My Trip on a Viking Ship and the Mystery of Skuldelev 4

Best Day EVER!

Yesterday I got to sail on a Viking ship! One of Denmark’s more famous tourist sites is the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, where 5 different Viking ships from ~1079 AD were brought up from the bottom of Roskildefjord in the 1950’s. As a diehard fan of sailing history, I have been three times.

The first visit, as especially thorough blog visitors may recall, was when my parents were visiting. That time, the museum was unfortunately closed.  So what was I to do but climb up on the windows outside the museum to grab some pics of the wrecks the museum rescued from the bottom of Roskildefjord? We still got to walk around the museum docks and boatyard where a lot of boats were tied up for the winter. It turns out that the museum employs a group of boat builders whose job is to recreate Viking longboats using the tools, techniques, and materials that the Vikings had! This means felling trees, making their own nails, cutting timber to size and attaching it all without the use of saws. After 20 years I finally know what I want to be when I grow up.

A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

My next visit occurred when Jeff and I were on our way to Legoland. You can see my earlier post of us running around in Viking garb, but the most exciting part was finally getting to see the wrecks up close! There are five, a large and small longboat, a two trading ships, and one fishing boat (or one trading boat and two fishing boats, I can’t quite remember). Anyway there were two especially significant occurrences that marked this visit:

1. The five boats are named Skuldelev 1, Skuldelev 2, Skuldelv 3, Suldelev 5, Skuldelev 6. Got them all? Skuldelevs 1-2-3-5-and-6. Now, if you just counted those on your fingers starting with the thumb, you noticed that by the time you got to your pinky, you were at number 6 instead of number 5. This is exactly what happened to me when I counted! Where was number 4? I saw no mention of this in the museum anywhere.  It doesn’t seem like a museum curator would count incorrectly, does it? Was it stolen? If so, it belongs in a museum, no matter how cool it is. So began the mystery of Skuldelev 4.

2. The other memorable thing is: I learned that from May 1st on, in addition to the price of admission, on the weekends you can pay 80 kroner to take a ride on a Viking longboat! I have wanted to ride on a Viking boat for as long as I can possibly remember. I think it began when I was a kid and my Dad, who lived in the DK for 7 years, told me stories about, and I quote, “super-ultra-turbo-viking-warriors,” a title only achievable by keeping a piece of salt licorice in your mouth for an entire 60 seconds. Then on one of many family trips to Boston when I was in elementary and middle schools, which included visits to the USS Constitution, I saw a replica longboat sailing in the harbor. From that day on, I knew I could not die happy without sailing on a Viking longboat. Needless to say, I had to return to the Viking ship museum.

The boat I would soon be riding in, the Bjørnefjord.

So it was on Saturday the 11th of May, 2013, my last Saturday in Denmark, I struck out to Roskilde for a third time to fulfill my childhood dream of sailing on a Viking longboat. I was the proud holder of an eclectic mix of clip cards that together would pay for my train ticket to and back to Roskilde, and I caught an early train so that I could be first in line to sign up! To be honest though, my spirits were quite a bit lower than you might think. I was still getting over a pretty bad stomach bug, which I think was due to insufficiently cooked pork. It’s a shame, because I used it in this penne allaluganica sauce that was out of this world, and I had leftovers at home that I had no desire to eat! Anyway, the point is that my stomach was still a little unsettled, and I wasn’t sure how the boat ride would affect it. As it was, rain was forecasted on Sunday and this was my last chance to be a Viking! So I tried to relax on my 25 minute train to Roskilde.

By this time I was intimately familiar with the layout of the city, so I got to the museum with no problem by about 10:15am and purchased a ticket for the 12:00 trip. Since I had my Danish test that Monday, I expected to do some studying….but there were demonstrations going on in the dockyard! There was a blacksmith making nails, more boats were rigged than before, and the main workshop was open. Studying was immediately forgotten. Probably the coolest part was when I got to talk to one worker on the Sea Stallion, the replica of the largest longboat warship Skuldelev 2. I asked him my favorite question, which is: “How did you end up working here?” After some nice chit chat, and me asking jokingly if they hire Americans, he gave me his business card! If I were to apply and get selected for the sole (and competitive) years long apprenticeship, I could become a Viking ship builder! Never say never.

Our ragtag crew, you can see Scottish dad and nationality unidentified man in the stern. My man Tim is looking pretty while playing with the sails.

Anyway, at 12 we were rounded up, briefed, and equipped with our super cool, only-inflate-when-you-fall-in life jackets by my boys Tim and Jannes, and hopped into our boat, the Bjørnefjord! We had a ragtag crew of 9 people, one couple in their 30’s that I think was Swedish or Norwegian, a Scottish family of 5, a 40 something woman and her mother, and yours truly, plus skippers Tim and Jannes. I was positioned in the bow, while Scottish dad and ?Swedish? man took up the stroke seats, and we struck out for open water! While our timing would have given my high school crew coach a heart attack, we made it into the bay alive, got the sail up, and were under way!

A kayaker came to visit! Kayak’s are closely tied to Danish history through their influence in Greenland! Scottish girl is looking at something over the side, the water is very shallow and you can see the bottom.

We then settled in for our leisurely 50 minute tour with Scottish Dad at the rudder while Tim handled the sails, and we were given the opportunity to ask questions about Viking ships. As often happens in these situations, most of the people were pretty quiet, so I took the lead.

How do you steer when the sail is blocking your view?

You get directions from a guy in the front.

Too easy, how about this one- what is the fastest point of sail?

In our boat, it’s with the wind a quarter astern.

Okay, okay, now….which is the fastest boat in the museum harbor?

That depends on sea and wind conditions, but ours is actually a contender, since it is small enough that its hull doesn’t limit its speed. Bjørnefjord can reach up to 14 knots in strong winds.

I moved up to the bow to take this picture. Scottish boy in green pants clearly wasn’t thrilled by my questions. Maybe he would have been more interested if he knew what Tim and Jannes were having for lunch?

