Jul i Den Gamle By

Parents lounge at school

Thursday, I started my morning taking the kids to school as usual. This time however, I decided to try out the new Parents’ Lounge while waiting to meet up with a friend, Thefloridane. Our little school is growing by leaps and bounds and this little loungy spot near the office is fabulous! I had a cup of coffee and chats with other moms. Great start to the day.

After coffee and chats we headed up to Århus to explore Den Gamle By  with Christmas trimmings.

widdows house kitchen

Den Gamle By is full of historic homes and structures from around Denmark. The houses and buildings have been relocated to this historical park where you can see people living and speaking the way they would in each era you visit. The first home we went into was once a widow’s’ home in Odense. It was originally located across the street from the Childhood home of Hans Christian Anderson. Here, the 1790’s woman told Thefloridane and I about the home for widowed women.  We stood in the small smoky kitchen as she told us about the early form of socialism. Women who lost their husband and had no family would normally have no place to go. In Denmark, they collected from the wealthy to help house these women.

From there we walked along the cobbled street. The park was full of children on field trips and adults on holiday parties. Slipping down a less busy street we walked along the back of a garden. The same one that was bursting with blooms this summer is now barren and trimmed back. I did enjoy seeing the stacks of flower pots though.

 

After wandering around a bit our tummies were growling like crazy since we missed having breakfast. We popped into a 1920’s general store where the owner filled us in on all sorts of 1920’s information… though he was unable to tell us where to get lunch. We ate here, at Cafeen (the cafe). We should have taken photos of our beautiful lunches and white glogg! (mulled wine)

cafeen entrance

After a long lunch break we walked around a bit more.  Walking into the 60’s and 70’s Disco era we laughed that between the glogg and the disco in the basement we sort of had a MNO (mom’s night out) on a Thursday morning! haha- wooo! Living on the edge…

Despite being a dreary day, we had a nice day exploring old Denmark decked out for Christmas. If you’re visiting Central Denmark, Århus is a great way to spend a good part of a day exploring Danish history from the 1700’s to recent decades.

jule vindu

 

Until next time-

Advertisements

Border Run

IMG_8297Denmark/German Border

A Brit, Aussie, American, and Korean walk into a mall… haha! No, not a bad joke, just time for another Billund to border run for turkey, booze, and over the counter meds.

IMG_8298

We hit up Citti-Park in hopes of finding just the right snow boots, turkey for American Thanksgiving, cut-rate alcohol, possibly stocking stuffers, and more. We did well. Thankfully, the turkey we came for was purchased. Sadly we didn’t find the cute snowboots half of us were after.

I do recall several flats of Christmas Beer and an obscene amount of nutella.

IMG_8300

Here we are, headed down the escalator with our goods. Had to check the top floor and try out more boots.

Oh geeze! Look at the time! We have to leave Germany and get back to school to pick up the kids!

IMG_8299

I had a fun day with the gals. Racing and riding carts through the parking garage may or may not have happened with cheers and squeals. Looking forward to another girls day shopping no matter which country we’re in.

xo

 

Bring on the Blahs

Today it’s cold, damp, and the sky is the color of a dirty sock. It’s been that way all day. Yesterday too. Blah. So here, then, are some pics of what it looked like around Billund this summer, when we did have pleasant weather…

IMG_4633

…when everything was in bloom…

…when we would ride our bikes after dinner and explore the trails and fields around town…

…and when it didn’t look like this until 11:00 at night…

IMG_4786

Meh. I’m gonna go make a cup of tea.

Copenhagen, Day 3: Helsingør

I guess we didn’t have enough of castles the day before, because on Saturday, we hopped in the car and drove an hour north of Copenhagen to see Kronborg Castle, in the quaint seaside town of Helsingør. That’s the Danish name – the English-speaking world knows the castle for its more famous moniker, Elsinore, as immortalized by William Shakespeare in Hamlet. Contrary to popular belief, Hamlet did not live here – he’s a fictional character, remember? – and we smelled nothing rotten in Denmark (aside from some stinky seaweed on the beach).

The castle sits out at the northeastern tip of the entire island of Sealand – important location, as it once prevented ships from crossing from the Baltic through the sound, back when Denmark controlled both sides of the water. Now the other side of the water is Sweden, and the two countries get along fine. They didn’t at one point, of course – but more on that later after we get into the castle.

Kronborg literally means Crown Castle, a name it didn’t receive until 1577, about 150 years after it was first constructed as a smaller fortress. Over the centuries, the castle grew larger and more fortified, until it was finally encircled by huge battlements, cannons, outbuildings, and walls – which means that in 2015, it’ll take you a good 20 minutes to walk from the parking lot to the main gate. Nice stroll though, and time for the boys to inspect the cannons and get chatty with some of the local swans. Once we got close enough to the castle and its massive stone gate, we could finally see how gigantic and impressive it really was.

