Adventures in Copenhagen and more

Last of the Expeditions, and Back to the Grind

It’s been awhile since I last posted, and I apologize for that. I have been quite busy touring Norway, finishing up classes in Copenhagen, fitting as much of Iceland as possible into a 24 hour window, and heading back to Carnegie Mellon. I will try to update now on the past few weeks.

First, I have pictures of my running route in Copenhagen. Most of my run was along the banks of a canal just south of Christianshavn, which means I ran through parts of Christiania. For those who don’t know about it, Christiania is a community in Copenhagen that is perhaps a bit anarchist, doesn’t believe in landownership, and enjoys partaking in soft drugs. A Christianian would say that it is a place where the inhabitants are truly free. The Danish government would say that Christiania is quite illegal because inhabitants did not purchase their land, do not pay taxes, and do not abide by the Danish drug policies. I personally liked Christiania because of the old, colorful, wooden homes in the forested areas by the canal that it surrounds. Also, my run led me through a more traditional Danish neighborhood with more beautiful scenery.

This is a typical street in the residential portion of Christiania. No cars allowed.

This is the Church of Our Savior, which has a really interesting spiraling steeple and gives great bell performances. It is not in Christiania, but this picture was taken from Christiania along my running route.

“Stop Danish Monopolization of and Colonialism of Greenland’s Inuit Land.”

Foreground: traditional Danish neighborhood
Background: a Kollegium, i.e. private collegiate housing

The literal bridge between Christiania and the traditional Danish neighborhood

The traditional Copenhagen neighborhood: tidy, green, and bike.

I’d say the Danes that live here have a green thumb.

A warehouse lot that I thought was interesting, with painted number and painted fences

This is close to where I lived in a Kollegium. These crazy party people have just graduated from the Danish equivalent of High School, which is known as Gymnasium. It’s a tradition for graduates to drive around it these old military vehicles and visit the family of every graduate in the group. Evidently, each family is supposed to serve them drinks, so they are quite loud and carefree by the end. The poster says “3 years at NSG.” NSG is the abbreviation for their Gymnasium.

The Norway study tour was absolutely incredible. We took an overnight ferry from Copenhagen to Oslo, spent several days in Oslo, took one of the most beautiful train rides in existence from Oslo to Voss, spent a day there, took a train to Bergen, spent a day there, and then flew back to Copenhagen. Unfortunately, my unavoidable forgotten item of the Norway trip was my camera. I will do my best to steal pictures from my friends.

Oslo was a very interesting city. Compared to Copenhagen, it is less uniform and newer. The Norwegians extract tons of oil from the North Sea, but all of their energy comes strictly from hydropower, meaning all extracted oil is exported. Thus, they have lots of oil money to the point where they are not allowed to spend it all because it would cause incredible inflation. Lots of these excess funds are used in building in Oslo, so downtown is very modern. Some of the highlights of Oslo were the opera house, the Nobel Peace Prize museum, the Edvard Munch museum (the Expressionist guy who painted that famous Scream piece), a visit to a large hydropower company StatCraft, and a visit to a small voluntary carbon offsetting (this is the subject that I’m currently doing research on!) company Mitt Klima.

The Oslo opera house is fascinating because you can actually walk on top of it. It’s designed to be like a sloping glacier, and it’s on the harbor in the middle of Oslo.

Yup, it’s a glacier.

Incredible architecture to say the least.

This is also a shot from the opera house, right on the Oslo fjord.

Outside of downtown Oslo, streets like this are plentiful.

Inside is a very cool exhibit of the recent Nobel Peace Prize Laureates as well as a subjective photography exhibit of the war in Afghanistan.

Next we went to Voss, which is a small municipality somewhere between Oslo and Bergen. Voss is kind of in the mountains, but the town itself is adjacent to a lake. While we were there, an extreme sports festival was going on. Hang gliders were all over the place. We went on a 10 mile hike in the mountains near Voss, and it was simply beautiful.

This sign welcomed us to Voss. It’s a sure result of the extreme sports festival.

The reason Norway can provide all of its energy with hydropower is because of the incredible magnitude of glacial runoff. It’s the same reason the Norwegian coast is lined with fjords!

Our Norwegian tour guide encouraged us to taste the berries of the plentiful juniper plants. “They taste like gin” she said. They tasted like evergreen tree to me.

These little guys were spotted along the side of the trail.

There were a bunch of sheep along the trail as well. Apart from tourism, it seems like they are really the only product of the area. They were often frightened by us initially, but after we were around them for long enough, they would keep their distance and kind of follow us around. This guy got very comfortable with us.

This is what is known as a summer farm. Nobody lives in this area in the winter time because it is heavily blanketed in snow. In the old days, this is where Norwegians would come to farm and raise animals during the summer. Now, they are primarily summer homes for leisurely purposes.

This is where we turned around because it was about as far as we could go without snow gear. Keep in mind this was in July with weather in the 60s Fahrenheit.

