Danish Resistance in WWII

Danish King, Christian X, in WWII During his Daily Tour of Copenhagen, Surrounded by Loyal Danes

We have been focusing on the Danish resistance movement in WWII in my Danish Language and Culture class. So, in this post, I will share some of my newly acquired knowledge with my loyal readers.

Denmark came under German control in 1940. It was the second country to be invaded (Poland was first). Denmark was valuable territory. It served as a stepping stone to Norway, which housed several valuable British ports. Also, German men were encouraged to reproduce with Danish women to proliferate the Aryan race.

It only Germany only two hours to occupy Denmark. The Danish military didn’t stand a chance against the German army, and Christian X (the Danish king) thought it best to surrender, rather than sacrifice thousands of Danish lives in a war he would eventually lose.

At first, Denmark was allowed to preserve its government through a “loyal cooperation” with Germany. Christian X kept his throne and the Danish court and parliamentary systems remained. This arrangement, however, required that the Danish government accept German demands.

This “loyal cooperation” lasted for several years. During this period, Denmark was able to protect its Jewish population. However, this cooperation came to an end when Germany insisted upon a condition that Denmark refused to accept: the death penalty to any Dane who had actively fought German occupation. When the Danish government refused to institutionalize capital punishment, Germany dissolved the Danish government and installed its own.

Many Danes continued to resist in small ways. They paraded behind Christian X during his daily tour of Copenhagen to demonstrate that they still recognized him as their ruler, and not the newly established German government. Before the war began, Christian X was not a particularly popular king. But, during and after WWII, his popularity grew as he became a symbol of national pride. According to my tour guide at the Danish Resistance Museum, Danes also resisted German occupation by, “being cold to the German soldiers” and, “talking about the Germans behind their backs” — pretty wimpy resistance if you ask me. Danish children found their own means of resistance as well. Many carried around a piece of paper showing four pigs. They’d ask, “Where is the fifth pig?” After folding the paper in a certain way, the pictures of the four pigs formed Hitler’s face.

A popular tale claims that during one of his daily tours of Copenhagen, Christian X wore the Star of David to encourage non-Jewish Danes to bear the Jewish symbol, thereby making it was difficult for Germans to distinguish Jews from non-Jews. However, at the Danish Resistance Museum, I learned that this tale is merely a myth. In fact, Danish Jews (who were treated very well in comparison to Jews other German-occupied countries) were not required to wear the Star of David at all.

There were only about 8,000 Jews living in Denmark before German occupation. As many may know, the night before Danish Jews were supposed to be deported to concentration camps, someone leaked information about these deportation plans. That night, Danes saved most of their Jewish population from deportation by transporting them to Sweden (a neutral country) in boats. In fact, 99% of Jewish Danes survived the Holocaust. But who leaked this information to the (formally null) Danish government? Many suspect it was a German diplomat. Why? By this point, it was clear that Germany would not win the war. Accordingly, many suspect that the German diplomat leaked this information so that he would have a better standing and a defense when tried upon Germany’s defeat.

As the war came to a close, was unclear which country — England or the Soviet Union — would liberate Denmark from German control. England actually sent a letter to the Soviet government, asking for permission to liberate Bornholm (one of Denmark’s eastern islands). However, Soviet forces ignored the letter and occupied Bornholm, and then responded to English forces with a letter that essentially said, “Whoops! Too late.” Soviet forces occupied Bornholm for over a year while English forces liberated the rest of Denmark. As a result, different parts of Denmark had markedly different liberation experiences.

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Brandenburg Gate

Hannah and I left Budapest and arrived in Berlin on Thursday night. She was sick and I was exhausted. Still, we were in Berlin! So we mustered strength to explore the streets surrounding our hostel and, of course, to find dinner.

We landed on an authentic Italian restaurant (maybe it would have made more sense to go to a German restaurant). In addition to a rice and seafood dish, I ordered a “fresh mint tea.”

… They really meant fresh. Prices were fair — even Berlin seemed inexpensive compared to Copenhagen.

We devoted our first full day in Berlin to museums: we visited the DDR Communism Museum, Checkpoint Charlie Museum and the Jewish Museum.

On our way to the DDR Museum, we passed the New Synagogue. Ironically, the “New” Synagogue was built in the late 1800s. It was severely damaged in the years leading up to WWII and during the war itself. Accordingly, much of the synagogue has been reconstructed.

