City Break to Oslo

Before moving to Denmark I don’t think my city break ideas would have included cities in Scandinavia but since moving here my horizons have been expanded beyond southern Europe. This summer we decided to spend a few days in Oslo, Norway’s beautiful capital city. Once I got over the disappointment the city isn’t ringed by mountains just high hills, I fell in love with it.

We were lucky enough to be given some Oslo Passes by Visit Oslo so we could enjoy everything the city had to offer. I would heartily recommend getting these passes as they offer free public transport in the city, entry into many of the museums and sights and discounts in various shops and restaurants (read more here).

So today I thought I’d share our highlights of the trip. We are into museums so this dominated what we chose to do.

We arrived  at our Airbnb in Grunerløkka at lunch time after taking the speedy Flytoget into the city. This is a trendy area a few tram stops from the main station and a perfect place to stay with plenty of cafes and restaurants but relatively quiet. We pottered around the area for a bit and then went back to the city to look at the famous Opera House. It was really hot so we paddled in the water right in front of the Opera House. I love to see buildings designed in a way that enables people to enjoy them inside and out and the Opera House is a perfect example of this. First up on our first full day was the Viking Ship Museum on the Bygdøy peninsula (if you have an Oslo Pass you can use the ferry to the peninsula for free). This museum has some of the world’s best preserved examples of Viking ships. Housed in a former church the presentation of the two ships is breathtaking. There is an amazing film screened all day on the walls and ceilings around on of the ships. I thought this was worth the entry to the museum alone. We had a quick lunch time pitstop of Viking hotdogs here before heading onto The Fram Museum, about a twenty minute walk further along the peninsula.

I will say I am not a massive maritime history fan but I found The Fram Museum fascinating. I didn’t really know what to expect so the fact the actual ship is housed in the museum (I believe the building was build around the ship) and you can go on board and experience what life would have been on one of the ship’s famous voyages was a lovely surprise. The ticket office lady directed us first to the small cinema to watch a film about the ship but I would recommend that you head straight to the ship itself. If you are travelling with children there is a great interactive section where you can experience what it would be like to pull a laden sledge across the Antarctic and hunt for your food.

We had a little bit of time left after this museum so we went into the Norwegian Maritime Museum. I don’t think we would have bothered if we’d not had free entry. This is a museum for real maritime history buffs. In hindsight we should have gone to the Kon Tiki Museum next door instead – may be next time.

Next day we spent the whole day in Norwegian Folk Museum. This is one of the oldest and largest open air museums in the world. We loved exploring the small town area especially the apartment building with each apartment from a different era from the last 100 years or so. The old fashioned sweet shop was also a big hit. We then took a horse and carriage ride around the museum and then spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the farm yard area, watching Sami dancing, eating sweet flat breads called Lefse smothered in butter and being wowed by the wooden Gol Stave Church dating from around 1200. I think this museum was the highlight of our trip to Oslo.There is a lot to do in Oslo and as we were only there for two full days we had to narrow down what we could do. If we’d had more time I would have loved to have headed out to the Holmenkollen Ski Museum and Tower.

Practical Tips

One tip I will give you is not to bother with buying wine to drink whilst you are in Oslo. Due to strict licensing laws wines and spirits (but not beers) have to be sold from Vinmonopolet shops which are few and far between unless you are staying in the very centre of the city where there are four. Plus the price of an average bottle of wine is about three times that of the equivalent here in Denmark.

We flew to Oslo on Norwegian Air and as I booked in advance it was good value and only take less than an hour. Many people with better sea legs than us chose to use to do the Mini Cruise with DFDS and say it is a fantastic experience.

Children do have to pay on public transport even when travelling with adults.

You can use Ruterbillett app to buy transport tickets including 24 hour tickets (but not tickets for the ferry to Bygdøy peninsula) and RuterReise app to plan your journeys. There is also an app for the Oslo Pass.

