Monday, October 31, 2011

Interview with Lene!

My Danish friend, Lene, who is getting her associate degree in Graphic Design at the school I teach at, agreed to do an interview with my blog, and I'm excited to share her love of her country!

So, just how cold does it get in Denmark, and does the weather change dramatically throughout the year? Well, it can get pretty cold in the winter months - January and February can get very icy, which is not popular among the bicyclists in Denmark :)  In the summer, however, it can be just like in San Diego - nice and warm.  The only thing about the summer is, that you never know....You must come prepared, even though the weather channel promised a sunny and clear sky :) 

I've noticed there are a lot of amusement parks in Denmark - is there a particular reason why? Is there one you visited the most while growing up?
Hmmmmm, that's a good question.  My guess is that Tivoli has inspired many, as it is the oldest (1843) and one of the most popular amusement parks in Europe.  Personally, Tivoli is also my favorite - there's just something about it - It has a soul.  Just walking around in there is a great way to spend time - you don't even have to spend money on rides. 
What is your favorite Danish holiday?
 Christmas - no doubt about it!  My family has so many traditions and it's very important for us to stick with them.  The day before christmas eve (Dec. 23) my mom prepares "ris a l'amande" (the dessert for christmas eve - and no, it's not french.  They don't even know about this dish in France :))  This night we are mostly all gathered, waiting for the day to arrive.  On the 24., it's all about the family - I go visit my closest family in the afternoon (where "the kids" always watch Disney's Christmas Show on TV), we eat homemade marcipan confections, and smell the duck or goose getting ready in the oven.  And then, at six, we gather around the table, say a little thank-you-prayer (even though we're not particularly Christian), and then we eat (goose, cooked red cabbage, cooked white cabbage, tiny sugared potatoes, and of course, gravy).  We eat the dessert.  And then just sit and talk across the lit candles.  THEN we gather around the tree to dance and sing.  We typically sing 4-5 different christmas carols before we start distributing the presents underneath the tree.  Around midnight, we go to midnight mass.  Two days after christmas, the entire family gather for a big christmas lunch (julefrokost) with schnapps, pickled herring, rye bread, and much much more.  Love it! :)
Could you tell me about your favorite Danish meal? 
Hmm...that's a hard one  :)  One of them is my grand mothers "frikadeller" with her homemade creamy cooked white cabbage.  Not healthy, but SO good!  My other favorite is seedy, chewy rye bread with toppings ( what we call Smørrebrød) - my favorite topping being cooked potatoes with mayo, chives and salt and pepper, OR smoked salmon OR "leverpostej" (a kind of paté) with cucumber OR fish fillets with "remoulade" (don't know how to explain the last one, haha)
Danish Danishes
Are the American pastries, Danishes, actually anything like authentic Danish pastries? 
I'd say they are similar :)  I'm no big pastry eater, but even I must admit that there's something about Danish pastries from the local bakery.  Can't really explain what it is - you'll have to go and give it a taste :) 

How do you feel about the recent Danish "Fat Tax"? 
I think it's a good idea, but I hope people will keep buying all the great Danish cheeses - we're pretty good with cheese in Denmark.  And many fear that artificial flavors will take over the food industry.  SO we'll see.   I just think it's too bad that it had to come to this.  I would've preferred that people could figure out how to enjoy saturated fat in moderation.  

 What kinds of pets do Danish people tend to have? Are Great Danes really Danish? 
I think the most popular dogs in Denmark are Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever - both great family dogs.  The Great Dane is supposedly Danish, some claim that it is German.  It's an old breed, so it's hard to say:)  But I love 'em! 
Danish monarchy
What is your view of the Danish monarchy?
Hmm, another hard one...  I like the Monarchy - without them Denmark wouldn't be Denmark anymore.  They have a lot of value for us.  However, I think they get a litle too much of our tax money.  I definitely want to support the restoration of our castles and such, but they seem to get way more than that.  But I'm no expert :) 
 Could you describe Copenhagen a bit?  
I love the fact, that if you have a bike, you can get everywhere downtown, and the public transportation is great.  The lakes in central Copenhaven are beautiful and kinda keeps the city in balance - just like the many green areas.  Strøget, which is the shopping street and its surrounding shopping streets make it easy to get to all the stores - you can walk from one end to another, to the third and fourth - way more charming than american malls, I must admit ;)

If you had to sum up the Danish people's outlook on life in just a few words, what would you say?
I can only speak for the people I know, of course, and generally their outlook is very positive - they work hard to balance work and family.  They love seeing the world and love being inspired, but at the same time they love even more to come home :)
Danish Rye Bread

What have you missed the most about Denmark while you've been in America?
My family!  Rye bread - real rye bread! ;)  Getting all over town by bike (it just doesn't feel very safe here.  I've also missed that you don't have to leave a tip everywhere you go - I never got used to that here in the US -  I never knew how much to leave.  In Denmark the price is higher, but it also includes tips, so you don't have to worry about that.  Oh, and I miss the free health care, haha.  
What will you miss most about America when you go back?
That it's so cheap to eat out (despite the tipping)!  Steelcut oatmeal (we don't seem to have that in Denmark).  All the organic stores! - Whole Foods, Trader Joe's.  We need stores like that in Denmark.  I'm gonna miss the people here too - they are all so open and welcoming.  It's so easy to get to know people here!  And of course, I am gonna miss the weather here in San Diego - it's SO NICE, and it's great to only need to buy for one wardrobe, haha.  I'm gonna miss fish tacos and fish burritos, and the America BBQs :)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tivoli Gardens

In learning about Denmark, I've noticed that there are a ton of amusement parks there! I had heard of one before - Tivoli Gardens - because it was one of Walt Disney's inspirations in creating Disneyland, and one of my friends went there before and told me how much I'd love it...needless to say it is certainly on the top of my list if I ever make it to Denmark!

