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Loving Life as a Foreign Service Family – Current Parallel 41° 23' N – Barcelona, Spain

Denmark and a Tiny Bit of Sweeden

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This is a LONG post, with a lot of photos.  You’ve been warned.

June 20 –

We depart for the Lagos airport after work, to enjoy one of the perks of serving in a hardship post, R&R travel. When they wanted to widen the road on the way to the airport they didn’t tear down the whole building, that would be a waste, so they just took out a wall or two.


June 21 –

We arrive after our redeye flight and get settled in to our first home away from home away from home. We went to Copenhagen, to stay with friends we made back in A-100.  They were very generous to open their home to us, and it was really great to see them again.


Taken at 10:30 pm.  The days were long and glorious.  The sun came up at about 4 am.  We were there on the summer solstice, so got to experience the longest days there.  In the winter, apparently, it is the reverse, with the sun coming up at about 10 am and going down by 4 pm.

June 22 –

We used The Copenhagen Card for nearly all of our travel around Denmark and admission to most of the attractions we visited, and I can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone visiting Copenhagen.  We went with the 5 day validity option, which included all of our rides on the trains and busses, that whole time.  I’m sure we more than paid for the cards just in those costs, without even considering the costs of the museums and other places we went.  One thing that was cool in Denmark (though less relevant to us since our admissions were covered by the Copenhagen Card) was that most museums are free for children, and only adults are charged.  They want children to learn about their country, so they don’t charge.

After securing our Copenhagen Cards, we set off to the oldest amusement park in the world: Bakken.


Actual size cotton candy, no camera tricks.  It was roughly the size of his torso.

The kids loved all the rides of course but the family favorite was good old fashioned bumper cars. We road them probably around 12 times.

June 23 –

Glorious strawberries! This one food is one the whole family often craves. Our hosts were kind enough to pick some up for us the first day we got there. So perfect.  You can find most foods in Lagos, if you’re willing to pay for it.  You can even find imported strawberries, for an arm and two legs.  Unfortunately, strawberries don’t ship well, so it just isn’t worth it for the moldy, smashed, pathetic berries you actually get.  We ate SO many berries (and stone fruits) on this R&R.

What a back yard!

Ben – Contrary to a typical vacation, I got up early most mornings, about 5, to go running with my friend before he had to go to work.  Sorry for the early alarms, honey!  It was glorious running in Denmark.  The air was clean, and it was nice and cool in the mornings.  Several mornings we ran down to the coast, about 5 miles, and then joined a group of other early morning swimmers with a skinny-dip plunge into the cold north sea.  It was quite a wake-up!

Saturday morning, on our way back from the sea, we stopped at a bakery and got Danish (of course) and other deliciousness.  We may have gone a bit overboard, but it all got eaten, and I regret nothing!

Arriving at the National Museum of Denmark, with Christiansborg Palace in the background. I became obsessed with the beautiful man holes in Copenhagen so I was often stopping to snap a picture.

There was a large red button in the middle of the room. Oliver asked the docent what it was for and she said push it. This ancient visitor came to life and shared her experience living in prehistoric times. The kids loved the interaction.  She asked what kind of animals we hunt for food, what did we have for breakfast?  Oliver told her croissants.  She said she would report back to her tribe that they should start hunting croissants.

These shirts were pretty great.They were from the wedding of Axel and Eigel the first registered same sex partnership in the world performed in Denmark in 1989.


Roger thought the medieval weapons and armor were really cool. So did Ben.

Christianborg Palace, Oliver refusing to associate with the rest of us.

We took a glass-top boat tour (also included with the Copenhagen Card).  The glass was less clear than we would have preferred, and it definately would have been advantageous to get a seat early, so we could have sat on the right.  Oh well, it was still beautiful, and a fun perspective to get on the city.

The new opera house.  The outside is limestone and maple wood, and it was gorgeous.


Church of Our Savior Tower- our guides joked that is the most famous tree in Denmark.


The Round Tower was really cool.  It was built in 1642 as an astronomical observatory.  The inside is a spiral ramp all the way up.  

This church was attached to the Round Tower.  Along the spiral ramp there were niches, which of course our dramatic kids had to fill.

Harrison the Gargoyle

Dannica the Model

Roger trying to remember where he left his keys…

Oliver the Dabber

Wuv, twue wuv.

There were beautiful 360 degree views from the top of the tower (click for full size)

Finally, before heading back home, we stopped at the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum

Because of course you make a rhino when you have a large collection of wine corks.

June 24 –

The next day we borrowed some bikes from our friends, and rented some bikes from a bikeshare station, and explored the city on human powered wheels.

First stop: the Little Mermaid Statue. We had paused near her on our open top boat tour the day before, but couldn’t see very well.  There was a swarm of people around her on the shore as well, but we managed to get some glimpses.  She was much smaller than I expected, somehow.  About the size of our 8 year old.   

The kids were troopers.  We probably spent 4+ hours actually riding bikes this day, going from destination to destination.  There were some tired legs by the end of the day, but it is such a bike friendly city!  Our friends tell us that when it snows, the first thing to be plowed is the bike lanes, then the sidewalks, and finally the roads.  Only about 1 in 6 Danes owns a car, but nearly everyone owns a bike.