Inside, it was even more impressive – a central square surrounded by imposing towers and Renaissance-style masonry. Some of the guides were wandering around the courtyard in medieval garb, though we opted for the self-guided tour. It took us awhile to figure out where to buy tickets and get started! (You have to go through the gift shop – don’t do what we did and start going up one of the staircases, or you’ll be doing the tour backwards).

Although the castle is massive, with huge rooms and an absolutely enormous main banquet hall, it’s much more sparsely decorated than either of the castles we saw the day before. No big surprise, as Kronborg has weathered a couple more centuries than Rosenborg Slot, plus some back-to-back catastrophes in the 1600s – a fire that destroyed most of the castle in 1629, and then a Swedish siege and occupation in 1658. Today, that means that most chambers are fresh with white paint, wooden floors, and a few hulking pieces of furniture (most of it not actually from the castle), making it difficult to picture what life was actually like in the castle. Given that it was more a strategic fortress and not a summerhouse like Rosenborg, or the royal family residence like Amalienborg, it probably was never all that hygge to begin with anyway.


There were, however, some incredible and very, very old tapestries hung on the walls. They were fascinating to inspect, not just for their size and detail, but also their imagery and context. My favorite was the one depicting a rhinoceros, then considered a very exotic and little-seen animal to the rest of the world. Not many people on Earth, and certainly not in frosty Denmark, ever got to see one in the pebbly flesh, but if you were the king or part of his court, at least there was Tapestrygram.

The castle was also used as a prison from 1739 until the early 1900s, and the inmates certainly didn’t get to stay in the upstairs chambers. So down to the dungeons we went, to explore the dank, chilly, and dark labyrinth of tunnels below the castle. Somehow, B and I always wind up doing this kind of stuff wherever we travel. I’ve always been fascinated by caves and crypts and oubliettes and tunnels. (I once spent a happy hour alone in the Parisian catacombs, with only my headphones and 6 million Parisian skeletons for company.) Lucky for me, she likes it too. And it’s great fun and adventure for the boys, even if there really wasn’t a lot down there to see. But it was huge, and I think we saw almost all of it. Certainly not the kind of place you’d want to be stuck in at night, after the guards and crowds had gone home!

After we had seen most of the castle, we collected a few shells down on the beach, and then drove back into town to explore some more and find some dinner. Helsingør the town is much more charming than Helsingør the castle, all cottagey and colorful with narrow cobblestone streets and a central shopping and dining promenade.

We poked our heads into a few of the cafes, but decided we wanted something a little more out of the ordinary than your typical Danish fare – lucky for us, TripAdvisor showed a Thai restaurant in town! It was a tiny, unassuming place, but it was open, and tasty, and cheap compared to what you normally pay in any restaurant here. Plus we just sometimes have to remind ourselves how random life can be – a year ago, we might have been enjoying Thai takeout at our house in the East Bay/SF. Now we were having it in a tiny seaside town on the northeast corner of Denmark.

And that was it for our trip! Three jam-packed days, and a quick drive home the next day. Still tons to see in Copenhagen, I’m sure. Give us your tips and tell us what we missed for next time!

Here’s part 2 if you missed it: https://witzaboutus.com/2015/10/11/copenhagen-day-2-castles-coasters/
And part 1: https://witzaboutus.com/2015/04/14/copenhagen-canal-tour/

Odense Zoo

tiger boys 2

Yesterday, the boys and I headed to Odense to check out the zoo. They had gotten free tickets in a kids meal one day while shopping, and I figured that it was a good way to knock out a summer day. I planned to get there between rain storms. It sort of worked.

We arrived a pretty soggy bit, but fared ok during the day. Thankfully, I wore galoshes and managed to convince the kids (well, forced them) to wear waterproof jackets. They REFUSE to wear “rain trousers”…  I think rain trousers would make playing FUN… I get it though, the word trousers freaks me out… but saying pants around English folk is confusing. “Put on your rain pants” translates to “put on your rain undies”! But I digress… Back to the zoo.

First we saw tigers. One tiger by himself, and then as we circled around, we saw cubs! Naturally, when I went to take a picture, momma tiger had to go potty… But I managed another without her. Seriously though, poor tiger. When ya gotta go, ya gotta go, and because of her cute kids, there are always people standing around.

mom tiger poops

tiger cubs playingSo here are the cute kids. A third was sweetly peering over a felled tree at a safe distance.

