Saturday, December 17, 2011

that calls for a Carlsberg

My last week in Copenhagen has been a whirlwind of activity. I had a lovely dinner with the friends of my host parents on Sunday evening. We had the traditional Danish Christmas meal, which included pork and sauerkraut, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, and of course lots of wine. Christmas dessert was rice pudding with warm cherry sauce. The rice pudding also had sliced almonds in it, and the person who got a whole almond in their dish won a special prize! It was a wonderful evening and one of the best I have had in Copenhagen.

a Danish Christmas dinner

On Monday, my roommate Cara and I journeyed to Sweden, only a 25 minute train ride away. Unfortunately, all of the Christmas markets were closed on Monday (which we didn't know), so there wasn't much to do in the city. However, we did see an old fashioned telephone booth and went to the only chocolate producing plant in Sweden for some yummy tea and a dark chocolate tasting.

chocolate violin from the 1920s
hello there! 

tea and a chocolate tasting

one of the Carlsberg horses
The middle of my week was filled with relaxing with my host parents, studying for my only final exam (Nordic Mythology), doing some last minute Christmas shopping in the city, and a brief tour to Carlsberg Brewery.

world's largest unopened beer
bottle collection 

showing the way to Carlsberg

As for Friday, I enjoyed a gourmet dinner at Quote (the restaurant where my host father works) followed by an excelled production of The Nutcracker by the Danish Royal Ballet. While I knew the story line of the ballet, it was my first time seeing it live, and I wouldn't have shared it with anyone but my host parents.

We were early to rise this morning to make preparations for my birthday/going away brunch, which was attended by about 18 people! The brunch was delicious and included the typical brunch-type foods: pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, chicken legs, and carrot cupcakes. Most of our guests were friends of my host parents that (after 4 short months) I can now call my good friends as well. They all wished me the best and sent me home with little presents to remember my time in Denmark by and a promise for my return in the near future.

It is still surreal that I am leaving Denmark tomorrow. While I am certainly excited to travel home and see my family and friends, part of me is not ready to leave yet. I have grown to feel at home in Copenhagen and with my host family and it will be strange not waking up to the sounds of Jonna and Knud tinkering in the kitchen. But as they say, all goods things must come to an end. This past semester has been a life-changing experience, one filled with memories I will have for the rest of my life, and that, my friends, calls for a Carlsberg.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

the hills are alive

This past weekend was the last of my traveling in Europe and I am very glad I chose to visit some friends from Gettysburg in Vienna, Austria. And while I didn't get to see the hills from the Sound of Music, I still had a marvelous time. 

enjoying some schnitzel
I started my weekend in Vienna with an early evening flight out of Copenhagen, arriving at the airport in Vienna around 20:40, where I met my friend Danny. We headed off for dinner with some other friends to a little restaurant near their apartment, which was located in the Turkish area of the city. I had my first wiener schnitzel, which was delicious! We also went to a local bar called the Kangaroo Bar, which specialized in beers, boasting over 150 options. I decided to try a Belgium fruit beer, and was not disappointed. My friend was a little more adventurous and tasted a chocolate beer, which turned out to not be such a good idea after all. 

After that came a day of exploring the city, which was more decked out for Christmas than Copenhagen is (I know, it's hard to believe). There was a Christmas market selling homemade crafts and treats every few blocks. I went to see the Parliament building and the State Hall, as well as various other buildings, including the Hofburg Palace and Stephansdom, a gorgeous Gothic masterpiece. The massive towers and colorful roof of the Stephansdom are supposed to depict the Hapsburg crown. 

State Hall and Christmas market 


Lunch was at an cool brewery called 1516, where luckily all the wait staff spoke great english. The coasters there are actually post cards that you can send to people. So cool! I tried an Austrian kräuter soda (called Almdudler), which tasted like ginger ale mixed with apple juice. A perfect combination. 

After lunch we went to wait in line for standing-room only tickets to the opera, La Bohème. The opera, written by Puccini, essentially follows a love story between Mimi (a seamstress) and Rodolfo (a poet). They fall in love at first sight, but end up parting ways because of Mimi's flirtatious nature. However, Mimi is fatally ill (probably with TB) and their love is too strong with keep them apart for long. The last act ends with Mimi's death and Rodolfo consumed with grief. The production was amazing! The performers had wonderful voices and the set itself was breathtaking, especially the opening of the third act, which was an outdoor scene complete with snow and trees. The audience started applauding the set as soon as the curtain opened. 

On my final day in Vienna, I ventured to the Schönbrunn Palace, which has gardens that are said to rival those in Versailles (too bad I didn't see them in bloom). The palace grounds had a great Christmas market where I was able to do some shopping for family and friends at home. Also on the palace grounds were the Fountain of Nepture and the Gloriette, which was built to commemorate the return of Prague to Habsburg rule in 1775. The view of the city from the Gloriette is one of the best in Vienna. 

Schönbrunn Place

Me, Danny, & Madison at the Gloriette

I also had a chance to go the the Prater, which is an amusement park to rival Tivoli here in Denmark. The Prater is home to Vienna's symbolic ferris wheel, the Wiener Reisenrad, and also houses 250 other rides and attractions. The part of the park not used for rides is a peaceful green space formerly used as imperial hunting grounds. 

Madison and I having some cutout fun
the Wiener Reisenrad

That sadly concludes my too short visit to Vienna, the music capital of the world. I would recommend a visit to anyone who is passionate about classical music and wants to see where it all began.