I hope this has given you some inspiration to experience this beautiful city, I’m sure we will be back!

NB I was gifted three 24 Hr Oslo Passes for us to use to enjoy and experience the city. However this post is all my own opinions and thoughts.

 

Fishing in Denmark

Now I will start this by saying I am not an angler so the limit of my knowledge is shared below. My dad, however, is a keen fisherman who normally does lake fishing but this summer when he visited us he wanted to try his hand at sea fishing here. So as I did a fair bit of research for him, I thought I’d share it here. Fun fact – there are 2-300,000 pleasure anglers in Denmark!

First the law. You need to get an annual hobby fishing licence which costs 300dkk per year but if you are like my dad and over 70 years old you don’t need one. All the information about the licence including how to purchase one plus the rules about how, when and where you can fish can be found on the Landbrugsstyrelsen website. There is some information in English but as usual Google Chrome does a pretty good job of translating the Danish. There are also rules about how many of a certain fish you can land (which would be great for many hobby anglers to actually catch this many!) There is also a mobile app you can use to buy the fishing licence and also to check if the location you wish to fish in is outside a protection zone. The link to the app is here

Next where to fish. I asked for some advice on this and there were a few places that were recommended. The Sluse at Sluseholmen, Oceankaj (or Terminalen) at the very tip of Nordhavn (not sure how legal it is to fish here but there is a friendly vibe and plenty of mackerel and flatfish to be caught here. They have a private Facebook page you can join.) and along the coast south of Køge. It is possible to fish off Amager Strand between October and April, there are rules about the beach including this on boards all along the front there). This page on the By Og Havn’s website has a link to map which shows where it is permissible to fish in Copenhagen.

So where do you get your gear in Copenhagen? There are a few pretty good fishing tackle shops in the city and they are run by helpful and very knowledgeable people. I can recommend Jagt Fiskeri Magasinet close to Nørreport Station. Thor who works there took the time to write me a long email with tons of advice for my dad. It is a very well stocked shop. There is also Hunters House in Frederiksberg which gets good reviews, although we didn’t go to this place. Finally there is a tiny shop, Billigt Fiskegrej on Amagerbrogade, which also bizarrely sells X box games and Fidgetspinners, but my dad was very impressed with it and the prices were lower than he expected. The chap in here was also super friendly and helpful. There is also a reasonable selection of fishing basics in Bilka at Fields and on their website.

So happy fishing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to ‘school’

So here is the post I planned for last week. The summer holidays are over and this year the Danish ‘summer’ has been something of a very confused season. Some days have felt almost autumnal and there have been a handful of proper summer days. In fact the DMI said that July was the the first one for decades with no real summer days (defined as a day with temperatures over 25 degrees c). August is shaping up to be more of the same. What’s the betting we get a hot September and October? I read somewhere that instead of moaning about the weather we should be looking at why it is like it is these days and thinking about what we can do about it. DMI have said that this summer’s weather has been the hardest to predict for a long time. But we should be thankful for longer hours of daylight and more exposure to the precious Vitamin D the sun gives our bodies before we head into the darker winter days.With a sense of optimism the end of the school holidays always has the clean sheet vibe to it. New stationary, new bag, new experiences and a sense of excitement are what I recall from my youth of going back to school. I usually feel a little of this even as a adult and also living through it with my son now he is settled at school. But this year I have found myself sluggish and less motivated to get back to things. We had a very relaxed summer, which was just what we needed, but the change of gear is taking some time. I need a metaphorical kick up the backside.

I had pages of notes for the blog and some other projects (I am still a bit old school with paper and pen at times) and these were also taken with my laptop so I need to do all that thinking again and that is adding to the bottleneck in energy flow.

I have also let negativity get the better of me recently – my nerve pain is increasing and yet more tests are on the horizon. Sadly I have found myself fixated with worse case scenarios rather than best case ones. (In case you missed it I wrote this about my experience with medicinal cannabis.)

