The local elections in Copenhagen are coming up soon, so you literally cannot stand within any given 10ft^3 volume in the city without being inundated by a smorgasbord of different posters featuring rather attractive Danes and their campaign slogans. Learning about Danish politics from my friends has been incredibly interesting, and has changed a lot of the way I look at politics in the US. I’ve mentioned in a previous post a bit about it.
The issues on the table are fascinating. Some may seem more minor, like whether the government should accommodate cars or bicycles more (definitely something that would never even be a question in California). Others are cultural, like the degree of immigrant integration into Danish culture. And then you have the standard questions of higher or lower taxes, job creation, legalizing pot, etc.
Copenhagen is most definitely not bipartisan. Almost all of the parties are more liberal than the American left, and the party names can get quite confusing: “Konservative,” “Liberal Alliance” (actually leans center-right, comparatively), “Radikale Venstre” which means “The Radical Left” (actually falls more in the middle), “Socialdemokraterne,” “Socialistisk Folkeparti” which is “The Socialist People’s Party,” and “Enhedslisten” which was formed out of a merger of socialist and communist parties. And those aren’t even all of them. There’s even a small communist party, “Kommunisterne,” something that would be so unheard of in the US. I’m quite lucky to be good friends with several politically-minded Danes, and we’ve had long conversations about all of this.
So in case all of this talk of politics is causing any tension or inducing any naps, we’ll now switch to a much more docile topic: Danish weather!
I think I was more or less prepared for the cold (and it’s only going to get worse!), but what I did not know is that Denmark is actually the Dementor-land of soul-crushing darkness! Okay maybe that’s an exaggeration, but seriously dude, the sun rises around 8 and begins to set around 16.30 (4:30pm). Soul. Crushing. And this is why the Danes have invented the concept of hygge!
Regardless, it’s still beautiful 🙂
And it’s not always cloudy; on the rare sunny days you literally run outside screaming with Vitamin D overdose and all the world seems bright again.
There are a lot of exchange students who use every free day of the week for traveling, each time to some new country across Europe, each time returning a little hungover and a little more broke. And please, don’t get me wrong, I love and encourage travel, but every weekend?
Again, I love travel and exploration, but on an average day, I like using my time to get to know where I live: discovering cool coffee shops to frequent or finding the grocery stores with the best prices, or making friendships with the Danes. Regardless, when the other students come back from their excursions, they always have infinite exciting stories to tell about how lost they got in Paris, or how good the chocolate and beer were in Germany.
And sometimes I feel a bit lame in comparison. My posting on this blog has become exponentially more sucky in frequency, and I apologize to anyone (probably just my mom) who has been waiting for all of my new exciting stories. In the first couple months of moving here, everything was new and novel, and thus I had blog material overflowing out of my brain. But I guess the reality of living in a different place is that (again, as tautological as it sounds) you live there. It’s not just a vacation. My average interactions with the universe are just that: average. I go to the store, I go to class, I read, I get stuck behind slow people on bikes, and I believe strongly in Taco Tuesdays.
So while it might mean less blog posts, I kind of like settling down into this daily Danish life thing.
A few weeks ago I made a short (and cheap!) trip to Edinburgh. I can’t really explain why I wanted to go there specifically; something about the castles and weather and paying homage to J.K. Rowling appealed to me. What little time I did have there was lovely, but since I’m not a person to be rushed, I didn’t get to see that much of the city.
I am an enormous fan of writing and/or working in coffee shops and cafes. So naturally, I had to visit one of the cafes that the literary badass J.K. Rowling frequented, where she wrote much of the first Harry Potter (as a single mom living on welfare).
It’s called The Elephant House. It was made especially cozy by the view of Edinburgh Castle from the window, and the ominous gray clouds outside. And since I have you here and we’re talking about J.K. Rowling, I’ll just slip in this tangential-but-beautiful little excerpt from her 2008 Harvard commencement address:
“Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
ANYWAY BACK ON TRACK
Here are some nice pictures of the city:
As you can see… there is incredible architecture in Edinburgh. Cathedrals and castles are literally around every corner. I think that’s the thing I found most unique: this synthesis of the past and the pending in the interface between lumpy weathered cobblestone streets, and modern hipster coffee shops.
