I BLOGGED THERE FROM SEPTEMBER 2010 TO NOVEMBER 2016
We’ve come a long way together since my first blog post on 9 September 2010 for the website denmark.dk Three hundred and fifty-seven blogposts, to be precise. But it’s time to tidy my blog desk because Denmark.dk is shutting us down. We have come to the end. Slut! As we – selvfølgelig – say in Danish. 😉
I’ve loved sharing my experiences and fascination with those crazy Danes and Denmark. I hope you’ve enjoyed it too. It’s been a good six years!
Before I switch off the lights for the very last time, below is a rerun of my Danish Christmas Advent Calendar and my New Year’s Eve post.
As Queen Margrethe says…Gud Bevare Danmark!
With much love,
Diane, Denmark 🙂
ALL MY CONTENT HAS NOW BEEN MOVED BACK TO WHERE IT ALL BEGAN… DIANEDENMARK.COM
Tomorrow, 27 October 2016, is the last Thursday of the month of October which means that it is – selvfølgelig! – “Spil Dansk” (Play Danish Music) Day! 🙂
So don’t be suprised if the only music you hear on Danish state radio is by Danish groups (some of which also sing in English), Danish songwriters, Danish producers. Anything that has even remotely been touched by the red and white flag counts! But if you’re interested in Hit Lists and what you’d normally expect to hear around these parts – and what people actually buy and add to their collections – then take a look at Hitlisten.nu where you’ll find every official Danish list. There are the usual American artists, as you would expect, but also Danish artists like Lukas Graham, Volbeat and Rasmus Seebach are still in there. On a side note, Hitlisten’s info on the increasing number of vinyl records sold is rather interesting for an old, nostalgic lady like myself 😉
One of the more avant garde and original Danish artists right now is Bisse, who has taken the reviewers and the indie fans by storm. In Denmark, albums are given marks (or hearts) out of six. Here’s his own song, where he gives, “Seks hjerter til livet” – “Six hearts to Life”. Check out his album “Højlandet” which got 5/6 stars across the board from Danish reviewers. Bisse sings in Danish and you can hear him on soundcloud here.
And what do I currently have on my turntable? Agnes Obel. I’ve never really been a huge fan of her, but I love, love, love her latest album, “Citizen of Glass”! Agnes sings in English – here’s the song “Familiar” from the new album. And, although she has been settled in Germany for a few years, it’s kind of cool that she was born around the corner from us and was a former pupil at my DD14’s school (dear daughter, aged 14)…
But while we’re at it…let’s not forget one of our old favourites from Marvelous Mosell (with a teeny bit of help from Chic and Sister Sledge…) which contains the immortal lyrics:
“Der var både bajere og hash,
men jeg sagde: Stik mig bare en
kærnemælk i et snavset glas
med et sugerør i
og gør det i en fart, for jeg er sørme tørstig!”
“There was beer and hash
but I said: Give me some
buttermilk in a dirty glass
with a straw, and do it nifty
‘cos I’m really thirsty” 😉
What’s not to love?!
Happy ‘Spil Dansk‘ Day! Put on those dancing shoes and remember to turn it up to 11! But don’t forget to get out and hear music live… Like Johan, from my very favourite Danish band Magtens Korridorer, you’ll probably be swept off your feet! 😉
There’s no turning back! Despite a good fight by the Indian Summer the last couple of weeks, autumn is well and truly here. I’m now wearing my gloves on my morning bike rides because it is so darn ch-ch-chilly! But, hey ho, I’m a seasoned winterbather so I’ve learned to just suck it up and enjoy the small things…here I am this morning after my skinny dip, with some seaweed in my hair! 😉 (Air temp 8c/46f , sea temp still fairly ‘high’ at 12c/53f)
But every (soggy, rain-filled) cloud has a silver lining so the onslaught of the autumnal weather means the excuse to turn up the ‘hygge‘ on, get snuggly indoors and enjoy some fantastic Danish comfort food. I can’t fathom that I’ve been blogging here for five years, have written an eleven-part series on comfort food, but have not yet mentioned…Burning Love – Brændende Kærlighed! 😉
Like most Danish comfort food, it isn’t healthy. Nor is it pretty. So you are forewarned!