Excellent, they knew their stuff. I should also mention that the entire trip was conducted in English, much to our benefit, although Tim and Jannes did converse in Danish about what they said were “sailing tactics.” Well, I understand a bit of Danish, and while they may have been talking boats most of the time, I know the words for “lunch break” and “hotdog” when I hear it. In their position, though, I would be thinking about the same thing.

Skuldelev 4, hidden in plain sight for all the world to never see. I’m waiting for the Dan Brown novel to come out any day now.

 

 

We arrived back safe and sound, and I even got to take down the sail and row us in. As we took off our James Bond life vests and picked up our things, I remembered one more question- What in Thor’s name happened to Skuldelev 4? It turns out that when the ships were first excavated from the bottom of Roskildefjord, Skuldelev 2 (the largest Viking warship) was so big and had so little left (~25%) that they thought it was two ships! Only later was it discovered that it was in fact just the one massive longboat. Adios, skuldelev 4.

Well, after a successful day on the high seas, my stomach was completely settled and I had fulfilled one of my life long dreams! How better to celebrate than with to scoops of licorice ice cream in a waffle cone to enjoy on my walk back to the train station? I even asked for it in Danish. Fortunately, I didn’t need to be a super-ultra-turbo-viking-warrior to enjoy it.

My Viking Ice Cream. 30 kroner of sweet lakrids goodness.

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Anemone (the flower kind)

As requested, some pictures of anemone. Unforunately, it is really hard to photograph how it looks in person (or at least it was hard for me, I should have tried my HDR art setting), so the pictures of the forest don’t really look all that different, even though in person they are stunning.

You can’t really see them, little white flowers kind of just blend in with the dirt, but towards the back right of the forest floor in the shade they show up a bit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How they look up close, this was on the cliffside leading down to the beaches of Møn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue anemone. Lene tells me these are only found on Møn and Lolland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, that’s what I have in terms of anemone, I’ll try to get a picture of the beech trees blooming to show the other sign of spring.

 

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Sommerhuset

In Denmark, a sommerhus (summer house, if you couldn’t figure that one out) is the thing to have. It’s a lot of like having a camp in the United States. The idea is that you live there in the summertime instead of your normal residence or relax there on the weekends, work permitting. The big difference that comes to my mind is that there are actually laws prohibiting people form living there year round, unless the owner has been a pensionist for at least 7 years. I don’t quite understand the reasoning for this, but after experiencing a nuclear winter in Denmark, I can’t imagine there much of a draw to live in a home heated by a wood stove while your crib gets turned into an igloo.

I am very fortunate and excited to be able to say that Lene and Peter are the proud owners of a sommerhus. And, Lene and I scheduled a long weekend for me to come up and work on a project she has been planning- a new terrace! So last Thursday morning Lene picked me up at my apartment and took a roundabout route to the Sommerhus, via Møns Klint!

Møn is an island South of Sjealland, which is famous for the chalk cliffs on its eastern coast. Think the White Cliffs of Dover only a little smaller and more exclusive because they’re Danish.

Fun story about the White Cliffs of Dover (twcod). In 7th grade, my teacher Mr. Shippee said to our social studies class, “So class, there are these white cliffs in England located in Dover that face the English Channel. Does anyone know their name?” My response: “The White cliffs of Dover?” with appropriate sarcasm. Shippee: “Correct.” Shippee was also my soccer coach, and we got along great(ly, I include the proper adverb for my English major mother’s sake, since she is one of about 3 people that read this, but we can all agree nobody actually says “greatly”). Meanwhile, back in Denmark….

Me at Møn.

Møns Klint. The trip to these cliffs involve crossing a bridge between Sjealland and Møn, driving through a seaside village, and down a winding bumpy dirt road that ends at the cliffs, complete with a museum. First we walked down 497 steps to the beach where we could see the cliffs. In a word, there were AWESOME. If you have ever been to Chimney Bluffs by Fairhaven beach on the coast of Lake Ontario, they look a lot like that only a little taller and entirely white chalk instead of sand. Consequently there are an assortment of messages written on the stairs and rocks by the sea where people have chalked various declarations of love, personal hash tags, and scribbles. The white background by the sea \ makes you feel like you are in the middle of some kind of cinematic dream sequence, only to be brought back to reality as you walk back up the 497 steps.

Then there’s the museum. After 4 months of reading about dead people and expensive knick knacks, it takes a lot to hold my attention, but this managed to do just that. The place was super interactive, rocks to touch, ropes to pull, dinosaurs sticking out at you, and videos in English. And there was a climbing wall. There was a room set up as an indoor bouldering facility where you climb through the different eras of Earth geologic history. I didn’t learn a single thing about geology, but I was brought to the rude awakening that while my power has improved climbing at NKK, my endurance is sorely lacking. On the whole, it was impressive to see a museum that could potentially appeal to children as well as adults. If museums are going to stay viable, they need to modernize and become more interactive, and this one showed the way to do it.

We then continued on our way back to Sjealland towards the Sommehus. Our trip included a stop at Gavnø, a castle owned by a Danish baron, and gorgeous views of anemone. These are flowers that are extremely important in the DK (not referring to Donkey Kong). The come up for about three weeks in April covering the forest floor and signal the start of spring in Denmark. After a winter at 56˚40’ North, everyone gets very excited to see these. It really is stunning; the white flowers cover the forest floor and look almost like snow. I honestly thought I was looking at something out of a fairytale.

At some point we actually made it to the Sommerhus, and I was excited, but tired after a full day of sightseeing. Lene and I had a fluffy omelet with bacon and spring onions, lamb frikadeller, some chicken with sesame, AND varm retter, the traditional rolls served on the “praying day” in Danmark with jam and cheese, before we settled in front of the TV to watch Shanghai Noon.

Day 1.