24 hours definitely wasn’t enough—Edinburgh is still largely a mystery to me.
Last week I had autumn break—the mid-semester week off from school that’s sort of equivalent to Thanksgiving break, but with much less turkey and cranberries. So I went to visit London! Here’s a jumble of pictures that is in no way chronological, complete with annotations.
I was only there for three days so this might be a completely inaccurate observation, but the first thing I thought is that London is a lot like a Europeanized San Francisco. It’s much more bustling than CPH, and there’s a little more of that edge that keeps you very alert all the time. There are two-story buses barreling the wrong way down the street (okay fine, it’s the right way in the UK, but it was difficult for my brain to comprehend that) blaring their horns at jaywalking pedestrians, and it just seems much louder than CPH in general. It’s also an incredibly sprawling city, and thus they have an extensive underground metro—colloquially known as the Tube.
As I was wandering around, I came across Kings Cross station!! See, I even found Platform 9 3/4, with a bunch of muggles surrounding it. Good thing it’s not September 1, or wizard public transport would have gotten a lot more difficult.
Starbucks in the US, Baresso in Copenhagen, and Costa in London—as much as I *love* independent coffee shops, there’s just something about chain stores that has a certain charm. Although London had a Starbucks QUITE LITERALLY ON EVERY CORNER,on every OTHER corner, you can find a Costa. Pretty okay standard chain coffee. And the intensely sugary concoction you see above was the Hazelnut Toffee Latte ❤
I wandered through the enormous and gorgeous Hyde Park. It would be so perfect for running on a nice day!
I just happened to walk past the Royal Astronomical Society!!! It was closed, but I still felt in awe just the same.
Moreso than all the “must-see” sites like the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, the one thing in London that I really had my heart set on was going to Hatchard’s Booksellers—the oldest bookshop in London. I was essentially a kid in a candy store and I had the urge to collapse in an awestruck heap. (And I fought that urge, successfully!) Instead, I bought an Austen book—I thought it was fitting to read English authors while in England.
I’m a total sucker for these kinds of signs.
Another place I had my heart set on going to was Monmouth Coffee, and it did NOT disappoint. Probably the best cappuccino I’ve had in a long, long time. But apparently it was a modern Madam Puddifoot’s, and this hilarious Spanish couple in the corner would NOT stop snogging and giggling. So I left a little sooner than I’d have liked.
lololololol this dude has HAD IT in Costa
I went to Chinatown one evening for drinks!
I was meaning to visit Borough Market, but I happened upon it quite accidentally (“We don’t make mistakes, we just have happy accidents!”). It’s this BEAUTIFUL outdoor market (covered, thankfully, from the rain) with a countably infinite selection of fresh food. There was one place that was selling kangaroo burgers, and I would totally have loved to try one if I had been hungry.
The Thames river is as brown in real life as they say it is.
The weather was excellent (surprisingly, I’m told) and there was very little rain. But the constant oscillation between dark clouds and sunshine made a beautiful background for the city.
This is the Tower Bridge as seen from London Bridge. Which, incidentally, was not falling down.
The Tower of London!
My verdict: I love London. It’s an incredibly diverse city and I definitely want to go back.
I totally forgot to post this and now it’s sort of irrelevant. But the week of Oct 4-10 was World Space Week, and so I wanted to share an article I wrote for this awesome science blog, Things We Don’t Know, about Europa! http://bit.ly/1a4Kgxs
Though in my opinion, every week should be World Space Week 😉
I’ll post very soon about my recent trip to London!
This last Sunday I went to a show by a band called Man or Astro Man. In a really interesting sci-fi style called space rock, they use a blend of intensely catchy guitar riffs, synthetic sounds, and astro themes. So naturally, I loved it! The band introduced themselves as aliens from “deep in outer space.” They looked curiously humanoid, though.
At the end, the extremely sweaty drummer took apart his set, ran into the audience and stacked all of his drums in the middle of everyone, and ran a drum stick through the top (excuse my hideous terminology, I don’t know what any of it is actually called). All in all, a really badass show. 🙂