florence recently. We also perused the cute gift shop, and I flipped through a book called “the 500 Secrets of Copenhagen.” It was cool to point out to Hannah all the various places I had visited, but this book also would have been so helpful to have from the beginning! Oh, well. I have managed to do so much during my time here, so I can’t really complain.

It was lunchtime at that point, and we were both getting hungry. I showed Hannah some menus of a few different places we could go, as she had said she was happy to go wherever I wanted for my last week here. I chose a few options. She ultimately picked Café Flottenheimer because, while not a huge menu, it has an adorable ambiance inside the restaurant, and Hannah loves stuff like that. I got the halloumi grilled cheese and she got a quesadilla, and we sat there for a while and chatted. We had gotten so involved in our conversation that the waiter came over twice to see if we knew what we wanted, so by the third time, we had apologized enough and decided, finally.

Afterward, we wanted to spend time in the sunshine, but it was still really cold. We decided to sit along the canal at one of the places with warm heaters and blankets, and we ordered Aperol spritzes there and continued talking. Hannah and I always have great conversations, and I really cherish our time together, even though I don’t get to see her often. While sitting there, we witnessed a protest of hundreds of people walking through Nyhavn. We didn’t know what they were chanting in Danish, but they were carrying signs that said to legalize marijuana. We think it was a protest originating in Christiania. It was interesting to see, especially because later, on our way to dinner, Adina and I saw a completely different protest. That one was much scarier, as the participants carried torches and wore all black.

I walked with Hannah back to Norreport, as she needed to change at her friend’s apartment a little outside of the city. I walked back to my apartment and left a few minutes later. Adina and I had a snack of Glass Market gelato (yum, as always), as we knew we wouldn’t be eating dinner until close to 10 p.m. We came home to get ready, and Adina also helped me study for my Danish exam by practicing my partner’s lines. Then, she tried to guess what everything in our conversation meant based on what she knows about me, which was a fun game.

Dinner and a night out in the Meatpacking District have always been on my Copenhagen bucket list, and I’m so happy it coincided with how Hannah chose to celebrate her birthday! Hannah was so sweet about including anyone who wanted to come to this dinner. Adina and I decided to walk the half hour there instead of taking public transportation, and we arrived at Mother restaurant a little before 8:30. Hannah’s friend hadn’t been able to make a reservation in advance for so many people, but we decided to wait outside for a while, and we all stood around a fire. The waiter thought it was hilarious that Hannah was wearing a birthday hat (we were all wearing party hats, too), and he gave her free shots, calling her Hannah Montana. It was funny.

I figured Mother wouldn’t have gluten-free pizza (I had assured Hannah it was fine because it was her bday and I’d just have something else), and I was able to make my own dish of vegetables and different kinds of cheese, which was really filling and good. The waitress told me that the dough was gluten-free after sitting for 72 hours, but I had never heard that before and didn’t want to risk it. The dinner was a lot of fun. It was Hannah, her two best friends from college, me and Adina, and the friends’ roommates and friends in Copenhagen. After dinner, we went to a bar, where we ran into the same girls we had seen at Shabbat dinner the night before, which was completely a coincidence. We spent a while there, and then we headed to KB3, which is a nearby club. It was birthday-themed for someone else already, which was great, as we were still celebrating Hannah’s bday. It was a cool environment, and it didn’t really feel like a nightclub; it felt more like a bar or bat mitzvah venue. The music was great, and we had fun dancing and singing. We all took the train back after it got late and we were getting tired. Adina and I watched a few minutes of Gilmore Girls, an episode we had started earlier in the weekend. Then, we went to bed.

Sunday morning, we woke up and headed straight to Mad and Kaffe, as we wanted to eat there one more time before the semester ended. Luckily, it wasn’t raining, so the almost-hour-long wait plus sitting outside wasn’t too bad. Adina and I spent a long time deciding on which five plates we would each order, so by the time we were seated, we knew exactly what we wanted. I had a platter of a mix of things I had gotten and ones that I hadn’t, and we realized they had changed the menu since the last time we’d both been there. I got eggs, avocado, salmon, grapefruit, and a different salad. It was really good. We walked home, and I started cleaning my room in preparation for packing. I went for a nice run and then met Adina and Goldie at Emmery’s to do some blogging and studying for Danish. I had a relaxing Sunday evening, looking forward to having the oral exam behind me!

I went to the gym again on Monday, and on the way there, I witnessed a man completely wipe out from the top of his bike. Despite the fact that most Danes ride bikes very confidently, the ground was slippery from the rain. At least eight people ran over to help the guy who fell, and I was struck by how willing strangers are to help. I live in a very special city.

I returned my textbooks and transportation pass, and then I headed to my Danish classroom for my exam. It went pretty well! We messed up a few times, but we were able to take a deep breath and recover, hitting all of our points and sentences eventually. And, I found out later in the evening that I aced the test, so that felt great. I had my last Sociology of the Family class, where we did not do much. Then, I went to get Grød at the Glass Market before trying to figure out the cash/bank situation once again. When the ATM machine still didn’t work with my Danish pin, I went to the H&M kids store, where the cashier was willing to charge my card extra kroner so I could receive cash. Unfortunately, the card was declined there, so then I spent a while with dad on facetime to figure out what to do. Once we were talking about the same credit card, he was able to get another Danish pin, so that I could use an ATM machine. What a ruckus! All was well, however, as I had the money for our fabulous tour guide from last week, who I then emailed to set up a time to meet.

Finally, it was time for my last class of the semester, Travel Writing. Tommy was definitely one of my favorite teachers here, and he organized a very cute ceremony for our last class. First, he handed out copies of the book DISoriented, which is where my story is published! I am excited to have this in a printed format. Then, he called us up one by one and gave us each a certificate that denotes us “travel writers.” We had some snacks, and then, before we filled out the class’s online evaluation (we have done this for every class), we reread the syllabus and talked about how we fulfilled each of the course objectives. I don’t think I have ever had a teacher do this before, at least on the last day of class, and it was pretty cool to see (1) how much I have learned in that class and (2) how each piece of the class fit together like a puzzle by the end. Tommy has been nothing but extremely committed to my personal growth as a writer, and I really appreciated how he made time to meet with me outside of class, offering as much guidance as any student could want.

When I walked out of that classroom, I was effectively a senior for the first time, as I was then done with all my academic obligations. That’s a crazy feeling! I walked around my neighborhood for a bit to enjoy the feeling of being done with school for the summer (although this is typically much more pronounced after finishing a semester at Cornell), and I came home for a bit. Then, I met Adina and Goldie at Paludan for a great dinner. We all had a lot to catch up on (so many stories in just one day), so we stayed there for a while before heading back. Adina and I made popcorn and finished the night by watching Parent Trap, which was so fun, especially as we were able to name all the landmarks and sights in London that we visited together a few weeks ago. I have always loved that movie, but after the chance to visit the Parent Trap house in person, I have a new appreciation for it.

We stayed up fairly late, so I slept in a little on Tuesday. Adina and I went to the gym later in the morning, and then, after getting ready for the day, I went with Goldie and Aly to Reffen for the last time before I leave. I wanted to get that gluten-free crepe I’d seen with my dad, as well as the polenta fries. The polenta fry truck was closed (so sad!), but the crepe was really delicious; it was made of buckwheat. Although it was pouring rain for a few minutes, we were sitting under the tent, so it didn’t bother us. The weather has been so spotty all week.

I came home for a relaxed afternoon of sending a few emails and getting myself organized, and I also biked around for a bit. I decided that I would try to get myself lost for one last time (it’s been months since I did that), but I found that it was very difficult, as I know the area pretty well at this point. As I enjoyed the sunny day, I realized I hadn’t done anything for try-something-new-Tuesday. I have been very confused with the days of the week since I stopped having a normal class routine. So, instead of getting a cinnamon bun as I had planned, I tried a gluten-free Danish Dream cake that day, which is a sugary cake with a cinnamon layer on the top. It was very good. Then I went to Paludan to sit and do a few things on my computer, as I didn’t want to do them at home yet. I ate dinner with Adina at home, and then we got ready to go out with Goldie to Old Irish Pub for our last “American Tuesday” there. It was a fun night, and the music was especially good.

On Wednesday, I spent most of the earlier part of the day packing, cleaning, and organizing everything I have into suitcases, so I won’t bore you with those details. I also had a few errands to run.

I met up with my host mom for the last time on Wednesday afternoon, and our original plan was to get coffee together in the city. However, once we found each other outside the Round Tower, Pernille asked if I’d want to walk a bit to her friend’s vintage shop where we could also have coffee. I agreed! That sounded way cooler than sitting inside an Expresso House or another chain coffee restaurant. We caught up as we walked to the shop, and I realized that this was my first ever time walking through Denmark with a Dane. I was even more aware of how my tendency to walk quickly and pass other people taking their time was so not something my host mom (and probably most Danes) would ever do. I was so happy I was getting this experience with her inside the city. We arrived in 10 minutes to a shop filled with vintage dresses. The owner is a friend of Pernille’s, so we were introduced, and she then explained that most of the products are from Paris and London. Pernille and I browsed the items in the storefront while her friend was in the back preparing our snack, and I looked at all the different rings and bracelets. Then, we entered into a back room of the shop to the CUTEST (ever) area. The couches were all pink, and the table and chairs looked like they could have been in a dollhouse. The shop owner came back a few minutes later with two plates of gluten-free delicacies (marzipan, chocolate, and marshmallow desserts), as well as two steaming mugs of “pink” hot chocolate. I’m not really sure what was in it to make it pink, but I think it was the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had. Pernille and I had a nice time chatting, and we also talked to her friend for a while. It was such a lovely way to end a semester with Pernille, who has been such an important part of my Copenhagen experience. Not only was it fun to have the experience of interacting with a Danish family on a regular basis, but each time I met with them, I was challenged to consider topics from a joint European and American perspective. It was so helpful to have them here, and they welcomed me into their home and their city. I hope I’ll be able to visit in the future!