The New Synagogue

We continued on our way to the DDR Museum. The Museum stands across the bridge from Museumsinsel (Museum Island). Unfortunately, we did not have time to visit the museums on Museum Island, but we admired them from afar. One of the most striking buildings on Museum Island was the Berlin Cathedral, which actually looked a lot like the New Synagogue.

The Cathedral of Berlin

The DDR Museum used an interactive, hands-on approach to depict everyday life in the GDR (German Democratic Republic aka East Berlin under communism). I’ll share a few things I learned:

1) Preschoolers in the GDR used “potty benches.” An entire class of preschoolers went to the bathroom at the same time, sitting side-by-side on a “potty bench.” No student was allowed to get up from their seat on the bench until everyone was done using the toilet. What a great example of intense collectivist socialization.

2) Children in the GDR were taught to fight for their country and brethren. Instead of playing with plastic balls during recess, children threw wooden grenades around the playground.

3) Though teenagers and young adults were not required to join the Free German Youth (the official communist youth group), those who did not join were institutionally discriminated against when applying to universities and jobs.

4) People rebelled in various ways. Nudism was a popular form of dissent, especially on beaches.

After visiting the DDR Museum, Hannah and I made our way to Checkpoint Charlie and its accompanying museum. Checkpoint Charlie is the most famous checkpoint between East and West Berlin. It was one of checkpoints through which diplomats could cross the famous divide.

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie

The Checkpoint Charlie museum chronicled events from the end of WWII to the fall of the USSR (largely from the Western Allies’ perspectives). Though my tired eyes struggled to absorb all of the names and dates thrown my way, I managed to leave the museum with a more extensive understanding of tensions in East and West Berlin during the Cold War period.

In my opinion, the most interesting exhibits were those that focused on individual attempts to escape East Germany and reach West Germany. In efforts to cross the border, some women folded themselves into suitcases while others stowed themselves under car hoods.

There were also several stories of East Berlin parents whose children were taken from them because the government deemed them unfit to raise their children due to their alleged anti-communist beliefs.

After leaving Checkpoint Charlie, we walked a few blocks to the Jewish Museum. The Jewish Museum is exactly what its name suggests: a Jewish museum, not a holocaust museum. Though it did have a section that focused on the WWII period, it omitted the horrific pictures and stories that I expected.

At night, we crossed the city and headed for the Reichstag, the German Parliament building.

Near the Reichstag stands the Brandenburg Gate. The gate was built in the late 1700s by the King of Prussia. Like most German landmarks, the gate was severely damaged in WWII but has since been restored.


In almost every city Hannah and I have visited, we have been met with carnivals and festivals. The traveling international food festival greeted us in Stockholm and met us again in Copenhagen. In Prague, moon-bounces and food stands lined the streets. Berlin proved no different. Behind the Brandenburg Gate, we found a huge carnival complete with concerts, bungee-trampolines, a ferris wheel and food trucks. What a great way to end the night.

We devoted the next day to the Berlin Wall. First, we visited the Berlin Wall Monument. Afterwards, we trekked to the East Side Gallery.

The East Side Gallery is a preserved section of the Berlin Wall where over one-hundred artists from various corners of the globe have painted murals symbolizing a new era of freedom.

East Side Gallery

It was awesome. I’ll share a selected few:


Hannah and I even jumped into pictures with our favorites.


The mural above on the right, entitled “My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love,” shows the famous Socialist fraternal kiss as shared between communist leaders. The kiss served as an, “expression of happiness, fraternity and equality.”

After exploring the East Side Gallery, we crossed the Oberbaum bridge to find a recommended lunch spot, Burgermeister.

We spent the rest of the day decompressing in the hostel. We did a little street exploring and ate dinner at a delicious Vietnamese restaurant that our Danish SRA recommended. Then, after a week of country hopping and hostel living, we retired to our rooms for an early night.

Home to Copenhagen in the morning!

I have learned some very valuable lessons about travelling this week. Here are a few:

1) Yes, Easy Jet is inexpensive. Yes, you get what you pay for. Unless you want to be herded like cattle into a dinky plane easily rattled by turbulence, go for the flight that’s $10 more expensive.