Next, we came to the giraffe house. We were about to pass through because it was empty, but this wall of pacifiers caught my attention. What IS this?!?! I read one of the postcards attached to one of the germ garlands ,and my suspicions were correct. Danish tots donated their binkies to the baby giraffes for when they are feeling brave enough to be a big boy/girl.

binkies for giraffe baby

Later in the day, the sky-water stopped long enough for my two less-furry apes to climb on what looked like something designed for the chimp house. Every zoo should incorporate playground structures throughout. It really helps kids to stay interested and not complain about being tired. (So does food… E munched lots of carrots along the way)

boys outside manatee houseThis gorgeous mural was at the entry to where the tapirs lived. Beyond that, a structure that contained a tropical house with manatees, tiny monkeys, a sloth and more, as well as an arctic penguin house! We had to do this one twice. Perfect because the first time was super-crowded, and the second time we were nearly the only ones there. Cool!

max and tapir

Manatee Menagerie

 Monkey, Monkey, Sloth, Monkey

During our first trip to the manatee tank, we saw a lot of bubbles. Our suspicions when we went back! I missed the photo proof, but here’s a shot of the residual bubbles. Take our word for it when we say we *know* that those bubbles are in fact manatee farts. Have you SEEN how much cauliflower they can eat? M felt that this was important to share here, by the way. Note the bubbles raising from the underside of the manatee. I think it noticed our talking and stares and giggles because it turned and swam away. Sorry manatee.

manatee 8 last of the fart bubbles

The kids really loved the penguin exhibit. The walk from the warm tropic environment toward the penguins was dark, and the temperatures plummeted. We wound our way up the dark ramp where we found a wall of ice. The kids thought that was pretty awesome. How is it here? WHY is it here? It was apparently great fun to touch the ice as long as you could then slap your cold wet hand onto your brother’s face or neck to see if they would let out a shrill cry. Yep, worked every time.

Inside the penguin house, there were boulders for the kids to climb on and slide down. Penguin life seems pretty cool to kids. Clamber up, lay on your belly and slide down the cold bumpy rocks. I noted some funny behavior between two penguins. One was sitting on a “nest” and seemed uncomfortable. The other penguin, a bit smaller (male?) seemed to be a nervous wreck. You could tell that they wanted to do SOMETHING, but weren’t sure what to do. Maybe they wanted to be on the egg?

Then the penguin on the next nest moved to reveal a teeny baby penguin! It seemed unsure of what to do with this thing that was no longer in an egg. It wasn’t still. She/he waddled a foot over a bit and stretched its beak down to push an egg toward their feet and the chick. It was the empty egg shell! It seemed in shock. (I can totally relate.) Now what?!

The kids stopped rock surfing a moment to see the baby penguin. They seemed less impressed than I was. LOOK! Look at it! It’s a baby penguin! In real life! Just a few feet away behind that glass! Isn’t it cool?! Amazing!?! …. All I got was ” mom, watch this!” and “Watch ME mom, watch ME!”….”Yeah mom, its cute… WATCH THIS” (slides down faux boulders complete with painted on penguin poop)

monkey house aka butt house

Lastly, we hit up the monkey house. M was more interested in the climbing wall and curious as to why there were butts on the wall. Butts? Half of this monkey house was in fact dedicated to hineys! Looks like I missed the 3D butts in jeans and Odense zoo t-shirts. There were adult, child and tot sizes… I’m not sure if you were meant to compare those to the little monkeys in the glass house? Oh well, no time like the monkey house to expose your kids to a pimpled hairy man-butt in a thong.

So during this rainy afternoon at the zoo, we learned a lot of answers. Let us take a moment to recap…

  • Does a tiger cover their potty like a house cat? Yes. Yes they do. With 20 onlookers and pouncing cubs. Even tiger moms can’t go to the bathroom without kids interrupting.
  • If a manatee farts in water, will anyone know? Yes. Yes they will. Particularly if they are 8, 5, or 38 years old.
  • If a fussy tot drops her binky in the waterfall that leads to the manatee pool, will she been seen with the same binky again later that afternoon? Yes. Yes she will. IN. HER. MOUTH. Someone didn’t have a successful trip to the giraffe house! ;D
  • Butts are funny until they are in your face unexpectedly.

Summer in Denmark

This is our first summer here. I use the term “summer” loosely. We’ve had approximately 5 warm days this year and its mid-freaking July. J-U-L-Y, y’all!