The next morning, I took a run around a nearby lake and along the North Sea before we started our task: digging a base for the terrace. The area was about 3 meters by 6 meters, and maybe 40 cm deep. That means that we had about 7.2 cubic meters of mud to dig out. Fortunately, I have a strange fascination with manual labor. Call me crazy, but I really look forward to long, repetitive, exhausting outdoor tasks, and I got my full here. Four hours of digging and a new wheelbarrow later we were maybe halfway done. We also discovered that at 40cm down on this plot of land you reach the water table, so we were halfway to creating a 9m2 watering hole. We wisely called a break and had a lunch of homemade smorrebrød before we borrowed the neighbor Søren’s bicycle and headed down to the harbor for some ice cream!

I rode a beautiful BSA model from England that was this Søren’s father’s bike, meaning that it was easily 4 or 5 times as old as I was. Nevertheless, she still road like a dream. It fit me so that I could sit almost perfectly upright, and it’s single gear was adjusted to just the right difficulty for casual touring. It even handles the off road trails we took! I never would have thought a road bike cruiser from the dawn of time could handle trails, but this bike did admirably. Later that evening Lene and I enjoyed what was my first steak dinner in four months, and after watching some of the James Bond film Never Say Never Again we hit the sack before another day of work.

Day 2.

Saturday morning I got up and copied our route from the previous day (I had followed Lene and didn’t know exactly where else to go), before coming back and getting breakfast. Then, digging round 2 began. It took all morning, and things started looked bleak and I looked terribly muddy, but by 12:30 the digging was complete. Thank God! I was so tired and excited to be done I announced: “It’s time for a beer!” (a phrase I never thought I would hear myself say). After another hearty lunch we relaxed a bit and began filling the hole with gravel, before we visited a friend (and blog reader!) Stin, for a beautiful walk along the beach.

Day 3! Not entirely done, but far enough along for Lena to put in the stones.

Sunday morning on my last day at the sommerhus, I was believe it or not, too tired to go for a run. Instead, I went for a nice bike tour to see a rock standing in town, that marks a location where Harold Bluetooth and various Vikings back in the day met to do their Viking doings. After I came back, Lene and I set to work filling in our hole with gravel and sand, and by noon we had all of the gravel in and wheelbarrow’s worth of sand to see how things would come together. Not bad for three day’s work by two people if you ask me! And it was far enough along that Lene could start adding in sand and stones at a leisurely and careful pace.

To finish the day, we cleaned ourselves up and headed down to the harbor for lunch and, most importantly, more ice cream! In Denmark ice cream stands offer the option of putting whipped cream and jam (flødeskum and syltetøj) on top. If you are really ambitious (which I was) you can even get a flødeboller on top as well, a kind of chocolate covered fluff-marshmallow treat. After finishing our treat I borded a ferry to take me back to København, while waving to my aunt as the boat carried me across the water.

Sunset on the North Sea.

I had an amazing weekend, and while I am always excited to get back to friends in Copenhagen I was very sad to leave the sommerhus. As far as I am concerned, the place is paradise. The North Sea was minutes away, I had numerous beach and forest trails to run through, there was rewarding work to keep me occupied, and Lene made sure we were very well fed. Plus Downton Abbey was on Saturday night! What more can a college student ask for? I imagine that working on that terrace made me feel much the way a stereotypical farmer does about his farm. I felt accountable and invested in the place, and even now I can see even more potential in the place. I had an awesome visit for these few days, and I can’t wait for the opportunity to come back, hopefully with another project to contribute to.

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Playing Tour Guide

Typically study abroad students in Europe are known for traveling to the four corners of the continent and sharing stories about their many adventures. Four months into semester here and that is certainly the case. I have driven around the frozen tundra of Norway and Sweden with three of the more ridiculous Americans East of the Atlantic, played tourist throughout Belalux, visited two close friends in England, spent a weekend in Hamburg at Peter’s, and been shown around the better part of Sjealand (the island containing Copenhagen) by Lene! And I’m not done yet. But there is another aspect of studying abroad that I have also come to really enjoy: showing people visiting me around Copenhagen.

When I was first planning to study one of the study abroad counselors gave me the wise advice to have your parents visit you after settling in for a few months rather than helping you move in at the start. Figuring things out on your own (in my case, with some help from the world’s best aunt) gives the opportunity to meet people early on. It’s not all that different form Orientation freshman year. You really can’t make friends or get comfortable on your own until you say good bye to your parents and start hanging out with other students. Besides, when you first get to a foreign city everything is new, and a little confusing. Chances are that going around with your parents just adds more jet lagged, confused people to the mix. If the come a few months into your stay,  you can actually show them around!

I got the opportunity to do this a few weeks ago when my parents and sister, 8 year old Kelly, visited me. They flew in on the same day with the same flight plan I did when I first came, and I met them at the airport with Lene, Judy and Peter. I was excited! I had only spoken to them on Skype over the past three months, and my mother and sister had never been outside of the US and Canada. Miraculously, I convinced my family to just pack using carry-on bags, saving time and making travel easier! The first day, they were pretty exhausted. Our site seeing consisted of visiting the Assistens Cemetary, a graveyard near Lene’s apartment home to Little Mermaid author Hans Chrsitian Anderson, philosopher Søren Kirkegard, and my boy Niels Bohr. It also included getting my sister caught in a revolving door in a grocery store. Kelly survived the day, although she and my mom had a hard time with our Danish lunch. It included rugbrød (she only eats white bread at home), and leverpostej (liver paté), which to be fair tastes like a canned dog food, although I am starting to like it more and more.

ISBJORNE. Coolest animal at the zoo, synes jeg (in my opinion).

Things picked up the next day, where we saw the Carlsberg Brewery horses and the Elephant Gates. We then walked through Søndremarken, the park near my house, and went to the Zoo. I had been waiting until the family contingent was present to go, because at 150 kroner (~$30) a head, it’s a pricey zoo. Over the next few days we made it to the changing of the guard at the queen’s palace at Amalienborg, the Little Mermaid, Nyhavn, and the city center. My favorite part about the city center, in addition to pedestrian streets and the Lego shop, is the Round Tower, an old observatory that at 25 kroner a head is one of the city’s cheapest sights. You walk up a winding ramp to the top, just high enough to see over the low rise city.

