Monday, October 24, 2011

church spires and naked statues

After finishing two papers this weekend, the only thing keeping me from my two week travel break bliss is one midterm on Thursday afternoon.  Regardless, here is a recap of last week/weekend:

On Wednesday, now deemed to be "Wine and Cheese Wednesdays," my friend Lauren and I headed to Vor Frelsers Kirke (Our Savior's Church) to climb to the top of the spire, which is only accessible via a spiral staircase that runs around the exterior (a total of 400 steps!). The view is the second highest in Denmark at a steep 90 meters (about 295 feet). 
Our Savior's Church spire

a very wind-blown Lauren and I at the top

Like many tall spires in Denmark, there is story behind the architect, in this case Lauritz de Thurah. Legend has it that Thurah was so obsessed with his work that when it was alleged that his encircling staircase wound up the wrong way of the spire he committed suicide by leaping from the top of the tower. The church also has a three-story pipe organ supported by two giant elephants at the base. 

After our invigorating ascent to the top of the spire, we rewarded ourselves by going to the market and trying two new cupcake flavors from Agnes Cupcakes: mint chocolate and raspberry. Both were delicious, but apple remains my favorite. We also had some bread, dip, and cheese tasting at two of the counters, which offered us a wonderful wine cheese, which is where "Wine and Cheese Wednesdays" originated.  

the awesome dip guy at the market
On Thursday night, I went with my Buddy Network to see a dance show called Transparency at the Old Carlsberg Factory. The show was about corruption in Russia, and the dancing was very modern, but also very good. The stage was perfect and the visual effects were really cool as well. The dancers were from all over the world, including the US!

On Friday, I went on a two day mini-cruise to Oslo, Norway. Our ship was called the Pearl of Scandinavia and was decked out with a pool, two hot tubs, several bars and restaurants, a casino, and a night club. However, the boat was small as far as cruise ships usually go, so you could really feel the waves rocking the boat.

After traveling all night on the boat, we woke up refreshed and ready to explore Oslo on Saturday morning.  It was gorgeous to see the ship pulling into the fjord and at first it didn't seem like the ship would fit in the narrow passageway.

saying good morning to Oslo

Once off the boat, we explored the streets of Oslo, stopping for the occasional photo-op with a lion statue. We walked to the Royal Palace and Town Hall, which is situated right next to the harbor. The harbor offered a beautiful view of the castle and the waterways of Norway.

harbor area of Oslo

Then we took the bus to Vigelandsparken, one of Norway's most visited attractions.  The unique sculpture park is the life work of sculptor Gustav Vigeland with more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite, and cast iron. All of the sculptures were of naked people, which made them difficult to interpret at times. I'll just add a few here for your viewing pleasure.

We also climbed to the top of the Opera House, which is the first one in the world where visitors can walk on the roof.

Oslo opera house

Then it was back to the boat to dance the night away at the Columbus night club. I had a fantastic time on the mini-cruise and would recommend it to anyone considering studying abroad in Copenhagen. 

the roomz 

Monday, October 17, 2011

apple cupcakes and bog bodies

The mountainous heaps of readings and papers that I've had to work this past week has prevented me from updating  sooner. Nevertheless, I do have some exciting things to report on.

On Wednesday, I went with my friend Lauren to The Statens Museum for Kunst, also known as the National Gallery of Denmark. It is the foremost museum of visual art in the country, exhibiting art works ranging from the early Renaissance to the art of tomorrow, including paintings, sculptures, graphic art, photography, videos, and installation art. And the best part? The majority of the exhibits are FREE to the public! 

my favorite sculpture

Statens Museum for Kunst

black and white cupcake

After browsing the museum, Lauren and I decided to head to the market to try some delicious cupcakes from Agnes Cupcakes. Check out the website for all of their awesome flavors! We decided to each get a different kind and then cut them in half, doubling our tasting pleasure. The apple one was almost like an apple muffin with cream cheese and cinnamon icing. The other one we got was called black and white, and was the perfect chocolate cupcake with white icing and dark chocolate shavings. 

apple cupcake

Friday night was a very exciting night for the city: Culture Night! It's an annual event every October that gives visitors access to venues that are usually closed to the public. Around 300 museums, churches, galleries, political buildings, and exhibitions are open for 6 hours, with free excess as long as you've purchased the ticket for the whole night, which is only about 20 USD. There are also lots of restaurants and cafes open especially late with discounts or free goodies. There was a haunted house sponsored by DIS with pumpkin carving, hot apple cider, and s'mores! It was good to have the experience of Halloween from home. We also tried to go up in the Round Tower because they had the observatory (including telescope) open to the public, but the line was so long we didn't have time to wait.