2) The perfect flight departure time is between 1:30 and 3:00 pm. Hostels usually have check-out around 11am or noon. After check-out, you don’t want to lug your luggage around the city with you (especially if you overpack like I do). Scheduling your flights between 1:30 and 3:00 pm gives you an hour to get to the airport and still have some time to relax before your flight. Plus, you’ll get to your destination early enough to explore.

3) Before you leave, check to see if the hostels you are staying in include sheets and towels. All of the hostels I stayed in did, but I brought my sheets and towels anyway. I could have saved a lot of luggage space and weight if I had known not to bring them.

4) Try to group countries with similar climates — it makes packing much easier.

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On Tuesday (October 2nd) I hopped on a plane from Prague to Budapest with my DIS roommate, Hannah. I sat in the middle seat, adjusting my seatbelt, when the traveler assigned to the seat next to me sat down. I looked up and was shocked to see my core-course classmate, Haley. She explained that she had been visiting a college friend in Prague but was travelling to Budapest alone and would be spending the rest of her travel week there. How adventurous! Of course, I invited her to join Hannah and me on our trip.

When we landed, I withdrew money at the airport. I suddenly knew what it felt like to, as DJ Khaled so eloquently puts it, “make it rain.”

20,000 Hungarian forint (about $92). All Hungarian forint bills portrayed burly men sporting impressive facial hair.

Hannah and I only had two nights in Budapest. We made the most of the little time we had, quickly checking off to-do’s suggested by my college classmate who is studying abroad in Budapest. Our new travel companion, Haley, joined us for most of our outings.

First on the list was visiting the famous ruin pub, Szimpla. Converted into a pub from an abandoned building, Szimpla is simply the coolest night-spot venue I have seen.


I would have loved to spend the night there, but the ticking clock required that we get a move-on. My college classmate recommended seeing the Budapest Parliament building at night, so we went on a mission to do just that. We left Szimpla and trekked across the famous Chain Bridge to get from Pest to Buda. (The Danube river divides Budapest into the Buda side on the west, and the Pest side on the east. Though Buda and Pest were once separate cities, in the 1800’s, bridges united the two and created Budapest.)


From the Chain Bridge, we had a beautiful view of the Budapest castle.

Castle Hill at Night

Once we reached the Buda side, we walked along the river until we were standing directly across the river from the Parliament building. My friend was right: it was breathtaking. I could have started a postcard company with the photos I took of Parliament that night. Still, the building was even more striking in person.


The next morning, we retraced our steps from the night before to see the landmarks in the daylight.

Castle Hill


We then ventured to Andrassy Avenue, which has been compared to the Champs-Elysees. On Andrassy Avenue lies the House of Terror. This terror museum now occupies the building in which Nazis once tortured people, and which formerly served as secret service headquarters during the USSR era. The museum depicts Hungarian life under the fascist Nazi regime and then under the communist USSR regime. Oh boy… Hungarians have been through a lot.

In the museum, I found it difficult to distinguish between the sections exhibiting life during WWII and those exhibiting life during the Cold War. I think this melding was intentional — maybe it suggests that, thought the ideologies in power were very different, Hungarians were similarly affected by both occupations.

After the House of Terror, we continued to walk down Andrassy Avenue until we reached Heroes Square.

Heroes Square

To be honest, I thought Heroes Square was a bit anti-climactic and full of tourists (an identity that I reject and deny adamantly).

After a long day of walking, we decided to relax and rest our tired feet in a famous Hungarian thermal bath. The thermal baths are believed to have medicinal effects. Maybe because the hot water thinned my blood or maybe because I had been breathing in steam for an hour and a half, but I definitely felt the bath’s soothing effects.

The next morning, Hannah and I continued our traveling tradition: ending our stay in a country with a scrumptious breakfast/brunch. We met Haley at Cafe Csiga, a cafe a Danish friend recommended. Haley hopes to become a regular at the cafe in the four days she spends in Budapest after Hannah and I leave. I don’t blame her — the cafe is adorable. Plus, I scarfed down a smoothie and a plate of eggs with ham for under $5. I could get used to that.


After breakfast, Hannah and I bid farewell to Haley and to Budapest and continued onwards to Berlin.

