Kalaallit Nunaat: Part Two

I just returned from my last travel break of the semester, so I figure it’s about time that I share the photos from the second half of my Greenland trip. Hope I didn’t keep you waiting too long!

On Wednesday, we spent the majority of the day on the Greenland ice sheet. If you think anything like I did before this trip, this probably conjures up images of vast expanses of flat, white land. I was expecting something like that, but what I experienced of the Greenland ice sheet was actually unlike anything I could have ever imagined.

When we stopped for lunch right before reaching the ice sheet, it was clear that we were in a different world.

When we stopped for lunch right before reaching the ice sheet, it was clear that we were in a different world.

The edge of the ice sheet looks like a wave breaking on the shore, frozen in time.

The edge of the ice sheet looks like a wave breaking on the shore, frozen in time.

And as it turns out, the ice sheet has waves just like the ocean during a storm.

And as it turns out, the ice sheet has waves just like the ocean during a storm.

Our professor talked to us about drilling ice cores, and we were given the task of collecting samples of ice. We had to do some work, right?

Our professor talked to us about drilling ice cores, and we were given the task of collecting samples of ice. We had to do some work, right?

Two of my group members, Audra and Eli, hard at work, recording the location of our samples.

Two of my group members, Audra and Eli, hard at work, recording the location of our samples.

And me, hardly working.

And me, hardly working.

We didn’t actually do much work on the ice sheet. Most of the three hours we had was spent playing. The ice sheet was, not surprisingly, incredibly slippery, making it a perfect place to practice our ice dancing skills, as well as our sliding-on-our-butt skills. Every time I managed to get to the top of an ice dune, I couldn’t resist the urge to turn the icy slope into a slide. Needless to say, the waterproof pants that I bought from the thrift store were a bit torn up by the end of the day. And now you know what happens when you let a bunch of college students loose on a big icy playground.

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After the ice sheet, our guide for the day, Adam, wanted to show us an ice cave at the edge of the sheet. So, we hiked down a mountain to an ice cave, which unfortunately had been blocked by a very large piece of ice since Adam had been there last. Still, we were able to climb inside to look at the smooth, polished inside of the cave and take some great photos.

Heading down the slope to get to the ice cave.

Heading down the slope to get to the ice cave.

This is the only picture that really captured the amazing color of the sky ( and it's also showing the giant chunk of ice blocking the entrance to the cave).

This is the only picture that really captured the amazing color of the sky ( and it’s also showing the giant chunk of ice blocking the entrance to the cave).

Close-up of the ice within the cave. It was incredibly smooth and completely black, except for the mesmerizing crystal patterns woven through it. My pictures can't really do it justice.

Close-up of the ice within the cave. It was incredibly smooth and completely black, except for the mesmerizing crystal patterns woven through it. My pictures can’t really do it justice.

Another interesting ice formation in a meltwater creek that flows within the cave.

Another interesting ice formation in a meltwater creek that flows within the cave.

After a very long day on the ice sheet, including about an hour and a half drive each way, we had dinner to look forward to: the Greenlandic buffet. This buffet offered shrimp, fish, muskox, reindeer, and even whale, all from Greenland and the surrounding waters. There were at least thirty dishes in the first course, followed by a second course of reindeer and muskox, followed by dessert and Greenlandic coffee. I’ve never been one to shy away from food; I tried just about everything I could fit on my plate.

The first table of the buffet...

The first table of the buffet…

And the second table. This was just the first course!

And the second table. This was just the first course!

My plate full of seafood, half of which I'm unable to identify.

My plate full of seafood, half of which I’m unable to identify. I would like to point out that the stuff covered in sauce on the bottom right of my plate was cooked whale; I also tried whale skin and raw whale meat.

This buffet was absolutely incredible; even the vegetarians in our group were willing to try some of the seafood. I’m not sure I would try whale meat ever again, but everything else was scrumptious and tasted so fresh! After dinner, Kim, the head chef/owner, made us Greenlandic coffee. This alcoholic beverage includes whiskey, Kahlua, Grand Marnier, and of course, a little bit of coffee. It definitely serves to shake the Arctic chill off!

Kim prepares our Greenlandic coffee; the final step is adding flaming Grand Marnier.

Kim prepares our Greenlandic coffee; the final step is adding flaming Grand Marnier.

The final result: a tasty drink that warms you right down to your bones!

The final result: a tasty drink that warms you right down to your bones!