Changing of the guard at Amalienborg. My mother really enjoyed this, before we began our death march..

Now, there are a few tidbits in my family that I needed to consider to be the ideal tour guide. The first is my sister. As an 8 year old who loves video games, the history and beauty of Copenhagen just doesn’t hold the interest it does for others. I tried to keep in interesting by doing things for her like the zoo and Carlsberg horses. The other is that my parents aren’t able to walk as fast or as far as I am (especially with jetlag), and I made the mistake of getting a little too ambitious on our day at Amalienborg. Fortunately they found that making ample playground breaks for Kelly also doubled as excellent rest stops for them, which made everything a lot better. It also just so happens that when we go places my parents tend to run into any variety of interesting people. At Carlsberg, we met a former brewery worker who gave us the inside scoop on the meaning behind the Carlsberg elephants, while on the Round Tower they made friends with a German/Danish family. And this was all done in a country known for being reserved! That’s how we roll, I suppose.

 <– Chazz at the entrance to Christiania

The fam flew out of Hamburg, so we all had the opportunity to visit Peter before they left, so I got to see a few new things, too. There were a lot of highlights, including a tour on the Cap San Diego, a museum tanker ship similar to kinds Peter used to sail on, so he gave me a private tour! Also, family visiting marks an excellent opportunity to eat out, which you don’t do often as a study abroad student, and little trips to dessert locations served as opportunities to keep my sister’s blood sugar appropriately off the charts. Lene took us to a great ice cream parlour that had some of the best vanilla ice cream I’ve ever tasted, even if it was about 40 degrees F outside.

My sister Kelly and I at Nyhavn. In addition to being an excellent partner in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, at 8 years old she is already excelling at taking goofy selfies. I expect great things in the years to come.

Really great vanilla ice cream presented beautifully. My Mom seems to be enjoying watching my sister enter a sugar coma. After my parents and sister left Lene, Judy, Peter and I came back the next day!

Because we could. Jeff also had some impressive viking garb.

My entrance into Legoland, complete with a Lego pirate sword! One of my favorite Christmas memories from middle school includes building the LEGO pirate ship over the course of a couple days.

After my parents went home, I had the opportunity to play tourist for a couple dates with Jeff (check out his blog on food!). Our goal: Legoland. On the way we stopped at Roskilde and went to their Viking Ship Museum, made after five Viking ships were excavated from the bottom of Roskildefjord (yes, Denmark has fjords, although not like Norway). BEST MUSEUM EVER. The have boats, they have Vikings, and they have people who work on boats made by Vikings. And you can go in the Viking boats, LIKE VIKINGS. That’s why I’ve been there twice. Anyway, we made it to Vejle, a small city about 40 minutes from Legoland home to our hostel, and where Lene and Peter grew up! Awesome. Jeff and I made the most of our stay by making dinner with 65 kroner worth of groceries and food we found in the hostel kitchen, and had a great evening stroll through the hills. After an awesome 5 hours at Legoland, complete with losing a fire truck game to a bunch of five year olds (twice), it was time to play tour guide again!

When I was in London there were a group of girls at my hostel who I got to talking with each night. After we parted ways, we started talking about travel plans, and it turned out one of them, Jess, wanted to visit Copenhagen! Since one of my roommates was away, I had a free room. So she stayed at my place and we started a weekend of sightseeing! Jess, as one can guess from an athletic college students, is capable moving a bit faster than my parents and sister, and did about as much sightseeing as they did in a week in the span of 4 days.

Jess and me on the canal boat!

We made it up the Round Tower, checked out the glass markets (Torvehallen in Danish, or something like that), saw Amager Strand (beach in English) with a view of the North Sea, and hung out by one of the city’s lakes while enjoying some kind of wienerbrød. One of our more exciting outings included a boat tour of Copenhagen harbor directed by my architecture class. We had our own boat narrated by one of our professors, specifically tailored about architecture. Not bad! And, we got to check out the one, the only, Tivoli! One of Europe’s oldest amusement parks, and a ton of fun!

Having visitors is also a great time to do things you’ve wanted to do, but haven’t had the chance- enter Tivoli, Denmark’s most famous and one of Europe’s oldest, amusement parks. I really liked the look of the pirate ship restaurant (I have a boat thing).

People visiting you is just as much a part of studying abroad as traveling around, in my opinion. It gave me a chance to reflect a bit on my current home in Copenhagen, and allowed me to see it for the first time again through my guests’ eyes. And after a few months getting lost, experiencing culture shock, and generally being confused, it is a very empowering feeling to be able to guide a friend through Copenhagen’s bike lanes. The tricks I have learned for a successful visitor are to know your audience, make sure everyone is well fed, and be willing to take opportunities that present themselves, be it talkative locals, course outings, or a visitor willing to buy you wienerbrød.

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Reuknighted

Robbie and me in front of the greatest tourist attraction since the USS Constitution (to clarify, the boat not the paper).

And finally came that fateful day,

when I flew over to the good old UK;

what a journey it was to become.

After seeing the Thames and Big Ben,

I hung out with some of my very best friends;

I will admit that I did cry some.

Should the opportunity present,

I’ll return if it takes each dollar and cent;

it will quite certainly be awesome.

– my England poem

 

Spring Break Baby!!! Or rather, Easter break as it is referred to here. This means different things depending on who you are and where you come from. As a general reference, please see my guide below.

What KU students do for their Easter Break.

Now, is this being stereotypical? Am I making assumptions? In short, no. I have met two people out of all the Aussies and Americans (of which there are a lot) who didn’t go anywhere for Easter break. One of those two was part of an intensive course that included a 3 ½ week study in Borneo just before the break, and needed to test samples and write data that would actually affect the people living there. This guy needed some time to work, relax, and recuperate.