Thursday morning, I needed to clean the apartment’s dishes, pots, and pans, as that was my “chore” for the end-of-semester cleaning. I was excited for later in the day, though, when Adina would finally be done with her tests and I could truly enjoy my last 24 hours in Copenhagen with her and Goldie. We had so much fun, but it was also a very bittersweet feeling. I am so lucky to have found such amazing and close friends here, and I’m not sure what this semester would have been like without them.

First, to celebrate the end of our junior year (!), we met at La Glace, the very-fancy bakery in the city center. Goldie had a gift card to use there from the very beginning of the year, and she didn’t want it to go to waste. We got five different cakes to split between the three of us: two were ones that Goldie could eat without nuts, and three were ones that I could eat without gluten! The options for nut-free were more limited than gluten-free, which is very unusual. I was very excited to try them. It was certainly a fun experience, and I think my favorite cake was an almond layered cake with mocha creme frosting and powdered sugar. The three of us enjoyed the cakes outside, as it was unexpectedly a sunny afternoon. We sat there for a while, and it is safe to say that I was extremely full from cake.

We then went for a last look at Nyhavn canal, the most classic of Copenhagen sights. The street is truly breathtaking, and it is even more beautiful in the sunlight. I appreciate it each time I pass, but knowing it would be my last time (at least for a while) was sad. We took our time making our way through the heavily-populated area with tourists, and we took many pictures. Adina and I also wore our Kobenhavn sweatshirts we had bought earlier in the week. I was thrilled that it wasn’t raining, and we were even able to jump around on the trampolines for a while. Then, we walked back into the city.

Goldie needed to go and finish a final paper, so it was just Adina and me for my last evening. We first worked up our appetite by staying in our room for a little longer, as we were still full from cake but wanted to be hungry for dinner. We went to our backdoor neighbor, Cafe Flottenheimer, which Adina actually hadn’t eaten at yet, but which has recently become one of my favorite Copenhagen restaurants. I have always gotten the same thing the few times I’ve been there, but it’s always delicious: a haloumi grilled cheese sandwich. In addition to talking about camp and other topics, we reminisced about some of our favorite memories throughout the semester, and it is crazy how much we have experienced together! Then, we walked home (the long walk of two minutes), and we changed into sweatpants. We sat on her bed and began to work on a song to the tune of ’Sucker,’ the song recently released by the Jonas Brothers. As Adina and I are both camp people, we couldn’t help ourselves: this song was somewhat similar to a camp comedy song for Sing, where we tried to include as many shared jokes and experiences as possible in the lyrics. We had started compiling this list a few weeks ago. We did not get to include nearly close to all of what we had written—but, given the amount of time we’ve spent together, this was to be expected. We laughed a lot while making it, and then we each recorded it on our phones to save as a keepsake from the semester. Even now, as I just listened to it on the plane, I smiled to myself as I remembered all the funny things that have happened.

After finishing the song, which took several hours, we finished the Parent Trap movie and talked some more, going to bed pretty late. My goal was to slowly transition myself back to New York time, although I ended up waking up early with the anticipation of my flight later that day.

I woke up and finished packing everything into my bags, which really felt like the end. I’m still shocked at how lightly I was able to pack for this semester, but it was really great to have all of my belongings in two suitcases and a backpack because it made it easier to get to the airport. Goldie met me and Adina for a final brunch at Paludan, which was delicious as always. They pretty much told me we could do whatever I wanted for my last morning, and I really wanted to walk around more, but unfortunately, it was pouring. After staying in Paludan long after we finished eating—not a bad place to kill time—we headed across the canal to Norrebro for dessert at Nicecream, the vegan ice cream with gluten-free cookie sandwiches. They were all out of cookies, but we all still had delicious scoops of ice cream. The rain had let up for our walk back home, where the three of us spent the last few minutes together in my apartment. We listened to sad music, but it was hard not to laugh as we reminisced some more. All of these coming-to-an-end activities were quite emotional, and by the time they walked me to Norreport station, I was crying. And then, I was off.

Stay tuned for one last blog post reflecting on my semester!

gluten-free food duo takes Copenhagen

My dad recently got back to Great Neck after an incredible few days in Cope. We had so much fun, fulfilling the goal of having him try as many delicious gluten-free foods as possible. We also did so many activities, two of which I hadn’t already done—always exciting. We also had a lot of time to talk, both about my semester in Copenhagen and everything else going on at home. It was a great reflection period for me, especially the tour we took yesterday. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to share this amazing city with both of my parents (we missed you, Eric!).

I walked quickly back to my apartment after classes on Monday, eager to drop my bag off and get back outside in the beautiful sun. With only a light jacket, I walked down the main street that connects Norreport to Norrebrø, as I was going to meet my dad, who was coming from Bluetaco in the opposite direction. (He got bluetaco while I was in class, as I wanted him to maximize how much yummy gluten-free food he could eat while he was here, even if I couldn’t have it all with him.) He reported that the churros were the highlight of the meal—no surprise there! During a short phone call, we thought we had agreed to walk on the same street on the same side of the road, but after a while of walking and not seeing each other, we discovered that he was actually on another street. Eventually, we found each other, and we walked together back towards Norreport.

I can’t believe how long it had been since I’d seen him! I guess I’m about to have a lot of long-time reunions, so this was good practice. There was a lot to catch up on. But, since my dad is a loyal blog-follower, I was immediately able to point things out that we saw, relating each sight, store, or restaurant to a story or post from the blog. Now that it’s almost been an entire semester in Copenhagen, I feel like I have so much more information about random places in the city that in the beginning, may have seemed so ordinary or unimportant.

Our first stop was the Rosenborg Castle and the gardens, but we stopped inside the Glass Market as we passed it. I pointed out several places within the building, not knowing if we’d be able to squeeze it in as a meal during the trip. Then, we walked to Rosenborg, admiring the gardens and people-watching, as many people apparently decided that 60 degrees was warm enough for sun-bathing! It looked like the Cornell Slope on the first day of Spring. My dad also told me about a book on hygge that he’d read to prepare for the trip. I thought that was so cool, and it definitely provided an interesting topic of conversation. We discussed what I’ve learned in my classes about hygge, what the concept includes, and how Danes create “hyggeligt” (the adjective) atmospheres.

Next, Dad wanted coffee before we climbed the Round Tower, and I wasn’t about to let him have it from Expresso House (the Danish equivalent of Starbucks). Instead, we walked a little bit out of our way to Emmery’s, where he could try their delicious and organic coffee. Then, we headed up the Round Tower. It was a beautiful and sunny evening, and we spent a while up there. I pointed out several different buildings, neighborhoods, and streets that are now familiar, and my dad was happy to have a bird’s eye view of everything he’d seen and walked so far. For the rest of the trip, he would reference streets we had seen from the top perspective, so it was definitely a good activity to do at the beginning.

We then walked towards the Christiansborg bus stop to head to Reffen, where I was eager to watch dad try all the yummy food there. I always get overwhelmed by all the options, but for the purposes of having dad try as many good foods as possible, I got things I had already had there: the Mediterranean plate with falafel, as well as polenta fries. He also got a jerk chicken bowl. It was really fun to walk around and look at all the different trucks, and we sat by the water to eat. I ran into a couple of classmates from Positive Psych, whom I now haven’t seen in a few weeks, so we all caught up for a few minutes. Unfortunately, we were too full to get a dessert crepe at the time, but I will hopefully be back once more before I leave, and that’s the first thing I’m getting!

Our last activity of the evening was Bastard Cafe, the board game bar. I’ve written about it enough times in the blog for my dad to know exactly what it was. We ordered dessert drinks at the bar, and then we started what ended up being a very long game of chess. We didn’t even finish the game because it was getting late, but it was great to play chess with dad again after a hiatus of many years. We used to do that a lot when I was younger. Since dad had flown into Copenhagen that day, he went back to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep, and I headed back to my apartment. I caught up with Adina about our weekends, as I only barely remembered the middle-of-the-night conversation we had when she got back from Rome. Then, I went to sleep.

I woke up Tuesday excited for the day. Dad and I met at 42 Raw for breakfast, where I had an acai bowl, and he had a “blue bowl,” which is more banana- and pitaya-based. I also wanted him to try the gluten-free bread they have there, and he wasn’t able to resist buying the gooey chocolate-chip-banana-muffin sitting on the display. We shared this, which I hadn’t had since my first time at 42 Raw at the beginning of the semester.

After a yummy breakfast, we walked to Nyhavn canal, stopping at the trampolines along the way. When I walked towards the trampolines, Dad thought I was about to step on subway grates until I pointed out that the trampolines were built into the ground. It really is a cool design. It was nice to walk around the canal in the morning, as I do not think I’ve ever been there at that time.

The next activity was taking the metro to Fredericksberg, which is a suburb a little outside of the city center. On the walk there, I showed Dad the app Citymapper and how I’ve been using it throughout this semester to navigate to unknown places. I mistakenly thought I had had a recommendation to bike through the Fredericksberg Palace gardens, but it turns out that bikes are not permitted in the park, which we learned just as we were about to mount the bikes inside the park’s gates. When we got off the metro, we rented “Donkeybikes,” which are bright orange bicycles that are scattered throughout the city. Unlike the scooters, though, which you can leave wherever you want, you must return the bikes to their designated locations. This got us a bit lost later on. Once we downloaded the app to unlock the bikes, we rode them towards Fredericksberg Garden. When we discovered we couldn’t ride them through the park, we decided to walk instead. Fortunately, it was a very pretty area to take in all the scenery. Everything was green; there were several small ponds. We also passed the Fredericksberg Zoo along the path, where we saw some elephants and extremely tall flamingos. Then, we got to the palace. Visitors are not able to go inside because it’s a military base, but it’s a pretty building with a look-out view of the city to admire. We spent some time at the top before deciding to head back and get the bikes. At first, we were trusting our memory to get us back along the right path. But, we did take many turns to get there in the first place, and after a while, we realized we were lost inside this enormous garden. I tried to use the Donkeybike app to direct us, but it kept sending me to the bike drop-off location, not the location where we had left them. It wasn’t particularly user-friendly. After several minutes of studying a map and asking a few Danes we passed along the way, we found our way back to the park’s entrance, and at that point, we were both ready to head back to the city. Although we didn’t ride the bikes for long, I’m glad dad got to have the experience of bike-riding in Copenhagen, as it’s an authentic one!