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Prague (Day 3)

St. Vitus Cathedral

On our last full day in Prague, we ventured to the Prague Castle — the biggest castle in Europe. I was expecting a palace, so I was a bit surprised to find that the castle was more like a mini-town. In fact, the “Golden Lane,” looked a lot like the Danish town of Odense.

The most striking part of the castle was the St. Vitus Cathedral. Pictures don’t do the cathedral justice, but I’ll post a few anyway.


After the castle, we ventured down old, narrow streets. We quickly learned that Absinthe, an alcoholic drink that causes hallucinations of a green fairy, is quite the rage in Prague.

One of Many Absinthe Shops

This shop even served Absinthe ice-cream. Yum!! (Just kidding, we didn’t try any.)

But enough about me. Let’s talk about my brief impression of Czechs.

From my very limited time in Prague, I have the impression that Czech people can be reserved when it comes to foreigners. Few were excited to go out of their way to help. This demeanor is understandable when considering the abuse and exploitation the Czech people have historically suffered. Consequently, Czechs might be a bit fearful of outsiders and protective of themselves and their country.

One of the things I find the most interesting about Prague is the mannerisms of its homeless population. There are a fair number of homeless people here, but as the hotel concierge so kindly put it, “they are harmless.” But that’s not what interests me. What interests me is the manner in which they ask for money. They won’t approach you, unlike what I’ve encountered in other European countries. Instead, they kneel on the street, folded over with their faces pressed against the ground, with their arms extended in front of them, holding a cup (to put coins in). They don’t even lift their faces from the ground if you put money in their cup. It’s very sad and difficult to watch. I asked a friend who is studying abroad in Prague about this. She explained that, in Prague, there is an intense shame and stigma (much more intense than that in the U.S.) that comes with being unable to provide for oneself or one’s family, which stems from the communist era.

On a different note, I noticed that the advertisements here depict much more realistic body types. The women pictured are still tall, thin and gorgeous, but less photoshopped. This is interesting because, from what I have seen, Czech people are in far better shape than Americans are. I would expect a country with a higher baseline to have higher expectations. However, the U.S., which has a lower baseline, has much more unrealistic/unattainable expectations.

Things are a lot cheaper here than they are in Copenhagen. Getting a bite to eat without shelling out $20 minimum for a meal is a relief. Here, it’s not hard to find a meal for $5 or $10. The exchange rate is about 19.5 Czech koruna to ever 1 U.S. dollar. So, even though you may only be spending five bucks, it’s still feels tough to hand over a 100 koruna bill for a meal. This is only going to get worse: 1 U.S. dollar is worth about 222 Hungarian forint, so in Budapest (where I’m headed next) I’ll be forking over thousands for a meal.

And on that note, I’m off to Hungary!

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Prague (Days 1 & 2)

Prague, Prague, Prague… Where do I even begin?

Okay, I guess I’ll start at the beginning… that seems to make sense.

Disclaimer: Scroll down if you want to skip the logistics and get straight to the action.

The first of three travel breaks began yesterday (Saturday, September 29th). Each break is one week long. This week, I will be covering Prague, Budapest and Berlin. I am traveling to Prague with my roommate, Hannah, and a suite-mate, Erin. After Prague, Hannah and I will continue on together, while Erin visits Barcelona with her roommate.

Let’s get to the good stuff. Our trip thus far can be defined by a single event that took place before we even set foot in the Czech Republic. At the Copenhagen airport, we were directed away from the long security line and towards the 1st class security line (no line at all). This catalyzed a series of fortunate events (catch the reference?).

Our flight was less than an hour long. We arrived in the Czech Republic about 20 or 30 minutes earlier than expected.

View of Prague from the Plane

We headed straight to the “hostel” from the airport. Note that hostel is in quotes because hostel living implies grungy, uncomfortable, share-a-room-with-15-people backpacking. Oh no, this place is BEAUTIFUL. So chique, so cool, so edgy, so modern (and it has the only 360° rotating bar in Europe).

Fusion Hotel Bar

And, to go with the lucky theme of the trip, we learned that our breakfasts would be free (breakfast is usually only included for hotel guests, not hostel guests).

Funny tid bit: When we were checking into our hostel, the Italian concierge looked up at the three girls standing in front of him and asked, with a confused look on his face, “Who is Mattia?” When I identified myself, he replied, “You know that’s a boy’s name, right?” I then explained that I have been trying to tell my parents the same thing for 20 years.