Fry up a lot of bacon until it is good and crispy and crunchy. The more, the merrier. I usually buy a whole piece and chop it up myself into little strips.
Remove the bacon from the pan and fry up a whole lot of onions. I also added a carrot or two (just to get some extra veggies in). Just get the onions nice and soft. You don’t want them too brown and you don’t want them to get crunchy.
Next you are going to make up your mashed potato. Now, if you are going the whole hog, you can boil/mash/add butter/salt. But last night I used the cheat’s version and went with a packet as we didn’t have much time. Did you know that there are several types of mash mix…check the label. Some have extra oils and chemicals added. Others are basically just cooked dehydrated flakes of real potato which you then rehydrate. (A fun fact which I learned in my heydays working at the European Court of Justice in the 1990s…yes, we had a case about the ingredients, and what should be listed as ingredients, in mashed potato! Case C-144/93 Pfanni Werke)
But, as usual, I digress! Potato, potahto…you decide what kind of mash you want to use! 😉 Put your mash in a large dish, top with the soft onions, pour the crunchy bacon on top of that. You can, selvfølgelig, add some chives or parsley on the top for a green garnish. But as my DS16 (dear son, aged 16), once said when he was about 5 years old, “Mummy, why do you put grass on top of our food?” Ha! 😀 But I would suggest that you finish off the dish with some freshly ground black pepper and serve it with lots of pickled beetroot…
Then dig in!
After that you are free to go lie down on the sofa and hygge to your heart’s content…
One of the things I love about Denmark (stop me if you’ve heard this one before…) is the mixture of new and old. On the face of it, Denmark is a liberal, modern, forward thinking country. When you scratch the surface, you discover the Danes’ deeply ingrained love of traditions. This morning I saw the new/old combo working in reverse.
We were at church for a Harvest service…
It was very traditional, so there were all the usual elements you’d expect. Beautiful displays at the church entrance.
Inside the church there were candles and flower/grain decorations at the end of every pew… (Yes, there we go again with those ubiquitous candles!)
When I went to church as a child in Scotland (on a side note, the Danish and Scottish church are very similar: they are both Lutheran), a large wooden plate would be passed around halfway through the service at Collection time. You would put in your coins as it was handed along the pew. Ching, ching! Or a little brown envelope containing your donation. When the plate made it to the other end of the pew, it was then handed to the first person in the pew behind, and off it went again. And so on and so forth. Fast forward to 2016… Ain’t nobody got time for that! 😉 These days you can make a donation on the way in, or on the way out. In our church, the collection box is fixed to the end of the first pew.
Oh, but hang on a minute, we’re in Denmark, right? Where most people don’t carry small change or banknotes. You see, we hardly ever use cash: we use our bank cards or our phones to pay for things. Remember my post from 2014? Cash ain’t King when you don’t have a Crown? Never fear! The church has thought of everything! Did you notice the little sticker above the collection box? With the ‘Mobile Pay’ or ‘Swipp’ app on your smartphone, you simply type in your donation and press send.
And, voilà, it’s done! No more fiddling around, desperately looking for coins underneath the sofa cushions or in your Dad’s coat pockets, before heading out to church. Less risk for the church of having the collection box stolen.
Welcome to Danish autumn! We officially started a couple of days ago (1 September) but autumn has been making its presence felt for a couple of weeks. And it’s the usual story…first thing in the morning there is heavy dew on the grass outside and condensation on the windows inside. When I cycle down for my sea swim it’s so c-c-cold on the bike ride that I’m already wearing my woolly scarf. But I have managed to resist the urge (at least so far…) to break out my woolly gloves and hat 😉
Sea temperature is beginning to fall slightly – around 15 degrees (59f).
But then – selvfølgelig – by the time we reach the afternoon, it’s all change and full steam ahead for the thermometer. The sun is shining from a cloudless, beautiful, blue sky and you start peeling off all the layers you put on a few hours earlier, swap your socks and shoes for some strappy sandals and then head down to the coast (like everyone else it seems) in an effort to cool off. Yes, you know you’re in Denmark when it can prove difficult to find a parking space…for your bike!