Charlotte and I with our s'mores

cool lion statue at one museum

Tollund Man
Saturday morning was another early start with an optional field trip for my Nordic Mythology class. We traveled 4 hours by bus to Silkeborg to see the Tollund Man, the best preserved body in the world from prehistoric times. The Tollund Man's body was naturally preserved in a peat bog on the Jutland Peninsula in Denmark. Found in 1950, his body was so well preserved that he was mistaken for a recent murder victim! He was found naked, but only a wool cap on his head and a noose around his neck. However, his face is not consistent with someone who has been hung, which leads us to believe that either the noose was not used, or that someone put his face back into a natural position before placing him in the bog. The pictures I took could in no way do the body justice, so I have borrowed some professional photos from the museum's website. 

close-up of Tollund Man face 

After being in awe of the Tollund Man for a while we headed to Arhus to the Moesgard Museum, which had a special Viking exhibit called "Seven Vikings." It was an interactive exhibit that invites the pubic to step into the world of the Vikings, following the stories of seven real Vikings representing all of society: the craftsman, the merchant, the adventurer, the farmer's wife, the Crown, and the Church. I chose to follow the story of the Church though a Bishop at the time. We also had time to go outside and see a replica of one of the few Viking churches that existed. The replica was modeled after finding only a very small section of carved wood (like the wood found around the roof of the church). 

replica of Viking church

It's hard to believe that my time here is already half over! Travel break is coming up in two weeks, and then Thanksgiving follows closely behind, and before I know it finals week will be here and it will be time for me to head home. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

tell them that I am young and beautiful

Things in London were much busier than in peaceful little Totnes. After a 3.5 hour train ride into the city, we dropped off our bags at the Royal National Hotel and headed to the Underground (London's metro service) to make our way to our first event. Can I just say that the Underground in London made me really miss the clean, well-functioning public transportation system in Copenhagen. Even though London's Underground was been rated the best, most efficient transport system in the world, there were many complications while we were there, including extreme delays, overheated cars, and a dead body on the tracks!

After arriving an hour late, we started our Royal London Bike Tour, which gave us a very condensed version of the national landmarks in London. Biking in London is also very different from biking in Copenhagen. Bikers do not have equal share of the road like they do in Denmark. For that reason, we stayed mostly on park pathways. Highlights included Kensington Palace, Hyde Park, Wellington Arch, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, a royal guard, and the Big Ben clock tower (from very far away). Here are a few snapshots:

one of the many lion statues spread across London

Trafalgar Square

Big Ben from afar

cool fish fountain at Trafalgar Square

After our vigorous bike tour, we were on our own for dinner in the city. I decided to join a group for some authentic Indian food a street called Brick Lane. Brick Lane was filled on both sides with Indian restaurants who like to barter with potential customers to give them the best deal. People working at the restaurants came right up to us in the street and started offering us free drinks, appetizers, and a discount on our total meal. I ended up getting a decent sized meal, which  was really spicy (even though on the menu is said a mild sauce), for 11 pounds (about 17 USD).

Thursday started off with a bit of community service in a nature reserve. Our work was on the part of an organization called Green Gyms, which allows people to be physically active while making a difference in their local environment. Our project included sawing wood to build hedgerows by weaving skinny pieces of wood in between larger stakes. Others in the group made the stakes and also planted two trees in the reserves mini-orchard.

Laura Rose and I sawing some wood

After working up an appetite at the nature reserve, we headed to Camden Market for some lunch. The Market is the UK's largest street market with hundreds of shops, studios, stalls, cafes, restaurants, and bars. 

donkey in the Farm Yard
Soon enough it was time to make our way to Hackney City Farm, which gives the local community the opportunity to experience farming right in the heart of the city. Both children and adults can try their hand at gardening vegetables and also learn more about farm animals by exploring the Farm Yard, which houses pigs, sheep, and donkeys. The Farm also hosts community activities, like weaving, pottery making, food growing, and beekeeping! In the little gift shop I purchased some homemade strawberry-pineapple jam. I thought it was delicious, but my host mom says otherwise. 
hand-decorated sign post

welcome to Hackney City Farm!

Dinner on Thursday was another local, fresh, and organic meal this time served at the Water House. The Water House is an ethical restaurant with solar and hydro-power providing all energy, a wormery to digest food waste, and a water purification/bottling site. 