Stuffed and buzzed from our Greenlandic buffet, we headed back to Old Camp, exhausted from a day full of new experiences.

On Thursday, our last day, we explored the town of Kangerlussuaq by visiting the school, the museum, and partaking in a kaffemik at Nini’s home. Our first stop was the school, which has about 80 students ranging from preschool to eighth grade. It was really interesting to see; the upper floor of the school was more of a social area than a classroom setting, complete with a music room that my professor decided to take advantage of. After the tour of the school, the older students were brought to an auditorium in the town meeting hall where my professor gave a presentation about the scientific significance of Greenland. It’s really important to my professors that the students understand why scientists from all over the world are flying to Greenland to spend months on the ice sheet that is only an hour away from Kangerlussuaq.

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After the school visit, we broke up into two groups for kaffemik and the Kangerlussuaq museum. My group went to kaffemik at Nini’s house first. A kaffemik is essentially a gathering in someone’s home where tea and coffee, as well as a ton of cakes, are offered to the guests. The key feature, however, is that guests take turns coming and going, because not everyone can fit in the house at once. They are held for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries; just about any event calls for a kaffemik! It was very cozy; Nini and her husband were very gracious hosts, and it was interesting to hear her husband’s perspective on tourism in Greenland and to learn more about everyday life in Kangerlussuaq. And on top of that, Nini made some amazing cakes; there were at least ten of them, and a polite guest must try at least a piece of every one. Afterwards, the other half of our group arrived, and we made our way to the Kangerlussuaq museum. There, we learned about the history of the town as an airforce base and eventually as a stopover for Scandinavian Airline flights from Copenhagen to Los Angeles. It was surprising to learn that SAS had a hub in Kangerlussuaq in the 1960s, particularly because today, it is nearly impossible to reach any part of Greenland from the U.S. without flying to Denmark or Iceland first. This realization made me incredibly sad, because I would love to return to Greenland someday.

On Friday morning, we had time to buy souvenirs before getting on our flight. The sunrise set a beautiful scene for our melancholy departure; I think every single one of us was sad to be leaving Greenland so soon. I have not been everywhere in the world; in fact, I have probably seen less than 5% of this planet, but I can say with near certainty that Greenland is one of the most magnificent places there is to see. Something about the seemingly barren landscape teeming with life inspires a sense of awe and wonder for the natural world that even I, the scientific spiritualist, have never felt before.

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Greenland brought joy to my heart and quiet to my soul; it was a feeling I will not soon forget.

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Autumn in Boserup Skov

On Friday, I returned from class with the whole afternoon ahead of me, so I decided to take a trip to Boserup Skov, a 224 hectare forest only a fifteen minute bus ride away. I had already taken a trip there on Tuesday, but I forgot my memory card and got terribly lost, so I consider that a practice round. Anyway, Friday turned out to be a nicer day; the sun was shining and the sky was that brilliant, crisp autumn blue that only comes around when the temperature begins to drop. The forest was ablaze with the reds, oranges and yellows of fall foliage, which stood out against the deep blue backdrop of the fjord at the edge of the woods. I relished the opportunity to explore, soak up some sun, enjoy the peaceful stillness of the forest, and of course, take tons of pictures.

Selfie by the fjord. Couldn't help myself.

Selfie by the fjord. Couldn’t help myself.

The prettiest tree I ever did see.

The prettiest tree I ever did see.

I see why they call it the Yellow Trail!

I see why they call it the Yellow Trail!

Found some wild beach plums, and yes, I ate them, against my better judgment. And yes, they were delicious.

Mama snail and baby snail.

Mama snail and baby snail.

I did not edit this picture in any way. Denmark actually looks like this!!

I did not edit this picture in any way. Denmark actually looks like this!!

I’m so glad I got to see Boserup Skov (twice) in all its autumnal glory, and hopefully I’ll get the chance to return before I leave Denmark.

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Frederiksborg Castle

Last Friday, I went out to Hillerod with Jordan to see the magnificent Frederiksborg Castle. I hadn’t thought about visiting until Jordan showed me some pictures and mentioned her interest in going, and I was sold. I haven’t been inside any of the other castles in Denmark, so maybe I am biased, but Frederiksborg was absolutely incredible. Every room was a work of art, from the ceilings to the paintings and the furniture. While I’m afraid my pictures might not do it justice, I hope that they give you some idea of the magnificence of this castle!