After we dropped our bags off in our room, we went to explore Old Town — a medieval square in the center of the city.


One of the major attractions of Old Town is the medieval Astronomical Clock.


We climbed to the top of the clock to get a view of the city. You can see the Prague Castle in the background of picture on the bottom right. I was, and continue to be, taken aback by Prague’s beauty.


Except for this part:

See that hideous protrusion in the back? It was named the 2nd ugliest building in the world. Congrats, Prague!

On our walk back from Old Town, we passed the Sex Machine Museum. We entered … at our own risk (sorry, Mom and Dad). I’ll save you the pictures and the details (though they are available upon request). Let’s just say we left the museum a bit dazed.

At night, we met up with one of my friends from Williams (my college) who is studying abroad in Prague. We went out on the town. Our luck continued — while waiting in line for a venue, we were handed a voucher that saved us half of the cover charge (even through they had already secured our business). Someone should really give them a few pointers on business strategy. We had a great time jiving on the dance floor. I even tested out a few of my grandpa’s favorite dance moves (where you pivot on your heels and toes to move from side to side).

On the way home, we stopped at a food stand to try some classic Czech delicacies. I had a sausage with cabbage while Erin chose fried cheese. Other Czech staples include pork, goose, duck, fried bread, dumplings and potato pancakes. Yes, Czech food is heavy.

Fast-forward to day 2 (today). We walked to the Charles Bridge after finishing our delicious, free breakfast. The gothic 14th century bridge connects Old Town to Lesser Quarter. It was packed with people and lined with kiosks and artists. It was too crowded to get a good picture in so these are courtesy of Wikipedia:


We explored the area on the other side of the bridge:

Entrance to Lesser Quarter

And some very adorable restaurants and shops:


Finally, we made our way to the John Lennon wall. The wall is a symbol of the anti-communism movement. For 30 years, people have painted the wall with Lennon and Beatles-inspired lyrics, quotes and artwork.


I even left my own addition.

Near the John Lennon wall, we found a similar display.

Partners secure their love, lock it up forever and toss the key into the river.

I think Prague the most beautiful city I have seen.

More on Prague coming soon.

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I never thought I would be able to take a weekend trip to Stockholm, Sweden with friends.

Swedish Harbor

I absolutely loved Stockholm. It has Copenhagen’s quaint feel, but it is more modern and feels more city-like than its southern Scandinavian neighbor. I quickly noticed that Stockholm is far more diverse than Copenhagen (not a huge accomplishment) and that not every Swede speaks impeccable English. This actually surprised me, as I have grown accustomed to the Danes’ English expertise.

My Suite-Mates and Me at the Stockholm Harbor

We arrived in Stockholm on Friday evening and explored the town for a bit. The girls and I befriended two locals at a restaurant near our hostel, while the guys befriended three Russian men.

We made the most of Saturday. Excited to be tourists, we jam-packed the day with museums, structured tours and spontaneous explorations. First, we tackled the Vasa Museum, home to the Vasa  —  a 17th century Viking ship in the best shape of any ship of its time… it’s a beaut.

The Vasa Viking Ship

The museum was infectious. We found ourselves overcome by the desire to “do as the Vikings did” — use our mouths to tear meat off of a turkey drumstick, row a boat across the Atlantic while chanting, grow striking beards… you get the idea.

Vikings at Vasa

After the Vasa museum, we trekked across the city to Old Town — the 13th century neighborhood characterized by winding, narrow cobblestone streets. With its colorful homes lined in rows, Old Town actually looked a lot like the Danish town of Odense (where Hans Christian Anderson grew up).


We followed our own walking tour with a formal canal tour. For those of you who know me and my (now conquered) fear of boats, then you know that this was a HUGE day for me. Who would have thought that I would voluntary partake in a canal tour and a trip to a boat museum in just a few hours?! Interestingly enough, I was the only one who managed to stay awake for the canal tour (okay okay, maybe the boat did trigger a rush of fear-induced adrenaline). We were exhausted and the tour was lackluster. The “landmarks” identified were fairly insignificant and included a retirement home once mistaken for the royal palace.

We ended our trip with a delicious brunch on Sunday morning. Oh man, I don’t even know where to start… I would only insult the brunch by trying to describe it, so just take my word for it… it was magnificent.