Tivoli is located in Copenhagen, and is actually the second oldest amusement park in the world, having opened in 1843.  The park boasts 4.5 million annual visitors, is the most visited theme park in Scandinavia, and the second most visited park in Europe behind Disneyland Paris.

aerial view of Tivoli from the 1920s
Tivoli has many attractions, including a merry-go-round, wooden roller coaster, scenic railway and more, along with historic themed structures and beautiful landscaping.

During World War II, Nazi sympathizers burnt down many of Tivoli's buildings, including their famous concert hall.  Undaunted, the Danes constructed temporary buildings in their place and had the park operational within a few weeks.

Moorish Palace
One of my favorite structures is the Moorish Palace, which was constructed in 1909 and now houses a 5 star boutique hotel and Michelin star awarded restaurant.  I looked up the price for a one-night stay in the middle of January and it was over $450 bucks! If I ever have crazy money I'm going to go!!

a room in the Hotel Nimb

Restaurant Herman

With my budget, however, it's more likely I'll be staying elsewhere and dining at one of the park's other fine restaurants like Grøften, which has been providing traditional Danish food to park guests since 1874, and is known for its welcoming atmosphere and great service.

One day, I will definitely visit Tivoli!!! I can't wait to see the park that inspired Walt Disney!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Authentic Danish Crisp Bread!!!

One of the teaching assistants, Lene, at my school is from Denmark and brought in some crisp bread she made so I could sample it as part of my armchair traveling! It was yummy- like a much more flavorful version of Wasa bread! She's gonna share that recipe and a few others with me- I'll post them soon!!!

Here's Lene, and me holding up the yummy crisp bread!

Danish Fat Tax

Just this month, Denmark instituted a "fat tax" of 16 Danish kroner per kilogram of saturated fat in a food (about $1.29 per pound of saturated fat) which is added to the price when the saturated fat content of a food item is greater than 2.3%. This tax will affect the price of foods like butter, milk, cheese, pizza, oils, and meats. Although this may seem like a particularly extreme measure in the fight against obesity and  heart disease, this is in keeping with other regulations imposed by the country, including the banning of trans fats from all foods (which some researchers have credited with reducing rates of cardiovascular disease in the last few years by 30%) and increased taxes on sugary foods, alcohol, and tobacco.

Jakob Axel Nielsen, the health minister in 2009, stated “higher fees on sugar, fat and tobacco is an important step on the way toward a higher average life expectancy in Denmark.”  Overall, the Danish parliament seemed to agree, with nearly 90% of the members in approval of the tax.

Not everyone outside of parliament is quite as supportive. Many organic dairy farmers are complaining that the increase in taxes will make it increasingly difficult for people to opt for organic products.  The current tax makes no distinction between a product like organic milk and a BigMac.  Organic farmers also fear that restaurants will opt to purchase cheaper, non-organic products to keep food prices stable in their eateries.

Tricky, huh? My first thought was "Of course this tax is a good idea - we should have it here in the U.S." but I certainly can see the argument on the side of the organic diary producers (although I myself abstain from a lot of dairy as I see it as a health threat)...but it does seem somewhat Orwellian to have the government come down like Big Brother and start stipulating what people should eat...then again if healthcare is through the government and health costs start to soar because of unhealthy eating habits that affects all of the people in that country....I suppose overall, I still think the fat tax is a good idea, but I don't think something like this could possibly take hold in America for generations, unfortunately:(

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fallulah - Another great Danish up and coming musician!

FALLULAH (born 1985) is the stage name of the young pop music songwriter and singer Maria Apetri. Fallulah has been compared to British female singers, Florence & the Machine, Adele and Bat for Lashes. Her debut single ‘I Lay My Head’ was a massive hit in Denmark and was the prequel to the album ‘The Black Cat Neighbourhood’. She dominated the Danish pop charts in 2010 and the single ‘Bridges’ from the album was last year’s most played Danish-language single on radio. She describes her music as a mix between indie rock and Balkan beats with a hint of folklore.

Agnes Obel - popular Danish singer/songwriter

I stumbled across this musician on the official Denmark website - here's their short bio of her and a youtube video

AGNES OBEL (born October 28, 1980) is a singer and songwriter who released her first debut solo album Philharmonics in September 2010. It received glowing reviews from both Danish and international music critics and has been described as an album of sombre folk classics. Philharmonics has so far peaked at number one in Denmark and Belgium and charted inside the top-ten in France and the Netherlands. The first single ‘Riverside’ recently won Best song of the year 2011 in Denmark.

Off to Denmark!!!

Well, I'm wayyyyyy behind this month and am only writing my first post of the month on the on the 12th...yikes! However, I am excited to start on my online journey through the Kingdom of Denmark.  Although it is the smallest of the Scandinavian countries, it has two autonomous provinces, the Faroe Islands and Greenland...which is actually 500x bigger than Denmark, but has 100x less people!

Denmark was named the Happiest Country in the World according to a 2010 Gallup poll!  From checking out a few Danish websites, I noticed that there are all sorts of great family/vacation expriences available - lots of gardens, zoos, museums, castles and amusement parks to visit, as well as coastline that offers lots of water activities....I think that must contribute to the national happiness, as well as the strong national welfare programs.

Well, I'll be looking at some things more in depth in the posts to come, but here are some images to give you an idea of what to expect should you ever visit Denmark:

Egeskov Castle

Den Gamle By - an open air museum of urban history



Rosenborg Castle

Danish cuisine 
Tivoli Gardens