World events also feel like that are pushing down on us all, no matter where we live in the world, the Internet makes sure we are constantly aware. I have shut off all my news alerts so I have to actively read and watch the news but like a car crash it seems hard to look away and I want to be informed but with this comes a burden of anger and frustration.

So here I am getting some words down and giving myself the first kick up the backside. Sorry this is a bit more real world and less fluffy unicorns but hopefully there will be a little more unicorn sparkle on the horizon.

Now off to plan (again).

Dealing with theft

I had planned a little inspirational back-after-the-holidays post but yesterday I had my laptop stolen literally from right under me and I thought I’d talk about that instead.

If you are on any of the expat Facebook forums here you will regularly read about people who have had wallets taken from their bags in busy Metro stations and bank accounts cleared out before they have a chance to notice the missing wallet, and phones and laptops lifted in seconds. These people have worked hard for what they have and to have it casually taken is truly horrible.

So my story. I was eating lunch in Lele Street Kitchen on Vesterbrogade. I had tucked my rucksack with my laptop in under the table and was sitting eating my noodles and reading a book. I never once left my table. A small squat man in a loud checked shirt walked in and passed me to the toilet and then presumably left as he wasn’t eating in the place. I finished my lunch a few minutes later and reached down to pick up my bag. I noticed it was a few feet behind me and I thought ‘how did it get there?’ and in the next split second my stomach fell as I realised what had probably happened. Sure enough the bag was light and missing my Macbook. He had taken it to the toilet and taken what he wanted, zipped it up and put it back, looking exactly as before but in a slightly different place. All in the matter of minutes. As one guy said, these people are professionals.

Shouting and swearing started and the other diners gasped and looked shocked (at the theft not my swearing). I called the police to get a crime number and report the theft. Without CCTV there was little they could do and to be fair my excellent  description of the man wasn’t really a lot to go on. The police call centre bloke was very helpful and seemed relieved that I had a CPR number to the process for him was simpler. Humac helped me lock the laptop, which was passworded anyway, to render it pretty useless in the short term for the thief and my insurance will hopefully pay out. No one is dead but the thought that he looked at me, a real life human being, and casually robbed me is what gets me. But as my mum said, these people don’t have any rspect for anyone, even themselves.

So in the spirit of learning and sharing, here are my tips on avoiding and dealing with theft.

Number One – Keep your wits about you

I was reading a book, other people are studying, dealing with kids and push chairs, looking at Twitter on smartphones,  just normal day to day life which distracts us but this is when we are the most vulnerable. I always carry my phone and wallet in a little bag on my front and can see it at all times but larger items such as tablets and laptops will be in bags. Keep your eyes on your bags, on public transport have them on your lap or wrap the strap around your foot. The latter also in a restaurant or coffee shop. And never leave it unattended.

Number Two – Tiny acts of security 

I joked last night that I shall carry a bear trap around in my bag from now on or at least a mouse trap! But in seriousness, although it may not always help, a little padlock on the zips of your bag will deter would-be pickpockets who are looking for a fast theft. In my instance it may of caused him to abandon my bag in the toilet as it would have taken crucial seconds to bust the zip during which time I may have noticed it missing. Of course this is only a tiny and probably pointless thing to do in many cases but it may make them miss you off their spree.

Number Three – Tech security

Set up your computer or tablet with passwords which need to be entered at all times to open it. Seems obvious but not everyone does this. Also you can set up Find my Mac on the iCloud if you are a Mac user. I don’t know if PCs have the same but I guess it must. Store everything in the Cloud so you can restore your data etc. Also in iCloud you can lock the stolen device remotely and even have the chance to leave a little message to the thief. I went to the Humac shop where they helped me with this but you can log onto the Cloud on any device. I am sure there are loads more security things you can do, so make sure you investigate them.