My friends and I were lamenting the end of Danish summer but trying to console ourselves with the thought off all that cosy, autumn Danish hygge that lies ahead. The apple cakes, the hot chocolate, the walks in the deer forest to gather chestnuts, the flickering candles. And then we stopped short. Because, um, well we actually light candles all year round. Even in high summer. Here I am in a restaurant with my son last week. Candles lit in the windows. Candles lit outside on the street. It was 25c (77f) that day!
Those are my sunglasses in front of the candle on the table. Sunglasses and candles. Welcome to Denmark!
Yes, yes, my friends and I said to ourselves. We’re looking forward to Danish autumn and lighting even more candles!
Regular readers, from my first post here back in September 2010 (which was – selvfølgelig – about farts – “Mind your language!”) will know that I am in l-o-v-e with Denmark and those crazy Danes! (I’m Scottish but I felt like I had finally come home when I moved here to Copenhagen in 1998.) I love the traditions, the humour, the contrasts, the people. There is only one thing that gets my goat up (okay then, two – if we count the blatant Danish overuse of the ‘F’ word – “I swear I heart Denmark!“). And that, dear readers, is the Danish postal service! Boo! Hiss! 😉
Don’t get me wrong. I love our postmen (and especially our very nice parcel lady, with whom I always have a long chat).
But the cost of sending a letter? Daylight robbery! I’ve growled before about price increases (“Pass the smelling salts, I’m buying Danish stamps“) but even I couldn’t foresee this new craziness. Here are the current options if you want to send a letter or a greetings card to a friend. I know I’ve said it before, but even Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask – ha!
Brev (letter) – for letters within Denmark, delivery takes up to 5 days – cost: 8 Danish crowns (roughly USD 1.20 or UK£0.91). Keep in mind that not all postboxes are emptied every day, so it may take even longer than 5 days to arrive…
Quickbrev (quick letter) – next day delivery – cost: 27 Danish crowns (roughly USD 4.07 or UK£3.06). Oh, and you can’t just pop a Quickbrev in the postbox. You have to physically hand it in to the post office! I kid you not. Honestly, it would be funny if it wasn’t true!
And if you want to send a birthday card to a friend outside of Denmark, for example, Europe? That costs 25 Danish crowns (roughly USD 3.77 or UK£2.83). You can use a postbox or hand them in to the post office… But, again, keep in mind that not all postboxes are emptied every day.
PostDanmark is now part of nordic PostNord – a Swedish Danish conglomerate. Bringing with it a colour change from the traditional red to blue. So all post bikes, vans, uniforms, logos etc are now blue. But, they assure us, postboxes will stay red. Hmm, let’s see what happens… And the snappy marketing line they have come up with? “Post du kender. Bare blå.” “The post service you know. Just in blue.” Perhaps they should have said. “The old post service you know. Just three times more expensive!”?
Funnily enough, our neighbours the Swedes, also served by PostNord, continue to enjoy normal postal rates. How on earth did they manage that? Answers on a postcard, please! Oh, wait, don’t bother. Just send me an email instead…
While others around the world are trying to ‘catch ’em all, here in Denmark I’m invariably trying to catch…the best food bag! 😉
Forget Team Mystic, I’m on Team Fight-Against-Food-Waste. There are several apps in Denmark which connect socially responsible food stores and restaurants with overstocks to hungry (and canny…) customers who enjoy getting a bargain. My favourite is TGTG (Too Good To Go) which is available for Apple and Android. The app also covers the UK and Germany.
Once you are logged in, you can search on a map, or search by offers which are nearest/cheapest/closing soon. The offers mainly fall in to two categories. Restaurants: where they provide you with a box and you fill up on sushi/whatever they have in their buffet. Bakers: where they provide you with a ‘magic bag’. Usually a mixture of bread, bread rolls, cake and Danish pastries.
As regular readers will know, I just l-o-v-e Danish bread and pastries (did you miss my 6 part run down on Danish pastries? go catch it here!) So I’ve – selvfølgelig – been trying what bakers are offering. Here you go. All fresh. All food that would, otherwise, end up in the bottom of a dumpster at the end of the day.