Anyway, back to the reuknighting. Being an American exchange student without class on Friday my break started early on Thursday evening. Where does one go during a nuclear winter in Euorpe (as of April 14th I am still wearing my winter coat)? Somewhere warm in the south perhaps? Italy, Spain? Nope. I had one destination in mind: London. What did London have aside from snow on the ground, sub-zero (Celsius) temperatures in late March, and sandwiches for less than three euros? One of my closest friends in the world, a native Englander, Robbie, and his fiancé Ali.

Monkeys in the Trees hostel- and pub!

While putting in time as a resident advisor at Cornell, Robbie helped make me the man (oversized boy?) I am today. After nearly a year separated by the Atlantic Ocean I was ecstatic to see him once again. In classic study abroad timing, I got to my hostel 5 minutes before midnight on Thursday when reception closed. I was so excited, I had to slow down to appreciate the décor- I was staying in an English Pub! Classic. After taking a free tour the next morning(highly recommended) and making a brief call from a London phone booth, I met up with both of my friends!

And so began a fantastic week of England, Eats, and Excellent Entertainment. How do you sum up a weeklong visit? In short, you don’t, but I am going to try anyway. After catching up on Friday afternoon, Robbie and I ventured to Portsmouth the next morning. You may not have known this, but I am a HUGE nerd when it comes to British naval history. Not only have I read all of the Horatio Hornblower books, seen the miniseries staring Ioan Gruffudd (Mr. Fantastic) and the 1951 Gregory Peck movie countless times, but I have read Patrick O’brien’s (author of the books that inspired the movie Master and Commander) book on English naval history. There was a time when I could identify on site any naval ship from the 17th to 19th century and name all of her sails. So where does Portsmouth come in? In addition to being the historic home of Britain’s navy, it is home of the one, the only, the HMS Victory, Lord Horatio Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar, 104 guns riding on three decks of English oak. When I saw it I literally cried, which Robbie can attest to, although the wind was blowing in my eyes and the cold made the air very dry.

Our awesome Aussie tour guide!

Now I need to take a chance to commend Robbie. He waited by himself for an hour to allow me all the time I wanted to walk around this ship, quiz the staff, and generally stare in awe at what is one of the most impressive wooden ships in the world. I also am excited to say that thanks to his recommendations we discovered many other exciting things in the historic docks there, most impressive of which was a submarine museum where we received a tour from a former sailor on the sub! IT WAS AWESOME.

How can a trip possibly go up from here? Well, it did, and here’s how:

To start, that night we came home to a delicious warm meal cooked by Ali. I then followed it up with a Palm Sunday service at Westminster Abbey (free), seeing the Tower of London (free with Ali’s yearlong pass), and going to an American style Diner in London (my host’s treat!).

Westminster Abbey. I got there 45 minutes early for the service and the line was almost around the corner (this wasn’t the line).

The nice thing about the Palm Sunday service was that the priests knew that almost all the people there were tourists, and after several centuries they have learned how to work a crowd! The service began with a walk around the abbey, symbolizing something in religious history that was lost on me as I looked at the church, while singing hymns. Now, one can walk, and probably talk. But walking, admiring the abbey, and reading a song from a printed handout is really too much for most tourists, even if they can boast an incomplete Ivy League education. So, as I walked behind the altar before sitting down I met two boisterous, British church officials chanting “more singing. MooOORE SINGING!” It didn’t necessarily improve my ability to multitask, but I did get a good laugh.

Tower Bridge, the Tower of London is to the left in the background.

Then the next day Ali and Robbie got me the classic British Easter present- a giant chocolate egg! After having homemade Pizzas we gorged ourselves on chocolate while we watched Back to the Future! I am ashamed to say I have never seen it before, but proud to say that Robbie and Ali were the ones who introduced me to it.

One of the least exciting pictures at one of the most exciting spots: the “Isis” one of the most famous rivers in rowing.

Tuesday I ventured to Oxford! My friend from Cornell who studies there was visiting home for the holidays(shout out to AD!), but I had to see it regardless and had a great time. It was sort of like Cornell times about a thousand, with more rowing facilities. As a former competitive rower and continuing recreational rower, Cornell should really look into intramural rowing the way it is offered at Harvard and Oxford, it would be a huge benefit to student life and a positive marketing scheme for admissions. But, I’m getting off track and this is a summary, so here is my brief Oxford guide: the free walking tour is a must, but skip the Oxford Castle Unlocked experience (although do still see the castle and climb up the old mound outside). If you are a rower, make sure to find the rowing facilities. And Curses! I left England three days before the Oxford Cambridge race on the Thames! I’ll just have to come again.

Greenwich baby!

On my last day, Robbie took me to Greenwich in London where the old naval college is located in order to completely max out my naval nerdiness. I then saw King’s Cross Station and St. Pancras, where they filmed King’s Cross scenes in the Harry Potter movies, and even caught a glimpse of the Olympic Park. Finish it off with the best burger I have had since leaving America at Byron’s with Robbie and Ali, it was a great finish to the day.

And then I peed myself…

…right before I got this photo! I didn’t actually pee myself, that was what Cornell’s writing seminar instructors would call poorly executed “hyperbole.”

Whew! It was really a perfect trip. On one hand, I was visiting a country I had wanted to go to for my entire life. At the same time, I was visiting two very close friends who are very possibly the best hosts in the world. I even made time in the mornings to do some cross-fit and run through Hyde Park. And believe it or not, I made some friends with some a group of girls staying at my hostel who were from America studying abroad in Scotland, and one of them is now planning to visit me in Copenhagen! Talk about Crazy. Crazy awesome, that is.

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That time I moved a couch across Copenhagen….

What unites a Scotsman, Aussie, Upsate New Yorker, and Chilean? A fellowship with a common goal: moving furniture.