Number Four – Calling the police

For this kind of theft you need to call 114 (unless you are sitting on the thief in which case 112 is probably more appropriate !) and select 1 on the menu choices (which are in Danish). Within 24 hours of reporting the crime you should get a crime report letter in your Eboks, which you need for insurance purposed. I found them very helpful but I was in no doubt that it was one of hundreds of calls they get in the month, that they are well aware of the kinds of gangs operating in the city but there is little chance of getting the stolen item back.

Number Five – Insurance

Today before anything gets stolen from you please ring your insurance company or check your papers to make sure that you are covered for theft outside your home. Even if you are not a freelancer who prances about town with a laptop, many of us have an expensive phone or tablet in our bags. Tryg, who are my insurers, will cover me for theft outside the home but I have to pay a deductible (or excess), which in the wider scheme of the laptop cost is OK but check this also. My insurer asked for a copy of my receipt for the laptop and the police crime report. They did mention a serial number but didn’t ask for it in the end. So make sure you know where receipts for expensive items are and also make a note of the serial numbers (if you are the kind of person who doesn’t keep boxes, which I do).

Number Six – Stay positive but a word in the ear of thieves 

Whilst there is an increasing number of thefts in the city, they are done by a minority of, albeit very prolific and professional, criminal gangs and not everyone is out to rob you. Everyone yesterday from the girl working in Lele’s, the other customers, the police, Humac, people who I don’t even know in the expat Facebook group were super kind and helpful. Taking care of ourselves, our things and those around us is the way to beat these people.

And to any thieves out there (who are no doubt regular readers of this blog :-)) Denmark is a country built on trust – of each other and those in charge – don’t wreck that, we value it and it needs to stand strong. And if I ever see that bloke again, whose appearance is burnt onto my retinas, let me just say in the words of William Shakespeare – though she be but little, she is fierce.

 

A Little History of Amager

As some readers will recall we moved to Amager earlier this year. As I am a bit of fan of local history, i was curious about our new area, often sidelined for the trendier areas of town.

I was surprised to find that Amager used to be known (and apparently still is in some circles) as Lorteøen (Sh*t Island) as for many centuries the sewerage from the city was brought out to the largely uninhabited island. Up until 1970s the main landfill sites for the city were also located here, cementing the name.Amager was a farming area and in the 1700’s the King decided to create a broad street from the farms on the island into the city so the farmers could easily bring their wares into the town markets. That street is Amagerbrogade.

After the second world war a reclamation project doubled the size of Amager and added the wonderful nature reserve of Kalvebod Fælled. Amager Strand was also created in the 1930s and later fell into disrepair only to be redeveloped in 2004-5.The main building on Amager began in the 20th century, the area of villas around Femøren and Kastrup were largely built in the 1930’s and the more working class apartment buildings closer to the city slightly earlier. In the second half of the 20th century Amager gained the reputation as a slightly run down working class area but has recently undergone urban renewal and there are signs that even hipsters are starting to discover Amagerbrogade. They haven’t got that far down the street yet but the recent opening of  Jagger outpost as well as Cocks and Cows and Gorms indicates the future.There are still a number of businesses on Amager which have been around for generations and I hope they continue. I found an interesting article about these shops and businesses and I thought I’d share a little summary here.

Th. Sørensens smørrebrød shop has been run by four generations of the family since 1896. PE Larsen butcher, which always seems to have queues on a Saturday, has been operating since 1901 and another fourth generation business (with the fifth about to join). Bacher, a shop selling work overalls, safety boots and men’s fashions has been in operation since 1897 and now also has an extensive e shop. The oldest goldsmith shop on Amager is the 110 year old business Anni Jensen.

Amager Fiskehus on Holmbladsgade started in 1870 when the then owner, Peter Salmon drove his horse-drawn carriage to Frederiksberg to sell his fish before opening a shop in 1902. The business is now run by the fifth generation of his family. Finally there is Gunnar Madsen wine shop also on Holmbladsgade since 1927, in some reviews it says this is the old style wine merchants we need to stick around and I couldn’t agree more! I hope all these shops stick around for as long as possible. 