Since dinner took a little longer to prepare than expected, we had to take our dessert on the go so we wouldn't be late for our evening performance, a show called "Tell Them that I am Young and Beautiful." The play included 7 short short stories from around the world that tell huge human tales in a simple form. It explored our relationship with other people we think we know but don't, the stranger on the street, and the person who is different. My favorite story was the last story, which told of a young man trying to win the hand of a young maid by appeasing her father, who wanted the young man to find Truth. After many years of searching for Truth, the young man (who is now very old) finally finds her in a dark cave in the wilderness. Truth is old and raggedy, with boils and bumps all over her wrinkled body. The man asked Truth what he could report back to the young maids father and the rest of the world, and Truth simply said, "tell them that I am young and beautiful."

the Thames River
On Friday, our final day of the tour, we had a cutting-edge green walking tour of London. The tour explored London's broad range of examples of sustainability, including sustainable business, buildings with integrated wind turbines (Strata Tower), electric car charging points, and eco-hotels. Unlike the bike tour, the walking tour really gave us a taste of London as a city. One place in particular I enjoyed was Neal's Yard, which originated as a hub for local produce and grew into an eco-friendly area, with many shops and cafes. There was also an inspirational chalkboard kept by community members and updated daily. A quote by Mark Nepo as follows:

"Everything is changing and connected. And our call is to enter a dance with the things and forces of the world, not just deflecting what comes at us. For often the things we need to learn are in the spaces in between."

Neal's Yard
Strata Tower

After another organic lunch at The Refinery, I spent my two hours of free time with my friend Kai exploring Covent Garden. We roamed the cute little shops for presents for our friends and even had time for the most delicious ice cream I've yet to experience in Europe (a mixture of vanilla and caramel).

me and my ice cream

Sadly, the tour had come to an end and we headed back to good old Copenhagen. Even though I'd only been gone about a week, I truly missed the place I now consider to be my home and was welcomed warmly by my host family at the airport.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

transition town Totnes

I have returned from my long study tour to England and have so much to tell you that I've decided to break up the week into two blog posts: one for my time in Totnes and one for my time in London. I will start with Totnes below!

After nearly 5 hours of travel time (by plane and train) we finally arrived in Totnes, England. Totnes is a quaint little town located in the south-western part of England, about 3.5 hours by train from London. The first thing we did was check-in at our bed & breakfast, called the Old Forge. The B&B was adorable and really displayed the small town charm of England, tea and scones included.

delicious tea and scones
our bed & breakfast

After getting all settled in, we headed off to St. John's Church for dinner and an introduction to a transition town project called the Food Link. For dinner we enjoyed locally grown vegetables and grazed meat, including a quiche with fresh squash and blue cheese (my favorite). The Food Link project puts local farmers and producers in contact with retailers and businesses to make for a more sustainable food network in Totnes.

In the morning on Monday, we were introduced to the Transition Town Totnes program as a whole. The program focuses on transitioning away from an oil dependent community. Hal, our wonderful tour guide, said that the situation peak oil has placed us in is the "greatest opportunity for economic, social, and cultural renewal we've ever had." I have to agree with Hal on this one. We can't bury our heads in the sand like ostriches and hope everything turns out fine while the world around us is going to hell in a hand basket.

We also played a cool game that demonstrated the resilience and interconnectedness of our ecosystems. Each person was given a character to play and we had to say how our character was connected to another in the ecosystem and then connect our hands with a string. For example, I was the owl and I gave my string to the oak because it gives me shelter. After a while we had a complex web of relationships among many creatures. At the end, we started removing elements of the ecosystem and watched how quickly the whole web fell apart.

Bob the Bus stop
After lunch on our own in Totnes, we split into groups to explore some initiatives at work in the town. For example, we visited the home of a local named Joe, who takes part in the Transition Together Program, which links different households together to make smarter choices regarding energy use and saving money. The groups meet once a week with a guided book to learn about energy usage in their homes and how to reduce their impact and their bills. We also visited a community garden, Bob the Bus (the local transport system), a renewable energy office, and Greenfibres, a company selling natural, organic textiles.

wishing tree in community garden

overlooking Totnes

a roof built using the
hull from a ship

The day ended with a visit to the Albert Inn, a microbrewery that brews three of their own beers (Albert Ale, Whaler, and Realeativity). We had a short tour of where the magic happens (where the beer is brewed) and enjoyed each others company for the rest of the evening. I also met some locals (typical old men that hang around pubs) who taught me how to play darts the correct way. 

the Albert Inn
guiding the way to the beer garden

Tuesday started off with a quick walk down by the River Dart to talk about the importance of the carbon and water cycles and Totnes old role as a port town. We then headed off to Dartmoor National Park, a region known for its granite deposits, tors (hills topped with outcrops of bedrock), bogs, and rivers. The view from the various tors was absolutely gorgeous, enough so that I didn't even mind our lecture on James Lovelock's Gaia Theory, which basically describes how all of Earth's biological and physical processes are inextricably linked and that the Earth has evolved as a single living system. 