This entire bag, from a baker in Kongens Lyngby, cost 25 Danish crowns (roughly USD 3.75 or UK £2.85). Two loaves of bread, one ham and cheese sandwich, a couple of te birkes, a couple of kanelsnegle and about 10 assorted rolls.
This entire bag, from a baker in Charlottenlund, cost 30 Danish crowns (roughly USD 4.50 or UK £3.40). One loaf, one loaf of ryebread, three te birkes, two kanelsnegle, 4 teboller, a pizza snail and two sausage rolls.
There was so much food in these bags that we actually ended up putting half of it in the freezer. To give you some perspective on price, one loaf of bread at the baker costs roughly 30 Danish crowns. Our next stop will be trying out some sushi…
What can I say but yum, yum, yum – everyone on Team Fight-Against-Food-Waste wins!
So the other day I told you about the Invasion of the kids with caps… Once they get the cap placed on their head, it doesn’t stop there. It’s time to celebrate. Big time.
It goes like this. Each High School class gets on to a truck. Which they have decorated with flowers, banners, Danish flags, etc, etc, etc. One of the most important things is the banner on the side of the truck. Which tells you which class and high school the students graduated from. And what the students will do if you wave to them or give them a toot from your car. (And, yes, everyone takes it in good spirit and toot, toot, toooooooots!) Along the lines of “1 Toot, we drink. 2 Toots, we finish the glass. 3 Toots, we’ll give you a flash.” And these Danes keep their promises…we saw several bare bottoms last year!
And their parents/grannies/siblings/next-door-neighbours/the neighbour’s cat are on hand to give them a good send off. Flags? Check! Beer? Check! Air horn? Check! Loud speakers? Check! Ready for takeoff? Check! And where are they heading? On a loooooooong journey – they’ll stop at every student’s home for drinks and snacks. And – with about 25 students per class – that means that they’ll be driving around on the truck until the wee small hours of the next morning…
Alcohol, young kids and moving vehicles can be a dangerous cocktail. But the long arm of the Danish law are on hand to make sure that everything is all present and correct before take off.
At our local High Schools, there will be several trucks. Each playing different playlists. And that they play music for the entire duration of their trip around the area, usually 12 hours. Plus any passing cars or lorries will toot their horns and join in. Boom, boom. Toot, toot. Boom, boom! So it’s a very noisy afternoon and evening around these parts… Are you beginning to get the picture? Here’s a quick video I snapped of one of the trucks leaving the school (apologies for the shaky-hand) to give you a glimpse!
If you’re here in Denmark, you might want to sleep with your windows closed tonight (despite the tropical heatwave we are currently experiencing). Because it will be the wee small hours of the next morning that these trucks finally grind to a halt, the tooting stops, the speakers are unplugged, everything is a bit blurry, it’s actually gone quite dark (despite the long Danish summer days), and we can all finally get to sleep!
First there was just one or two. You didn’t notice them really. Just random dots on the landscape. Then they started popping up in the train and bus. They began to multiply. Huddled together in groups on street corners. In school halls, department stores and on the street. And – selvfølgelig – all over my Facebook feed.
What is this invasion? It’s the kids with caps!
School’s out for summer and – for third year High School students – school is out for ever! 😄 Hence the graduation caps. Which, once it is placed on their head, doesn’t seem to leave said head for weeks and weeks… You must also remember that, here in Denmark, there is no such thing as school uniform. So lots of kids wearing the same item is a rather special sight. There was even one down at my bathing bridge this morning…
And let’s not forget the families you will see walking around town, carrying baskets filled with flags and champagne. On their way to celebrate the big moment with their son or daughter, grandson or granddaughter, sibling, nephew or niece…
And notice how those crazy (but lovable) Danes wait patiently for the Green Man before they cross the road. Ten out of ten for good behaviour! 😄
The shops are filled with graduation greeting cards and lots of ‘cap’ stickers, cocktail sticks and gift ribbon. Buy, buy, buy!
But it’s not only students who are getting in on the act. Even the horse statue in the window of a local bar was wearing a graduation cap this morning!
Oh well, you know what they say. If the cap fits, wear it..?