We took the Metro back to the city, where we headed to Matcha Bar for lunch. It was warm enough to sit outside on the terrace, which was beautiful. We ordered a savory waffle, blackberry bowl (the one I’d had last time that looks like a galaxy), cinnamon bun, and Danish tree truck, which I hadn’t had before. Additionally, Dad noticed that they sold gluten-free beer, so we tried this as well. It was not my favorite, but he said it was one of the better kinds of gluten-free beer.

Next stop was Tivoli. While it was cloudy at this point in the day, it was still great to be there. After walking around for a little while, we stopped at one of the little stands to get coffee, and dad said he had a “perfect mocha”–meaning it was the ideal combination of espresso, milk, and chocolate. Since we were tired from all the walking we had already done that day, we spent some time sitting in comfortable chase-like chairs on the lawn and talking. It was fun to people-watch while getting to chat.

Once we left the park, we headed towards the GoBoat area across the canal, where we were meeting Adina and Goldie at 5:15. Although it was a long walk, we had some time on the way to stop inside a few supermarkets, which dad had wanted to see. Then, we stopped inside a pretty art gallery, where we talked to a Danish painter about her work displayed on the walls. She was very sweet, and she told us some of her motivation behind each piece.

After picking up a bottle of wine from a nearby supermarket, we arrived at the GoBoats just on time. I think all four of us hadn’t exactly pictured being sent off with so little instruction from the guy working there, and although he pointed out on the map all the turns we should take, it was a little overwhelming. Who trusted us to drive this boat alongside all the much bigger boats?! Once we started driving, however, it got easier, as driving the boat was not difficult. The weather was pleasantly warm and sunny (a surprise!), and we didn’t even need to bundle in the layers we had brought with us. We enjoyed the beautiful water and scenery of Copenhagen from the water line’s perspective, and we drove around for about 90 minutes. This was one of the coolest things I have gotten a chance to do in Copenhagen, and it was so much fun to be with dad, Adina, and Goldie, driving a boat in the canals. Along the way, a large swan started following us, and at one point, it even stuck its head inside our boat! This was funny. You would think that it would want nothing to do with us.

We safely docked the boat at the end, and we were all happy to have done it. Adina and Goldie left to do work on their final papers, while Dad and I continued on our food-tour to Union Kitchen, where we shared five different smaller dishes: a spicy chicken (I didn’t have this one, of course), green salad, lentil sweet potato salad, beet salad, and french fries. It was all delicious; my favorite was the lentil salad. After dinner, we were exhausted from our 12-mile-walk day, so we headed back to get some sleep.

I woke up fairly early on Wednesday, as Dad was coming to my apartment to drop off his suitcase for the day. Then, we walked to Paludan around the corner. I just had a mango smoothie, as I wanted to make sure I was hungry for lunch. However, I knew that dad should get the brunch plate, and he very much enjoyed it. We also shared the side of gluten-free bread. Next, we walked to the Black Diamond Library to meet Gry, our walking “hygge and happiness” tour guide. We were both surprised when she approached us, as I guess we had conjured a different image of what she’d look like. However, once we recovered from our shock and heard about her plan for the morning (she edited her original tour because we already had lunch plans), we started really enjoying her company and wisdom. In addition to working as DIS teacher for a communications class, Gry is a reporter and journalist, as well as having a lot of travel experience.

She started her discussion by telling us about five elements of Danish culture she believes support the concept and lifestyle of hygge. As we continued on the tour, she often referred to these five principles, giving us several examples of how each one contributed to Danish culture. As a wrap-up to a semester of witnessing these things first-hand, it was super helpful and interesting to hear her perspective. So, here are the five, as well as examples we discussed along the walk:

  • Trust. Danes have an incredible amount of trust in their government, the social welfare system, and most importantly, one another. Gry admitted that this trust could sometimes be taken too far. Trust is evident in many different aspects of Danish culture, such as the norm of leaving small children outside in strollers while parents buy coffee or go shopping. In the United States, parents would be arrested for this behavior.
  • No shame. Almost to a fault, Danes are very much blunt—they have no shame in anything they say or do. They will make fun of women or minorities in a joking manner, and they will not think twice about how this type of humor may be offensive. An example of this is the tradition of hot tubs in Denmark: the poorest Danish man will (nakedly) sit alongside a major political party leader, and in this context, there is no shame in the body. Both men can have equal statuses while sitting there.
  • Community first. Unlike Americans, who often hold an individualistic perspective, with the idea that they should strive to put their own interests first, Danes have the opposite priority. They care about doing things for the common good and helping their neighbors. This is evident in everything from Denmark’s social welfare system to people’s view on taxes. We talked about the dual approach to thinking about taxes: Danes view the money they make as belonging to the government and their own pockets, while Americans view the money they make as all their own, thinking that they must “give up” some of that to the government as tax money. However, Gry shared a personal experience with us, which is one example of why Danes really like the system of a welfare state. When Gry was a child, her dad required a year of hospitalized medical attention, and because of the healthcare system that exists, he was able to get the help he needed, while she was still able to attend one of the best schools in the country. Another conversation topic that relates to this point is the Law of Jante, which stipulates several principles all saying, that, basically, Danes should not think they are above other Danes. I talked about this with my Psychology of Peak Performance class in the context of athletes: technically, it is not the “Danish way” to put your own interests ahead of others, even if that means distinguishing yourself from the team environment.
  • Ordinary man is king. In Denmark, you’re cool if you blend in. Sticking out, making a show of yourself, and bragging is not fashionable. Gry pointed out that someone like Donald Trump would have a much more difficult time gaining support in Denmark, as they would not be swooned by his fame and money; instead, they would be wary of those things from the beginning. In fact, as the three of us sat on a bench in front of the parliament building, we saw a so-called “famous person,” along with two of his guards, which is what prompted this discussion. The word “ordinary” applies to several different Danish cultural norms, including the fact that many people here dress in black and grey to blend in.
  • No religion. The Danes don’t really believe in a being that exists above humans. Yes, most Danish people belong to churches, but they do not believe in following a religion.
  • Peace. Danes avoid war at all costs, and they try to stay neutral in circumstances of conflict.

Dad and I really enjoyed the tour, especially the focus on “hygge,” which we also discussed can be defined differently by everyone. For example, we both enjoy talking, coffee, and good food, so these are elements of our own hygge. While on the tour, Gry brought drinks and some gluten-free bread for us to try.

After the tour, I took dad for his last lunch at Souls Norreport, which I hadn’t been to since Mom and company visited several weeks ago. I finally had a chance to try the brunch plate, which included several items such as gluten-free pancakes, bread with pea-puree, yogurt with honey and granola, and fruit salad. Dad tried the warm potato salad (my suggestion from the last time) and an open-faced sandwich, as he wanted to taste the Danish cuisine. On the way home, we made a quick stop at the Glass Market so he could try the gelato, which he confirmed was very good. After that, he got ready to go to the airport.

It was such a great visit, and it is crazy at this point to say I’m going home next week. Stay tuned for a post on my last week in Copenhagen.

 

 

finishing-up-work-week

I am so happy to report that I have now finished all my final papers. Aside from reading them each one more time before submission and memorizing my Danish oral exam script, I have no more work, which means I can have an enjoyable last few days in Denmark. I may have been dreading all those papers a little, but I am so glad I have them out of the way.

Anyway, here’s a recap of the week.

Monday

  • Adina and I went on a short run on Monday morning, as the weather was beautiful, and we knew we’d feel better about our long day of work if we got a little exercise first. It felt good to be back; it’s been a long time since we’ve run together!
  • I did some grocery shopping after that to get myself set up for the week.
  • Next, Adina and I stopped at the Glass Market quickly before we parked ourselves in Emmery’s for the entire afternoon. We picked up smag salads, which we ate while we worked. I actually hadn’t been planning on keeping Passover while I’m abroad, but I’m also not trying to go out of my way to eat gluten-free bread this week, and most of the other things I eat are kosher-for-Passover, anyway. So, I was mostly keeping it.
  • I was really productive during the day, and I completed all the items on my to-do list.
  • Emmery’s closed early for Easter Monday, so we left around 6:00. On the way home, we stopped in a poké bowl place on our street that we have been meaning to try. It was pretty good; we ate these once we got home.

Tuesday

  • I went to the gym and did a few more errands for the week before settling in to do some work in the morning.
  • Continuing my tradition of doing something new each Tuesday, I went with a girl from my class to Cafe Oha, which requires taking the metro. We needed to work on a paper together anyway, so we just did a working-lunch there. It was a good change of scenery.
  • I got back to the city in the middle of the afternoon, and I spent an hour with Goldie catching up on our breaks. It had been a while since I’d seen her.
  • Then, I met Adina at Emmery’s once again. I got started on one of my final papers, which was great in preparation for having the class later in the week, so I was able to ask appropriate questions about it.
  • Our plan was to pick up dinner from Netto, but when we passed Dalle Valle, we decided to eat a buffet-dinner there instead, as it was another place we’d been meaning to try. (We have already been there together for brunch.) They had plenty of kosher-for-Passover options, and it was a fun break from work.
  • I continued doing homework for the rest of the night, and I also went to bed early because I had an extremely long day on Wednesday.

