For the very first time in my life, I spent Thanksgiving somewhere other than the good ol’ US of A. On Thursday afternoon, I grabbed a sandwich at the Copenhagen Lufthavn and hopped on a plane to London. I was delayed due to de-icing problems and arrived in Stansted an hour later than expected but was fortunately still able to use my bus ticket. I jumped on the small orange EasyBus and fell asleep. A muffled noise in my pocket woke me up. I looked down at my phone to see my home phone number flashing on the screen.
“Hiii Mom. Happy Thanksgiving!!!!”
I highly doubt the sleepy, foreign travelers appreciated the energetic American screaming to her parents at the front of the minibus as equally loud Americans screamed back from a speakerphone located in Catskill, New York. I was so surprised to hear from the “fam squad” back home. I could taste Grandpa’s pumpkin pie and hear the sounds of clinking glasses. It was a great start to my trip.
I stayed with my friend Joanna for both of the nights I was in London. On Friday, a number of other Bucknellians from London, Scotland, and France arrived and by 7pm we had a full table of college friends and delicious food. Joanna’s mom had outdone herself with turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, mashed potatoes, imported American cranberry sauce, creamed onions and green beans followed by a pumpkin and apple pie. We talked about the possibilities of the next semester and compared notes about our individual European experiences. I was surrounded by great food and even better company.
I did find myself missing Copenhagen and seeing the softly falling snow when I landed was a beautiful sight. I closed my passport and realized that the next time I would be on a plane, there would be no telling when I would return to a country that, in the last three months, had become my home. With only 21 days left, I have gained a renewed sense of determination to get my fill of everything Denmark has to offer.
I want to spend as much time as possible with the incredible people I have met. I want to hold basic conversations entirely in Danish and finish a number of books by Danish authors. I want to drink glögg and eat aebleskiver, wrapped in a thick wool blanket. I DO NOT want to write 3 research papers, and take a Nordic Mythology final but life isn’t perfect.
Even still, sometimes life can get pretty close.
Friday night, around 2:30am, I was coming home from København with some friends. Outside the window I noticed white flakes spiraling down from the sky. My first snow in Denmark. The Jul season is here.
Denmark begins the Christmas season around the middle of November as the daylight gets shorter and the nights get colder. However, the season is called Jul is much more connected to the celebration of family and hygge than the actual Christian holiday. Garlands are strung from streetlamps over the main roads and many stores begin selling ornaments, candles and wrapping paper with Danish flags. Tuborg released its Julebryg that is only sold during the winter season. Tivoli is open again. Halloween pumpkins and cobwebs have been replaced with winter decorations and Christmas lights. The Danes also celebrate with a couple large Christmas meals consisting of fish, snapps, and a Danish form of rice pudding. Upon coming back from my travel break, I was surprised to see how quickly Denmark had accepted the season. In my Danish class on tirsdag, my fabulous professor had placed small candles on all the tables and handed out traditional Jul cookies similar to gingerbread.
In my opinion, America starts the Christmas season much later. Although stores start selling wreaths and local radio stations play Frosty the Snowman on repeat, most of the holiday feelings wait under December 1st and the beginning of Advent. We wait until after the Thanksgiving turkey has been carved and the last piece of pumpkin pie has disappeared before we pull the large cardboard boxes marked “X-Mas” down from the closet.
Danes lack two things: sun and Thanksgiving. I think the combination of these two factors provides the perfect reason to begin the Jul mentality over a month and a half before December 25th. For me it’s been the perfect excuse to wear my warmest scarf, find a wool blanket and cuddle up next to the little fireplace reading a good book.
I could make a list of all the reasons why I haven’t written a post in over a month. I think my most reasonable one is the fact that I was traveling for the first two weeks of November and had very limited Internet access. I know all of my loyal fans have been dying of curiosity about the goings-on in my life and so I will do my best to post more regularly from now on.
For my travel break, Eve and I went to Granada, Madrid, Barcelona, Praha and Budapest. It was a good number of cities for 15 days but I will admit jumping around from city to city can get extremely tiring. I saw a number of incredible things, ate a lot of great food, and met some very interesting people. I attempted to butcher the Spanish language but luckily Eve’s high school knowledge flooded back and I just followed along with the occasional Gracias. I have learned so many things about myself and the wild world of traveling. These are my top ten travel tips:
- Know what your PIN code is for your debit card. Because if you type your PIN number in incorrectly 25 times, your card will shut down and you will have no money in Granada for 2 days.
- It is worth it to book tickets for the La Alhambra in advance. Or you could choose to wake up at 5:45am and wait in line in the cold for two hours. Up to you.
- There is a certain sense of adventure associated with not booking a hostel. However, this sense of adventure does not occur when it is Halloween afternoon and you have no place to stay.
- Go to the Renia Sophia and Prado museums in Madrid. They are free most weekdays from 6-8 and house some of the most incredible artwork.
- Wait in the 1 hour line to get to the top of the Sangrada Familia in Barcelona. Primarily for the view at the top but also for the nice Canadian couple you will meet along the way.
- EAT TAPAS EVERYWHERE. In many cities in Spain, the purchase of an alcoholic beverage will come with a small plate of food. This ranges from delicious little sausages to actual ham and cheese sandwiches. Something the U.S. should consider adopting. Considering how Americans don’t eat enough…
- Visit the hospital in Praha. While the unattractive building is outside the main city, it has luke-warm staff who speak minimal English. Who doesn’t love describing his or her symptoms with hand gestures?
- Send postcards in the same country where you buy the stamps. Overwise your friends and loved ones will receive Madrid postcards and wonder why there are also postage markings from Budapest.
- Do couch surfing! It was one of the best experiences of the whole trip. I made lasting friendships with an apartment full of the friendliest Hungarians I have ever met.
- Make mistakes. Live life in new, scary places. Take pictures. You appreciate your home so much by visiting others.