I spotted witches in the supermarket today…which is a sure sign that we are counting down to Sankt Hans Aften! 😉
What is it? A huge event on the Danish social calendar – the night where you go out and celebrate St John’s Eve, probably better known as…midsummer! It falls on 23 June – which this year is Thursday. The Danes gather around bonfires, often topped with effigies of witches – the idea being to send them off to North Germany. There are bonfires everywhere. All along the coast and beaches, in parks and forests and in town centres. Normally around 9.30pm or 10pm, when it’s still light.
But, hey, let’s backtrack a little! The evening usually starts with people gathering – perhaps with a picnic – down at the beach or in the forest. The evening officially starts with a short Sankt Hans Tale or “Bål Tale” (bonfire speech) by a local dignitary or ‘personality’. And then the singing can start. Sometimes with live music from an orchestra or band. And, if you’re very lucky, a songsheet, so you can join in the singalong! 🙂
You’ll be singing Midsommervisen. A.k.a. Vi elsker vort land. “We love our country.” Last year we also sang I Danmark er jeg født (“In Denmark I was born”) and Der er et yndigt land (“There is a lovely land”) which you might recognise as the Danish national anthem.
Here’s a sneak peak of what you can expect, starting with the traditional version of Midsommervisen…
[Today’s post is especially for my DBB (Dear Big Brother) in Scotland.]
I got into the Quiet Zone compartment of an S-train last week when this sign caught my eye…
I had to take a closer look. No, my eyes didn’t deceive me. No drums allowed? Say what?!
It turns out – selvfølgelig – that those crazy Danes (or should I say some rather crazy, clever people at DSB) came up with this great sign to make us look twice. And to reinforce the idea of respecting the silence. I’m sure you’ve been in that position yourself – sitting next to someone with [excuse my French] crappy earbuds when you can hear every. single. pesky. boom. boom. schack. noise that comes out of their ears? Aaaaaaaaaaaaaargh! I’m all for loud music (I turn mine up to 11) but, please, please, people…get some decent headphones!!!
So although you are very welcome to bring your bike on the train (as I regularly do), please leave your drumset and your crappy earbuds at home! 😉
Three weeks ago we had hail stones and sleet, and hard frost during the night. Last weekend that all changed and yesterday afternoon (a bog standard Tuesday) our local beach was packed and the temperature was 20c/68f. Welcome to Denmark! (Though, of course, the water is still cold – 11c/52f – so me and my fellow Winter Bathing Belles were the only ones who were actually swimming in the sea…)
The warm weather brings Danes on to the beach, bikepaths and sidewalk cafés. And gives them a craving for that first ‘taste’ of summer – koldskål. Which means that the sales of koldskål rocket. Which in turn means that [gasp] when I tried to buy some this morning at the supermarket, the fridge section was completely wiped out! So it’s either make your own (homemade koldskål recipe is here) or make do with the (vastly inferior) longlife stuff. Boo hoo! 😉
So what on earth is it? The Danes have been eating koldskål for over a hundred years. Personally, I love the name. Kold = Cold. Skål = Bowl. Koldskål = Cold bowl! It’s traditionally made with buttermilk, raw eggs, sugar, vanilla and lemon. Today you buy it readymade from the supermarket. And the Danes buy lots of it. Millions and millions of liters of it during the summer months. When the temperatures start to rise, so do the sales of koldskål… As I found out this morning at the supermarket, there is often a problem keeping up with demand.
And what does it taste like? Hmm, even though I’m a ‘Dairy Queen’ (pass the cream, please, and yes, I’ll have a little bread with my butter), koldskål is definitely an acquired taste. A weird mixture of sweet and sour. But a very ‘fresh’ taste. It looks like thin yoghurt and you normally serve it in a bowl and throw a handful of little crispy biscuits called kammerjunkere (available from the supermarket or bakers) over the top. Or a few sliced strawberries.
You can eat it for lunch or dinner. Or as a mid-morning or afternoon snack. Or drop the kammerjunkere competely and just drink it straight out of a glass. Some people even eat it for breakfast. In our house we usually eat it after dinner, for dessert. My daughter aged 14 is addicted to it – so I had better find a new pusher soon!
If you’re out and about in Denmark today, you’ll notice that the buses, official buildings and private individuals are flying the Danish flag today: Dannebrog (incidentally, the oldest national flag in the world).
