The Land of Crazy Weather

So what is one of the things I miss most about Denmark now that we’re (temporarily) living in another foreign country? Believe it or not, I miss the weather.

Now, for those of you living in Denmark who are looking at this with one skeptically raised eyebrow, let me explain. I don’t miss the dark or the constant mist-rain. But I do miss the consistency.

This is what Melbourne’s weather looks like for the next week:

Melbourne Weather

I’m not saying that it’s not nice to see all those happy suns in my future, but those temperatures are all over the place! And this morning, it was pouring rain, so much so that Brian’s tram had to drop him off three stops early because the tracks were flooded.

Suffice it to say, I’ve been spoiled by Denmark’s consistent weather. In Aarhus, I don’t even have to look at the weather forecast  before heading out the door. I just stick my head outside and know it’s going to feel about the same all day long. Here, I have no idea what to wear. Not only do the temperatures swing back and forth between days, but they do so within the days as well. So now as I leave the apartment, I have to make sure I have at least three layers and a scarf with me just in case the wind picks up or the clouds cover the sun and the temperature plummets.

Yep, definitely spoiled. But I miss the predictability of Danish weather.

Oh, and one other thing. The bad thing about traveling so that you experience two springs in one year? Two allergy seasons. The allergies here have hit us. Hard. And I don’t usually have outdoor allergies (unlike Brian, who has them big time), but even I’m sneezing and coughing all over the place. Bleh.

We’re in Australia, or, Jet Lag is Sooo Annoying

Well, the new big news is that we have relocated to Melbourne, Australia for the next month and a half! Brian had to come for work, and I tagged along. Because Australia. We’ve been here a couple days now, and are sort of figuring out this city. We’re staying downtown. (That’s the Central Business Disctrict or CBD to all you locals. Yep, that’s right, I got the slang down.) It’s a muuuuuch bigger city than Aarhus, and we’re still both adjusting to all the people and noise and busy-ness. (We’re not really big city people.) But it’s also pretty exciting.

Plus, we have immediate access to, like, thousands of restaurants. And I have just one thing to say: yum. Yum yum yum yum yum yum yum. There is soooo much good food here. For one thing, we’re surrounded by authentic Thai and Italian and Chinese food. (There’s even a whole China town!) That’s so exciting after a year of pretty much blah in Aarhus. For another thing, Melbourne is just generally a foodie town, so we get to eat at restaurants like The Meatball & Wine Bar where they only serve, you got it, meatballs. But ohmigod they are best meatballs you will ever ever eat.

mmm meatballs. Mine (the closer ones) were served on creamy polenta. I'm drooling just thinking about them.

mmm meatballs. Mine (the closer ones) were served on creamy polenta. I’m drooling just thinking about them.

Not to mention the coffee shops on every street corner. I feel like I’m in Seattle with all the talk about daily brews and textured foam. Granted, I’m not drinking caffeine, but decaf espresso is a thing here! Yay!

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So we’ve spent the last few days swinging from excitedly exploring the city to exhaustedly trying to stay up late enough for it to reasonably be considered bed time (i.e. 8:30 pm). Somehow, jet lag caught up with us, even though I don’t really understand it this time. I woke up yesterday morning at 4am, unable to get back asleep. But Denmark is 9 hours behind us. Which means it was 7pm Danish time. Which doesn’t explain why I woke up so freaking early. And we get totally tired around 3pm, which is 6am Danish time. Again, it makes no sense in a body/sleep rhythm kind of way! Suffice it to say, our sleep patterns are all screwed up. But, as with all jet lag incidents, we’ll adjust.

So in the next couple months, you can look forward to some posts about Aussies and wallabies and cricket and coffee in addition to the occasional baby post because I’m almost 23 weeks pregnant dudes!