Pictures from here and here

Dejlige Days Podcast coming this autumn

So to give myself some accountability I thought I’d share my plans to start a podcast in the autumn. It was be an initial season of around 6 episodes to see how I, and the audience, get on with it.  There will be a mix of solo episodes and also interviews, with content not just about life in Denmark but looking at other subjects which would interest other expats (or potential expats) elsewhere.

I love reading blogs and articles but I find that I tend to consume a lot of content via podcasts, especially as I can do this when travelling back from dropping off my son at school and walking around. I believe that more and more people are also consuming in the same way.

It is a daunting prospect but its something I really want to do and I hope that people will be interested. Do get in touch if you can think of anything you might like me to talk about.

So watch this space as I navigate the tech and planning around this. I hope to be launching in September.

Tips on how to be a better tourist

I know that tourism is very valuable to cities but as a resident of a popular tourist city it can get a little tiresome when the city is full of tourists who seem to have not experienced humans en masse before. Every summer I find myself grumbling under my breath when yet another tourist has knocked me heavily with their giant ‘day’pack, stopped dead in front of me as they suddenly look at their phone or take a photo with an iPad. I become what the Brits would fondly call Victor Meldrew so I thought why not take the grumbling to a new level and write about it on The Huffington Post! Just to say I do practice what I preach when a guest in another city!

You can read my moans here! 

On another note about the summer, the school holidays started here on Friday and my son proudly finished Year 1 with a great school report and sense of tiredness. We have six weeks off and plan to relax as much as possible (I’ll still be taking relocation clients during this time so do get in touch if you need to) but I will be popping up here on the blog as and when the whim takes me. I’ll return to regular posting in August.

In case you think its a bit quiet here you can follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook (where I post up new blog posts).  Have a great summer!

Sankt Hans Aften – a Danish midsummer tradition

 You may have heard people talking about Sankt Hans Aften (St John’s Eve) or seen posters advertising events for the evening of the 23 June. It is the midsummer celebration in Denmark, which is typically marked by the burning of huge bonfires with a witch atop close to water. Across the beaches and lake areas on this evening there are big public and private gatherings with speeches, picnics and traditional songs which culminate with the burning of the bonfire.
It is a little confusing for some people from outside Denmark as the summer solstice is celebrated in astronomical terms on the 21st June. In Sweden midsummer is celebrated on the Friday or weekend closest to the solstice, and Danes and Norwegians will observe it on the 23rd.
 

We have been to the event in Frederiksberg Have a number of times and it gets very crowded but is great fun, even if the speeches do seem to go on for ever (and longer if your Danish isn’t great). Not sure how it will pan out if the weather continues to be cold and wet but the Danes are nothing if not resourceful. The legend says if the fire can’t be burnt then there will be less hazelnuts come the autumn.

Find your local celebration and enjoy a real Danish midsummer (hopefully without rain, we need our hazelnuts!)

 

 
 
 
 

Danish Summer makes me wish for autumn

I know it sounds weird but the average Danish summer, such as we are having now, makes me wish for autumn and even winter. There is that joke that started going around on social media last year – the Danish summer is the best day of the year!

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Danish summer is a confusing beast. Two days ago it was so hot and humid that I was falling asleep in the afternoon and then the next day it was breezy and chilly. I dashed out of the house this morning in cotton trousers (which was fine)  and a coordinated  T shirt, feeling pretty good until I realised that a long sleeve or jacket was really needed. The sun may be shining but it’s still blooming chilly.

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Yesterday I found myself saying to my son that we should stand inside the station to keep warm – it’s almost July and this isn’t what I should need to say!

With Autumn and Winter you know where you are and there are no weather surprises. I know the expression is that there is no bad weather just bad clothes but I like to know what section of my wardrobe I need to raid rather than wearing clothes to cover four seasons in a day.