Wednesday

  • I had to wake up early for a field study with my Danish class, which was really long and different from what I imagined it was going to be. After meeting my class at Norreport station, my teacher treated us all coffee from 7/11, which was a nice surprise.
  • Then, we walked to a nearby park, where we had an hour-long discussion on the Danish welfare state and its connection to homeless people in Copenhagen. My teacher wanted to know if we were disappointed by the welfare state, and if it was different to us now after living here for a few months. We also talked about the comparison of homeless people in the United States as they compare to Denmark.
  • To complement this discussion, the original plan was to go on a walk of the city with a man who is actually a Danish homeless person, who could tell us more what it’s like to be homeless in a welfare state. However, that person had canceled on my teacher at the last minute, so she found someone else within the same organization to spend some time with us. Maynard is an American Native, who moved here about 20 years ago, and he has lived through periods of homelessness and addiction to drugs and alcohol. We walked as a class to Vesterbro to meet Maynard on a sidewalk, and my teacher hustled us along, as she didn’t want to be late.
  • Maynard first gave us some background information about his life before we followed him through the streets of Vesterbro, which is known as not the nicest area of Copenhagen. There are lots of homeless shelters, as well as drug addict spots, with which Maynard had personal experience. At first, I was impressed by Maynard’s ability to talk about all this tragedy that’s happened in his life with the understanding that he overcame these hardships. However, he later pulled out a cigarette and lit up, and I was not only disappointed but also confused. He kept claiming to be “clean” and free of all these drugs; does he not consider nicotine a drug? It sounded like there may be some other issues he has to work through in the future, but it was interesting to meet someone in Denmark with such a differing perspective.
  • I walked with a friend in my class back to the DIS area when the field study ended at noon, and we decided to get lunch at Café Emma on the way back. I needed to be ready for a 2:00 field study, so I definitely needed some lunch. We both got huge plates of nachos, which was really fun.
  • My afternoon field study for the Psychology of Peak Performance was not quite so exciting. It was merely another lecture that my teacher couldn’t fit within the established Monday/Thursday syllabus, so it was basically the same as having another class session.
  • After my long day of field studies, I had a meeting with my Travel Writing teacher, as I had submitted the first draft of two final papers, and we were meeting so he could critique them before I submit the final version. This went very well, and I’m feeling proud of my work, as he asked to use one of my papers in a DIS book called DISoriented, a resource for future Travel Writing students.
  • I went to the gym quickly before coming home to do the apartment’s dishtowel laundry (my last week of the semester on cleaning duties!).
  • Then, Adina got home with her friend Adina, who was visiting from home. It was fun to chat with them. Adina (visitor) was extremely jetlagged, so she went to sleep at 9:30, and Adina (roommate) and I sat on my bed and did a bit of homework before going to sleep ourselves.

Thursday

  • My core course no longer meets, so I was able to sleep in before my first class, which felt really nice. Before going to Danish, I picked up a Paludan smoothie for breakfast.
  • We had time in every class to work on our final papers, and although it wasn’t too much time, I was still able to be productive. In addition to the papers, I have two presentations next week, as well as my Danish Oral exam.
  • After class, I was able to take a fun break from work with Adina, Adina, Goldie, and my friend Sara from class, who knows Goldie and visiting Adina from Brandeis. We went to ride swan paddle boats on the canal near Norrebrø, which is where roommate Adina and I typically run in the afternoons. Adina has been wanting to ride the swans ever since we first saw them in January and February, so we finally checked this activity off the bucket list. It was a lot of fun, and paddle-boating reminded me of being at camp. And, we got super lucky with the weather—it was 65 degrees and sunny and warm, which was amazing. The extra bonus was that we went to the Glass Market beforehand to pick up snacks, and I got my favorite gelato. 🙂
  • The group went to Tivoli for the evening, but I picked up a quick dinner and came home instead to work on one of my final papers, as I decided I needed to accomplish a certain number of pages each day this week in order to be done by Sunday night. I was very productive, and I even had time to hang out more with Adina and Adina when they got home later. I know I’m going to Tivoli at least one more time before I leave!

Friday

  • I woke up early to make time for the gym before my day of productivity. I didn’t even need a jacket on the way there; it was so warm!
  • After showering and getting ready for the day, I went to brunch with Adina and Adina at Paludan, and I got my usual brunch there. It’s one of the few places I have repeated again and again, but it is so close and so yummy that it’s one of my only exceptions to the try-something-new rule I made for myself at the beginning of the semester
  • I took my bike to the Royal Library, and I couldn’t help but sit outside in the sun for a few minutes before heading inside. Although I would have much preferred to spend the day outdoors, I am very happy to report how extremely productive I was. I knocked out five pages in one sitting of a few hours before becoming antsy and needing to take a break. I sat in the sun on the water before biking back to the city center.
  • I picked up a few items at Netto, walked around the neighborhood with an iced coffee, and threw my laundry in. Then, I met Adina outside our apartment with her travel bag, as she was in a huge hurry to catch her flight to Rome. It was super weird that this was my first weekend in the apartment without her (aside from when she stayed with her parents and I had Emma visiting); I’m glad that didn’t happen often this semester! It was very quiet, and I am happy she’s coming back tonight!
  • While my laundry was downstairs, I did a few more hours of work in my room, completing a couple of pages and some research, too. I also worked on creating my script for my Danish oral exam.
  • It was supposed to rain, but I went for a walk while it was still light out and not raining for the time being, which was really nice. There were so many tourists enjoying the warm weather.

Saturday

  • I definitely did less work than I had done on Friday, but I was no longer feeling the pressure of all the papers I had to write; I was ahead of schedule.
  • I woke up and had a quiet morning at home; it was raining outside. I began to memorize my script for Danish.
  • I met my host mom at noon near Central Station, as we were going to have brunch together at Apropos, a delicious restaurant in the Meatpacking District. Unfortunately, Oscar and Oliver were working, so they didn’t join us, but we had a really nice time. I haven’t seen her in so long; there was a ton to catch up on. We talked about London for a while, and how the pulse of the city is more similar to NYC, and Pernille said that she enjoyed the quietness of Denmark. I was also able to reflect on my time abroad with someone who lives here all the time, so that was cool. We had an interesting discussion about the open prison system in Denmark, which is the topic I chose for my Danish culture final paper. Essentially, I have now read a bunch of articles on this system, whereby prisoners are not only able to keep their identity, wearing their own clothes but also they are able to live in rooms similar to fancy hotel suites—or at least college dorms. There have been millions of dollars poured into such prisons, so Danes debate whether these prisons are actually effective in helping to prevent crimes and whether prisoners should have the benefit of these luxuriously comfortable cells.
  • The weather cleared up after lunch, and I decided to bring my backpack to Matcha Cafe; I really like the environment there.
  • After a little while of getting more work done, I decided to go for a bike ride before dinner. I went on the route that I typically run with Adina.
  • For dinner, I met up with visiting Adina, Sara and Hadas (my friends from core course) at Reffen. It was so much fun to be back there again, especially because it was much warmer than when I went with Rachel a few weeks ago. We all got food from different trucks; this time, I tried a polenta bowl with salad and melted cheese on top. It was amazing. There was also a beautiful sunset that we enjoyed on the water before heading back into the city.
  • The last activity for the evening was XocoVino, the wine and chocolate tasting bar. The owner now recognizes me when I bring new people, which is really sweet. All three wines and chocolates we tried were paired expertly, and it was fun.
  • I attempted to go to sleep early, but unfortunately, there was some special occasion happening on my street, with booming music that made it impossible. It was only when the music stopped at 5:30 in the morning that I was able to fall asleep (it was already starting to get light in the room!), so that definitely made me more tired today than I would have liked. I tried reading and talking to my parents in the middle of the night, as well as blasting white noise music next to my ears, but the music outside was too loud for any of that to help. I feel like I can’t really complain about this because it’s only due to my extremely central location in the city that this even happened in the first place, so hopefully, I’ll just recover tonight and over the next few days.

Sunday

  • After waking up a little later than I had originally planned, my first stop of the day was brunch at Cafe Baryl, which is a little outside of the city. However, because I was already purchasing a train ticket for later that day, it made sense to try it. Cafe Baryl has been on my Copenhagen bucket list for the entire semester—and with good reason. They have a plate called “the gluten allergic,” with chia pudding, a smoked salmon-honey mustard combo, and a section of egg, avocado, and carrot hummus. The food was definitely worth the travel to get there.
  • I took a half-day trip to the Kronberg Castle, which is in a northern part of Denmark called Hesingborg. I knew the train ride to get there would be long, so I decided to bring my work to do while commuting. The Kronberg Castle is most famous for its prominence in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but I ended up learning that the castle has a much greater significance in Danish history than this fun fact alone. Similar to the Fredericksborg Castle, which I visited back in February with Josh, Kronberg is located in a small town with huge bodies of water surrounding the castle. I learned that on the other side of a narrow canal is actually a city in Sweden. I bought a student ticket, which included an hour-long guided tour, plus access to explore any part of the castle that I wanted.
  • Our tour guide took us through many different areas of the castle. We first visited the chapel, which was gorgeous. Apparently, soldiers used to use this space as training grounds for their fighting, and it was only decades later that people began to respect the importance of a religious space. We visited the thrown, and our tour guide pointed out that everything was written in German. The last part of the tour included a walk through the dungeons, which, in addition to being pitch black, were stooped so low that I had to duck to avoid hitting my head on the ceiling! It smelled weird, and it definitely felt like a dungeon. This is where soldiers were tortured if they didn’t follow instructions, as well as where some prisoners were sent hundreds of years ago.
  • I walked around by myself for a little longer before heading back to Copenhagen.
  • I am now getting myself all ready for the week ahead, finishing up homework for tomorrow (and preparing for a final presentation), and getting really excited for Dad’s visit! It’s going to be a fun week.

vacation from vacation

For my grand finale of travel this semester, I spent five days in London this past week. While I was with Adina the whole time, I also got to spend time with Emma, Andrew, and Hannah for various segments of the trip. It was a lot of fun, and we were able to pack so much into each day.

Adina, Rachel and I woke up at 4 in the morning on Wednesday for the flight to London, and that felt incredibly early. We had to get our boarding passes signed at the check-in desk (perks of flying a discount airline like RyanAir), and the woman at the desk gave me a hard time about my wheelie suitcase. Although that suitcase fits in most airlines’ holders, RyanAir’s is smaller, and it didn’t quite fit. However, I took a chance and said I’d keep it until boarding, even though she said I’d have to check it later. I was nervous about it as we waited to board. Annoyingly, the same woman was standing behind the boarding desk, so she pointedly told me it was now time to check my bag. Adina was nice enough to carry all my valuables in her smaller carry-on bag, but then I realized that I’d need to borrow a credit card (mine hadn’t been working for several days but that’s taken care of now!). Neither Rachel nor Adina’s cards worked in the machine, so I had to resort to my back-up kroners (Danish currency) I keep in my wallet. I only had 400 of those, and the price was 410 kroner. Adina had an extra 200-kroner bill, but the lady said she didn’t have change. So, she suggested I go back before customs and exchange money to get change. I was nervous about missing the flight, but she assured me that I wouldn’t. Feeling overwhelmed and panic-y, I made another mistake of going the wrong way through the customs gate, and the woman checking passports flipped out, yelling that I couldn’t “cross a border” that way. She said I was lucky I was in Denmark, as I could have been arrested in the United States. Scary! I was pretty upset at this point, shaking from the thought of being arrested, but I ran to the 7/11 to get change. He only had 10-kroner coins, so now I have a bunch of those. I went back through customs again and gave this to the check-in person, and finally reunited with Rachel and Adina. It was quite a fiasco, but luckily, my bag made it to London.