We kept hearing that the weather would turn nice in May. Soon it was, hmmm, this is unusual weather. Then as June was approaching, it was hey, hang in there, we will have summer eventually…. Having moved here during the last couple of days of October last year, it feels like the weather has been pretty much the same all year, except now the days are thankfully MUCH longer. The one day it got pretty roasty, I didn’t complain. I was so thrilled to have SUN and heat! Real: “I wish I were in the shade” kind of heat! It was awesome.

The other thing about summer in these parts is that the majority of people take 3 week summer holidays. Both partners in a family typically work and since everyone is gone, there is little to send your kids to, as far as summer camp is concerned. What are the job-seeking parents to do?!

Fortunately, the kids have been fairly happy spending their summer break on the trampoline and building LEGO. Sometimes they even do it simultaneously! It doesn’t take much to keep them happy and entertained – it would just be nice to have something to look forward to and friends to meet with. Hopefully in the coming weeks there will be other kids to mix it up with.

While I’m sitting at the computer, a kid from M’s class came by, so that’s been a great diversion for the boys. We will find some little daytrips to take and see what other kids are around to play with to fill up our time between grandparent visits. (yay for grandparents visiting!)

Things are nice and green here. There are still some flowers blooming. Maybe some warm summer-like weather will come eventually. (I hope!)

Here’s to finding work, having holiday time next summer, and hopefully warm summer weather ahead. Cheers!

A few summery things…

Our first guest visits!

Last week we had our first visitor! Shane came to see us. J and Shane met 15 years ago in Phoenix when J first moved there. Though we have all moved around a lot since then, we’ve always managed to keep in touch. It was really nice of him to extend his Europe trip to come see us. It meant a lot to us and the kids.

We tried to pack in as much as we could in a couple of days’ time. It was cold and rainy when Shane arrived, but some of the NorCal sunshine followed him here. (yay!)

We had Shane jump right into life in Billund. On his first morning here, we showed him the kids’ school and he joined me at the FIRST Connect Billund meeting. After the meeting he and J went to lunch in town (J wanted to take him to the hot dog stand!) and in the afternoon, I took the big boys to LEGOLand Billund! That’s J and Shane, not the kids – they were still in school 🙂

The little boys were somewhat disappointed that we went with out them but seemed to understand that Uncle Shane should see the park while here. (It closes fairly early).

After collecting the kids, we headed to Vejle to show Shane around and had a bite to eat.

Since it stays light for a long time, we were able to drive around and found a strand (beach) down by the fjord.  We chatted with a local mom there with a cute pup and her kids. There were some boys and their scout troop there fishing, and she was filling us in on the types of scouts in Denmark. Maybe our boys will try it in the fall – M did Cub Scouts in California and J was one of the den leaders. It was FREEZING and windy at the fjord, so we didn’t stay long. Plus it was late for a school night! Whoops.

The next day J had meetings at work and Evan didn’t want to go on a road trip, so he went to school while M and I took Shane on a short drive to Ribe. The weather was lovely (thankfully), though we still had to wear our coats. I’m convinced that everyone has been tricking us and there isn’t actually a summer in Denmark. We had sunshine so that made the day nice.

Ribe is a neat old town to explore. There are various styles of architecture, a Viking museum, and great spots to eat local food!

Did you see it?! I ate herring! And it was pretty darn good – so it must be amazing. The ham was from a nearby island. (Tania, I was thinking of you.) The cheese and homemade cracker were nice too. Both fish portions were good. Shane and I aren’t big mayo eaters and found the sauces to be a bit much for our tastes, but I had some and they were nice. If you are a mayo fan you’d enjoy them! The apple dessert was nice too. Yum. Ok, here is the photo again.

IMG_6655

There could be a whole post based on this photo.

Moving along – after our huge lunch, Shane wanted to see the shore. Great plan! I just didn’t have experience on anywhere to go near Ribe. So I looked on google maps and found a National Park. Cool! Let’s go there! We started to drive and enjoyed the views. The canola flowers right now are incredible! We came across a beautiful village too.

The funny thing about Google maps is…  you don’t always get ALL the info you need…

The road ended in the sea. THE SEA, I tell you! What? Oh yeah, high tide. No drive. We drove to another spot out of curiosity. There, the sign said no cars or motorcycles. Ah! NOW we know what the big tractors and bus-like trailers were for! Getting to the National Park! Someone commented on how dumb tourists get stranded all the time…

Well, that’s the funny thing about Denmark. You’re just supposed to KNOW things. I’d have gotten a bit nervous with a road where the sea laps up to its edge, but may not have thought about a tide coming in and taking the road out… I’m not accustomed to driving on roads that are often underwater! Haha. You learn something new every day. Like, I may have a fear of riding in a tractor bus. I kind of feel we got the real experience at the water’s edge…

The pole that you see Shane and M standing next to has markers indicating the water levels in years past. I may have to Google that too. Crazy high tides or big storm surges? I’m not sure. There was a berm there and old illustrations noting that the seawall had been compromised in the past and washed people away. Glad things were tame when we arrived. I’m also glad that we didn’t drive down the road and get stuck in high tide. Whew.

