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.