Our flight left Stockholm at 13:45 on Sunday and, just an hour and ten minutes later, we were back home in Copenhagen.

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How could I describe my time abroad without mentioning the bromance that has blossomed between two of my roommates, Pat and Stephen?

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, “bromance,” I’ll provide an eloquent definition, courtesy of  Urban Dictionary:

“Bromance: Describes the complicated love and affection shared by two males.
Steve: Ah, Dave!!! I can’t believe you stole this first pressing of Aladdin Sane from your record store for me. We were just talking about this the other night.
Dave: No sweat, pal.
Steve: That is some full-on bromance. You’re the man.”
Of the nine suite-mates and one SRA living on my floor, seven of us are female and only three are male (unless you count Stephen’s alter ego, Chaz, which would make it four). Surrounded by girls, an unexpected [b]romance has formed between Pat, a proud Long-Islander who enjoys having an identical twin and Skyping, and Stephen, a Californian whose hobbies include sleeping and showering.

Pat and Stephen Jump in Unison

Pat and Stephen Nap in Unison

Wingmen, roommates, international business majors and master chefs, they have been the life of the house (JIP!).  But really, they have sparked smiles and laughter in every room of the floor. The other suite-mates and I can only dream of finding a love as deep as the one Pat and Stephen have found in each other.

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Visiting Family

On Monday night, I biked to Nørrebro to have dinner with my “visiting family.” The “Visiting Family” immersion program is one of the best parts of DIS, my abroad program. By matching an interested DIS student with an equally interested Danish family, the program allows  students who are not staying with a host family to get a taste of Danish family culture.

Biking to Nørrebro was an adventure in itself. It was my first time biking across Copenhagen. (I even walked my bike home when I picked it up from the bike-shop.) Anxiously preparing for my bike journey for days before, I had been observing the biking rules of the road — how to signal stops and turns, which roads you can and cannot bike on, what the bells mean, etc. The ride was terrifying. My bike swerved each time I let go to extend an arm to signal a turn. I was also passed by several children under 10 years of age who I could have sworn were professionals bikers.

As soon as I crossed the bridge from Copenhagen center to Nørrebro, another bro (similar concept to the New York City boroughs) in Copenhagen, I noticed a change in demographics. Nørrebro is far more diverse than the city center — not everyone was tall, thin and blonde. In fact, bro has a large Middle-Eastern community. I made a mental note to venture back to Nørrebro in the future to explore the marketplaces and sample a few of the shawarma stands I passed.

However, biking did save me from making a 30 minute trek walking across the city. On the bike, it took me just over 5 minutes to get to their home. In fact, I got there about 15 minutes early. Extensively instructed on Danish punctuality etiquette, I stood outside the apartment complex  and waited call the family until exactly 18:27, not too early but not too late either.

The young couple, Louise and Tim, are your typical beautifully-carved-from-stone Danes. Though (again, in typical Danish fashion) they are not married, the couple has been together for seven years and plans on having children in the near future. Louise, a pilates enthusiast who was studying biomedical engineering, followed her instincts and pursued a far different path: air traffic control. She wakes up around 5 or 6 am every morning to drive to the airport to make sure that planes don’t collide. Tim (a 6’7″ tall blonde) is currently fascinated with Greek language and culture, and is currently studying Greek at the University of Copenhagen but he is literally the only student left in his program. Could that be more endearing? He plans on leaving the masters program for the police academy (which he has been training for via CrossFit).

The meal was delicious and, thankfully, also quite healthy. They cooked classic Danish meatballs (yum!) and prepared several other dishes as well — a spinach salad with almonds, peaches, melons and pomegranate seeds; shredded carrots with raisins; and a tomato, onion and avocado salad. For dessert, they made several strains of tea set out dark chocolate and homemade crackers with nuts. Nom nom nom. So good. Seriously, anyone who knows me know that they could not have made a more perfect meal.

Louise and Tim are also incredibly cultured and interesting. They have traveled the world together — Greece, Dubai, Egypt, USA, etc. — and they plan on going to Kenya and Tanzania in a few weeks, and one day, Cuba. We talked a lot about Dubai and its efforts to balance commercialism (and an influx of westerners and western culture) with Islamic principles. Only married couples are allowed to hold hands in public. No one is allowed to kiss. During Ramadan, no one is can to eat or drink (even water) in public out of respect to those who are fasting, which is particularly uncomfortable given how hot Dubai is. In the four and a half hours that we sat around the dinner table, we also covered topics from Danish dating culture to the efficacy of the Danish welfare state.