It was a sunny albeit cold March day in Copenhagen when I visited the opening of Mikkeler and Friends, a new bar selling microbrews in Nørrebro. Lured by promises of 1000 liters of free beer, I found myself quietly enjoying a quality drink with a group of friends I unexpectedly ran into. Between the bright (if a bit nippy) weather and the quality brew, I offered to help move a couch for a few acquaintances.  To be honest, it sounded like a good bit of fun. If only I know then what I had gotten myself into….

In order to experience this post to the fullest, please listen to the following track:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrxLomHSp_4  (start at 1:00)

This was a COUCH. Three full-sized bright red cushions capable of fitting four grown men , complete with pillows and box spring support. And at 200 kroner (~$40), this was the deal of a century. When it costs 300 kroner to have it moved, it makes sense to do it yourself. But, as poor college students living in nation with a 150% tax on cars (no exaggeration), this means more than loading the thing into a truck and driving a few blocks. From the cozy apartment in Fredericksberg near the LIFE campus, we had to walk this puppy 3.2 kilometers over solid Copenhagen concrete. We had early success; since Nick only had 170 kroner on him, the seller happily accepted 30 kroner less than the selling price to be rid of the sofa. With lifted hearts and no time to lose, we began our trek.

The first hurdle were the trapper, stairs. With enough college credits to complete two bachelor’s degrees between the four of us (1 ½ BS and ½ a BA), we managed to turn, flip and throw the precious cargo down three flights of steps. Then the real work began.

We started with two men on the couch and two resting, carrying the beast down the side walk. This quickly proved exhausting as our forearms burned and fingers failed. One of the four of us suggested removing the cushions, which carried us another 800 meters without a long break. It turns out quality cushions weigh a lot! After making some solid headway, sprinting across crosswalks, and dodging bicyclists, we were tired, and not even halfway done!

When disaster strikes, relax and rehydrate.

I saw then in my comrades’ eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of poor international students fails. When we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship. But it was not this day. An hour of sweat and endurance when the ache of a sofa came crashing down. That day, we persevered! And what do you do when you reach the exhaustion point when moving a couch? Set her down and pop a squat.  Not only does this become the most comfortable seat on Copenhagen’s sidewalks, but throw in some beverage and you have a party.

After a nice rest, we picked up our cargo and reached our final test: the bridge on Enghavevej. In Copenhagen, a bridge means something else as well: a hill. It was at this point that true ingenuity struck. Rather than going two at a time with breaks, each of us took a corner and hoisted the couch up on our shoulders like a crew team. In no time at all we had topped the hill and reached our destination: one of Copenhagen’s kollegiums located in a social housing neighborhood, next to a cemetery and the city prison.

Home in one piece, safe and sound. When we set out to move a couch, we do it right.

To say the least, moving this sofa was an experience. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. Three new friends who owe me a favor are definitely worth an hour and a half out of my afternoon.  I nearly pulled a muscle in my forearm in the process, but that just adds to the fun. I even gained some cultural insight about the Danes. Throughout the entire 3.2 kilometer trip, we had one person actually say something to us directly. In fact, the most exciting moment due to a passerby was a little boy who walked under the couch. Had we been in Boston, Chicago or Philly, people would have been calling out and laughing the entire way. Here, aside from a few muffled chuckles, people didn’t say anything. Maybe this happens from time to time, but I haven’t seen four strapping students moving a couch down the street at any other time during my stay.

This was a project requiring daring. It was an adventure. And I now know the most efficient way to move a full sized sofa across a foreign city. If bioengineering doesn’t work out, remember me the next time you need a moving man.

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Kenny Klatrer i København (Kenny Climbs in Copenhagen)

Staged shot and showin’ some leg, but still fun. Thanks to Dylan for the pic.

Almost a year ago I set into course a series of events that had implications unexpected and unknown on my future. I had been attending an alpine skiing PE class at Cornell (Greek Peak shout out), and didn’t know what I was going to do with my Saturdays once the class was over. So, more or less on a whim, I signed up for basic rock climbing through Cornell Outdoor Education (COE)!

I didn’t know what to expect, but to make a long story short I loved the class, loved climbing, and loved the idea of continuing with it. I signed up to be an instructor, and the next fall, I was taking performance rock climbing and teaching b-rock! As my departure date for Copenhagen loomed, one of my first priorities among getting an up to date passport, applying for a visa, and planning out finances was to find a place to climb in Denmark’s capital.

When I mentioned my search to one of COE’s many outstanding instructors, referred to here as “Geoff German,” I was given a sobering but accurate reply: Denmark isn’t known for its topography. And he wasn’t kidding, re my post on The Hill of Valby. Fortunately nearby Sweden, while perhaps best known for sugary fish which I haven’t actually seen sold there, is in fact distinguished by its topography. And if the Danes want to take advantage of Sweden’s outdoor climbing scene just one ocean-spanning bridge away, they need places to train. So began my search for a climbing gym.

It wasn’t too difficult, really. A quick Google search found a list of Copenhagen climbing sites, and a look on Google maps narrowed it down to two main places in Copenhagen: the University Sports Group (USG), CPH Boulders, and Norrebro Klatre Klub.

I was initially drawn to the USG courses, since I first started climbing through COE. While a wide variety of courses are offered at a spectrum of levels, with classes on bouldering, top-roping and even route-setting, most of the courses are at very inconvenient times in the evening when I either have class or am in a state of semi-starvation while finishing dinner preparations. They do have very cool climbing trips planned to Sweden and Norway to pull down on some real rocks, but my schedule is booked with traveling. And there are very limited times when you can just come in and use the wall for fun, something like three times a week for an hour and a half period (when the place is about 40 minutes away from my house). Coming from COE with an open wall for at least 4 hours every day of the week, this wasn’t going to cut it.

