New in Denmark

Denmark, latitudinally speaking

 

denmark-lat-long

This weekend is the start of the unofficial summer season across Canada when individuals and families begin their summer season travels, lasting until Labor Day, the first weekend in September. Maps will be with many travellers.

For me, travel and maps go hand in hand. When I first visited Denmark in 2012, I always had a map of the city or Danish countryside I was visiting.

Get out a map of Denmark. Or find one on the Internet with its latitude and longitude.

The lines that run east and west across Denmark are the latitude lines; the lines that run north and south are the longitude.

Skagen, the far northern tip of Denmark shares with Aberdeen, Scotland, the same latitude, roughly 57 degrees north. Denmark’s southern most community, Gedser, is roughly at 54 degrees north. Still north of where I live, outside of Vancouver, BC, Canada, with its latitude at around 49 degrees north.

Map reading also helps you understand the news better. The massive and destructive fires in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada is around 56 degrees north. The same as Aarhus.

I learned that Aalborg in Nordjylland (North Jutland) at 57 degrees north is at the same position as Edinburgh, Scotland.

If I drew an imaginary line from Denmark’s capital city to western Canada, I found it would be just south of the southern tip of Alaska. Which explains a lot, seasonally and weather-wise.

Being this far north, it told me why København – and for that matter most of Denmark – has long, dark winters just like Alaska. Like the old saying about real estate (location, location, location…), this Nordic country’s position on Mother Earth along with the wind, rain, time of year, etc. from the North Sea helps dictate the country’s weather. That is why I chose to visit Denmark twice in September (Not too hot and not too cold as that nursing rhythm tells us).

It’s too bad they don’t teach students in the primary grades of North America how to read global maps in school (Maybe they do in Denmark). Curiosity and coming from a family where maps were valued made me only want to learn more, not less, about maps and the larger world.

Remember this when the upcoming summer solstice come ‘round next month. Or come December. When the winter solstice brings darkness when you are having a hot coffee or tea. Or a pint of Carlsberg beer.

When it’s hot in Denmark, reach for the ‘cold bowl’!

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…)

koldskål4

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! 😉

koldskål3

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.

koldskål2

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.

koldskål1

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!

Velbekomme! 😀

Diane :)

Star Wars and Danish Liberation Day

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).

bus

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…)

liberation

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.

liberation2

Happy Danish Liberation Day. May the force be with you!

flag

Diane :-)

 

 

Attention! It’s Ascension!

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..? 😉

elevator

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!

10

Have a great Kristi Himmelfart!

Diane :-)

 

Big Prayer Day? Time for big rolls!

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…

bededag

 

Want to know more about Danish confirmation and the traditional “Blue Monday” that follows it?  Then go read my post “When Blue Monday isn’t New Order!”

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 😉

And me? I’m praying for some warmer weather. It has been exceptionally chilly (not to mention wet and windy) so far this spring, so we’re still waiting for everything to start blooming.

bededag2

God Stor Bededag!

Diane :)