This is where our hike of one breathtaking view after another ended. This is the view from the Stalheim Hotel, where 19th century German painters used to come and draw inspiration from the surroundings. Eventually, the paintings became renown and tourists began occupying the hotel.

Our final stop in Norway was the city of Bergen. Bergen used to be the hub of Scandinavia a long time ago because of its ideal natural harbor. Today’s Bergen was described to me as Norway’s San Francisco, which seemed accurate to me. The annual precipitation in Bergen is nearly double that of Pittsburgh. And I thought I had it bad! Fortunately, we were there for one of the rare sunny days, and we were fortunate enough to see how beautiful the city is. At the Bergen fish market, I ate the best fish I’ve ever had, hands down.

These are some of the oldest buildings in Bergen. Today they house harbor side restaurants and shops.

The Bergen harbor is the main stimulant of the Bergen economy, through both trade and fish.

The Bergen fish market had all sorts of sea creatures for sale, from salmon to monk fish, to lobster, to shrimp, to huge crabs, and even whale meat. I tried a few samples of the whale in sausage form. It’s unique. For lunch, I was less adventurous and had a salmon filet. Incredible!

Evidently this is what the head of a Monk Fish looks like. If you can’t tell, it’s quite large, perhaps the size of two of my heads.

Like Pittsburgh, Bergen has a funicular that takes you to the top of a small mountain overlook. Yet another breathtaking view!

From what I could tell by my day long layover, Iceland was also fantastic. Reykjavik is the northern most capital in the world, so it was a bit colder than Copenhagen, and even Norway. Jacket whether in July? I don’t think I could live like that, but it was a lovely place to visit. I didn’t take many pictures of it, so you must go visit for yourself! Highlights included the Icelandic Maritime Museum and a free evening concert by Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men in the park.

Now it’s back to work in Pittsburgh, and thus the end of my travel/study blog. Internet, it was grand.


Off to Norway!

I will be heading to Norway this afternoon with my Climate Change and Technology class. We will spend 5 days between Oslo, Voss, and Bergen. I’m excited to wake up very early tomorrow morning and see the sun rise over our ferry in the Oslofjord. It’s nothing less than a dream for a nature-lover like myself.

Also, on this past Thursday, the class visited the Danish community of Hyldespjældet, pronounced something like “hew-des-pyil-deh”. It is a suburban community containing about 400 flats. The community is traditionally underprivileged, but they have implemented a series of environmentally friendly initiatives that have helped reduce their cost of living. For example, they have hen houses, greenhouses, and a few goats. They have on-sight recycling and composting. They also work closely with agricultural establishments in the area to recycle their bodily waste. Apart from the environmental ingenuity, they use some of their land as a type of art bank. They allow sculptors to deposit and pick up their work when they need to. Perhaps the coolest part was the playground! The community had an excellent environmental and social atmosphere.

Berlin and New Session

Here are some pictures of my weekend trip to Berlin!

My new class also started yesterday. I’m excited about it in part because the professor is so interesting. He’s currently an Ernst & Young sustainability and environment consultant, and has been in the business for years and years. His teaching is very practical. A large portion of our work will involve studying the Danish Windmill Cluster. Tomorrow, I will be interviewing former Danish MP Kim Behnke of Energinet.dk, the operator of the Danish energy grid. The interview, and the class in general, should be a great experience! I anticipate that the study tour of Oslo, Voss, and Bergen couldn’t hurt that greatness.

End of Term 1

This past week was my last of the first class in Copenhagen. In class we studied several interesting case studies in the auto industry, specifically the late 90s murder of the electric vehicle, the revolutionary Tata Nano, and a company named Better Place. Today was our last day, and we ended the term with a field trip to Better Place’s Hellerup location. Better Place is a company that provides infrastructure for electric vehicles specifically across Denmark and Israel. In addition to installing charging stations, Better Place is building battery replacement stations for longer trips in the time it takes to fill up a tank with gas. Our class got to drive the impressive Renault Fluence Z.E., which is so quiet, you can’t hear the difference between when it’s on and when it’s off. Evidently the New York Times published an article about Better Place a little more than a year ago. Outside of class, I wrote a someone interesting semi-research paper about stakeholder management in the tobacco industry. I chose that subject because I wanted a challenge. I was not let down.

The end of the first term means that I have a long weekend coming up. I will be spending it in Berlin! I will be sure to post a report with pictures when I return.

The past week, museums, and UEFA Victory!

It’s been about a week since I last wrote on this blog, and that’s because I’ve been pretty busy with school work. This week, I had three projects that centered on the Swedish company Ericsson and the Danish companies Maersk and Bestseller. The projects took the form of presentations and a simulated consultant-management meeting. I can say for sure that I’ve learned lots about Nordic businesses.

I spent most of last night watching the Euro 2012 soccer tournament and hanging out with my Danish floormates. If you haven’t heard, Denmark surprisingly triumphed over the Netherlands in an unexpected upset last night! Needless to say, all of Copenhagen was delighted. Even though Denmark isn’t a soccer powerhouse, I look forward to the rest of the tournament; in fact I’m watching an exciting Italy-Spain game right now.