We arrived at Stansted airport, and Rachel went her separate way to a train to Paris, while Adina and I headed to the train that would take us into the city. We learned that it is quite shleppy to get to and from airports in London, as they are not really near anything. I often take my 25-minute commute to the Copenhagen airport for granted. We were happy to discover that Citymapper, the app we use to navigate our way to unknown places, works in London, so we used this to get to our hotel. Once we got to the Paddington area, we decided to sit in Kensington Park and enjoy the nice weather while we waited for Emma to get there and start our day. The sun was beautiful, and I even started to sweat through my jacket.

We were able to check into the hotel earlier than expected so we could leave our bags in the room. This was a nice surprise. At this point, it was 12:30, and none of us had eaten since 6a.m., so the first stop was food. Hannah had recommended a cute brunch place called Granger and Co and while we couldn’t make a reservation, the wait was only 15 minutes. I got a plate with eggs, rice, salmon, and salad, and it was delicious. As we ate, we began to catch up on the last few weeks (the last time I saw Emma was in Dublin) and also reassess our afternoon plans, as it was later than we had thought it would be. We moved some activities around on the itinerary and headed out to walk to the tube for the first sight: the famous house from the movie, Parent Trap.

The tube is London’s underground train system, and we have learned that it is quite easy to navigate. We bought unlimited 3-day passes upon arriving in London, and we definitely made the money worthwhile. Because London is a much bigger city than many places I’ve visited in Europe, it’s more time-efficient to take public transportation; this way, we are able to see more throughout our trip.

I noticed immediately while walking around that London has a very similar feel to NYC. Yes, people have British accents, and there are cute European coffees sold everywhere. However, in comparison to basically all the other cities I have visited the past few months, London is the most similar to American culture and style. I saw pedestrians j-walk, people honked their horns way louder than necessary, and the traffic was similar to the pace of a big city.

Something that’s very useful is the white paint on the streets that say “look left” and “look right” as you wait on the curb to cross a busy intersection. Another thing we noticed is that “exit” is always marked as “way out” in the Metro stations and everywhere else we’ve been.

Anyway, we arrived a little later at the Parent Trap house. While commuting there, we had fun quoting our favorite lines from the movie and talking about our favorite memories of watching it. I personally saw the movie for the first time at camp and since then several more times at camp as well as with Eric on long car rides or planes. (We both enjoy the scene when Meredith realizes Hallie has a twin.) We took a picture in front of the house and returned to the Tube station for our next spot: The British Museum.

This place was huge! And the architecture was beautiful. We were a little confused as to why it’s not called the “Imperial Museum” or something, as the focus is more on the world’s development as a whole instead of just British history. Nevertheless, we enjoyed looking at various artifacts, paintings, and objects from thousands of years ago, and we also appreciated the fact that admission to this museum was free.

We had time for one more activity before dinner, so we decided to head to Peggy Porschen, a dessert/tea shop that is completely pink. We had gotten recommendations to go there. After coming up the stairs from our next metro, we noticed that we were in the Broadway district of London, which was cool to see. It was actually a fun experience, in general, to ride the tube to various parts of the city, only to exit the underground area and find ourselves in a completely different neighborhood. We walked around this district a bit before going to Peggy Porschen, passing the Australian War Memorial and Wellington Arch on the way. I was disappointed that they didn’t have gluten-free desserts there, but that’s not why I wanted to go, anyway. Plus, we were eating dinner soon. I enjoyed the pink atmosphere and drank vanilla tea, and it was nice to rest after walking so much that day.

Andrew and I talked on the phone for a few minutes to coordinate our plan for dinner. He was really sweet about wanting to see Emma and me and exchange study abroad stories, even though he had his biggest final of the semester the next day. We planned to meet up in the Covent Garden area, a place with several streets filled with street performers, restaurants, and shopping. We walked around a bit before settling in a casual Italian dinner, where I had gluten-free pasta. It was great to catch up with Andrew, who has had a very interesting abroad experience. His program pretty much has three days of “internship,” where he was overall disappointed to realize he wouldn’t be doing much, plus one day of class on Thursday, where no one takes notes, followed by a day off on Friday for everyone. Talk about not having work. Although London is clearly such an exciting city with a ton to do, it sounded like it’s more difficult to travel from the city as your home base, especially because all the airports are so far from everything. It was also fun to talk about our travels from abroad, especially since we are now ending our semesters and each of us has so many stories to tell. It was around 10:00 by the time we finished at dinner, and the 4a.m. wake-up was starting to hit us. So, we made our way back to the hotel, and it’s safe to say that I fell asleep immediately.

Oh, the other funny thing from dinner was that while Adina was organizing her money to pay, she discovered two 5-kroner coins, and we laughed hysterically at how much trouble that could have saved in the morning when all I needed was 10 kroner. 🙂 It’s even funnier because Adina has never paid with anything in kroner; she always uses her card. So having the two coins was completely random.

We woke up on Thursday for our first full day of London sightseeing. The first spot on our list did not require a tube ride, so we were able to see a little more of our area in the daylight. There was one cute cafe and shop after another, and we stopped inside one of them to get delicious fruit smoothies for breakfast, deciding this was a great go-to spot for the future days we had. My new credit card (thanks, dad) had arrived at the hotel earlier that morning, so finally I was able to pay for myself after several days of paying back friends. Once we got our smoothies, we walked towards Kensington gardens and palace, where Adina and I had stopped quickly the day before. We remarked about how nice it was to be wearing short-sleeves outside for the first time since being abroad! The weather was beautiful. We walked to the Kensington Palace and garden area where Adina and I had sat after landing in London, and we enjoyed looking at the grass, fountains, and sightseeing people roaming around. It wasn’t worth it to go inside the palace, as it was expensive and two of the primary exhibits were closed, so we just took in the outside sights instead.

Next, we took a tube to the Palace of Westminster and the Westminster Abbey area, which is next to the Big Ben. Big Ben is under construction so it’s hard to see the beautiful clocktower, but we were able to look at all the pretty churches in the area anyway. We decided to head to the Churchill War Rooms and Museum while we were close to it before getting lunch. We had to wait on line for a few minutes, but the exhibits were totally worthwhile. After buying out tickets, we entered into underground war rooms where government officials and war commanders met to plan battle agendas and take care of business. Then, we entered into the Churchill Exhibit, where we read and watched interactive simulations about Churchill, as well as his relationship with Stalin and Roosevelt—the big three. I had only briefly covered these people in middle school history, so it was good to be refreshed. I have discovered that I really prefer history museums to art museums, as I think I have more of an appreciation for learning about things that took place. Additionally, I realized as I read about World War II from a British and American perspective that it was only a few days earlier I had been standing in Berlin and learning about the war from a very different perspective. It is so interesting that the same war can have so many different angles, presented with so many different attitudes and focuses. I also appreciated how this exhibit had lots of interactive elements to keep us entertained. For example, there was a touch-screen board to find out more about the letters sent between Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt, as well as private correspondence with their wives. Finally, the last part of the museum involved looking at the other “war rooms,” such as bedrooms, coat closets, and kitchens that were actually used during wartime. All of this took place underground, so the sun was very shocking when we exited the museum.

At this point, it was close to 2:00, and we were very hungry. We decided that we’d have a picnic in a nearby park after picking up some quick items in a grocery store. The weather was too good to be inside any longer. We spent the next hour walking around the general Westminster area and the bridge before sitting to reassess our itinerary and update the rest of our afternoon. I absolutely loved traveling with Emma and Adina, as we are all planners, and we got along great for this trip. I wasn’t worried about it, but it was extra easy.

The next stop was Tower Bridge. Although this is not the “London Bridge,” the Tower Bridge is the one to see, as it’s blue and beautiful, and it is very interesting-looking. After taking a few photos, we decided it was a good afternoon for High Tea—something we did not have definitively on the itinerary but knew we wanted to experience. I am so lucky that Adina found a place that serves gluten-free high tea, so I was not only able to participate in tea-drinking but in the unbelievable experience of the platters of mini sandwiches and desserts. We walked there, even though it was a relatively far walk, so we ended up sitting for a while inside. The store was so cute. My favorite savory sandwich was the roll with egg salad, and my favorite sweet treat was definitely the plain biscuit with jelly. There was also a cupcake, a little brownie, and muffins. And, I had chocolate flavored tea, which was so good.

We were so full after high tea, yet it was close to dinner-time. Instead, we wandered around the area, looking at all the interesting buildings and after-work events. Emma remarked that the buildings in London are a sharp contrast between modern, tall skyscrapers and extremely old, short buildings that are similar to ones in other European cities. It was the last chance to have a relatively early return to the hotel for the days on our trip, so we made it to our last stop of the day: a pub on the recommendations in our itinerary called Liberty Bounds. Adina and Emma really wanted to try the authentic fish and chips, and I was totally fine having a smaller meal, too, since we were still digesting the sandwiches from high tea. We had a really fun time there, and then we headed home. I had enough time to book some reservations for the following days, as well as facetiming Josh and then Maddie, Gillian, and Kelly (my aephi lineage) for G’s purity bday celebration. I got to watch her open the gift we had picked out, too. Many of my close school friends have birthdays this week, and it’s a little strange not to be there with them.