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So that was a little taste of Frederiksborg Castle; it was truly incredible.  Jordan and I spent so much time wandering the castle that I didn’t even have time to see the amazing gardens that you can see in two pictures above, but that just means I’ll have to go back!

 

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Kelleris Vingaard

At DIS, and in Danish public schools, taking field trips is considered a very important part of the learning process. Because of this, we don’t have class on Wednesdays to allot time for field trips pertaining to our classes. I had my first one yesterday for my class “How Plants Changed World History,” and we got to go to a vineyard! Kelleris Vingaard is interesting mainly because it is really difficult to grow grapes in Denmark, so the owner has chosen specific types of grapes that mature early and are rather sturdy in the face of erratic Danish weather.

This picture perfectly illustrates how challenging growing wine grapes in Denmark can be; the weather goes from sunny to cloudy in minutes.

It’s in a beautiful protected area north of Copenhagen and near the coast, and the owner’s home is directly adjacent to the 1.3 hectare vineyard.

The owner’s home, where he lives with his wife and two children. Imagine growing up in this house!

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The owner, Soren, decided in 2001 to take some time from his day job and devote it to starting a winery. Since then, he has really experienced the ups and downs of attempting to make wine in a region with a cold and unstable climate, but has managed to produce some award-winning wines. I really enjoyed the visit, and I enjoyed the wine tastings even more!

Soren telling us everything about the vineyard; selecting the grapes, tending to them throughout the year, and keeping them fungus and parasite free (without pesticides)!

One of the most impressive things about Kelleris Vineyard is that Soren does all of the work himself, with help from his father-in-law who lives down the road. He estimated that in a year, he tends to each plant forty times, and during winter trimming, he spends about thirty minutes on each plant. Clearly, he’s really dedicated to his wine-making!

Soren’s father-in-law doing some last minute trimming. The main type of grape grown in the vineyard, Rondo, grows incredibly fast, so it requires a lot of tending to.

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After a thorough tour of the vineyard and plenty of grab-n-go grape samples, we headed inside for some wine tastings.

First, we got to taste wine straight from the barrel. Soren had very high standards for himself and wasn’t very impressed; none of us minded it though!

We got to try four different wines, two of which had won awards in Denmark. I liked them all, but my favorite was the 2009 Utopia Rex.

Overall, Kelleris Vineyard was a great field trip! I thought it was so cool that Soren just woke up one day and decided to have a go at making wine, and in Denmark of all places. He took the challenge head-on, and after our visit, I’d definitely say he is succeeding.

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Have I really been in Denmark for a MONTH?! On one hand, it feels like my time here is flying by, and I’m thinking to myself, “Girl, you need to get out there and experience Denmark; you ain’t seen nothing yet!” On the other hand, I think that I have been doing an awful lot of experiencing, but I haven’t had much of a chance to reflect on it. One thing I do know: I LOVE DENMARK. I love Denmark so much that I want to marry it. More logically though, I love Denmark so much that I want to live in it. Now, I’m sure you’re wondering, “What could be so great about a tiny country made up of a bunch of islands where the sun rarely shines?” Well, make yourself comfortable and grab a snack, because I’m going to tell you why I’ve fallen in love with this wonderful little European country in only one month.

Reason number one: These are my people.

Okay, so I don’t have blonde hair or blue eyes, so I don’t quite fit in based on my appearance. But personality wise? I think I’m pretty damn Danish. Danes have a sarcastic sense of humor. Danes tend to be blunt and don’t sugar coat things. They are not looking to make acquaintances; close relationships with friends and family are what really matters. They also appear a little unfriendly, aloof, and shy, but once you crack their outer shell, they’re as friendly as they come. And, because they really value equality for everyone, bragging and showing off when you’re a bit more successful (a word that doesn’t even exist in Danish) than most is a big no-no. All the things that generally describe a typical Danish personality also describe me, and more importantly, the type of people I like to be around. To summarize, Danish people are great, and I want to be friends with all of them.

Reason number two: They have a government that functions, and functions well.

I don’t really want to get into all of the politics, but Danish government is set up in such a way that the parties are forced to compromise with one another if they want to get anything done. And the Danes will not stand for a government that does nothing, so guess what? The government gets things done. Health care is paid for. Education is not only free, but students get paid to attend university (and it’s also completely acceptable to not go to college, or to take your time getting there, which most Danes do.) Most importantly, the people still have power to change the things that they do not like. In the case of GMO’s, they are completely legal, but citizens demanded that they be subject to rigorous labeling so that they could choose whether or not to consume GMO products. They chose not to, and Monsanto, the last GMO company in Denmark, left last year. What a wonderful concept: a government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Reason number three: Individual freedom matters.