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The Biggest Small Town in Denmark

The Prettiest Street in Aarhus

Just thought I would pass the word along: Rick Steves – the ultimate travel guru – just did a write up about Aarhus. I first found it on the travel blog for The Courant, but I’ve heard that his article is syndicated and probably goes to all kinds of papers and blogs across the interwebs. We better get ready for an influx of cruise ships! 🙂 Because of course Steves sings Aarhus’ praises. How could he not? He quickly goes through all of the highlights to hit if you’re visiting the city – the same things we took our families to see when they all visited, whew, we didn’t miss anything! – so it’s a really good post to check out if you’re thinking of visiting Aarhus but don’t really know what it has to offer. So if you’re feeling curious about what a professional tourist has to say about the city, go check it out. Or visit the part of his website about Aarhus to do some planning for your own trip!

The Return

The Grand Place in Brussels

The Grand Place in Brussels

Well we’ve just returned from our first official Easter Holiday Abroad. See, the Danes get three days off for Easter: the Thursday and Friday before and the Monday after (what they call Second Easter Day, hilarious). Which is a lot of days off, even for Europe. So over Easter, everyone goes on holiday. It’s kind of like spring break in the US only the whole country is off at the same time.

Brian and I wanted to take advantage of these extra days off since he has so few vacation days this year. He was also scheduled to be in The Netherlands for a conference the week before Easter, so we turned the whole thing into a 10-day long European extravaganza that took us from Amsterdam to Wageningen to Bruges to Brussels.

It was our longest trip abroad since we’ve moved to Denmark, and I’ll have many more details and more posts in the days to come, but I just wanted to take a moment to talk about returning to our newly created home as a brand new expat. Because it’s a little surreal.

It probably didn’t help that we didn’t get home until midnight last night. But when we pulled up on the train, walked to our apartment, and opened our front door it sort of felt like I was in a dream. Or like I was trying to remember a dream right after waking. Everything was almost familiar, but I found myself reminding myself: yes, this is your living room, yes, your walls really are that white, yes, that is where you keep your sugar and flour.

And today, my first day back to real life, I keep finding myself in the middle of that feeling you get when you walk into a room and suddenly forget what you’re doing or why you’re there. Again, I have to consciously tell myself: this is what you were doing before you left, this is what your routine used to look like.

I think it’s different for me, a “trailing spouse,” than it is for Brian, the working spouse. He has a routine to go back to, to immediately fall back into. (Whether that’s good or bad is up for discussion since he had to get up at 6:00 this morning and go to work while I got to sleep in and sleep off some of our travel from yesterday.) Whereas I don’t really have a routine. Or the one that I do have is set by me. So it’s harder to slip back into it, I think.

But of course, it’s coming back to me, and really it’s almost normal again now that I’ve made my usual gym-library-grocery store trip. And of course I’m busy editing all our photos and coming up with lots of topics to post about (Things I Learned in Brussels, Why I Love Danish Public Transportation, Why The Netherlands Shouldn’t Actually be Called Holland, etc. etc.). But until then, I wanted to post this small observation.

Happy Belated Easter Holidays!

A Guest Post and a Contest

The view from a bike path between Aarhus C and Brabrand, taken 10 minutes outside the city center.

The view from a bike path between Aarhus C and Brabrand, taken 10 minutes outside the city center.

Recently, I was asked to write a post about visit Aarhus on knock.com, a home swap and travel website. They have a project called 100 Cities where they are trying to gather travel tips on 100 cities written by insiders who live there.

So I wrote an article on My Top Things to Do in Aarhus, and man were there a lot of things to choose from! Aarhus really is a fantastic city. It’s the perfect size. It feels like a small town and yet it has so much: an ocean, beaches, forests, shopping, cobblestone streets, medieval architecture, world class museums, the wonderful scenery in the photo above. (Oh my god, I can’t believe it was ever that sunny here.)

Here’s the part where I ask for your help. If you visit my article and vote for it, I could win a Kindle or even plane tickets for my next trip! So go read my article, look at the picture of me eating softis, dream of coming to visit us in Aarhus, and VOTE FOR ME!

P.S. A dear blogging friend of mine from An American in Norway also wrote an article about her town, Bergen, which is so so beautiful. So go read about Norway and vote for her as well!

Our Trip to Sweden

So now that we are back at home and finished with our two whirlwind weeks of traveling, it’s time to blog about it all! Starting with our trip to Sweden the week before last.

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Apparently we picked the worst weekend ever to go to Sweden. The weather suddenly decided to drop 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) – one week out from this trip, and we are now unquestionably into winter – and it rained all weekend. Like, constantly. Constant rain.

