Monthly Archives: October 2014

Eurotrip Day 3 & 4 in Denmark: København Kory (last entry)

This will be my last entry in Denmark. Even though I was in the country for 4.5 days, I didn’t really go out much because all my relatives had to go to work and I was too unfamiliar with the public transportation system in Skjern and Copenhagen (I previously lived in Aarhus) to really go off on my own.

But anyway, where did I leave off yesterday? Ah, Skjern. Skjern is a very small, quaint town. A lot of stores and shops have popped up since the last time I visited, but it’s still very peaceful and quiet. So peaceful and quiet that I have a hard time writ– yawn – sorry, where was I?

They really love their red bricks and roofs here:

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My uncle let me tag along while he went to get his computer fixed. Skjern is so small that we had to drive to the next town to get to that computer store. On the way we saw some scenery, and I have to warn you, they get pretty exciting…

Just look at this grass:

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Ooh, a peek at the ocean:

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Oh look, the famous Danish turbines:

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Too much for ya?

Fun fact: The majority of the world’s wind turbines are produced by a Danish company, Vestas. I learned this last time when my journalism class assigned students to go to Copenhagen for a week and write an environmental story.

Funner fact: after that class trip, I was transcribing my interview, accidentally pressed something on the camcorder and recorded over most of my interview footage.

Edit: OK, because I didn’t really have a lot of photos this time around, and I’m feeling nostalgic, I’m going to add some old ones from 2008:

These are some photos of my classmates island-hopping from Aarhus to Copenhagen:

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A photo of us sitting by the canal, eating our dinner.

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Isn’t this gorgeous? Doesn’t this look like a beautiful scene right out of a Hans Christian Andersen story (you know, before all the usual tragic, gruesome and dismembering stuff happens)?

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During the summer, they usually have outdoor movies. We watched “No Country For Old Men.”

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Our orphanage-like hostel:

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Anyway, enough about me. You’re here to learn about Skjern and its awesomeness:

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This is the Skjern train station:

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Here is a statue of a grumpy Viking in front of the train station:

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Here is a Fakta grocery store. I have good memories because this is the chain that I relied on when I lived in Aarhus:

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At around 4:40 in the afternoon, my mom and I (my brother had gone to Odense to visit my cousin) boarded the train to go back to Copenhagen. We had a one-hour layover in Esberj, and finally arrived in Copenhagen at 10 p.m. Quite of a journey for a country that has only 10 percent the land mass that California has. But as I said before: islands.

A restroom sign at the Copenhagen train station; ooh the Danes and their cheeky humor:

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The next morning, I woke up with a slight cold. My other uncle and his girlfriend took us grocery shopping. I’ve previously noticed that the Danes love their fresh-squeezed orange juice a lot; they don’t really care for that pre-bottled “made from concentrate” stuff. (By the way, note to Americans: the comma and decimals work the opposite way in Europe. For example, 1,5 liter means 1 point 5 liters and 4.000 means 4 thousand. That mix-up caused me grief when I was paying my rent here).

I thought this was like the coolest thing ever:

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Then there was this, a fish market on a truck. Say what?

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Yes, I know these are not that exciting nor representative of a Danish vacation, but when you’ve been cooped up in the house all day, you take what you can get. At this point, you can show me an outhouse and I’ll post pictures of it.

That night my cousin threw a lovely dinner party with Danish food. My cousins made roast pork with potatoes and pesto/parsley sauce. My uncle’s girlfriend also made a bunch of food, including baking a cake. She’s a whiz with food and she doesn’t use shortcuts at all. She makes everything from scratch, including pasta (like she made the dough and everything). Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of those foods.

That night my cousins wanted to go out clubbing. Normally I would say “yes!” but 1) I was feeling sick and 2) our flight was the next morning and we still hadn’t packed yet.

So instead, I just said “yes…” without the exclamation mark. Luckily I had a long nap during the day because I was bored. After my brother and I finished packing at 1 a.m., my cousin drove us downtown:

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We waited in line for some club named Flamingo:

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But my cousin, Vivi, was turned away from Flamingo because she’s not yet 21. Seriously, Denmark? In a country where people can legally drink at 16, where teachers brought us a keg as an orientation present, and where our college had a beer vending machine…going to a dance club is where you draw the line?

Luckily nearby was a club called Miami (I really don’t know how they pick these names) that was 18 and over:

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My cousins got us a bunch of Jägerbombs:

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I’m usually a beer and sometimes Long Island iced tea kind of guy, I’ve never had Jägerbombs before (especially since I once wrote an article about the dangers of mixing alcohol with energy drinks), but they were delicious. But I only had two because I was feeling sick and nauseated.

Then we headed to the dance floor. I took more pictures because at this point I feel I owe it to my amazing audience of 4 to 5 people who read these blog entries:

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Some fire drink thing going on over here:

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After that we went outside for some fresh air, and I felt my nose running. I wiped it and it was blood. I was bleeding, and I guess, sicker than I had thought. So at 3:30 a.m., my cousin the designated driver and I left the club to go home early, and the others stayed behind an hour more.