Earlier today, I visited two of Copenhagen’s wonderful museums: the Danish Design Center and the National Museum. The design center had a fascinating exhibit about sustainable materials that reminded me of a course I took at Carnegie Mellon. At the national museum, I learned about Danish history, from early humanoid species to today. Denmark’s history is a little bit overwhelming compared to the United States history I’m used to. The national museum had an incredible array of artifacts, particularly from Viking and medieval times.

I’m looking forward to another week of class. Perhaps I will take another trip next weekend between terms. I’ll keep you updated.

Weekend Trip to Barca

Here are several pictures from my weekend adventures in Barcelona! We spent most of time walking and sightseeing, so the pictures and their captions tell my story pretty well. When not on our feet, we enjoyed our fill of delicious food (tapas, Iberian ham, pizza, juice, coffee, other Spanish beverages).

Thanks Egholms!

Thank you to the Egholm family for allowing me to join in their family dinner last night. Their lovely home is located in a cohousing community in the suburbs of Copenhagen. Jesper and Berit prepared a wonderfully delicious dinner, cake, and coffee that filled me to the brim. Also, the stories of all their travels inspire me. Congratulations to their youngest daughter Alberte and friends, because today is her last day at school! I look forward to joining them again.

Earlier this week, several friends and I found cheap tickets to Barcelona. That will be this weekend’s destination. Expect pictures soon! But first, I must go to class. Haha!

Whit Monday Adventures

Today was Whit Monday, the Monday following Pentecost Sunday. In Denmark, like many other European countries, this day is a national holiday, which means no school! Instead of learning, I explored the city more. First, I headed over to the Nørreport to meet up with some friends that live on the northern part of the city. On the way, I took this picture of the lovely “Black Diamond,” part of the Royal Danish Library. Also, the near spire is that of Christiansborg Palace, which houses all three branches of Danish government, and the far spire belongs to one of the many ancient churches in Copenhagen.

After meeting up with some friends, we headed to Frederiksberg, which is a wealthy suburb of Copenhagen. It is home to a massive garden, Frederiksberg Palace and the Copenhagen Zoo. Though the zoo was our ultimate destination, we didn’t make it in time to purchase a ticket. However, we did explore the garden thoroughly, eat incredibly large, decorative, and expensive sandwiches at one of the many sidewalk cafes, and overcome the temptation of a coffee and cake buffet.

After returning home, I took a run around my neighborhood on Amager island. I ran past the beach, from which I could see many Danes enjoying the spectacular weather, several offshore wind turbines, and the Øresund Bridge, which is a 5 mile bridge that runs between Copenhagen and the Swedish City of Malmö.

After my run, I was super hungry and made the rather large meatball sub in the picture below. It consists of a dirt cheap, toasted baguette, homemade seasoned meatballs, marinara sauce, spinach, tomatoes, sliced bell pepper, and a healthy amount of parmesan cheese. The few Danes also in the kitchen had never seen a meatball sub before. They seemed impressed, but considering the culinary creations I’ve seen them make, they were more distracted by the size than anything else.

It appears the Danes on my floor, who are also all students, manage their budget by cooking often and skillfully with reasonably priced groceries, while avoiding eating at restaurants, which are much more expensive. This is something I can definitely relate to, though my cooking is not always as skillful. While in conversation with them, I did learn that Danish meatballs and Swedish meatballs are indeed different, though nobody could determine exactly in what ways.

Now, I must finish my readings for class tomorrow. Back to school!

Check out my apartment!

I live in what is known as a kollegium. It is essentially the equivalent of the American dormitory. I believe it is run by the government and is designed such that only students live in the kollegiums. My kollegium, Øresundskollegiet, consists of 8 tall towers connected by a main hallway. There is a bar and a restaurant in the basement, along with some multipurpose rooms.

I share a bathroom with one other student from Washington University in St. Louis. He’s here with my program, but the rest of the floor consists of students at Copenhagen University. The Danes are very welcoming and clearly well-read. All of them are extremely fluent in at least both English and Danish. The floor’s kitchen is equip with many mini-fridges (which are normal fridges to Danes) and a few freezer boxes stacked one on top of another. Additionally, there are two ranges and plenty of communal cookware. I share the kitchen with about 15 Danes and my suite-mate, so I’m excited to interact with them often.

Here are some pictures of my room.

First day of classes

I just was released for my first day of class, and I am just as excited to be here as I anticipated. Today’s discussion focused on the arguments for and against Corporate Social Responsibility. The discussion was centered around a publication by Milton Friedman, with arguments rather Smithian in nature. My reading for the next class includes the Danish and European plans for social responsibility plans. They should be informative but lengthy reads.

After class, I headed over to Cafe Europa 1989 at Nytorv (Danish for “New Square”). This particular cafe is home to world champion baristas. Copenhagen is one of the leaders in coffee trends, and I can assure you my 6 dollar espresso shot was almost worth 6 dollars. Even the affordable coffee machines here are of much better quality than most US coffee. Perhaps this is not the best place for coffee addicts like myself.