As regular readers will know, the thing I love about living among those crazy Danes is all the different traditions. Denmark is, on the face of it, a very modern country, but they have more holidays and traditions than you can stick a very big stick at. Hooray! Now, usually these special days are accompanied by a traditional Danish lunch (Easter, Whitsun, Christmas, etc), a Danish pastry (Fastelavnsboller for carnival) or bread roll (Bededag), etc. Something edible. (More often than not washed down with a cold beer and a small snaps…)
But Danmarks Befrielsesdag – Danish Liberation day – is marked in an entirely different way. The Germans surrendered on the Fourth of May 1945, and this message was brought to the Danes in a BBC radio broadcast at 8.36pm. (The surrender officially came into force the next morning, the Fifth of May 1945.) So many Danes will mark the occasion tonight by putting candles in their window. Just as they did on that night in 1945, when they were finally able to take down their blackout curtains (and burnt them in bonfires out on the streets) and placed candles there instead. A very beautiful and rather moving tradition that we also follow in our family.
Happy Danish Liberation Day. May the force be with you!
Hot on the heels of Big Prayer Day, I bring you yet another public service announcement…
This Thursday, 5 May 2016, we have yet another religious holiday where Denmark will basically be closed for business. What’s the occasion this time? Kristi Himmelfart. Literally, Christ’s Sky Flight. Or Ascension, as is the more boring name in English. Oh, yes, I may have lived in Copenhagen for 18 years but the Danish word ‘fart‘ still brings out the child in me! Don’t you just love the elevator buttons in Danish stations..? 😉
But, as usual, I digress! Attention! Where were we? Ascension. Oh yes, Thursday is closed and Danish schools make ‘a bridge’ for this particular holiday and so schools will also be closed on Friday 6 May. But most workplaces will be open for business as usual.
And what do the Danes do for Ascension? Just like our last holiday (Big Prayer Day), it’s high season for confirmations, a spot of gardening and – if the Danish weather gods are with us – enjoying some hot and sunny weather. So far we have had a very cold spring. As regular readers will know, I’m a winterbather, and our sea temperature has been stuck on 5c/41f for weeks and weeks… Cheers with a hot cuppa!
With Easter behind us, we are counting down to the strangest day on the Danish religious calendar. This Friday, 22 April, is Stor Bededag. ’Big Prayer Day’! Those crazy Danes decided back in 1686 that there were just too many religious holidays during the year. So they lumped the minor ones together, four weeks after Easter and – voilà – Stor Bededag was born. It’s an official holiday so Denmark will be ‘closed’ on Friday, and the kids are off school. It’s time to get out in the garden, work on a DIY project, make a trip to Tivoli Gardens or just chill at home. And eat big rolls! (More on that later in this post.) But many Danes will make a day trip to Sweden or Germany, where it’s business as usual and cash registers will be working overtime.
Big Prayer Day was traditionally a time to fast and pray. And, though I’ve yet to meet a Dane who willingly goes to church (apart – selvfølgelig – from christenings and weddings), a lot of Danes will be attending church this Friday. Not for regular church services but for confirmation ceremonies. Which was actually the case for us last year, when it was our son’s turn to go through this very traditional Danish rite of passage…
But the biggest tradition associated with Stor Bededag is eating hveder on Thursday night. What are hveder? Large, fluffy, pale, basic white bread rolls which you halve, toast and butter. You’ll find them on sale at the bakers but be warned that – despite their modest ingredients – they don’t come cheap!
I gave up queuing for them at the bakers years ago and just buy the ready-made ones from the supermarket. Best enjoyed warm with a nice cuppa!
After you’ve had your hveder, you’re supposed to go for a stroll around the city ramparts at Kastellet (Copenhagen Citadel). You don’t live near Kastellet? Well, sit back, relax and enjoy Denmark’s finest rock band, Magtens Korridorer singing about a picnic at the Citadel… (If the guy pretending to sing in the video looks familiar, it’s Nicholas Bro, an actor who was in the The Killing (II) and Borgen. Oh! And let’s not forget the third season of Broen/Bron/The Bridge 😉