Dartmoor National Park
enjoying the beautiful landscape

the River Dart with some native sheep

Soon enough we left Dartmoor and headed for Riverford Organic Farm, where we enjoyed another locally grown lunch in their field kitchen. Menu items included such things as: roast bell pork with apples, creamed parsnip, and cider sauce; carrots and beet root with balsamic and parsley; braised corn and spinach; butternut squash salad; The meal was super delicious and fresh, which is something I've never truly experienced anywhere else. 

twisted tree at Sharpham Estate
After lunch we went to the Sharpham Estate, a local vineyard, for a date with nature. We discussed things that make a good first date and how to apply those principles on our date with nature. Basically, we just went our own ways and found a spot in the countryside that attracted us, where we then listened to and experienced nature like never before. We also enjoyed a campfire to boil some water for tea and cook some fresh sausages for dinner. 

cows roaming at Sharpham Estate

We concluded the evening with the launch of the Transition Companion, the newest transition town handbook by author Rob Hawkins. He discussed how the whole transition town concept is really just an experiment on a global scale. There are towns all over the world who are adopting their own version of transition towns and giving it local flair. Transition is in our bloodstream and DNA; it is what we turn to in troubling times of disaster. Totnes and other transition towns are simply getting a head start on the transitioning that will soon be necessary for everyone. 

Unfortunately, that was the end to our time in Totnes, and we were all very sad to say goodbye to the little town we had come to love over the past three days. Stay tuned for an update about London soon!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

i will be a hummingbird

Another busy week has come and gone in beautiful Copenhagen. The weather this week was simply fantastic, in the high 60's and low 70's for the most part. I was finally able to break out my skirts and sundresses, the weather being the best since I've been here.

Wednesday was the day for field trips all over DIS. I started off the day at the Center for Ice and Climate at the University of Copenhagen: Niels Bohr Institute. The Center's main activities are the drilling and analysis of ice cores through the Greenland ice sheet. The cores are drilled into the ice sheet ranging from 30 meters (ice from the 1920s) to 3,085 meters (ice from 125,000 BC)! Even cores from hundreds of years ago can be analyzed for atmospheric content and even DNA from plants living during the time period. Then we went into the freezer where the ice cores are stored and experienced a preview of the climate we will enjoy when we travel to Greenland, a mere -26 degrees Celsius!

My next field trip was with my Renewable Energy Systems class to Amagerforbraending, a waste treatment center that generates electricity by incinerating garbage. Approximately 405,000 tons of garbage was incinerated in 2010 to provide power for electricity (20%) and district heating (80%) throughout five counties in Denmark. There is a plan for a new plant to begin construction next year, which should be completed by 2017. The new plant will be more environmentally conscious and will also include a place for people to ski! The hope of the company is that by bringing people on site to ski, they will learn about the incineration process and love the place, not hate it as they do now.

all decked out in safety gear

We also had the opportunity to go on the roof of the building to see yet another gorgeous view of the greater Copenhagen area.

renewable energy class group shot
offshore wind park

Thursday was an uneventful day of classes. However, in my Sustainability in Europe class we watched a segment of the documentary entitled "Dirt! The Movie," which is all about our relationship with soil and it's vital importance to our ecosystem. The excerpt we watched is about a small hummingbird attempting to put out a forest fire one drop at a time. Here is the segment:

"I will be a hummingbird. I will do the best I can."

Today was also a beautiful day weather wise. After a delicious brunch of pancakes, sausage, and eggs with my host parents and two of their friends, we headed to the Copenhagen Zoo. The zoo has recently undergone a large expansion, providing more room for the animals to inhabit, especially the giraffes and elephants. The zoo was very crowded on such a great day, but we still found room to sit down and enjoy some white wine while we looked at the penguins. 

african elephant

cute baby goat


We also had some time to stop at the old Carlsberg Brewery elephant statues.

Carlsberg Brewery elephant statue

Tomorrow I will be leaving for a week-long study tour to the United Kingdom (visiting Devon and London), so there won't be another update until I return with stories about my English adventures.