Sunday, June 17, 2007


We've been travelling quite a bit, hence the delay of 10 days between posts. Let's recap quickly on our trip to Belgium, shall we? We'll talk about other travels in subsequent posts.

Last weekend (June 8-11), we flew from Copenhagen to Brussels (about a 90 minute flight), and then took a quick train to Leuven, the city where we spent the 2003-04 academic year. This was a trip to see the friends we made that year -- colleagues, church friends, etc. We had a wonderful time. On Friday, we spent a few hours in Brussels, eating moules frites (mussels and French fries), and wandering into churches and bookstores.

Then we took a train to Leuven (only 20km away), where we wandered around some more seeing the sights and carrying our bags (getting heavy from all the walking).

Around 6:30 PM we went to the house where we spent our year 3 years ago. Bea (the woman who owns it) let us stay with her for the weekend, which we enjoyed very much. That evening we went to dinner with some of Greg's colleagues from the university at De Wiering, a ribs place. It was great to re-connect with them and see how they're doing, and interesting to hear their perspectives on local things like politics and relations with Holland.

On Saturday, first we did some laundry at Bea's, which was sorely needed at this point. We went to the Saturday outdoor market in Leuven, which is always a fun time. Lots of fresh and local food, flowers, and knick-knacks. It was a bit rainy, but the market was still going strong.

We got breakfast at our favorite place -- Het Dagelijks Brood (The Daily Bread).

We spent some time wandering and relaxing, and then had dinner in the city center. We were planning to meet with some of our friends from our Dutch language class, but due to lack of email and cell phones we weren't able to meet up with them.

Sunday morning we went to church at ICEL, the International Church of Evangelicals in Leuven. This was the church we attended while we were in Leuven for the year. It was wonderful to see everyone, to hear of new marriages and children. For some reason people kept introducing us to people we didn't know, and we spent a lot of time talking to those people -- which was very nice, but I'm not sure we'll see them again. We had lunch with Lies, Jean, and Ida, a family who hosted a Bible study at their house which we used to attend. It was very nice to talk with them and catch up on what everyone has been doing.

On Sunday evening we caught up with Bea again and talked with her for a while. We really enjoyed seeing the renovations of her house, and hearing about how she and her family have been doing. Then on Monday morning, we packed up and left for the airport and flew back to Denmark.

It was such a great weekend. It was fun to see everyone we knew, to hear and practice the Dutch language again (which we can sort of understand, as opposed to Danish, which we can't), and to re-trace our old paths through the city.

The only thing that was slightly negative was that the airline never checked my (Greg's) identification when boarding the flight to Brussels. I tried to show them, but they just waved me on.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

More on Stockholm

Stockholm has really been the highlight of our trip so far. The weather was very sunny with a cool breeze. Stockholm is built on a bunch of islands, so there are bridges, canals and boats everywhere. When the sun comes out, the whole city sparkles.

It has been 6 years (!) since I did my field research in Stockholm, but all the places I liked to visit in 2001 are still where I remembered them being. My favorite places in Stockholm are the marketplace at Östermalmstorg, the Vasa museum, and the open-air museum (Skansen).

The market at Östermalmstorg has all kinds of food. The fish counters were amazingly well stocked with all kinds of marinated herring, shrimp, octopus, huge salmon and other fish I couldn't identify. The cheese counters are pretty impressive, too. I love all the colors and smells at the market.

As Greg described earlier, the Vasa museum presents a warship that sank in 1620. There were too many canons on the boat and not enough ballast in the bottom, so it tipped over and sank before it even got out of Stockholm's harbor. So much for projecting power in Europe. The museum is built around the warship, so it's possible to look at it from many different vantage points. My favorite part of the museum is not actually the warship, but the parts that describe life in 1620s Sweden. This was shortly after Sweden became a Protestant country and during the time when Sweden dominated Finland and was competing with Denmark for dominance in Northern Europe.

Skansen claims to be the first ever open-air museum. It's a big nature park dotted with old houses from around Sweden. During regular business hours, the houses are opened and staffed with historians reenacting life in the place and time that the house would have been used. When Greg and I visited we saw a woman knitting a sweater based on a pattern from the 1920s. It was very colorful and thick with a complicated pattern.

Skansen also has a zoo with nordic animals -- my favorite are the reindeer, but they also have bears, wolves, otters, and seals. When I went there in 2001 it was the day of summer solstice and they had people in traditional costumes dancing around the maypole.

Skansen is on a hill, so it has great views of the Stockholm skyline.

Here's a reindeer.

This specimen is double-salt licorice. It's a very popular kind of candy in Sweden. Most Americans have difficulty eating it because the taste is very strong. Imagine being bludgeoned in the head with a brick of salt and black licorice sticks. In our experience, it induced nausea that lasted for hours. I guess we shouldn't have eaten it on a high-speed train.

I thought this advertisement was interesting. Who names their blue jeans company after acne? Did they mean acme? Does acne mean something else in Swedish? The mystery continues.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Weekend in Stockholm

Ivy and I went to Stockholm (Sweden), where we spent 2 nights. It's a 5-hour train ride each way. Ivy had been there previously, I had not.

Suffice it to say that the city is amazingly beautiful. Stately. It helped that we had beautiful weather. And it's a bit cheaper than Copenhagen. Wish we could've stayed longer! I took so many pictures that I filled the memory card on my camera -- something I haven't done in years.

We spent our two nights at Stureparkens Gästvåning in Östermalm (north part of the city), which we found through our Rick Steves guide.

The first night we wandered around the old city (which is on its own island), Gamla Stan. It has tall buildings and narrow winding cobblestone streets. The building are painted solid yellows and reds and other primary colors. The light was amazing.