I hope, as we go into the school holidays, that the summer will stop being so schizophrenic and stick with warm and sunny with a light breeze – lets hope the weather goddess is listening!

Tackling plastic waste this summer (and beyond)

As we are enjoying the summer at last here, I notice even more how much plastic waste is accumulating in the bins in the city. Whilst there is a good system of recycling from homes there is none really for public bins and that is where people are putting a lot of plastic waste from smoothie cups and coffee cup lids to straws and ice cream spoons. Bins are overflowing with plastic.Whilst we can put pressure on supermarkets to reduce the amount of plastic they use, there are many steps we can take to reduce the single use plastic we use ourselves. I read last week that Americans throw away 500 million plastic straws a day  and that every piece of plastic ever made is still in existence somewhere on the planet.

I recall working on campaigns to reduce plastic waste over 15 years ago when I worked for the Women’s institute and it astounds me that the same campaigns and advice is still needed now. It is easy to look at the huge issue of plastic waste and feel that we are powerless but unless everyone takes even the tiniest of steps themselves there will never be change.

I am as much of a culprit as many others but I do try and takes steps to reduce our plastic consumption and when I don’t I feel a twinge of guilt. So today I thought I’d share some ways you can reduce your plastic waste this summer and beyond.

First up plastic bags. This is an easy and inexpensive one to tackle – cloth bags. Pop into any Søstrene Green and you can pick up a cloth bag of a few Krone, roll it up and keep it in your bag and you will never need a plastic bag again. For heavier shopping bags from Onya are amazing and they pack up into little pouches so you can again keep them in your bag. You can also find these kinds of bags in many shops in Denmark.  I bought a selection of these bags about 10 years ago and the first one has bitten the dust this summer.  We have a selection of strong cloth bags in our shoe closet so if anyone in the house goes shopping they can simply grab one.

When you are shopping for loose fruit and veg (which isn’t always easy to find this kind of produce without packaging) you can use cloth bags instead of the plastic ones in the supermarket and they can be used time and time again.  There are other places that sell these kind of bags but keep in mind you are reducing plastic waste so try and find cloth ones. You can buy them very cheaply in Løs in Vesterbro (as well as package free foods).Coffee cups and lids are an obvious one and again an easy one to tackle with reusable coffee cups. If a coffee shop refuses to use your cup then find one that does – Riccos certainly oblige. You are spoilt for choice with insulated coffee cups here from expensive ones from places like Imerco to cheap and cheerful ones from Søstrene Green, Tiger and supermarkets. Again be mindful about what the cup is made from as you are trying to reduce plastic waste. Drinking bottles are another thing you can buy and refill with water – you can get metal ones easily. You can also get smoothie cups with lids in some shops for that smoothie on the go (not tried to ask the guys in Joe and the Juice to fill one of these but I can’t see there would be an issue).

As mentioned above one time use plastic straws are a huge issue. An alternative is paper straws which again can be found easily in (you guessed it) Søstrene Green. But an even better alternative is reusable straws such as these Eco StrawsWe all love a bit of ice cream in Denmark but think of all those colourful plastic spoons used every hot day. Easy fix is to keep a little spoon in your bag for such occasions. Nothing fancy just something you can wash and use again. Same goes for cutlery you may use with takeout lunch food.

Finally a real bug bear of mine is the little plastic gloves supermarkets provide at their self-serve bakery shelves. There are also tongs there – use the tongs, people and save on plastic, it’s just as hygienic. And if there are no tongs available vote with your feet and money and go elsewhere (after mentioning it to the manager).

I know you are probably thinking that is a lot to carry around but it isn’t really and it makes all the difference to the city and the world around us.

Some other actions to consider are buying things such as washing detergent, hand soap etc in eco bags and filling your bottles at home. Neutral do Eco Pack which use 75% less plastic than a bottle. Also direct action by complaining to your local supermarket head office about their plastic use. Little steps create big leaps.