Friday, we woke up and got smoothies on the way to the tube again. The first item on our agenda was watching the Changing of the Guards ceremony at Buckingham Palace. Although it didn’t start until 11, the website said to arrive at 10:15. When we got there, there were already thousands of people waiting to see the guards! It was so crowded. Luckily, we were able to find enough space on a few stairs, and we could just peer over the heads of many other tourists for the start of the ceremony. The music was cool; we talked about how the guards must know how to play in a marching band in addition to being a guard. We were also so happy that the weather was just about perfect again, as we were warm standing in the sun with a nice breeze. I’m glad we got to see the guards, although I thought the ceremony would have been longer. It’s crazy that thousands of people came to the palace to see a bunch of people dressed up in uniform, but we knew it was a London activity we couldn’t miss.

Next, we headed to King’s Cross station just to see the infamous Platform 9 and 3/4 from Harry Potter. I hadn’t realized this was going to be a real tourist sight, but we realized that there were probably hundreds of people in line to take a picture with the sign and the carriage that, in the book, could pass through the wall. We didn’t want to wait on the long line to have the person working there take a picture of us, so we settled for pictures of the wall instead. We were going to check out the Harry Potter-themed souvenir store while we were there, but this entrance line was also very long. After quickly stopping at a nearby restroom, we took the tube to another metro stop.

We spent the first part of our afternoon on Carnaby street and within the surrounding area, which is the London comparable neighborhood to Soho. It was the cutest area! We had a really good lunch at a place called Leon, which is a salad company we’d seen all over the city. We also popped into a few stores in the area and looked at the window displays. After that, we walked down the street to Sketch, a very fancy restaurant that we wanted to see but did not necessarily want to buy the expensive food. Instead, we ended up sitting in the more casual bar area and ordering dessert, but this allowed us to do what we most wanted at Sketch: go to the bathroom. I know this sounds funny, but the bathroom literally looks like a museum, and after seeing the toilet pods and interesting architecture (it looks like a spaceship) on social media and online, we had put it on our itinerary. After taking cool pictures in the bathroom, I had a yummy chocolate tart for dessert after lunch.

Next, we took a tube to the Imperial War Museum, where we only had time to enter the World War I exhibit. One part of the exhibit tried to imitate the experience of living in a trench during the period of trench warfare. After spending so much of this semester learning more intimately about World War II, it was also nice to have a WWI refresher. The museum was also free, which was definitely a plus. We needed to leave by 5:00 to pick up fruit and a card for our seder host family, then going back to the hotel to change into nicer clothes.

Adina and I had gotten funding from Kahal, the Jewish Abroad organization, to go to a London family’s home for the First Seder. We were both excited and a bit nervous about meeting them, but we had already agreed that they were probably very nice people for offering to host us and that the worst case was that it was awkward or not fun, but at least we would have gotten a seder, a nice meal, and an interesting story to tell.

It ended up being so much more than that—completely exceeding our expectations. We took a few tubes and walked a bit in a residential neighborhood before arriving at their house. We were greeted by Maya, the high school-aged daughter. Daniella, Marc, and Adam (the rest of the immediate family) were all ready to say hello to us as well. We started the typical small-talk questions about where we’re from and why we’re studying in Copenhagen before the other guests arrived: Lena, the Greek-Jewish grad student studying for her Master’s in London; Noah and her parents, close friends of the host family, and one other couple, a Rabbi and his wife. There was plenty of loud talking and greetings as we all started to get to know one another. I loved that we were sitting in the living room for the Seder instead of the dining room: Marc said this was to further enable us to “lean left” during the beginning of the Seder.

The Seder itself was very different from any other seder experience I’ve had. For starters, the whole process was a lot longer and drawn out. One example was how the whole Seder was very conversation-based and interactive. Each person had a different Haggadah, so we were encouraged to ask the group questions from our respective booklets. If something was written in a slightly different way, the person could pose this as a question to the group. There was also a game involved with this questioning. In the middle of the coffee table, there was a bowl of walnuts—the kind inside the huge shell, along with a nutcracker. Whenever someone either asked or answered a question, the person would get a walnut as a prize. Additionally, there was celery on the table for an easy snack to munch on; Daniella said she didn’t want anyone to starve as we waited for the meal to begin.

Something else interesting that I’d never had at a seder was a careful following of when specifically we should drink wine. There are four glasses involved in the seder part alone! Plus whatever one drinks at dinner. I only had a glass and a half by the end of the evening; I could never drink that much wine if I didn’t want to be completely drunk. After the seder, we moved into the dining room for the eating portion of the evening. Daniella had assigned seats, and I was placed between her and Adam. I’m glad she did this, as I’m sure I would have otherwise sat next to Adina and talked to our hosts less. While we ate the food (which included plenty of gluten-free options and matzah), I chatted with Daniella about my perceptions of European culture and her perceptions of American culture, which was an interesting contrast. She feels like Americans are always in this pursuit of happiness while Europeans are more driven by productivity, but after considering this later in the evening, I kind of feel like I see the opposite. I also talked with one of the family friends about career paths and how a person could know what job is a good fit, as she is currently in the process of switching careers. I shared my summer plans and interests and said that although I’m not sure exactly what I want to end up doing yet, I know that the best way to figure this out is just to try something.

After the meal and dessert, we continued with the seder. We had told Daniella we were going to leave by midnight, as we didn’t want to be taking public transportation at a crazy hour of the night. When we were just getting back into the prayers, she turned to me and asked if I had to go back, and I was so startled that I assured her we could stay longer. However, after Adina and I talked silently to each other from across the table (we didn’t have our phones in the room, of course), she told me that her watch said it was already 12:25a.m.! I couldn’t believe how the night had flown. When we reached the ending songs at almost 1 in the morning, we excused ourselves, thanking the hosts and our company, and then we decided it was smarter to take an uber home. We didn’t go to sleep until after 2, but I’m glad I got to say hi to my family seder going on already at that time at home.

We slept fast until a little before 9, waking up so that Emma could have enough time to eat and comfortably make it to her flight. She was flying back to Barcelona in the afternoon, but she flies home today already to the United States! I’m so glad she was able to join me and Adina for this trip. We went to another delicious cafe down the street from our hotel after Adina and I left our suitcases with the front desk, and we ate omelets with vegetables. Then, I said goodbye to Emma, and Adina and I continued on our London adventures. Saturday was just such a happy day. For starters, it was 75 degrees and sunny, and we wore sundresses and skirts for the first time since winter, which is always very exciting. We also had an especially fun time walking around, as we were telling stories from school and camp, and we laughed a lot. Our first stop was the London Eye, which had bought tickets for in advance of the day. Luckily, we paid four extra pounds for “fast pass” tickets, which allowed us to cut in front of a very long line. I was super excited for the eye and the view we would see, and fortunately, I was able to distract Adina from her fear of heights. The view was incredible, and it goes slowly enough that we were able to take it all in. When we got off the ride a half hour later, we walked around the touristy area for a while, and we even stopped to get iced coffee and drink it while sitting in the warm sun. It was so nice.

Our next stop was the Shakespeare’s Globe, where I was reminded of all the memories from Ms. Hastings’ classes in high school and everything I had learned about Shakespeare. We bought tickets for a guided tour of the globe, and we got extra lucky because we got to watch an actual dress rehearsal going on at that time! The tour guide was also great and so funny, and he mocked Adina’s accent as sounding like an American in a joking manner. We saw a costume demonstration on the side of the stage, and then we saw the theatre from two different viewpoints: where the rich people would sit and where the poor people would sit. Unlike modern shows, where we pay more money to sit close to the stage, it was more desirable to sit in the back corner of the theatre, as the acoustics were apparently better. Additionally, I couldn’t help but notice the iambic pentameter in each of the lines, as I was trained to listen to that in high school.

As we made our way to Borough Market for a late lunch, Adina and I looked at the locations for everything the rest of the day, and we were ecstatic when noticed we were only a 15-minute walk from all the places. Then, we laughed, as we remembered we had planned the itinerary according to location. However, it was so much fun to be somewhat surprised by how well we had planned the days, as we had tried to look at a map. We were quite pleased with ourselves, especially because this was an itinerary we made together after a whole semester of mapping out itineraries. When we got to Borough Market, we had to do several laps before deciding what we wanted. We knew we wanted big cups of soft serve ice cream as a dessert, so with that in mind, we decided we’d share something at the market as a meal. Something that is really fun about traveling with Adina is that we often have similar tastes in food, especially as we were trying to keep Passover, so bread wasn’t an option. She loves healthy, yummy food, and she likes when I am able to have it, too, which means that I can share things, and it almost feels like I don’t have Celiac sometimes. 🙂 Anyway, we both decided to go a little bit out of our comfort zones for this meal and try a seafood paella. I witnessed Adina’s first-ever bite of lobster, while I agreed that she could eat the bites with chicken without getting nervous that it was all touching the same rice. We really liked the dish, and we ended up just sitting on this stoop to eat it in the sun. Adina also pointed out that the lighting was also great for selfies, so we took a few pictures there.

We had been craving ice cream the whole day, as we were both reminded of summer with the weather we had. So, we walked along a boardwalk to get vanilla soft serve with chocolate sauce, and we, once again, sat in the sun to eat. Our next stop for the afternoon was Tate Modern, a modern art museum. It reminded me of the Louisiana museum in Copenhagen a bit, and I really liked the exhibits we saw. The physical building was huge, and we didn’t have time to see all of it. When it was 6:00, we needed to search for a dinner place, so I used my find-me-gluten-free app to discover an amazing buffet that was sort of like Riz Raz because of the Mediterranean foods. This was a great stop, and then we headed to Ballie Ballerson, the bar with ball Pitts! We had gotten so many recommendations to go there, and we had to book tickets in advance. After getting yummy, sour drinks in the main bar area, we entered the ball Pitts. They were quite rowdy, and Adina and I had to hold hands just to make it to the corner safely, where we could hang out without getting pelted by balls. We got tired of the ball Pitts after about a half hour, so we hung out there only for a bit longer before heading back to the hotel. We needed to pick up our suitcases before heading to Hannah Kahn’s apartment in another neighborhood, where we were staying that night. We got to the hotel to find out her flight from Nice was delayed, so we ended up setting up shop in our hotel lobby for a while and writing notes for our blogs. A little before midnight, we left the hotel to get on the metro, and when we came up from underground in her area, I had a text that she’d be on a 12:30 train, which put her at her apartment around 1:30. It was definitely later than we expected to go to sleep, but it was totally fine. We ended up talking to her security guard, who said it was no problem for us to wait in the building’s lobby, and he even offered us water and coffee. We worked on our blogs some more before Hannah finally got back. It was so much fun to see her! We pretty much went to sleep as soon as we got ready for bed because it was late at this point, but I knew we’d have a lot of the day with her on Sunday.

