Monday, December 10, 2012

First Weekend in Denmark

You know that dream you have where everything you see is the name of a piece of furniture from IKEA? Of course not, no one has that dream. But that dream is my reality. I can't read, pronounce, or even guess the pronunciation of any word. It makes no sense at all to me. I am learning, though, as best I can. I must to get the full experience.

I've been in my new home for the next three months, Aarhus (pronounced aw-hus), Denmark, for four and a half days. I love everything about this city. The friendly people, the atmosphere, its walkability (which is a word according to me), the history, and dare I say the weather? I have experienced old-school exploring, you know, the kind with a paper map, not a smart phone. This is more difficult than it may seem. Street signs are about a foot and a half (about 45cm) from the ground. the ground. If I can see the signs through the people, I certainly can't pronounce the street, and since I don't have a nice blue dot to mark where I am constantly, I  have to do a little more work. OR I just turn down whatever street feels right, and walk around aimlessly. The first day I just wanted a feel for the city, but by the second day, I had tasks to do and I needed to get a better grasp of everything. It didn't take me long to realize:

It's cold.
With temperatures hovering around 0°C during the day and down to -8°C at night, it didn't take me long to realize I would always be cold. I have accepted this. I even open the window on occasion. It snowed about 15cm (~6in) yesterday. I got to shovel. Something I haven't missed from my winters spent in Kansas (where I am from). 
Woke up to my first snow in Denmark

Everything seems expensive, but really it's more expensive than it seems!
A latte is 48? A phrasebook is 100? 100 of anything seems like a lot. How about 450 for my monthly bus pass? Yeah. Well, Denmark likes to do their own thing and not use the Euro, but the Kroner. The exchange rate is 1 Danish Kroner = 0.17 US Dollar. So that 100 I spoke of was $17, and a latte from baresso is going to set you back $8.32. NOT EVEN KIDDING. I would never. I went in there because they had wi-fi, and that's the only way I can use my iPhone. After I tried to push and pull on the exit doors (clearly can't read Danish), my jaw nearly dropped to the ground when I saw what I was going to have to pay. They didn't even have plain coffee listed, but I probably got 3oz for DKK 24, or $4.16. ouch. And that bus pass? $78/month plus the picture I had to get for DKK 17/$100. Good thing I am making money. I am certainly spending it.
Danish Kroners. US quarter for size on the right.

Danes are amazingly friendly. 
While no one will stop to help the clearly lost girl with a camera and backpack, they will help if you ask. I am not shy at all when it comes to asking strangers for help, or for a point in the right direction. Traveling alone will take away such a fear rather quickly. I met a Danish woman flying from Chicago to Aarhus, and she was so kind. She gave me her business card and urged me multiple times to contact her during my stay. Everyone at work is also friendly. I feel like I could talk to anyone and ask for help with work or even the Danish language. I really can't even put it into words. Just come to Denmark and witness it for yourself. 

Juletid is best spent in Denmark!
Everything is decorated for Christmas in Aarhus. There are Christmas trees all over, even on the sides of building about 10 feet in the air, attached to street signs, and for sale in the market. Garland and strings of lights can be found above the streets and pedestrian walkways. It is a splendid time to be here. A Christmastime tradition is to drink a milled wine called Jule Gløgg. The first night I was here, it was served to me with raisins and almonds. I was a bit apprehensive, but after my first few sips, it was love. I look forward to drinking it every night, and I may have to stock up before Christmas is over. 
Christmas in Den Gamle By is particularly special. The Old Town is a small "town" of houses from all over Denmark from various time periods ranging from 17/1800s to the present day section currently being built. Each building was torn down brick by brick and reconstructed. There are representations of what may have been in the buildings, such as a tailor or a pharmacy or bakery. You can even buy baked goods made with very old recipes dating back to the 1500's. There are more modern buildings with a SAS office and an electronics store from the 1970's. Den Gamle By is absolutely charming! 
Den Gamle By

Den Gamle By. unfortunately a bit blurry. it was at night, and I am still learning my new camera with an unsteady hand.

And then some more snippets of my life here...

I had to run to catch my bus for the first time ever. I saw the 1A as it turned onto the street on which I was walking and knew I was gonna have to make a run for it. Through the slush, I hoped to God I would not slip and fall as I sprinted toward the bus. I got to the middle door when it started to pull away. I ran to the door near the driver and probably made the most pathetic, helpless sound ever. He stopped and without even checking my bus pass that I had paid an arm and a leg for, he said "to the back." ugh. OF COURSE not only did I sprint to the bus and make him stop, on this color bus you enter through the middle doors. I thanked him. In English, of course. At least it wasn't the Greyhound.

 Instant coffee is quite delicious. I, sadly, didn't know people actually drank it.

Markets will be the death of my bank account (okay, Denmark will be the death of all my bank accounts). There is a market on Ingerslevs Boulevard every Wednesday and Saturday that sells anything from sweet treats (which of course I bought some sort of Danish Christmas cookie) to plants, to wreaths, meats, cheeses and prepared foods. Saturday was a perfect day to take a stroll through the market!
Ingerslevs Blvd. Market
Ingerslevs Blvd. Market. This is what my hyacinth should grow to look like if I don't kill it first. Unfortunately I have a knack for that.

Every day at work, everyone stops at 10am and gathers to eat breads and cheeses with coffee and tea. It is one of the cuter things I've ever seen in the workplace. THEN there is the lady who works in the company and prepares our lunch! She's even cuter. At 12:30 everyone eats lunch together. It is quite the spread of an assortment of fish (herring, mackerel, tuna, salmon) and meat (bacon, liver), condiments (pickles, beets, olives, spreads), cheeses, breads, salad, nuts, dried fruit, and other things!  I'll take a picture tomorrow.

Toilet paper here is 3-ply. I can't find all 3 plys though. ha

There is a lot of awkward time/silence in conversations. ALL conversations. I am bad at ending conversations, but they are worse. They'll just stand there, looking at you. There's nothing more. Today I brought up a fire extinguisher, I was so out of things to say.Then we talked about fire extinguishers for five minutes.

I never thought I would ask where the @ key was..or how to use it. Until I got a Danish keyboard.

Møllestien Lane is a cobblestone road (dating back to the early Middle Ages, when the Vikings were around!) with houses from the 18th century. Cozy!
Møllestien Lane

I can't wait to see where tomorrow's adventures take me!


  1. OMG I love this. It looks so beautiful Vern! I can't wait to read the next one! and the title is perfect. of course. love.

  2. Awesome! Mollestien Lane is now the background on my imac. Is there ANY chance you could get a recipe of Jule Glogg for my homebrew blog? I would LOVE to brew up a batch and see how it goes. Can't wait to read more.

    -Alex (Andrew's friend if you don't remember)

  3. we talked about fire extinguishers for 5 minutes! haha i love this VERN! and yes, at least it wasnt the greyhound!

    your blog is already making me want to go to there!

    also, you should add a follow button - so people can follow your blog, like me, ME!