Monday, May 23, 2011

On Denmark, and Subsequently, Copenhagen:


A look back at my first impressions of Copenhagen, in July 2007:

Wow. That's all I have to say. Denmark is beautiful. In every respect. I arrived in the Copenhagen Airport and noticed every minute detail, design wise that is, that America just conveniently leaves out of their designs. The littlest things that the normal person wouldn't notice; like the pattern of the stone or pavers, or metal detailing of the trim work. Every bridge and overpass here are all works of art in their own right. We arrived at school later, in the center of Copenhagen, which itself is so damn confusing.

My apartment is located just outside of the city, about a five-minute metro ride away from the center. I'm on the 8th floor and there's an elevator, unlike my place in the East Village, thankfully. There is a huge window in my room that is about five feet by five feet–a very large square–that can be opened all the way (talk about unsafe! and very un-American!), or tilted inwards to ventilate the room. The curtains, unfortunately, do not block out the light in the morning, so I keep waking up early everyday–mainly because the sun rises at 4:00! But on the flip side, the sun doesn't set until 22:30 each night. Wow. But this big five by five hole/window also over looks this beautiful park–Amager Fælled–(talk about a tongue twister, right?) with this river/canal thing, and the park has a beautiful running path going through it. I've already decided that every beer I drink is a mile I have to run, which basically means that I'm already behind two miles. I need to buy a power converter. And I need to recharge my camera battery. I'm pumped for school to start, I do love school. Then, in about two weeks, we'll have cruise to Sweden, and then bus tour of Finland and Sweden–all the while stopping every few hours to walk around, sketch and photograph important buildings in architectural history. How fun is that? 

Then, after school is over, I'll be excited travel afterwards. So far it's looking like Amsterdam right after school, then Belgium. Then Florence, then Rome, then Perugia. Then I'm meeting up with a different group of friends, going down the Italian coast to… Postiano! The seaside town from 'Under the Tuscan Sun'. Love that movie. After the Amalfi Coast, I'll finally fly into Paris for a few days, and be a Parisian, and hang out with Mona (Mona Lisa, that is), and see the Eiffel Tower and eat croissants, then –fly home. What an exciting summer this will be.

I never thought I would be one to have culture shock, just because I have always been that guy who knew there was another world out there, beyond Cincinnati, beyond Ohio, beyond the United States of America. Copenhagen is so different from the USA. I guess a lot of it has to do with the fact that Denmark is such a small nation. Denmark is a part of the EU, but since they're quite a small country, they desperately hold onto their traditions and culture as much as they can without letting in the westernization that covers other parts of Europe. For starters they're not on the euro like the rest of the EU. Why? Because they're trying to hold out and be their own nation, and not lose their identity. They also opted-out of it in 1992, under the Edinburgh Agreement. Respectable. But super annoying. Honestly, what's the point when almost the rest of the EU is on the euro? I got nothing. Honestly things are so expensive here in Denmark. And that's the thing. It's not like things are truly expensive, it's just the fact that there's a 25% sales tax on everything, and I mean everything. So imagine buying something in the US, and then add one fourth of the cost. That's no fun.

It's just strange and so surreal. The other day one of my friends compared living in Denmark, to the cost of going to the movies everyday. You know… where hot dogs cost five dollars, and so does your drink. Yep that's Denmark. (Ps: that really is the price of a hot dog and a drink, in the city! You don't even want to know what the actual price of things are at the movies.)


Back to the cultural thing. I seriously feel like Denmark is stuck in the late 90s in certain aspects of daily life. For one thing, Hollywood has not infiltrated Denmark. And this goes back to the westernization thing. Or lack there of really. I'll elaborate. Whereas in the US it feels like cell phones are more of a status symbol these days, rather than actual cell phones, in Denmark you rarely ever see a camera phone. Let alone a smartphone. Actually, to this day, I still have not seen a smartphone in Denmark. You know why? Here's this nations work schedule (or at least what it seems to be): Get to work at 9am, take a lunch break from 12-2, then leave work at 4pm. I could totally be down with that! It's very odd though. In Denmark, when they leave work, they leave work. None of this...I have to be able to be reached by the office or send out an email, at all times. Which in a way is sort of refreshing. In the USA you always hear that in Europe they work to live, whereas in the USA people live to work, which is really true when I think about it. For starters in the EU most nations have about six weeks of the year off for vacation, whereas in the USA you usually get one or two. If you lucky. It's just small things like that.

For one thing these people are never in a hurry. I mean never. One thing they are though, is very punctual. Late is late to them. 30 minutes, five minutes, it's all the same.

The other day I was walking to the metro (subway we would call it) and I was practically running up the left side of the escalator, just because that's what I'm used to doing in New York. Even when I was in NYC I never understood why people were always in a hurry. I think I even wrote in one of these entries something along the lines of… 'Why is everyone in NYC rushed all the time? To go sit in the office or to wait for yet another light to change?' It's odd. So when I was practically running up the escalator the other day and thought: I have no rush at all. I'm on time. I'm going to class. So I just stopped. It was nice.