We woke up on Sunday for our last half-day of London before we’d have to head to the airport. Something that is difficult about London is that none of the airports are all that central, so Hannah often has to account for three or four hours before her flight. That is very different from Copenhagen, and it certainly changes the pace and length of travel days. We headed to brunch in another neighborhood in London, in a place called Monti’s Deli. We had plates of eggs, avocado, potatoes, and coleslaw, and it was so yummy. Then, we walked around an area that was similar to Christiania in Copenhagen, called Shoreditch, as well as a market on Brick Lane. The weather was the same as the day before, and after so many consecutive days of walking so much, it was nice to have a more relaxed schedule, catch up with Hannah, and relax in the sun. At 2:00, we had to head back to Hannah’s apartment to grab our stuff and begin our long day of traveling back to Cope. Saying goodbye to Hannah was almost fun, as I’ll see her next week again! I can’t wait to have more time with her. I was really happy to be with Adina for the travel home, as there were lots of Easter-related delays and lines.

We talked and blogged on the plane to Cope, and it’s hitting me that this is really the last stretch of my semester: the next time I’m on a plane, it will be to New York! That is still about three weeks away, and although I’m so happy to have this time left in Copenhagen, it is somehow weird and sad that I’ll no longer be traveling on weekends. I feel so lucky to have been to so many cool places, and I can’t wait to travel again in the future. I know these next few weeks will be bittersweet: I’m looking forward to seeing everyone at home, but I’ll equally miss Copenhagen and the people here more than I ever thought I would. Don’t worry; there will be much more reflection in future blog posts. I only mention it now as I head into my last section of the semester of all-Copenhagen.

Overall, this was one of the best trips I have taken this semester. It’s so hard to compare cities, as they are all so distinct, but the combination of having so much time in one spot, the absolutely perfect weather, fun company from beginning to end (getting to see 5 close friends in one week!), packed days with so many activities, and planning an itinerary to see a lot of an enormous city made it an unforgettable week. And, I’m really proud of how much I have learned about traveling this semester. I know what’s important to me and how I like spending my time.

Before I wrap up, here’s a brief outline of my next few weeks: starting today through Sunday, I’m going to try and do as much work for my final papers and projects as possible. I’ll be in Copenhagen without my friends this weekend, which means there’s no excuse not to do work. The sooner I write these papers, the sooner I don’t have to think about them. Of course, I will mix in some fun activities. Then, my dad gets here in one week from today. I can’t wait to see him and show him Copenhagen! The day after that, Hannah visits for the weekend, which will be great. After that, I have five days left. I’ll have my Danish oral exam, and there’s a bucket list of things still to do here that Adina and I made. It’s going to be a busy few weeks, but I’ll blog again soon.

Sachsenhausen memorial tour

WARNING: This post has very heavy content. I wrote about everything I could remember from the tour, so please read this with the appropriate mindset. I’m going to format this post a bit differently, especially since the subject matter and tone will be vastly different from my other posts.

Standing in a concentration camp was unlike any experience I have had in the past. No visit to a memorial or museum could have possibly prepared me for what we would see and hear. Luckily, we got an exceptional tour guide, Beth; I can’t really imagine how the day would have gone without her. She was the perfect balance of incredibly informational and appropriately empathetic, and our group matched her tone and pace for the day, asking thought-provoking questions and talking through these heavy subjects as we stopped at each place within the camp.

Instead of posting all the pictures at the end, I’m going to embed them within the post so I can explain what I learned as we visited each area:

 

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This was not only the HQ building for the Sachsenhausen concentration camp but for all the concentration camps in Europe. In this building, officials operated the movement of prisoners from one concentration camp to another, as well as keeping track of numbers that died each day.

 

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We entered the camp through the back. Beth said this was to show us how they entered—not through the gated entrance that now deems the site a memorial. We also followed a non-direct route to reach the concentration camp itself; Beth said this was to show us the exact route the prisoners had taken. She also wanted to demonstrate how out-in-the-open the concentration camp was; there were no measures taken to hide the camp. However, what was hidden was the brutality the prisoners faced. People were told that the prisoners in the camp were “bad” who, if not locked up, would otherwise harm them; however, people were not told the degree to which these people were tortured. It’s not like this makes the situation better, but it is still important to understand.

 

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This is a picture of how the camp generally looked. It was grey and dreary, and that felt fitting, given its history. Seeing it in person gave the Holocaust a new meaning for me. To think that people stood here getting whipped naked in the freezing cold—while I was buried under a warm jacket and several layers—is almost hard to imagine. The wind was whipping. And, the guards apparently used the weather to their advantage, they used it as another way to torture the prisoners. If it was cold, the guards did not turn on the fire. When it was boiling hot in the summer, the guards would light fires and force the prisoners to stand alongside them.

 

 

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Beth explained that the section of pebbles we saw was strictly forbidden for the prisoners to cross, as they were right next to the barbed wire wall. If someone was trying to escape, they’d have to cross the rocks as the first step, so SS officers had been situated at all the towers that surrounded the camp. If a prisoner even touched the pebbles with a pinky toe, there would be gunshots fired from every direction, killing or wounding the person instantly. Beth explained that to teach the prisoners about this “rule,” an officer ordered one man to fetch his fallen cap from the rocks, and when the prisoner complied with this instruction, he was killed in front of all the others. “The Nazis inflicted torture however they could with every chance they had,” Beth said. “They tried to make one thing more insufferable than the next.”

 

 

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Because the officers’ goal was to inflict as much torture as possible on the prisoners, they used these “hospitals” as areas to experiment with different things. To understand the hepatitis disease more, for example, they injected it into prisoners, cooped them up in these buildings, and studied how quickly it could spread.

 

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This was a spot where SS officers first discovered a quicker and simpler way to execute more people more efficiently. Prisoners were forced to sign up for “doctor’s visits,” and when they were called to the front of the line, they were thrown into the ditch alongside other prisoners with the same time slot. As they waited for the so-called doctors to arrive, they were massaged on the backs of their necks, and just as they began to question why a treatment felt anything short of miserable, they were promptly shot in the head without any warning. This was sure to kill them. The people waiting for doctor’s visits had no idea what was in store. The pictures of these people were the first round of prisoners to be subject to this method.

 

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This ditch was used to hang people and later used as storage for dead bodies.

 

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Remains of glass ovens where people were killed.

 

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This is a memorial tower that was installed shortly after the concentration was permanently closed. It’s hard to see in the picture, but the triangles are red. This symbolizes the conflict between fascist and communist ideologies, but the monument has faced some resistance. This is because some people feel the political issues were raised above other matters such as the antisemitic parts of the Holocaust. To make matters worse for the prisoners, there was a “hierarchy” amongst the prisoners themselves, making nearly everyone hate one another. For example, convicts were below Jews, who were below people of other religions. People who existed within different hierarchies wore different colored stars on their shirts to appropriately separate them.

 

 

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A view of the entrance building to the camp

 

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Our last stop on the tour was the torture square. Beth explained that all the prisoners knew how bad it could be: if a SS official ordered you to enter the square, you weren’t coming out of it alive. The torture square was reserved for prisoners lower than the bottom rung of the prisoner hierarchy. It was for prisoners who broke rules deliberately, started fights with other prisoners, or those who had been rumored to be especially dangerous—even if they were as innocent as everyone else. While no one knew what occurred in the square unless they themselves were unfortunate enough to enter it, Beth explained that this was the ultimate form of torture. Instead of killing people by hanging them from their necks, they hung them by their wrists, which would eventually grow so tired and achy that they’d fall off after days, or the prisoners would first die by hunger or thirst. The Nazis would whip the prisoners there till they bled pools of blood on the ground, and the victims’ friends and family would be commanded to watch their loved ones face this torture—or else they too would face the whipping.

 

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Beth briefly explained the roll call procession that took place each morning. The prisoners were woken at 4:30 and expected to be on the grounds in line at 5:15. Obviously, there were punishments for tardiness. There were only two bathrooms in each cabin. The cabins held 150 people if it was stuffed to capacity, and the SS officials forced 400 prisoners into these barracks each night. If they wanted to sleep, it was their only option. Not many people were able to use the bathrooms each morning, and oftentimes, fights broke out among the prisoners over this issue. The officials would come around to drown the occasional prisoner in the washing water basins. Then, they would head outside for roll call, where everyone—even all the prisoners who had died—were expected to be present. The Nazis would drag the dead bodies in front of their prisoners who still lived, symbolizing that nothing and no one was safe. “This could happen to you, too,” the Nazis wanted everyone to know.

 

 

After seven hours on the grounds of this camp, it’s safe to say I was both mentally and physically drained. It’s a strange concept to say I’m glad I went there, but I am glad to have learned so much as a result of this experience, and it was good to share it with one of my best friends. It is also a satisfying feeling to reflect on this day with writing, as I’ll want to look back on it. May we never forget the tragic, tragic Holocaust and all the people who suffered in this camp and many others.

 

 

Brr-lin and more Copehangin

Rachel and I have been planning this week together since we first found out that we’d both be abroad this semester. Her program gives her a month to travel in the middle, while my travels are more spread out throughout the semester. And, although I technically had a day of school on Monday, only one of my five classes met! I got so lucky.

Thursday night, I met Rachel at Norreport and brought her back to my apartment. We had a delicious dinner at Restaurant Sult, which is right next to the Round Tower. It was my first time there; checking another spot off my bucket list. Then, we went to sleep early to prepare for our weekend in Berlin, Germany. It was the most historic and emotionally-heavy trip I have taken the entire semester. As is noted by the title, it also happened to be FREEZING in Berlin, and it even started snowing for a while. It was my first time bringing my warm winter jacket for a weekend trip since Prague way back in the beginning! I definitely needed it, as well as a scarf, hat, gloves, and layers. At least I was prepared. It is frustrating that next weekend it will be 70 degrees and sunny there.