In addition to the weather, it was apparently a holiday in Sweden. While Halloween is new to Europe, they’ve been celebrating the two days following it – known as All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day – for a very long time. The only thing is, most Danes are not very religious, going to church only for Christmas and Easter or a baptism. So these aren’t holidays that many Danes seem to celebrate, at least not publicly. We didn’t even think that it would have any barring on our trip to Sweden. How wrong we were. Probably about 2/3 of the stores were closed for the whole weekend, leaving us with very little to do apart from appreciate the architecture.

But, we made the best of the weather and the holiday and really did have a great time. This trip was a great example of how vacations can turn out fantastic because of serendipity.

So we started out by taking a gigantic ferry from Julland (the biggest part of Denmark where Aarhus is located) to North Sjaelland (the largest island where Copenhagen is located). We then drove down past Copenhagen, over Øresund Bridge – the bridge connecting Copenhagen and Malmø – and then North to a little university town called Lund.

The town of Lund, Sweden. Saturday night, the fog rolled in.

Lund was my favorite part of the trip. It’s a wonderfully cute and hyggelig city. I’ve heard it described as Sweden’s Oxford because it’s built around a huge university and is home to a magnificent cathedral. In fact, the church is actually very important in Danish history. It was once the religious seat of the Danish empire where the Bishop sat.

The church is really fantastic. There’s a magical clock that plays some intricate song and has moving parts that do a little dance. However, we weren’t able to see this because there was an extra All Saints’ Day service during the time when the clock was supposed to play. We did, however, get to see a bit of the service, listen to the wonderful acoustics of the ancient church as the choir sang, and to go down to the crypt.

Lund Cathedral, its magic clock, and its crypt.

We then drove down to Malmø and walked around its pedestrian area. We attempted to see the new Malmø library, which was recently renovated similarly to the St. Louis Public Library, but All Saint’s/Souls’ Day struck again, and the library was closed. Instead, we visited the strangest, quirkiest museum ever: the Malmø Museer, located in the oldest Nordic Renaissance castle.

Malmø in the rain. That’s me in front of the new library. Malmø Museer is on the top right.

Sunday, we left Sweden and drove north to another ferry that would take us to Elsingnor (Helsignør in Danish), Denmark, the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. On the way, we decided randomly to stop in a little coastal town Landskrone just to see some of the Swedish coast. We found the city center – as is pretty easy in Europe, just follow the cobblestones – and randomly discovered a cool old castle. Randomly exploring Europe is the best. I love letting serendipity take over.

Landskrone, Sweden.

Elsingnor is a beautiful little town, and the castle (known as Kronborg Slot in Denmark) is quite interesting. It was a tiny bit of a letdown inside for me because it all burned down in 1629 and was rebuilt in a “modern” (read, more boring) style. But it was definitely worth a trip, just to see the halls where Shakespeare imagined Hamlet soliloquizing and Ophelia loosing it.

The cute little town of Helsignør.

Some details – those that remain – of Kronborg Slot.

So that, folks, was our trip to Sweden. Hopefully we’ll get to visit again so we can get to Gothenburg or Stockholm as well.

Oh my god we’re famous.

Ok, not really. But guys! The BBC linked to this blog in one of their travel articles. The BBC!! Here’s the original article: it’s called “Living In: The World’s Happiest Places” by Sunshine Flint.

Apparently, the World Happiness Report just came out again, and Denmark once again ranks among the top 5 “happy” countries in the world. {Just a small aside: is it weird to anyone else that “having someone to count on” is literally a variable in how they rank these countries? Could they have written a more vague and wishy-washy sounding variable?}

Blogging is such a unique experience, and it is still surprising to me how small the virtual world can be. The interwebs is this huge, vast space, but with blogging you can carve out your own little niche and find your own little community. I’m very thankful I’ve had my blog and my online friends during this experience. They’ve helped me to feel connected in moments when I could have felt very isolated. So thanks for reading, guys 😉

And thanks to my friend Yuka for bringing this BBC article to my attention! I should really be paying more attention to who links to my blog and how people find my blog…

 

Our First Trip to Germany

Hamburg

Click through all the photos to see larger versions.

