A Scandinavian Holiday Season

Hello again!  We find ourselves in January of 2017.  Here’s to a happy new year for you and yours, and to another stable revolution around our sun.

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever.” – N Gaiman
This holiday season was a bit different for us.  We are rather far away from our homes and families.  With that in mind, we celebrated this holiday season the best way we know how: with Travel and good food!  ‘No Pants Dance’ (heretofore referred to as NPD) is in town visiting with us at the moment, and so we started our holiday travels with a road trip up to Skagen which is the most northern tip of Denmark.
We rented a car from the Aarhus airport.  This was the cheapest but not even close to the most convenient option.  You have to love 0400 bus trips to the airport when the rental car company doesn’t open until 1100.  Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), the Aarhus airport is small enough that the buses only head out there according to flight times and we didn’t do enough research before setting our car pick up time as 1100.  In the end we got the car at a great price and we were on our way.  A bit more about the car itself…  I have never driven a smart car before.  This was a Toyota Aygo, which is basically a smart car with a slightly larger trunk.  Can we talk about the amount of space I needed to park this thing?  Practically nothing.  It was genius.  I made a spotify playlist that featured only songs with the words tiny, small, or toy in their titles.  Oh, and Barbie Girl.
The drive from Aarhus to Skagen was uneventful and pretty.  The landscape of Denmark is quite nice, albeit very flat.  There is lots of farmland, and there are many small picturesque towns between Aarhus and Skagen.  We arrived in Skagen right around 1230 and happened upon the skagen bryghus.  We had a delightful lunch of pickled herring, skagen toast (which is basically shrimp salad and crusty bread), fried oysters, octopus salad, a fantastic mixed cheese board and some damn fine craft beers.
Bryghus sampler
Bryghus driftwood Christmas tree
We headed to Grenen beach after lunch.  It is a unique place to visit because here (at Denmarks most northern point) the Skagerrak and Kattegat seas meet in ‘eternally crashing waves’ and head on out to join up with the Baltic and North seas.  These two bodies of water have slightly different salinity and as such have slightly different densities.  There is clear line where they meet and the waves run out into the ocean away from the shore.  It is breathtaking.  We got super lucky because it was a pretty cloudy day, but as soon as we walked out onto the beach the sun came out.  There are also old WW2 bunkers here, which despite being a reminder of a rather turbulent past, are fun to see.
  You can clearly see the line where the two seas meet.  So. Cool.
The sun gifted us with her presence.  ♥
I like to hop on rocks.  That big rock looking structure in the ocean is actually the top of a sunken WW2 bunker.
From here we headed to a place called Råbjerg Mile.  This is a roving sand dune.  It is a massive dune containing 4 million cubic meters of sand that moves about 18m a year due to the lay of the land and the intense winds in northern Denmark.  This impressive dune has literally buried churches and homes.  It led to the formation of the sand drift act of 1857, which basically strategically planted trees and planned urban development in such a way to minimize the damage caused by this monster.  We got to the dune right around sunset so the lighting was perfect.  It felt a lot like being on another planet.  I am, however, still getting sand out of my pockets.
Is that Tatooine?
NPD made a sand angel.
We raced to the top.  I did not win.
Sometimes we are gross in public.  Not often does this gross-ness get such an epic backdrop.
I should add here that NPD gets the photo credit for pretty much all of these amazing photos because after navigating us to northern denmark, my phones’ battery bit the dust   (or the sand, in this case).
Ok, guys.  There is a teddy bear museum in Skagen.  Unfortunately, we arrived half an hour after this magical place closed.  We did enjoy coffee and biscuits at the cafe associated with the haven of teddy bears.  We were teased with glimpses of adorable stuffed bears, and the coffee and biscuits were good.
Cafe and fancy statue thing.  ♥
We spent the night at an air bnb in a town called Aalborg, and then spent the following day doing some sightseeing there.  We went to a viking graveyard and museum called Lindholm Høje.  The vikings buried the ashes of their dead after creating a pyre surrounded by large stones for the ceremonial burning, and allowing the earth to grow over them.  These burial mounds are either circular (for women), triangular (for men), or ship shaped (also for men).  The overall effect is quite impressive.  The museum was wonderful, and full of artifacts from the Aalborg area from the stone ages up through the times of the vikings.
A view of the burial grounds from atop a small hill.
We also checked out the Kunsten modern art museum.  While I am not always a huge fan of modern art, the Tate modern in London has swayed me a bit.  While the Kunsten was not my all time favorite museum, it was a nice experience and they had several collections I really enjoyed.  They had the life work of Maria Lassnig (a Finnish woman who specialized in self portraits).  They had the first and last self portraits she did, as well as everything in between.  It really told the story of her life and it was super interesting to see how her style changed and evolved over the years.  They also had a rather impressive piece by Michelangelo Pistoletto called ‘Eleven Less One’.  I guess it is a piece about balance of creation and destruction, but really I just thought it was incredibly visually stunning.  But then, I don’t pretend to understand most modern art.