At 6:30 a.m. we all woke up and had breakfast, then we headed to the airport around 8 a.m. This time, to be safe, we weighed our carry-ons and my cousins helped us re-distribute the weight, and we paid for two extra check-in luggage, and what do you know, the airport staff didn’t even weigh our carry-ons.

At that point, I was full-blown sick. I had a fever and when you’re sick, your ear pressure changes, so during the short flight to Sweden–not going to sugarcoat it–my ears and brain felt like they were going to explode. My ears popped but wouldn’t unpop.

I tried to distract myself by taking some pictures through my window. This is the Øresund Bridge, the longest combined bridge in Europe, and at one point, the world:

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Oh look, pretty clouds:

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Then we had a four-hour layover, and during that whole time I was mostly deaf. I googled all the tricks, like yawning, to unpop my ears but none of them worked. Luckily on the long flight to Oakland, we boarded the Dreamliner, which has a high-tech artificial cabin pressure system, so my ears didn’t feel as bad. I was feverish with a bloody nose, and yet for some reason I was mostly worried about grossing out any other passengers.

Here are some nice photos I took from the window. You can’t tell from this perspective, but the engine was MASSIVE, like the size of a house:

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We crossed over some amazing sights, including this frozen underwater mountain range:

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And ah, back to Oakland.

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This was my first time flying through the Oakland Airport. The Oakland Airport might be less pretty and popular than its glamorous sister, the San Francisco Airport, but I loved it for one reason: we just zoomed through customs! Usually at SFO, when I disembark an international flight, I have to spend at least an hour going through customs. But at the Oakland Airport, we American citizens got to stand in this short line that took probably 5-10 minutes and the customs agents were so nice and friendly to us and said “Welcome home!”, while all the non-U.S. citizens had to stand in this long, winding line so they can be asked stuff like “Are you a terrorist?”

Yay for being American! Normally I feel bad about privileged stuff like this, but hey I was so sick, I didn’t mind cutting in line.

Well…that ends my 2014 Eurotrip. I hope you have enjoyed reading my entries.

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Eurotrip first days in Denmark: Skjern-dalous!

Yes, I know this looks like a lot of reading, but just get through the first part and you’ll be rewarded with some kinda pretty pictures and my eternal gratitude.

On Tuesday morning, we left for the Paris – Charles de Gaulle airport (you know, the nice one). Our flight was at 7 a.m., so my uncle (who happens to be a Parisian taxi driver, which is also why he’s been too busy to hang out with us the past two weeks) picked us up at 5 a.m. We thought we would have plenty of time, but the drive to the airport took longer than we thought. Due to traffic and minor snafus, we got there at about 5:40 a.m.

By the way, I will never complain about L.A. drivers again. Parisian drivers are frightening! Everyone drives so closely, they’re always two inches from crashing into or maiming each other. On the other hand, I heard that drivers in Paris are a lot more forgiving and “meh” about scratches and dents. In California, a slight scratch, and the other driver is magically suddenly in a neck brace. On the first hand again, drivers in Paris get victimized all the time. Just the previous week, my uncle got his taxi rear windshield smashed into and his daughter’s bag was stolen–while he was driving the car.

And I will insert a random picture here just to break up the text and not make reading look so daunting. Not sure if I showed it yet, but this is banana Flambé we ate at a restaurant the previous week:

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Anyway, back to the airport. We discovered each of our checked luggage was 1 or 2 kilos over the limit, so we had to take some things out and throw them away or put them in our carry-on. I am always careful about all my luggage and carry-on not being over the weight limit, but my mom had put some things into my suitcase. When it comes to flying rules, I am a stickler for them. I weigh my carry-ons, put all my liquids in a baggy, turn off my phone and everything. My mom and my brother both dismissed me and said, “Nah, just put everything in your carry-ons. No one ever weighs them.”

Well, weigh they did. Right before we got through the security gate, we were asked to weigh our carry-ons. And my brother had 3 carry-ons. Everyone’s stuff was overweight. So we got sent back to the check-in desk. We managed to condense most of our stuff into two new checked-in bags and it cost 140 Euros. Sure, it was expensive, but what could we do? We had bought too many souvenirs. We figured, “That’s fine. We just need to get on our flight.” So I pulled out 140 Euros from my wallet, but the Air France check-in desk lady said “Sorry, we don’t accept cash here. Only cards.” Seriously? We had used all the money on our international chip-and-pin Mastercard thinking we no longer needed it since we had plenty of Euros and Danish kroner left. My brother and I pulled out all our American credit and debit cards (all Visa), but all of them were declined. Like, WTF? I had told my bank twice that I was going to Europe and all the countries I would be visiting so that they wouldn’t freeze my accounts. “Visa…It’s everywhere you want to be.” Apparently Visa thinks we only want to be in the U.S. Arrgh. (Later Visa would call me to say “We stopped your transactions because they seemed suspicious.) The check-in desk lady said, “There is a way you can pay with cash, but you have to go to this special office and that will take a long time, and by then you’ll miss your flight.” Everything was going wrong.