CPH boulders is a very nice bouldering club with over 1000m2 of climbing surface. It is a for profit business, so they have professionals making new routes weekly and it really is a great atmosphere. But while it gets my climbing senses tingling it also makes your pocket stop jingling, costing 1000’s of kroner for long term use, even as a student!

Enter NKK, an nonprofit club in Norrebro, a very cultural neighborhood in Copenhagen where many immigrants and young people have settled (rent is cheapest here). The result is a really eclectic atmosphere, the city’s best and cheapest shwarma restaurants, and Norrebrohallen, the sports hall which houses Norrebro Klatre Klub.

NKK is a club with a more than 300m2 of bouldering, a separate traverse wall, an indoor top roping wall, and an outdoor 14m2 climbing arch in a nearby park. And as a nonprofit goup, a student membership is just 790 kroner for a year, about $150. I might not be here for a full year but hey, who cares? It is about a 20-25 minute bike from my place, so closer than USG, and open from 6am to 11pm. The decision was practically made for me, and I have been going about 3x a week since I got here.

View from the top, behind me is a sitting area with couches, a fridge, and some warm up mats. I used the HDR art setting on my camera to get some psychadelic colors here. You can also see climbers doing what they do best: resting.

I tend to use their bouldering hall, as do most of the people in the club. I don’t own top roping equipment for the indoor wall, and as of today, March 20th, there are 2-3 inches of snow on the ground with more coming down, making the outdoor arch exciting but impractical. Almost all of my climbing experience has come from Cornell, and this bouldering facility is very different from Lindseth (Cornell’s climbing wall), and a much different bouldering experience from the K2 bouldering wall in Noyes (a gym/student center on Cornell’s West Campus). For those of you not familiar, Lindseth is a cinderblock wall with real rocks cemented into it for climbing, while Noyes is some kind of molded carbon surface with traditional climbing hand holds. NKK is probably more common for a climbing facility, made of wooden walls with holds screwed in. But while Cornell’s walls are more unique, NKK’s are more strenuous.

The roof/cave/spidermanarea. Behind is a me is another section of wall, including one vertical and one slab section. The girl you see climbing here was really good.

The walls overhang at varying degrees, with only a couple sections that are sloped like a slab and only one that is vertical. One section even has a roof that is about 15 or 20 feet long that before turning up to finish 4.5 meters above them mats. The result is a wall that emphasizes upper body strength and big moves to make the routes challenging over a short distance (even for bouldering), not to mention that smearing is out of the question on the wooden walls! Since Lindseth is vertical except on the slab and small roof, a lot of emphasis is put into making routes relying on balance and technique, which helps teach climbing skills as well. And because the wall is so large, you can have 28 foot top roping routes, or bouldering problems spanning huge portions of the wall. At NKK, to make a route long it either goes in circles on the wall, or snakes along the afore mentioned roof before turning the lip and changing directions vertically! It has been really exciting for me to try a different climbing style, with lots of dynamic swings  and last ditch grabs you don’t get as often back home. I am a little nervous though, because while I have been getting stronger on these overhangs, I have to make a much more concerted effort to address footwork and balance. Plus, I haven’t seen a crack in months!

The climbing arch in BaNanna Park, a few blocks away. I feel like this picture makes it look smaller than it really is, so look at the building to the left. This arch is four and a half stories high. Imagine stacking two two story homes on top of each other, and that is how big this thing is. Even if it never gets warm enough to climb, it’s still really cool. There are actually climbing walls all over the city, some fenced off for private use, but others are just in public parks in the open with bolts to climb. Plus, it’s really common for playgrounds to have climbing holds for kids. For a place without many rocks, it seems like the Danes really like to climb!

Another positive about NKK is that people tend to be more open here than in most of the country. Scandinavians tend to be very reserved, and on the subway or in public strangers don’t approach you the way they might at home. For example, you will almost never meet a Dane in the subway who will say “Hey, I love your bag/shoes/bike/Gameboy/etc. where did you get it? Climbing seems to wet people’s extroverted whistle though; I have actually had people offer occasional pieces of advice, or ask me questions. This is how I learned that climbing lingo here is the same. Words like crimp, sloper, snake, jug, etc. don’t get translated into Danish; they just use the same words as in the States! Maybe this is the same in other countries as well, but it was certainly a nice surprise for me. And since the club is non-profit, occasionally there are wall reset parties events where people come to take down and clean the holds (there is a Danish word for hold, græb) before setting new routes. Not only are these fun, but they make you feel invested in the club and are a great way to meet people.

On the whole, climbing has been an awesome experience here in Copenhagen, and I can recommend the city to any of Cornell’s climbers. I couldn’t be happier that I started climbing at Cornell last year; it’s a ton of fun and has been a great way to spend time and meet people in Copenhagen!

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Student Housing- My Humble Abode

Artwork politely provided on the side of our building, free of charge.

 

Home sweet home, complete with roof access!

My study abroad advisor has brought it to my attention that the University feels it beneficial for abroad bloggers  to post pictures of their apartments, and bedrooms in particular, in order to give potential study abroad students an idea of what to expect from their living accommodations. It just so happens that I have been meaning to do just this, but have not. LIFE, the Life Sciences faculty at KU which Cornell CALS abroad enrolls through, organizes housing for all of its international students for their first year in Copenhagen (many EU students do their entire studies or masters studies here, as opposed to a semester or year). You can put you preference down on your application between a shared apartment, a kollegium which is a kind of Danish dorm, or a family stay, and you are then given an option you can accept or decline, in which case you are then left on your own to find housing in a city with a huge housing shortage. I preferenced a shared apartment since I have only ever lived at home or in a dorm since I am an RA at Cornell, and I thought living in an apartment would be a new experience. That is what I was offered, and I took it! So, without further ado, here is a virtual tour of the best, if not the most typical, accommodation you can hope for in Copenhagen.

 

Our hallway. Long, narrow and cluttered. Not much to say here, although I like having the carpet so that water doesn’t collect form snow stuck to my shoes. Speaking of which, today it snowed, all day. Normally I am a fan of snow and don’t mind it, but Danish culture is getting to me and while I am here I feel justified to complain about it. I was really enjoying it being sunny and above freezing. I even biked to the beech last week!