Anyway, we woke up at 5a.m. for a very early flight, and though we were exhausted, this meant we got to have a packed first day. We got omelets at the airport for breakfast, and the flight was easy and smooth. We arrived at our hostel by 9:15 in the morning, and although we wanted to leave our backpacks locked in the front room, they only accepted coins as payment. Luckily, we had packed lightly, so we ended up carrying around our backpacks for most of the day. If I had brought my computer, this definitely would have been a game-changer.

We decided to go to the Anne Frank museum first, which opened at 10. Realizing the Berlin synagogue was across the street from our hostel, we took our time as we passed it and got coffee on the way. The museum was very child-friendly and not all that big, but I thought the best part was remembering all the scenes I had performed as Margot, Anne’s older sister, in the high school play. It was interesting (and sad, of course), to read about these people’s lives for real. The Frank family had moved from Berlin to Amsterdam, where the real “Anne Frank House” exists, but I’m not going to get there this semester.

Afterward, we went next door to the Otto Weidt museum. I knew less about him than I had known about Anne Frank, so I learned that he employed blind and deaf Jews in his shop, offering them work and a hiding spot from the Nazis. The shops that they worked in are actually preserved today. Our next stop was the Berlin Wall exhibit, where there are parts of the remaining walk that divided East and West Berlin, as well as a museum that explains the history of the Cold War and the separation of fascist and communist ideologies.

The next plan was to meet Chloe (from high school) and her friend for lunch, who happens to be one of Cara’s best friends from home! So many connections. They were finishing a walking tour while Rachel and I still had some time to kill, so we went back to the main area and rested for a bit. The backpacks were getting tiring. Then, we walked to the cutest lunch place EVER (the ambiance was actually amazing) called The House of Small Wonder. It was so much fun to catch up with Chloe, get to know Sami (because Cara talks about her all the time), and be there while Rachel and Chloe got to know each other as well. The food was delicious, and we each got variations of eggs, potatoes, and salad.

We all walked together to the Memorial of Murdered Jews, which turned out to be way longer and heavier than I expected. Chloe told us that the tour guide had an interesting viewpoint on the memorial: the long columns and rows are meant to be experienced by oneself to feel alone, as that’s how many Jews felt at the time of the Holocaust. The exhibit inside required a half hour of waiting, plus a line at security. The museum itself reminded me of the basement of the Budapest synagogue in that it was a lot of reading about what had happened. The next room was full of postcards, letters to loved ones and personal stories of real people getting separated from their families. It was a lot to absorb, and I think what made it even more difficult was knowing that I’d be at a concentration camp the next day, which was the ultimate Holocaust testimomy (more on this later). We spent two hours reading everything on the walls.

On the way out, we saw the sight of Hitler’s old bunker, which is now merely a parking lot. It was only discovered in 2007 that Berlin is where he committed suicide.

We were extremely sick of carrying the backpacks at this point, so we decided to check in to the hostel, then meeting Chloe and Sami nearby for a quick smoothie and pastry snack. The four of us headed to East Side Gallery, the last sight-seeing event of the day. There are murals along the walls that stretch both ways for several yards, which is a cool exhibit to see. When it got too cold to stand outside any longer, we went to dinner at Hummus and Friends, which is a restaurant Adina and Goldie had recommended to me from their weekend in Berlin last month. We ate hummus in various flavors, such as pesto and even chocolate! We also dipped charred cauliflour, which was so yummy. Rachel and I went to sleep pretty early, as we hadn’t napped since waking up at 5, and we had an extremely long day ahead of us.

I’m going to write about Sachsenhausen concentration camp in another post, as I think it deserves its own. So, I’ll skip that part for now. On the way to our meeting spot in the morning, Rachel and I ate in the hostel for breakfast and found the Hackscher market, which consisted of a bunch of vendors to get street food.

When we returned to the city, we went straight to an early dinner at David and Dean, a place we had passed the day before with large soups, salads, and rice bowls. We reflected on our day together before going back to rest at the hostel, each taking our time to have our private reflections as well.

After gathering our strength, we went out for a delicious dessert at a cafe next to the hostel, where I had to ask the waiter three times if the apple tart was gluten-free because it was just that good. We also ordered drinks there and chatted, and then we headed back to the hostel. We had another 5a.m. wake up ahead of us.

Sunday was a very full day in Copenhagen. Although it was sunny, we are now back to the low-40’s temperatures we had months ago! I’m getting sick of the winter and bundling up, but it should warm up next week hopefully. Still, we were able to do so much—and so many new things for me! It’s amazing that I can still be doing new activities with my visitors; it certainly makes being a tour guide a lot more interesting. After showering and changing from our plane clothes, we went for brunch at a Paludan. Rachel said it was the best brunch she’s ever had in her life! Wow. We walked to Rosenborg Palace, and in addition to walking around the gardens, we got tickets to see the inside as well. It was beautiful and very different from the inside of the Christiansborg Palace. There were more delicate objects and porcelain dishes in one.

We decided to stop at my apartment for more layers of warmth, and it was on the way to the bus station anyway. We took the bus to Superkilen, which is a park with curvy lines all over the ground. It also has interesting swing sets and climbing bars. Then, we went to see Banana Park, which has lots of walls with cool graffiti. These were two more things on my Copenhagen list.

We stopped for a snack at the Glass Market before heading back to my apartment to regroup after the long afternoon in the cold. I got froyo from Banana, a stand that has recently opened for Spring, while Rachel had gelato from my favorite place inside upon my recommendation, which she really enjoyed.

Adina came with Rachel and me to Reffen for an early dinner. Reffen is one of the “paper towns” on a nearby small island (technically part of Copenhagen). It recently opened for the season, so we had been wanting to try it. Goldie was supposed to come also, but there was a protest in her neighborhood and she had gotten an alert to stay inside, unfortunately. I’ll definitely go back with her at another point, as we all loved the food. There were easily 30 different stands I could have tried. My favorite was the polenta french fries.

Sunday evening wasn’t too eventful, as Rachel and I both had some planning to do for our weekend trips. Adina and I were able to connect via email with our Passover Seder host in London, though, so that was exciting. We are looking forward to sharing this experience together, and our host family sounds excited, too!

Monday was a really nice day, and we did significantly less walking, which was a nice break before a lot of sightseeing days that lie ahead. First, we had breakfast at 42 Raw, where we both had acai bowls. Then, we walked to the DIS buildings after stopping at the book store, and we prepared for our first senior year course pre-enrollment—scheduled to start at 7a.m. ny time, which is 1p.m. here. We ended up bumping into another Cornell student who is in DIS, so the three of us sat together while we pre-enrolled. I am happy to report that I succeeded in getting all the classes I wanted! I enrolled in many more credits than I plan on taking, so now I just get to see which classes I like best, and then I can drop one or two classes from there.

From there, I headed to my one class of the day at 1:35. It was fairly uneventful, although I noticed that the attendance was way lower than usual, as many people decided to skip classes together today. After the class, I walked to Paludan, where Rachel had gone ahead to order us lunch (she liked it so much she wanted to go back!). Then, we dropped our backpacks in my room before heading on a walk to the trampolines and Nyhavn canal. The weather was similar to the day before, except the sun felt warmer, and it was actually pleasant to be outside. We enjoyed some ice cream in the sun. Next, we went to Illum Rooftop, a very pleasant day for that lookout. We got drinks and talked for a while, and although the initial plan was to meet Goldie at dinner somewhere else in Copenhagen, we asked her if she’d want to meet us on the rooftop instead. That ended up being such a good call, as the waitress moved us to a table directly overlooking the street below. The dinner food was really good, and we all had a fun time. Rachel and I went back to my apartment for a bit, and I was able to book my tickets on her Las Vegas flight for the end of August (her 21st birthday party with our friends from school). I’m super excited about that trip. Finally, we went to Vinbar, which is around the corner, and we walked around the area a little more.

We had a final packed day here today. First, we picked up breakfast at Joe and the Juice, and we continued on a long walk around Kastalet (it was beautiful weather!) and the famous Little Mermaid. Then, we stopped at the hammocks I had discovered with Emma a few weeks ago, and we walked back toward Amalienborg Palace to be there for the Changing of the Guard ceremony at 12. We were standing there at 11:30, but we, unfortunately, ended up squashed between some tall people around us. I thought there was going to be some sort of musical ceremony, but the guards just walked around and marched for a few seconds. They otherwise stood there in what appeared to be an intense staring contest. But, I was happy that I continued my goal of trying something new each Tuesday. 🙂

I had planned to take Rachel to Mad and Kaffe after that, and I had been hyping it up a lot. I feel really bad because we arrived there at 12:45 to learn that they stopped serving the brunch menu at 12:30, and there really were not many gluten-free options on the lunch menu. Of course, Rachel was great about it, and we ended up going to Matcha Bar instead, where we had an insanely good meal. I’m almost happy it worked out that way. Between the two of us, we got two waffles, this blackberry yogurt bowl, and an avocado flatbread. We were so hungry, and we finished all of it!

Our last activity for the afternoon was a daytime trip to Tivoli, where we went on the Star Flyer ride (I had been already with Josh, but it was totally different during the day), and walked around for a while. We even sat on the lounge chairs on the grass, soaking up the sun in our winter coats. Even though it’s been cold this week, we overall got lucky with the weather in that it never rained.

Now, we are home getting ready to fly to London VERY early tomorrow morning. We have a 4 a.m. wake-up…oh boy. We will go with Adina later to the Glass Market for a final dinner in Copenhagen, where Rachel wants to try the Grød.

I’ll be in London from tomorrow morning to late Sunday night with Adina the whole time, and tomorrow we will meet up with Emma for the trip! I will also see Andrew Young and Hannah Kahn this week. I’m really looking forward to everything we have planned.

After that, my plan is to stay in Copenhagen for the last few weeks of my time abroad. I’m getting pretty sentimental about leaving, especially having a visitor here who keeps commenting on how amazing it is. 🙂 I am so incredibly lucky to live here, and I am going to be sad to leave. I still have some time, though, and plenty of things on my bucket list.

P.S. The concentration camp-post is still in the works…