Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sweatpants Across Europa: Denmark

A decade ago, I applied for a work visa in Britain and used it to work and travel for several months. This is that story.  To begin at the beginning, go here.

Our first stop in Denmark was Copenhagen. We stayed at a very inaccurately named hostel called Sleep in Heaven. It was full of hyper teenagers in an acoustically perfect cement bunker. We spent most of our nights trying to plug our ears from the noise, hoping that it would quiet down by 2, 3, maybe 4 AM…come on, people, don’t YOU EVER SLEEP??? We took out our irritation by proceeding to spill tea all over the lobby floor on several occasions. This wasn’t intentional, but it made us feel as though justice was served.  
 
We happened to be in Copenhagen for the annual opening of Tivoli Gardens, a large outdoor amusement park and one of the city’s primary attractions. The park was beautiful, full of lakes, rides, restaurants, and dazzling lights. However it also got very cold at night, so despite our best efforts to join the festivities we headed home early in the evening.  

The rest of our tour of Copenhagen surrounded graves and beer.  As we would find out, all major European cities, in addition to sporting a wealth of cathedrals and museums, all have a collection of famous graves, which are somewhat interesting but very difficult to find.  Copenhagen’s graves of fame, among others, are those of Hans Christian Anderson and Soren Kirkegaard.  We found them, paid our respects in the form of taking photographs, and moved on.

The rest of our tour of Copenhagen surrounded graves and beer. As we would find out, all major European cities, in addition to sporting a wealth of cathedrals and museums, have a collection of famous graves, which are somewhat interesting but very difficult to find. Copenhagen’s graves of fame, among others, were those of Hans Christian Anderson and Soren Kirkegaard. We found them, paid our respects in the form of taking photographs, and moved on.

Our next stop was the Carlsburg brewery. It was a typical brewery tour and included free samples at the end, which is pretty much the primary reason for going on any brewery tour unless you have a thing for big steel tanks or the smell of fermentation.

Our final bit of tourism included a very cold, windy harbor cruise, highlighted by a brief spin near Christiania. Christiania was a “free city,” which meant it had few “laws,” which meant it was full of mangy, un-owned dogs and the citizens consumed a lot of mind-altering chemicals. Our tour guide seemed to avoid discussing it even though it appeared to be a very interesting place. If Christiania were a sister city to Copenhagen, it appeared to be a disgraced sister, the one nobody in the family talked much about.

Having viewed enough of Copenhagen, we were on to the city of Give. Give was the home of some very distant relatives of Karie. One of the worst things about traveling was that, as much as we wanted to get to know the places we visited, it was very hard to do this without meeting the people. Attractions were nice, but they paled in comparison to actual conversations with actual residents. However, it was very hard to meet native people if one was shy, if there was a significant language barrier, or if one was traveling in a group. Since all three applied to Karie and I, our chances to meet locals were fairly limited. As such, the opportunity to stay with her family was perhaps the most fantastic thing that happened on our trip.  

Our hosts managed quite a bit of land that they used as a potato/duck/mulch/worm farm. This scheme, though it sounded odd, was brilliant. The ducks laid eggs and pooped, the poop and other yard waste created mulch, the mulch helped feed the potatoes and house worms, and the worms broke down the mulch into fertilizer for the potatoes. Out of the cycle, they were able to sell eggs, potatoes, mulch, and worms. These products allowed them to live on and expand the family farm, which now covered much of the area around Give. Their house, though not large, was very nice and well-maintained. It was certainly quieter and more comfortable than the hostels we’d been staying in, which made us very happy.

We were introduced to more family members, some of whom worked at the farm. We were treated to lengthy meals of fried chicken, mounds of french fries, wine, two to three desserts, and cigarette breaks between each course. We met the Polish farm hand, who was invited to each meal and treated as a member of the family.


One of our day trips took us to the original Legoland in Billund. The park was covered with enormous, detailed, moving scenes built entirely of Legos: Lego airports, Lego farm country, Lego future cities, Lego trains in Lego mountainsides. They were all much better than the Lego space station I made in 2nd grade, which I thought at the time was the ultimate in Lego construction.

We also took a tour of local historic sites, including a cemetery full of Karie’s distant relatives and the houses where Karie’s great grandfather and great great grandfather were born.

Too soon, were were preparing to leave Give and our wonderful hosts. As we were packing up, they gave us some food for our trip: bread, ham, bleu cheese, cheddar cheese, and a few crackers. Karie put everything on one sandwich, which clearly was not what they intended. They scrunched up their faces as Karie, in an effort to do what she thought they wanted, created a horrific ham and bleu cheese sandwich. It was a good thing she waited until we were on the train zooming towards Hamburg before she bit in. I don’t think she will mix those ingredients ever again. Gagging, we sped towards...