Next stop was the Design Museum.  This was really cool.  It was dedicated to products and art which were designed in Denmark.  Some of the things were very functional, some were purely aesthetic.  I really enjoyed the hallway full of chairs.  I may be a bit obsessed.

As we rode along, Oliver said that this was his favorite city ever, and the best day ever.  He thought it was really cool to be riding bikes along the roads around town.

Our final stop before getting back on the train to go home was the Botanical Gardens.  We all wished we had more time there.  Really, we could easily have spent two weeks or more in Copenhagen, instead of the 6 days we spent, and still not have run out of things to see.  We really enjoyed this city.

June 25 –

Ben – Did I mention that my friend and I went running in some really beautiful places?  This lake was about 2 miles from his house along a beautiful dirt road through the woods in the middle of the suburbs.

We passed this door every day on the way to the train station.  We were on the fence about whether or not we would take the ferry to Sweden while we were planning our trip because it would eat up most of a day, between the train ride and the ferry.  When we figured out that we would also be right near a castle that Ben wanted to visit, and we walked past this door again, we realized that the door was talking to us.  So we went.

The ferry pulls away from Denmark for a short 20 minute ride to Sweden.

Sweden is made for cold-blooded people.  Even though it was a beautiful sunny day, all of the outdoor chairs at most restaurants had blankets draped over them for patrons’ use.

We really just had lunch, and then a few hours to explore a small amount of Sweden.  So we decided to play a game.  We walked, and each time we came to an intersection, it was another child’s turn to decide left, right, or straight.

When we got back to Denmark, we walked half a mile from the ferry station to Kronborg Castle, also known as Hamlet’s castle. Ben is always interested in things from the 1500s, and wanted to go.  We had heard that we could explore the dungeons (which perked up the kids’ interest) and the materials we had also said something about a live performance in the castle.  This ended up being one of the coolest parts of our trip.  Throughout the summer, they hire actors to put on an abridged version of Hamlet inside the castle.  We first caught a scene in the courtyard, and when the actors finished that scene and said to us, “quick, to the Queen’s chamber to find out what happens next,” the kids were hooked.  They spent the next hour or so chasing actors all over the castle, up and down twisty stairs, enthralled in the story of Hamlet.

Oliver made sure to get up front and center for every scene.

You can see Harrison literally running after the actors in this shot, none of them wanted to miss a word!

Dannica decided that her new goal is to work here during the summers when she is in college.  Sounds great to me.

Jun 26 –

Ben – I went to work with my friend for an hour or 2 in the morning, just to see what the Embassy was like. It was really interesting to see consular work in Copenhagen, compared to in Lagos.  His boss was very kind and let me observe interviews for a while.  Even in that hour and a half, I saw a Nigerian applicant!  After nerding out over consular stuff, I went to the nearby train station and met up with Dy and the kids, and my friend’s wife and kids, and we went exploring for giants.

Wild cherries!  Stone fruit!  Found near a giant.  What are these giants we’re talking about?  This is really cool. Essentially, the artist “wants to bring art out of the museum, show the beautiful and often overlooked nature spots, and at the same time give an exciting and different experience.”  There are 6 huge wooden giants hidden in forested areas in Copenhagen.  The website has some semi-vague maps that can direct you to them, or if you have trouble, google maps can help out.  We found two that were relatively close to train stops, and went to find them.  If we had rented a car, I’m sure we would have made time to find all 6, as the kids really thought it was fun.  As we were getting close to where the map said we would find it, they would scatter, each hoping to be the first to lay eyes on our quarry.

Sleeping Louis

Teddy Friendly

After we spent time with the Giants, we continued out to Roskilde to visit the Viking Ship Museum.  The Danes knew that there was the wreckage of an old ship in Roskilde harbor.  In the 1950s, they put up steel walls around the wreck and pumped out the water, and then started excavation and preservation.  They ultimately discovered that there was not 1, but 5 wrecks there, of ships about 1000 years old.  They have been preserved and are now on display at the Viking Ship Museum.  There is also a living history element on display, in which they have re-created several ships to the same specifications of the extant ships, using (as best as they can determine it) the same techniques of construction and those are now sailed in the harbor and have been out on the ocean.  Ben was in heaven.

Ben – This diagram shows some of the actual pieces which were found, and how they would have gone together with the rest of the ship.  The outer planks were essentially held on with willow rivets!

I’m ready to go a viking!

The planks are split out of whole logs with wedges, and then shaped into flat boards with adzes.

A new keel is laid for the next project.

Pickled herring which was actually quite delicious.

Over all it was a whirlwind amazing time. We would go back to Copenhagen in a heartbeat and would definitely enjoy a posting there. So clean and so green. The people were friendly although not everyone thinks so. I overheard two black men with West African accents on the train mention Nigeria. I butted into their conversation asking if they were from Nigeria. They were from Cameroon (Nigerias Eastern neighbor). We chatted for the next ten minutes of so about their families and immigration to Denmark. They said they knew I was American since I spoke to them on the train. In 8 years they said the only converstations that people had initiated with them were  two people from the US. I do not think that being American makes me friendly, I think spending time in West Africa has made me so much more so.

We hope to repay the favor to our wonderful hosts when they come visit us sometime when we are posted in an easier country. It was a lovely vacation.

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