This reason is kind of all over the place, but it’s definitely a mindset that runs deep in Danish culture. From what I have seen, there is no right or wrong path. As I said earlier, “success” is not a word in the Danish language, because why set a standard for the way a person should live their life? Even children are treated as free individuals. Fellow students doing practicums in kindergartens have told me shocking stories about kids using knives and scissors, falling and hurting themselves without a teacher rushing to their side, and working problems out amongst themselves. To us this is shocking, but in Denmark, a human being has the right to be free; free to learn, free to explore, and free to just be.

Most importantly, the Danes are happy. Whether this is a combination of the three things I just talked about, or a completely different reason altogether, it’s clear that Danish people are doing something right. And if happiness isn’t a good enough reason to fall in love with a culture, a people, and a country, then I don’t know what is.

Title translation: Denmark, with love 🙂

Danmark, med kærlighed

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Sunny Saturday exploring

Yesterday, Julie and I woke up and realized that we couldn’t waste the beautiful day stuck inside, so we decided to do some touristy things while the weather is still nice. We thought about visiting the zoo or going to Tivoli Gardens, but in the end we chose to see the Church of Our Saviour and Christiania. Even though it’s a twenty minute walk from the central train station to that part of the city, I had no complaints because it was such a beautiful day! I had also never really gone to that part of the city, so it was nice to see something a little different.

 

An absolutely perfect day to take in the sights of a new neighborhood.

An absolutely perfect day to take in the sights of a new neighborhood.

Towering over most of the buildings in the city, the Church of Our Saviour has a spire with a gold staircase that can be climbed all the way to the top. Even though I was a little terrified of the climb at first, it was worth it for the amazing views!

The Church of Our Saviour.

The Church of Our Saviour.

The inside of the tower was worse than the outside because at some points, the stairs were more like ladders. Plus, there’s only one way up and down, so it got pretty cramped.

The longest staircase ever to get up the tower.

The longest staircase ever to get up the tower.

But once I stepped outside, I could see that all the climbing was well worth it. The views were stunning!

One of the many views of the entire city.

One of the many views of the entire city.

Me on the tower. Thank god for that railing.

Me on the tower. Thank god for that railing.

So, Julie and I survived the climb. Unfortunately we were unable to see the inside of the church because there was a wedding that day. When I mentioned it to Maj-Britt, she said it was because the date was 7/9/13. Apparently they say 7-9-13 as a “knock on wood” type of thing, so it was a popular day to get married!

The bride and groom's getaway car.

The bride and groom’s getaway car.

After the church, we headed over to Christiania. Ahh, Christiania. Basically, an empty military barracks was taken over by hippies in 1971, and ever since then it’s been the home of Copenhagen’s counterculture. The town is unlike anywhere else in Copenhagen; the houses have some really unique architecture, there’s some really impressive grafitti art on nearly all of the buildings, and pot is sold openly in the streets (although hard drugs are not allowed). Because of this, Christiania has been very controversial because shutting down the drug dealers there just sends them to other places in the city. The residents recently raised enough money to purchase the 34 hecatres of land, so Christiania is now private property.

Unfortunately, I have no pictures of Christiania. On “Pusher Street,” where the marijuana dealers are, cameras are not allowed. My host family had warned me that taking pictures on this street would definitely get my camera destroyed, so I pretty much had my camera zipped up in my bag before we even entered the town. It was actually a really beautiful area and really interesting to see such a clear example of a counterculture that is pretty well-tolerated by the Danes. It’s also on the waterfront and, seeing as it’s a town inhabited by hippies, it’s remained in its natural, wooded state.

Seen from the Church of Our Saviour, Christiania stands out as a forest in the middle of the city.

Seen from the Church of Our Saviour, Christiania stands out as a forest in the middle of the city.

After we walked through Christiania, Julie and I stopped for some delicious ice cream because, yes, it was HOT in Denmark. We probably won’t get to eat ice cream in the sun for much longer, so we took advantage of the opportunity of course.

Julie enjoying ice cream in the sunshine.

Julie enjoying her ice cream.

