Julestue

Winter in Denmark is often cold and dark. At winter solstice, we only get just over 7 hours of sunshine. There is a Danish word, hygge, which roughly translates to cosiness. But it actually means a bit more than that. It’s actually a way of life. Instead of being cooped up inside because we cannot go outside, we choose to be inside and cosy up. It’s just a simple change of perspective but incredibly empowering. No longer are we a prisoner of the weather, we take charge over it.

Christmas is also a weird time in Denmark. Not a lot of Danes go to church anymore, yet Christmas and the traditions around it are still lovingly celebrated. One such tradition is julestue, which I guess translates to Christmas celebration. It’s an event where people gather around making julepynt (Christmas decoration) for the juletræ (Christmas tree), while drinking gløgg (mulled wine) and eating æbleskiver (literally apple slices, but they are actually round pancakes served with jam and powdered sugar).

I went to one of these julestue events organised by the University of Copenhagen’s International Staff Mobility. It was a fun event. We made julehjerter (Christmas hearts), which is a very Danish thing to do. They are basically paper baskets that one weaves out of paper, which one then hangs on the Christmas tree and fill with goodies.

Julehjerte
The Christmas hearts I made before I got bored and started chatting with people instead.
Juletræ
The Christmas tree that we decorated.

Kulturnatten 2014

In Denmark, there is a week of holiday called efterårsferie (autumn holiday), which is also known as kartoffelferie (potato holiday), as in the old days schoolkids get a week off to help with potato harvest. These days, schoolkids still have a week off and there are no classes (including at universities and language schools). However, there is no longer any need for these kids to work at a farm picking potatoes.

On the Friday preceding the potato week, there is kulturnat (Culture Night) in Copenhagen. (I guess kulturnat is somewhat similar to White Night in Melbourne.) On that day, a lot of institutions open their doors to the public, and people can come in and check out what’s behind the normally closed doors in Copenhagen. In a very Danish way, everything is free… as long as you have a pass. These places are supposed to be open from 6 pm to midnight, but there are many which close much earlier (8-9 pm). Public transport around Copenhagen is also free from 5 pm to 5 am on Saturday. There are of course a lot of people in the City, and there are queues everywhere.

Kulturnatten 2014 badge.
Kulturnatten 2014 badge

This year, a group of us went to several places:

  • The first place we went to was Sankt Petri Kirke (Saint Peter’s Church), where we visited the catacombs. It’s actually not as impressive as it sounds. We were expecting to go under the church, but the catacombs were only at the back of the church. We didn’t even need our torches.
  • We briefly visited the Metro construction at the Rådhus (City Hall), but unfortunately didn’t get to see the tunnels, as the line was so long!
  • At the Rådhus, we visited Jens Olsens Verdensur (Jens Olsen’s World Clock). This one I really like, actually.
  • Jens Olsens Verdensur (Jens Olsen’s World Clock) at the Rådhus (City Hall).
    Jens Olsens Verdensur (Jens Olsen’s World Clock) at the Rådhus (City Hall).
  • At this stage, the rest of the gang left for beer-tasting. I decided to go to the Brandvæsen (Fire Department) and checked it out.
  • I went past the fængsel (prison) and a photography exhibition as I made my way to catch up with the guys again. Of course, they were still in line. It would take them another half hour to finally get into Europa-Huset and get their beer. Meanwhile, I caught up with another group and went to the barracks of the Kongelige Livgarde (Royal Life Guards).
  • Shortly afterwards, we joined forces with the beer-tasting group again and visited the Botanisk Have (Botanical Gardens). There were some light show at the lake and the palmhus (palm house). They were quite cool, but slightly underwhelming.

Those were all that we could see that night. I think next year if I am still in Copenhagen, I will go and check out the prison and the Rosenborg Slot (Rosenborg Castle). The latter you can explore in the darkness! They turn the lights off, and you are free to wander around using torches.

Ported Gallery

As I mentioned a while back, my website is getting a bit low on space for the photos. So I have reluctantly started to use Facebook for my photo albums. Over the last few weeks I have also ported the rest of my gallery. I have just finished porting the last of these albums over to Facebook. So, links in my old blog posts to the gallery will fail.

Where have I been?

Well, the question is: where have I not been? Actually, don’t answer that. There are many places that I haven’t been to. But this is the point of this post. I had a crazy idea for a New Year’s resolution: to visit one new place each month this year. Of course, I am taking advantage of the fact that I live in Europe now. So it is rather easy to jump on a plane and visit a new destination for a weekend trip. A nice change from living in Melbourne where the closest overseas destination is 3.5 hours away. (That’s New Zealand, by the way.)

So far, I have more-or-less kept up the resolution:

  • In January, I visited London for a holiday. It was a very fun trip. I really liked it. I think London is my favourite (urban) holiday destination so far.
  • In February, technically I didn’t go anywhere. However in March I went to two places back to back. First, I went to Qatar for work. We had a big meeting with our industry partners there. Since the trip was in very early March, I consider this to be my February trip.
  • Straight after Qatar, I went to Iceland with two friends. This one was a lot of fun. Iceland was simply exquisite. I wouldn’t mind going back again in summer. The highlight of this trip was we picking up a Liechtensteinian hitchhiker who was walking in heavy snow for about 40 km on his way to a glacier.
  • In April, I will go to two places. First, I will go to Rome for some holiday where I will meet up with my brother. Later in the month, I will go to Göttingen for work. I am tempted to claim the latter as my May trip, but we’ll see.

Some of the other places I currently have on my list are: Oslo, Amsterdam, Vienna, Prague, Zürich, and Helsinki. So many places to go to!

Anyway, I have also realised that my website is getting a bit low on space for the photos. So I’ve reluctantly decided to upload the photos from now to Facebook. Maybe I will also port my other albums there. So, stay tuned!