What a great night. I left their apartment around 23:00 in awe, thinking, “Man, they are awesome.” (Let’s hope they liked me as much as I liked them!) Considering how gracious it was of them to have me (a stranger) in their home, and how much time they must have spent preparing the meal, I would like to do something for them next time we see each other. I’m still brainstorming ideas (and coming up with very little) because my options are quite limited, but hopefully I’ll think of something.

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Cafe Paludan

I would love to write another blog devoted entirely to Danish food and cafes. But for now, I’ll limit myself to a single post about my favorite cafe in Copenhagen thus far: Cafe Paludan.

I’m actually sitting at Cafe Paludan right now, where I seem to find myself almost everyday. Half cafe, half library, half popart gallery (yes, this place has three halves), Cafe Paludan has everything I could want. The best part? It’s just a block from my place.


Considering how much time and money (sorry, wallet) I’m spending at Cafe Paludan, I felt the cafe deserved a post of its own. Though I come to the cafe with the intention of doing my homework, I have completed approximately zero assignments here. There are far too many more exciting things to do here — people watching, chatting with friends, looking at the art, writing blog posts, etc. I’m learning just as much from soaking in the cafe culture and environment as I would be from my reading assignments… right?

Eventually, I’ll have to take a break from the cafe — explain that I need my space, that I need to explore my options, that it’s a little too high maintenance for my tight budget, that it has lost its novelty, and that the spark and excitement of new love has fizzled — but for the time-being, Cafe Paludan and I are very, very happy together.

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Danes 101

Great Danes

My observations of Danes:

  • They have impeccable English
  • They commute by bicycle. Cars are a rare sight.
  • All taxes (including the 25% sales tax) and tip are included in prices. Everything is incredibly expensive.
  • They ALWAYS wait for a green walk sign before crossing the street, even if there are no cars/bikes around. No jaywalking here!
  • Classic Danish food includes smørrebrød (open faced sandwiches), rye bread, cheese (oh so, so much cheese), fish, and Danish meatballs.
  • They are all tall, blonde and BEAUTIFUL. Copenhagen is very homogenous.
  • Customer service… does it exist in Denmark? Service is very slow. I am frequently left standing at a counter, ready to order my coffee, as the barista carries on with his/her conversation or finishes up another task. It’s interesting to observe my own reaction and impatience. Why should someone drop what he’s doing so that I can get my coffee asap, when my caffeine needs really aren’t very urgent/important?
  • They are quite a fashionable people — lots of neutral colors, blacks and grays.
  • Danes take pride in their Viking past (and in Hans Christian Anderson… they cannot get enough of that guy).
  • There is a Danish word, “hygge,” that totally encapsulates Danish culture and values. Though there is no direct translation in english, hygge is sort of like cozy/comfortable.
  • They are more reserved than Americans and find the typical loud American a bit obnoxious (my friend was shushed on the street a few days ago).
  • They drink … a lot. Danes frequently have a glass of wine or beer with lunch, dinner and dessert.
  • They dance differently. No “booty grinding” allowed on the dance floor. Instead, Danes prefer a mixture of stepping from side to side and a bit of fist pumping… I’m still figuring out the specifics.
  • You have to bring your own bags to the grocery store. If you forget a bag (an offense which I am often guilty of) and have too much to carry, you must buy plastic bags at the store. It’s the law.
  • People have children at a very young age. I see a lot of couples in their early/mid 20’s pushing strollers around. Having children early has become a bit of a hipster (pronounced heep-sta here in Denmark) thing to do, as couples want to be able to do more/be more active with with their children as they grow up. From a financial perspective, the welfare state enables couples to start their families while they are young. Unlike the United States, in Denmark there is no stigma attached to young parenthood.
  • Similarly, marriage is far from a societal norm. There are many couples who are not married but who have been together for 15 + years, have children together, and consider their counterparts to be lifelong partners. Though marriage can be seen as a sort of romantic thing to do, it is not the primary means through which couples demonstrate their commitment to each other.
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