We decided to just go through security and get to our gate and try to convince the employees to let us pay the excess baggage fee after we safely boarded our flight. But Air France wouldn’t have that. They scanned our boarding passes and “unpaid excess baggage fees” flashed on their screen. We tried to use all our credit cards again, and the employees tried to call our cards in to make it seem less suspicious to Visa, but this time the Air France credit card machines were down. There was also confusion over which bags we had already paid for; at one point they thought all our bags were unpaid. And our plane was starting to leave.

Finally they called two supervisors over. The whole time though, all of the Air France employees spoke amazingly calm, like they didn’t realize we were missing our freakin’ flight, and they spoke to each other in rapid French, so I could only make out a few words here and there. Finally about 20 minutes later, the woman in charge said “We’ll book you on the next flight, which is three hours from now. You can pay cash at that office” and they walked us to some special Air France lounge where we paid the fees in cash. It took forever, because there was a line of people, and only one lady at the desk. I think number one rule in the Air France employee handbook must be that employees are not allowed to show any sign of urgency at any time whatsoever. I don’t know what the lady was doing, but she spent like 15 minutes calmly typing stuff into her computer before our cash was finally accepted and our receipt was printed. After that, we went back through security for the *third* time. By then I was so stressed out and couldn’t even enjoy walking around the airport and taking pictures like I’d normally do at every airport. The airport provided free international copies of the New York Times so I picked one up to cheer me up.

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Oh look, a cover story about poor people in third-world nations compelled into giving up their organs to rich people in first-world countries. Actually, that did make me feel better. I might’ve missed my flight, but I do have all my organs.

(By the way, we actually actually lucked. I found out that six days later, all Air France pilots went on a two-week strike and all flights were canceled.)

Our flight itself was pretty nice. The flight attendants were very nice. The cookies they gave us were very nice. We did lose power in one engine system and had to circle around the sky for another 20 minutes while the pilots tried to get the backup system online and save us from certain death, but other than that, our flight was pretty nice.

Then we arrived in Copenhagen. Ta da!:

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Hej Denmark. It is indeed the world’s happiness nation. One thing I’ve noticed from living there: virtually all Danes I’ve met have a healthy sense of self-esteem and are very well-adjusted, even the extremely rare non-gorgeous ones. What’s up with that?

As with our flight to Paris, we arrived on a rainy day:

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My uncle picked us up, dropped us at his place and then he had to go to work. So I didn’t get to take any pictures besides these two from our drive:

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We didn’t do much for the rest of the day but eat. The next day we decided that since my relatives in Copenhagen were so busy with work, we’d go visit my other aunt and uncle in Skjern, a tiny town known mostly for being the last stop on the train.

I remember the first time I bought a train ticket to Skjern (in 2008), the ticket lady nearly giggled when I said with an overly American accent: “Ska-jurn.” It’s actually pronounced more like Sk-yenne, but fast so it sounds like one syllable.

We arrived at the Copenhagen train station. It was at this point that I realized I forgot to pack my camera in my overnight bag and it was still at my uncle’s home in Copenhagen. Oh well, luckily I had a backup camera (yes, I packed one). It was an old, low-definition one but I figured it’s perfect: a tiny, old camera for a tiny, old town.

Love the Danes and their bikes:

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Fun fact: their love of riding bicycles is the reason most Danish men wear skinny jeans or capri pants. And by “fact,” I mean, well, I just put two and two together.

The first train was very nice:

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My mom was already exclaiming, “Trains in Denmark are so nice, while the ones in France are so trashy.” I told her that other trains in Denmark are not so nice. The previous week we had gotten into a tiny argument because she would think one city is representative of the whole country, like “France is such a loud and busy and crowded and touristy country.” And I’d tell her, Mom, that’s only Paris. Each city is different.

Anyway, we passed by fields of grass and ocean. Grammatically I don’t mean fields of ocean. I mean fields of grass and some ocean.

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Few people know this about Denmark, but it’s actually made up of several small islands (and my relatives live on 3 different islands), so traveling between them requires a plane, a train or a ferry. If you want to drive, you can park your car on the ferry and your car gets “shipped” over.

It was a very long train ride. I lost track of the hours. I kept myself entertained by reading this book by J.K. Rowling, which is very good, about an eccentric detective (is there any other kind?) investigating the death of a supermodel:

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And I always get a kick out of passing by this town (because I’m, like, 12):

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My aunt and uncle own a restaurant right across from the Skjern train station, called Chicken & Burger:

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(I didn’t take pictures of the inside because I didn’t want to seem creepy to the other customers.)

Despite their already comprehensive-sounding name, Chicken & Burger has everything from pitas to milkshakes to Chinese chicken. They made me one of my favorite Danish dishes, pølse mix: a plate of deep-fried hot dogs and fries, covered with sweet condiments and onions.

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Screw the diet. This was Heaven. Oh and they also gave me some of this too, it’s an orange sweet-salty powder that Danish restaurants sprinkle on their fries. It’s amazing. Last time, I had to bring a big bottle of it back to the U.S. with me:

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I’ll end the entry here. We didn’t do much more that night and I’m tired. More tales in Skjern to come later. “Skjern” you believe it? I hope you can “Skjern” wait for the next entry! OK I’ll shut up.

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