Scandinavians rule

I wish I could say Denmark was more than just a measly eighth of my ‘homeland.’

However, considering the other 7/8th of my heritage is Swedish and Norwegian, I would like to think all of Scandinavia is just as cool as their Danish neighbors, so I’m not complaining.

I spent this past weekend in Copenhagen with five friends from my program and had a wonderful, yet extremely cold, trip. I joyfully declare my first weekend adventure a success! And now I’m a jet-setting fiend.

First things, first: the Copenhagen Airport. I would live there if I could. I didn’t think I would ever describe an experience in a transportation terminal in any complimentary sense, but walking off the plane in Copenhagen was almost as if I was walking into a 5-star Mall of America from the year 2050. It was a mall that ‘happened’ to have an international airport in it as well. From Hermes to Giorgio Armani to my personal favorite, Tiger of Sweden, the Copenhagen Airport was like an indoor Rodeo Drive. My friends and I decided right then and there that would be coming extra early to our 7pm departing flight to shop (and by shop, I most definitely mean window shop…).

But then we got a shock to our systems. I guess we maybe should have gotten a hint from the strictly designer shops in the airport, but no longer in awe of the freakishly clean and posh airport, we were dumbstruck staring down at our metro tickets: 36 Danish Krones for a metro ticket to our hostel. That is more than seven US dollars. Which didn’t seem so bad when we thought it was a 24-hour pass. False. The ticket was for ONE hour. Needless to say we did a lot of walking this weekend.

Copenhagen made me appreciate Prague and its less-than-a-buck beer. The city is expensive. I almost wanted to take a page out of my father’s instructional quote book and tell the Danes, “Money doesn’t grow on trees, you know that, right?” But considering salaries are up to par with the market prices in Denmark, it is not expensive for those living and working in Denmark, it is just expensive for those of us traveling there. While the prices of food and other items looked identical to the prices I see daily in Prague, the exchange rate in Prague is 18:1, while in Copenhagen it is 5:1. We were paying nearly four times as much as we pay in Prague for the same things. It was absurd. My taste buds had no control this weekend. It didn’t matter what I was in the mood for- my wallet was the decision maker. Also, my souvenirs consisted of a key chain and a pin to put on my backpack. Just call me a high-roller.

But other than the freezing cold and damp weather (thank goodness my dad sent me two more pairs of long johns before I left for my weekend adventure, I don’t think I took them off the whole time) the horrible exchange rate is my only complaint of Copenhagen. When I’m a real adult with an actual income, I’ll have to go back to experience the sights that don’t all have ‘FREE’ stamped on the tickets or brochures. Someday….

And I really do want to return to Copenhagen, as well as travel the rest of Scandinavia. The people were so friendly. Not to rag on Prague, but here in the Czech, shopkeepers and clerks could care less if have a question. They honestly don’t seem interested in whether you purchase anything from their store. Waiters as well are paid by the hour and not by tips so customer service rarely involves smiles. But in Copenhagen, they were all so kind and would happily tell us of the must-see sights of Copenhagen and how to navigate the winding alleyways.

Not only were they nice, they were also beautiful. The Danish make me proud to say I’m Scandinavian.

Considering most of our sight-seeing involved wandering the city until we stumbled upon something interesting (and hopefully free), I have plenty of pictures of the city….

Welcome to Denmark: the land of bicycles and teeny-tiny little smart cars
Sort of jumping for joy in the King's Gardens
The Danes love their bikes
The Little Mermaid statue
I couldn't resist taking this picture: that is in fact a pregnant mannequin displaying a maternity wedding dress. Denmark is progressive.
"Jensen" was everywhere. Countless restaurants and stores shared the name of my brother and mom's family- I felt at home.
Don't let the sunshine fool you, it is still freezing.
The bustling canal
Beautiful colors
I was an eskimo all weekend.
During my solo-adventure to the National Museum, I sat on this bridge and just people-watched- those darn beautiful Danes are a sight to see!
10 students and five bunk beds. Camp Copenhagen 2011!
Path along the water.
View from the running/walking path. No wonder all of the Danes are in such good shape. I'd run everyday too if I had this view.

We also visited Christiania one afternoon, which unfortunately doesn’t allow photography. As an anarchist community, Christiania lies within a walled block of Copenhagen and considers itself a separate entity from Denmark and in turn not members of the EU. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Copenhagen- and most importantly it is free! I heard it compared to San Francisco in the ’60s. Graffiti-ed to the max and full of small cafes and huts selling hemp clothing and jewelry, Christiania was culturally shocking and I would highly recommend anyone who travels to Copenhagen to walk through Christiania simply just to see it.

As I conclude this blog about my first weekend adventure, I’m preparing for my second. Tomorrow I fly to London to stay the weekend with one of my besties and roommates from Madison. And I can’t wait! Even though it is a little stressful (and it isn’t exactly financially sound) to travel two weekends in a row, I’m so excited to see my friend and London and as embarrassed as I am to admit this, I’m looking forward to hearing English consistently and being able to immediately understand what is going on around me…it will be a nice little break from my daily confusion that results from the language barrier. After these two adventures, I plan on lying low a little bit. And by lying low, I mean staying in the beautiful city of Praha to learn every in-and-out of the city.

Na Sheldanou!

Maarja