Last weekend, Brian and I tagged along with two of Brian’s coworkers – one American and one Dane – for a 2 day trip to Hamburg, Germany, our first trip beyond the borders of Denmark.

We left early Sunday morning in a rented car that Brian and I are not allowed to drive. If you’re strictly a tourist, your native driver’s license is good for 6 months. If you’re in Denmark with a resident permit and have gotten a Danish CPR number, like Brian and I have, then your license is good for only 2 weeks. You have 90 to turn your license into a Danish driver’s license the “easy” way, which for people from some countries just means some paperwork but for US citizens means taking a Danish driver’s test, which is very expensive and time consuming. So Brian and I have opted to not get a Danish driver’s license, which means we’re dependent on others if we ever need to drive somewhere.

Anyway, Hamburg is a 3.5 hour drive directly South from Aarhus. Just after the border, there’s a well-known rest stop called, well I can’t remember what it’s called right now, something in German. But we stopped there and bought some snacks, including a German pretzel which I quickly devoured (see picture above, nom nom nom).

On arriving in Hamburg, we went directly to our hotel. We happened to be staying in what appeared to be the ethnically diverse neighborhood in downtown Hamburg, which I was actually pretty excited about, even if it wasn’t the *best* neighborhood. The atmosphere made quit a change from Denmark.

That afternoon, we explored the historic downtown part of Hamburg, which is pretty picturesque.

Day 1 in Hamburg

Hamburg is so much bigger than Aarhus, with 1.8 million residents compared to Aarhus’ 300,000. It also *feels* like a much larger city. After being in cozy Aarhus for so long, it was kind of a shock to my system to find myself in one of the top 4 biggest cities in Germany. (There was some discussion on the trip of exactly where Hamburg ranks in this list. Some, including Wikipedia, say it’s the second largest city, while others disagreed.)

We stopped to eat lunch and ended up all getting something called a currywurst, which is just a super long German sausage with curry ketchup on it, but oh my god it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

nom nom nom nom

nom nom nom nom

That evening, we went to a concert to see Boy Sets Fire and one of Brian’s favorite heavy metal bands, Neaera. (He’s so happy to be in Scandinavia, the home of heavy metal.) This concert was the reason we went to Hamburg. One of Brian’s coworkers who’s here from the US for 3 months knows the guitarist in Boy Sets Fire. How cool is that?! So we got in for free and enjoyed some sweet sweet heavy metal music. Brian and I got down on the floor and moshed for a bit during Neaera’s set.

Boy Sets Fire is a band from Delaware whose first CD came out in the early 2000’s, but for some reason their big fan base is in Germany. It was amazing to see the crowd’s response to Boy Sets Fire. Everyone was so happy just to be there, soaking up the tunes. Even though I didn’t know much of their music – I recognized two songs from my childhood – it was still great fun to be a part of this:

Oh the BSF love.

Oh the BSF love.

So Sunday was a late night, and we didn’t really make it to bed until 2am!

We slept in Monday morning and then set out for a few more hours of exploring the city. We stumbled upon a church that had been destroyed during WWII when Hamburg was bombed. It was never rebuilt as a tribute to those killed during the firefight.

Day 2 in Hamburg

Hamburg is a harbor city built around a big river coming in from the West. It has this really cool part of town called Harbor City with all these old brick buildings. But if you walk through that out towards the shore line, you come upon a more modern, recently developed part of the city. (See the first picture at the top of the post.) It looks like a really hip part of town, and we are all hoping that the harbor renovation in Aarhus looks that cool when it’s finished.

And that’s about it. We left Hamburg on Monday afternoon, stopped in a discount store right on the Denmark/Germany border to buy some cheap chocolate and beer, and got back to our house about 7pm Monday evening.

Oh! I almost forgot about one of the coolest parts of the trip. The hotel had a huuuuge bathtub, so I got to take a bath! I’ve been living with only a shower for almost 3 months now. I’ve never been really into baths, but it was always nice to have the option.

For the family, here’s a gallery of all our pics from Hamburg so you can see them all normal sized if you’d like:

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