The kitchen. This is where the magic happens, folks. I have gotten more culinary inspiration since moving here than I can think I have ever had! Living with a German and a Portuguese roommate (Elisa from Spain finished her term, so I am proud to present Inés!), and all the other students I meet, I am seeing all new kinds of food that I haven’t had before, or haven’t thought to try cooking. In particular, I have been learning a lot about Portuguese food thanks to Inés, and our neighbor André who lives downstairs. Examples include: fried and battered parsnips, tuna spaghetti thing, and some pretty good sauces. Enjoy picks of my creations below.

The Porkonator. After Amsterdam where I bought a club sandwich I though, “I can do better.” This is Danish ingredients with American style- rugbrod with pork patties and thick, hand sliced bacon. Topped with cheese, tomatoes, onion and spinach. More of a burger, but hey, it was epic. The side of carrots makes it healthy.

My room. 16 square meters of pure bachelor pad fun. I have the largest room in our apartment, which means that we hang up our clothes on the drying rack in my room. I don’t mind, although living with two girls, it is a little weird sometimes….although there are certain articles of clothing that I haven’t seen hung up in here yet. I wonder why.

Complete with separate shower and a mirror I can take of the wall when I cut my hair. That’s right folks, I cut my own hair (as in I do so semi-regularly, not just this once). Saved me about 200 kroner.

The bathroom. WARNING: This is the nicest bathroom you can hope for in Copenhagen. If you are thinking of studying abroad through CALS, and get housing through LIFE, I hope you get one of the four apartments in my building. Most bathrooms in Denmark have the shower in the same space as the toilet without a shower curtain or separate stall. You literally have a square floor with a toilet, next to a sink, next to a shower head. The showerhead sprays onto the floor, where there is a drain. I am very fortunate to have a separate stall for my shower, complete with a curtain.

The neighbors. Our building has three floors with two apartments each, four of which are used for housing by students at LIFE. One of my favorite things in Copenhagen has been hanging out with my roommates and neighbors. There is a Finn, a guy from the Czech Republic and others, and I am becoming very fond of André (don’t tell him that though, I don’t want his head to get too big). It is really nice to have people, be it friends or neighbors, coming by to eat and chat. It isn’t unusual to walk into the apartment and find 10 people squeezed around our kitchen table made for four! It is also a real pleasure to have your roommates and neighbors offering you foods they have made, including cakes, bread, and any number of other creations! Last night I enjoyed a coconut, banana and ginger cake Inés and Voytech (phonetic spelling) from downstairs have been developing.

Up the street and to the left, complete with biker.

The neighborhood. I live in Valby, which is a neighborhood on the edge of Copenhagen, almost a suburb really. Many of the homes around me are individual houses, in addition to apartments. On the whole, it is a beautiful area with colorful houses, shops, a gym next store (literally right next to my place!), the local library where I am a member (it’s amazing what you will read just because it’s in English) and lots of families. There is even a daycare center behind my place. I am told by Danes that it is a very “Danish” neighborhood, complete with hedges surrounding the homes. This is actually a holdover from early castle walls that surrounded towns when people were owned by the lords. When this practice was abolished the people were able to move into the country and make homes, they surrounded their homes with hedges like their towns had been surrounded with walls. A traditional Danish farmhouse has buildings making a square, all surrounded by a hedge. But I digress, tidbits form my architecture class are just too interesting. Back to the neighborhood, Nordisk Film, the oldest film company in Europe, is right across the street from my apartment! I can see it form my window. It is really weird to come back from a run at night and see fog lights shining in the clouds advertising that Nordisk Film is taping an intro to a Danish television show! In short, I live in the one rundown, shabby apartment complex in a sea of beautiful homes and flats.

One of the workout areas, this one is by the zoo, but is trampolineless.

Last, but not least, I have to mention Søndreparken and Frederickberg Have. Less than a five minute run from my place are two of the larger parks in Copenhagen, built on the infamous Hill of Valby! This is one of the nicest places to run in the city, especially Søndreparken. It has rolling hills with packed earth paths running around the hill. And, there are three workout stations scattered throughout the park! When I first went there I thought these were playgrounds, until I saw more adults working out there than kids playing. There are pullup bars, tricep dip bars, Australian pullup bars, bars for doing pushups, monkey bars, and other bars as well. To be honest though, my favorite part is the trampolines! They have these little circular trampolines built into the ground of one workout area, which is pretty funny when adults are huffing and puffing doing pullups, while little kids are jumping up and down on trampolines right next to them.

And did I mention that these parks are right by the Copenhagen Zoo? Not only that, but zoo is designed so that you can see some of the animals from the outside. So far I have seen a polar bear, flamingoes, giraffes, antelope and zebras, but my favorite are the rhinos and the Jacob goat. The rhinos are massive, and so close even though I am not even in the grounds! They just chill next to the zebras and gazelle/antelope nonspecific African deer. And there isn’t anything much more strange than watching rhinos and zebras standing outside with snow on the ground. They didn’t even seem to mind. Jacob the Jacob goat likes to ram his head against the fence a food from my face. I think he likes me.

Radagast the Rhino.

Jacob the Jacob Goat who kept ramming the fence. I am about three feet away from him right now.

So, my duty to the University is complete. You have had the grand Valby tour. While many students in LIFE live in apartments like me, many others are put into kollegiums. These are a lot like dorms but with fewer rules. Many organize it so one person cooks dinner each night for the unit, and others organize big parties that tons of people go to. I am very happy with my apartment. On the weekends there may be people around for dinner or hanging out, but generally when I need it to be quiet to do some work or just relax, I have that option. So there you have it, my accommodations while abroad. Not bad for a poor college student if you ask me! Next time, my “job” in Copenhagen and other tidbits.

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