We wandered for a little bit more, and then headed home. Such a wonderful, well-spent afternoon!

 

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Trip to Southern Denmark: Part 2

On Tuesday, we set off for Mons Klint, another set of cliffs along the coast. The natural beauty was absolutely stunning, and I’d much rather show than tell, so enjoy the pictures!

The view from the highest natural point in Denmark. (Most would call it a hill.)

The view from the highest natural point in Denmark. (Most would call it a hill.)

Our first view of Mons Klint.

Our first view of Mons Klint.

A mystical looking forest.

A mystical looking forest.

The stairs leading down to the sea.

The stairs leading down to the sea.

Me and Mons Klint!

Me and Mons Klint!

We stopped and enjoyed hot cocoa and cookies, thanks yet again to my wonderful professors. I was expecting my study tour to be packed with lots of activities, but for the most part it seemed like our professors just wanted us to take it all in, which I really appreciated. After our break, we hiked along the shore until we reached the next staircase that would bring us back up the cliff. By then I was too tired and hot to take pictures, but I would much rather forget the experience of climbing some 450 steps. When we reached the top, we had lunch at the cafe in the museum and were let loose for three hours to explore. The museum was interesting because it was focused mainly on the geological history of Mons Klint, so it was very local and applicable.

After Mons Klint, we ended the day early and returned to Stege where we were on our own for dinner. I ended up going to a pizzeria with two girls from my class, so we really got a chance to get to know each other. My favorite part of the night by far was playing the card game Spoons with 15 people, including my professors. We made up rules for rotating seats and stacking spoons, so I’m sure you can imagine how intense it got. I woke up the next day with mysterious injuries on my hands, but it was all in good fun.

On Wednesday, we had a culture/nature tour of Western Mon, which involved a tour guide named Stig and getting on and off the bus several times. We went to so many places and once again, it’s much easier to show in pictures.

We stopped at a gravel mining location to discuss the sustainable use of resources on the island of Mon.

We stopped at Praestebjerg gravel pit to discuss the sustainable use of resources on the island of Mon.

A preschool class also happened to be there, so my professor (right) took the opportunity to teach them about glaciers.

A preschool class also happened to be there, so my professor (right) took the opportunity to teach them about glaciers.

I was mostly thrilled about the blackberry bushes and capturing this little guy on camera.

I was mostly thrilled about the blackberry bushes and capturing this little guy on camera.

Fanefjord Forest, owned by two farmers that sustainably manage the forest by harvesting trees individually rather than clear cutting.

The forest was so lush and green that it almost felt enchanted.

Our tour guide Stig, with his fabulous drawings.

Our tour guide Stig, with his fabulous drawings.

Fanefjord Church, which is notable for its 14th century chalk paintings that have been restored.

Fanefjord Church, which is notable for its 14th century chalk paintings that have been restored.

Restored chalk paintings on the ceiling of the church portraying scenes from the Bible.

Restored chalk paintings on the ceiling of the church portraying scenes from the Bible.

Heaven and Hell.

Heaven and Hell.

The Garden of Eden.

The Garden of Eden.

After this amazing tour, we come to the event that I had most been looking forward to: lunch at a restaurant called Babette that is run by the previous chef at Noma (Denmark’s restaurant that was named world’s best three years in a row).

The entrance to the wonderful Babette.

The entrance to the wonderful Babette.

Our fancy table, complete with Danish beer, freshly made rugbrod and candles for that "hygge" feeling.

Our fancy table, complete with Danish beer, freshly made rugbrod and candles for that “hygge” feeling.

The first of four courses. The left is cucumber topped with smoked shrimp. The right was salted smelt topped with red onion and thyme. Everything was so simple, yet so fresh and delicious.

The first of four courses. The left is cucumber topped with smoked shrimp. The right was salted smelt topped with red onion and thyme. Everything was so simple, yet so fresh and delicious.

I wish I had taken a picture of each course that we had at Babette, but the food was just too good to waste time taking pictures. We all got a tour of the kitchen (which was tiny considering that they can cater for up to 1,500) and I even saw the dough for the bread that was to be served to the Queen the next day. Ooh la la!

And that concludes my short study tour to Southern Denmark! The sights were absolutely breathtaking and I feel really grateful to have seen a part of the country that not many other study abroad students get the chance to visit. On top of that, it was a great bonding experience with my professors and my classmates, and it made me that much more excited for my trip to Greenland in October.

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