Eleven Less One – Michelangelo Pistoletto
In sum- visit northern Denmark!  Do it!  It is fantastic!
We spent Christmas in Aarhus with NPD.  It was a relaxing day with good food, better company, and a conspicuous lack of pants.  There was also a lot of glögg (danish style mulled wine).  I highly recommend this combination to everyone.  We made julehjærte (woven danish heart baskets), and did Christmas crackers that we bought in London.  We all talked with our parents and grandparents and friends (and facetimed with family that has facetime capabilities).  We had lasagna for dinner.  Because lasagna.  It was, in fact, a very merry Christmas.
Necessary lasagna shot.
My particular brand of crudité.
Advent Candle.  Genius.
All the julehjærte in a row.
Our table top tree.
A well fed cat who got to eat a can of tuna for Christmas.  He is not spoiled at all.
Seriously.  Not spoiled.
On the 26th, J and I headed to Helsinki, Finland!  NPD stuck around in Aarhus to check out the town (*cough* I wonder what she got up to?…maybe she could *cough* …write a blog about it *cough*).  We took train from Helsinki to Mikelli where we stayed with a friend (we’ll call her P from here on out) and her parents.  They fed us things that I still have trouble pronouncing which were all delicious.  One thing that I will now keep stocked in my kitchen is egg butter (munavoi).  It is quite literally 50% smashed up boiled egg, and 50% butter.  Spread this beesh on toast, crackers, cheese, or your tongue.  It is absolutely fucking delicious.  It is a breakfast game changer.
Train station in the Helsinki airport.
The backyard view from P’s parents house.
P showed us the town of Mikelli.  We visited an old farm house that used to house clergy called kenkävero which, literally translated, means ‘shoe tax’.  Apparently, when sailors would enter the port of Mikelli, they would walk to the clergy house.  It is quite treacherous terrain and apparently played hell on their shoes.  The farm house is now a haven for local made arts and crafts.  It also has a cute restaurant in it where you can eat all locally grown food.  My kind of place.
The aforementioned shoe tax.
I would totes eat dinner here.
We also saw what is known as a hiidenkirnut.  This is a big hole dug out of the bed rock.  Apparently, the last time Finland was covered in  ice (during the ice ages) these were created as the ice melted.  Big boulders we frozen in place and then shifted when the ice melted.  Smaller boulders would get stuck in the swirling melting ice water hole left behind by the boulder and carve out the rock even more.  It makes these massive smooth holes with little-ish smooth boulders inside it.
Hiidenkirnut.  For reference, the smallest boulder in the hole is about the size of an average human head.
Then we went around downtown Mikelli a bit and climbed an incredibly icy slope.  As a Floridian, this was a challenge I have yet to deal with.  I didn’t fall, so there was that.  I was slow.  The Finn and the Nebraskan I was with thought it was funny.
Mikelli from above.  Taken at great personal risk.  Icy slope be damned.
The Mikelli chapel.
P’s sister made us what were quite possibly the best cinnamon rolls I have ever eaten.  They’re called korvapuusti which literally translates to cauliflower ear (because the Finns are a bit strange)…the magical thing about these babies is the cardamom.
The next day we headed up to Jyväskyäla which is where P got her PhD.  She showed us around the department.  We ate pizza.  We then took part in the great Finnish tradition of kalsarikännit.  This literally translates to ‘getting drunk at home in your underwear with not intent of leaving the house’.  Now, we chose to rock pajamas, but you get the idea.  We also got to try jaloviina for the first time.  This is vodka with cognac in it.  It sounds terrible and is fucking delicious.
Downtown jyväskyäla over a frozen river.
They call this ‘the compass’ for obvious reasons.  It is the exact center of town.
The train station.
We headed back to Helsinki and stayed at a clean but slightly frustrating air bnb (despite how friendly and kind the hosts were).  They had 2 analogue clocks that ticked very loudly directly in the room we were sleeping in.  While this isn’t a problem for most people, I only got 2 hours of sleep.  So be it.  Helsinki is a cool town.  We enjoyed the natural history museum, and checking out the sites.  We ate reindeer kabob and purchased reindeer salami.  It felt like the right thing to do.
Downtown Helsinki.  Pretty lights.
Really neat indoor farmers market.
Blueberry jam in gnome jars!
Helsinki central station.
I think the moomin is my spirit animal.
We made it back to Aarhus for New Years eve and we celebrated with some of our lab mates and NPD.  We watched the queens speech with oysters and champagne, and ate a delightful meal of lamb roast and potatoes.  I made some hoppin’ john for the Danes to bring a little southern charm to the table.  One of our labmates made kranskage which is basically marzipan meringue heaven.  We jumped off chairs at the drop of midnight to signify jumping into the new year with gusto.
Make mistakes this year guys.  Go out there and do it.
Happy 2017!



2 Comments Add yours

  1. Sartenada says:

    What a lovely post. Especially I loved the part in which You presented Mikkeli and Kenkävero. Thank You. I lived in Mikkeli four years and that’s why I have many posts from there. 🙂

    All the best for 2017.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. operation264 says:

      Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂 I really loved Mikkeli.


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