For dinner we had reindeer with cream and horseradish (as an appetizer), followed by fish and potatoes (for the main course):

Then we wandered back to our hotel.

Hey, look, they have math on their money! The picture is of Christopher Polhem, a Swedish scientist.

The next morning we walked from our hotel to the city center, stopping at a church and a world-class open-air market on the way.

We went to the "Taste of Stockholm" event, got a quick lunch, and then went to the Vasa museum, which is a museum containing a huge warship that sunk in the 1620's, just after putting out to sea for the first time.

After this we went to Skansen, a huge open-air museum filled with buildings, animals, people, and events as they were a hundred years ago. It was like walking through a forest in the city.

More pictures of the waterfront:

Friday, June 1, 2007

Settling in...

We're getting used to living here. Finally over our jet lag. We've been working during the day at the Royal Library (called the "Black Diamond" due to its architecture). It's a very impressive building, and the reading rooms are very quiet. Ivy has been able to use the library to request books.

On Wednesday we went to see Pirates of the Caribbean 3. This morning, Ivy went to a meeting of the EU Affairs Committee (held in Danish). We're about to leave for Stockholm for the weekend.

We ate at a place called "Chilis," which has similar fare to Chili's in the US. Or, as close as you're going to get in Europe. I had a jalapeno burger, and Ivy had a cheeseburger. Quite good!

Here are some more pictures...

We saw a group of about 15 roadsters driving through the streets.

People rowing the canal...

Views of the canals.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The international language of juggling

Last night I (Greg) walked to the north side of Copenhagen, where a group holds a weekly juggling meeting. I found out -- too late -- that there was also the Nordic juggling convention this past weekend in Køge, south of Copenhagen.

I didn't plan to do much juggling this trip, and also we're trying to travel lightly, so I didn't bring any of my own juggling equipment. But I was of course allowed to borrow the props others had brought; the international juggling community is very friendly and willing to share.

The juggling venue was a 3rd-floor (4th-floor to Americans) community room. I showed up about 15 minutes late, and was the first one there by about 5 minutes. Finding the general building was easy enough, but finding the room required wandering and asking random people. One guy, perplexed as to why I was knocking on his door, asked right off "are you Italian?" Not sure why. Finally I found a woman who worked in the building and knew of the group.

Anyway, it felt really good to juggle for a few hours and meet some other people. Mostly Danes, but also an American and a Dutch woman (I think). About 15 people at the peak. Lots of people doing non-juggling things, like poi and devil sticks.

John Nations doing 4 clubs, Kip (sp?) in the back. Kip taught me a few tips about doing clubs, John showed me shoulder throws for 4 balls.

Kip (?) and someone else I didn't meet, passing clubs.

John doing seven rings, Jonathan, and two women doing poi.

Mogens and John passing, an unnamed woman doing 3 clubs...

Palle and a nice 4 club routine.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

First interview

Greg and I visited the national library (a.k.a. the black diamond) today. The building is remarkable -- one whole wall is windows, five storeys high. It is right on a canal, so the view out the window is very pretty. There is a cafe with very reasonable prices (well... reasonable for Denmark) and it has tables inside and outside by the canal. We had some very good sandwiches there for lunch and espressos that tasted like they were flavored with cinnamon or cardamom.

There are two reading rooms in the library. One is stocked with periodicals and the other is for serious researchers. We started out in the research room, but found it to be too strict and nerve-wracking. So in the afternoon we migrated to the periodicals room. Both rooms were packed with students and eerily quiet -- only the sound of typing and an occasional loud sneeze (from me -- forgot to take my allergy medicine). Readers are not allowed to bring in any bags -- only books, papers, laptops and writing instruments. I was able to get a library card, but it only works in the reading rooms. If I need to read a book, I can order it online and have it delivered to a reading room and I can read it in the room. The librarians actually check when you leave the room to make sure you aren't smuggling out any library material.

I found some interesting periodicals, but none related to my research. I know the library has at least some of the journals I read for research, but they must be stored somewhere else. I did get to glance through copies of Spiegel, the New York Review of Books, and l'Express.

I had my first interview today. It was with a civil servant who works with the parliamentary committee I am studying. She was very kind and informative. She even had coffee and danish pastries ready for us to eat while we met. I expected to have about 45 minutes for the interview, but it went twice that long. I have pages and pages of notes and learned some new, interesting things about this committee.

If you are at all interested in the committee I am studying, you can read about it here. You can access information (in English) about Denmark and the European Union here.

Whitsun, Danish lunch, Folketinget

We had intended to go to the library yesterday, but it was closed for the second day of Whitsun (Pentecost) holiday. The royal library is a very interesting-looking building, called the `black diamond':

Which backs up to the Danish Jewish museum (we didn't go in):

Instead, we walked around some of the city we hadn't visited yet, particularly around Christianborg (government and royal buildings). The building below in the distance with the scaffolding is the parliament building.

The parliament is called the `Folketinget.' It's unicameral; they abolished the upper house in 1953. We took an English-language tour of the parliament in the afternoon, with another family from New Zealand (one of whom was also also a political scientist). The Danish pride themselves on their transparent democracy, and it was a very interesting tour. Ivy starts interviewing people in this building today.

We got lunch (actually before we took the tour) at a traditional Danish lunch place (though it was in the tourist area, and we were surrounded by British, Dutch, and apparently a team of Californian bicyclists). For lunch, Greg had a lunch plate (various herring and bread), while Ivy had a smoked salmon salad -- all delicious. So much food that we didn't eat dinner.

We did, however stop for an ice cream in the late afternoon. Greg had basil-flavored ice cream -- which was really quite good!