That was Shane’s last day. That evening we got home and J put on a slideshow of photos from the last decade or so. What fun! We saw so many familiar faces and relived our lives in Phoenix for a few moments.

Thanks for visiting Shane! We enjoyed having you!

Rainy Spring Walk

This morning I took a walk between rain showers to explore some of the same spots I walked when we first arrived. I wanted to compare the autumn dampness to the spring. If you remember some of the pics I snapped last autumn, it may be fun to compare the brown, feathery foliage to the fresh and bright greens that are finally making an appearance.

Today is about 50*F and rainy. We are enjoying a cozy day inside, other than a walk or two. Happy weekend!

Pas på hundelort

IMG_3537

One day while out for a ride, I noticed something in the grass by the bike path: a tiny Danish flag planted proudly in a lump of dogshit. Hvad er det?! Is this some way of warning other people not to step in the poo, or a way to shame the dog owners who left the poo behind in the first place? Maybe someone planted the flag as a way to find the poo again later, and were returning with a plastic baggie?

Eh, no, that would mean that people regularly walk around with tiny Danish flags in their pockets, but well, that wouldn’t surprise me considering how much the Danes love their national flag. It flies everywhere in town, and it’s a pleasing and cheery sight – a burst of color against an often gray and gloomy sky. But c’mon, given the reaction you can get by eating smorrebrød the wrong way, you’d think that a Danish bæ-flag might land you in jail for a night, or at the very least, given cold æbleskiver without any powdered sugar.

Turns out that this is not just the work of some lone poo-prankster, it’s a growing national trend that has been promoted, in part, by the local governments. See here: http://www.dr.dk/Nyheder/Ligetil/Dagens_fokus/Indland/2015/03/Kommune__Saet_flag_i_hundelorte.htm

We need everyone in Greve to help. For some dog owners forget to remove the shit, says Anne Pihl Rasmussen. The flag is to say, ‘Hey, we want that you remove hundelortene, otherwise there is some other, hanging on them,’ says Anne Pihl Rasmussen. When setting a flag in a shit, you commit to later remove both shit and flags.”

Needless to say, you would never see this back in the US, where there are criminal penalties for any kind of flag desecration. Still, marking those poor, abandoned piles of hundelort is a nice concept, so maybe we just need to come up with a better flag. Here’s my suggestion:

IMG_3537b

Morning Hike

path quote

Life has been busy in the way that it was busy back home. Normal life things fill up time, but with an expat twist. The kids are in a school routine, then come home to play LEGO or enjoy time with friends. Jordan goes to a job he loves. I scoot everyone around to their events, grocery shop, and find time with friends. It’s all fairly similar – but not.

Some things are easier, and many are harder, though Jordan’s commute has been cut down to next to nothing. You can’t even call it a commute, really. 5 minutes and he’s home, plus work lets out at 4pm. It’s a drastic change from San Francisco and Phoenix, where commutes, work schedules, or both kept him away from home for long hours. We are able to spend more time as a family and the boys LOVE having him around to play LEGO and Minecraft.

The boys go to school and play, but here their friends speak Icelandic, Korean, German, and Danish on top of English. They have loads of unstructured time and they love it. They miss old friends and old activities, but seem pretty happy with what they’ve got and who they get to do it with.

Me? I get to meet new friends from Iceland, Australia, South Korea, the UK and more! It’s such a fun mix of outgoing and friendly people. We are all going through the same experiences and yet differently in some ways, because we come from different places. Though it seems Australia, Iceland, and South Korea have loads of shopping and dining out experiences like the US so we are all dealing with the reduced choices here.

Various activities have kept me busy, and I’ve been forever trying to get back into regular walks and such. This morning, three of us gals finally were able to get in a nice hike on a path I’d not yet tried. One of the things I love about Denmark is the ability to find a trail through nature just about anywhere. Today’s hike started at the golf clubhouse. I’d have never guessed you could hike out of a golf course, but here its possible!

We got in a good hour’s hike. Hopefully in time we can add in more jogging and exercises. Today we were uncertain about the path, its distance and such. Walking briskly through the trees was nice on a cold and cloudy day. I think the zipline was the highlight!. Weeeeeee!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.