I know I've said this to myself many of times, but I honestly think Europe will make me slow down. I really just think I'm ADD and that's what it is. (However, as of May 2011, I am, still, not ADD). The other day my friend was like. 'Man you are always wanting to move onto the next thing, and go to the next place.' AKA: I can't sit still for more than an hour in one spot. And honestly I don't (not to say I can't see why some would) think that there’s anything wrong with that. There is so much of the world to see, to stay in one spot for too long a time. Though, there are times when just standing still (figuratively) is oh so healing.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Running Through Paris:

I just finished running an uplifting 12.8K route through Paris. Running through the streets of Paris–literally–is so exhilarating. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the architecture, the people, the fashion. I managed to hit the runner's high no less then four times! Insane, really. It was wonderful. It's as if the flood gates to your serotonin are set free. Just as I was running behind the Notre Dame de Paris, listening to Lady Gaga's new song 'Heavy Mental Lover', life couldn't have been more beautiful and I couldn't have been more happy. Everything about that moment was perfect. Life, and Paris, are so wonderful. Choose your music wisely; it will take you to new heights.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Paris, France:

I am going to Paris on Thursday night and I am quite excited. Which is an understatement. It has been dreary, gray and slightly chilly here in the Netherlands since about Saturday. So far spring 2011 has been stupendously pleasant. However I have heard that this pleasantness will give way to a wet late-summer. Free-spirited Sara lives in Paris (and her apartment is about 300 meters from the Eiffel Tower, too!). Not that I need to go back to the top of that or anything. But the point is, she lives smack in the heart of the city. This past weekend I can't say that I did much of anything. I watched a lot of TED talks, read my book on the (somewhat sunny terrace), and ate too many cookies and too much ice cream. And, since skinny is always in, in Paris, yesterday I went running (as there had been about a week of not running). Running always tends to release intense amounts of endorphins, which I always enjoy. A natural high you could say. Yesterday, I went running past IJburg on the–Diemerzeedijk–the sunset was beautiful. There is so much to learn, experience, see and create. And from Thursday to Monday, I'll be doing just that against one of the most beautiful urban backdrops: Paris



Monday, May 16, 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Picasso's 'The Fish' Returns:

Sometimes I can't comprehend that I live in Amsterdam. Life has normalized. Nothing is 'foreign' anymore. Beyond the massive amounts of beautiful buildings and the picturesque Dutch landscape, Amsterdam feels like home. No longer do the letters 'IJ' next to each other make me say: 'Um. What??' And, after about three years in this magical city, alongside this normalized life, I've amassed a collection of spaces and places that I could easily call a second home. But, given that most of these spaces and place are outdoors–doing that would technically make me homeless. At least half of the time. Wouldn't it? For most people, these 'spaces and places' are usually cafés, restaurants, bars, etc. I have, however, collected the most wonderful assortment of random (but lovely) patches of grass, tucked away park benches, and vantage points that let me watch the world pass by. Usually these places in the city of Amsterdam tend to have a sense of 'protection' or 'removed-ness' to them. Meaning I can see everyone and everything, while they can't see me. But of course, this is a totally ridiculous concept, because no matter where you are in the city of Amsterdam–someone is usually watching you. That's just the way it works here. You can think you're totally alone in the city, when in reality you're surrounded by everyone. Though not 'protected' or 'tucked away' in any sense, the field directly in front of 'The Fish' sculpture by Picasso, in Vondelpark–still calls my name every time I pass by it. Last week I, once again, visited this most beloved spot of mine. It made me stop, reflect, and realize just how much I've accomplished since moving to Amsterdam. Sometimes I still can't believe that I live in Europe. It's often easy to forget. At some point the built environment of any city will 'grow on you', over time. Becoming just another backdrop for the events that constitute life. But every once in a while, if I slow down, sit down, and take a good look around–that built environment reappears. Last week, when I did just that (that is: sit down. slow down and look around), I saw 'The Fish' again for the first time–and I couldn't help but think how lucky I am, to live in Amsterdam.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Love For: The Beach!

This past weekend was extraordinarily sunny in Amsterdam. Meaning I had the perfect excuse to cycle to the beach (Bloemendaal aan Zee) with the other  (It should be noted that the beach only takes about an hour an a half to cycle to from the Indishce Buurt–yes!). I laid in the sun all day while listening to The Cardigans' wonderful album 'Life'–and did a bit of reading–simultaneously reveling in the fact that summer is near, and sand was once again in between my toes. On the cycle back home home we stopped in Haarlem for a bite to eat, before cycling back to Amsterdam as the day began to darken and the spring chill once again returned. It was perfect.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Currently Reading:

'The Story of French' in anticipation of my upcoming trip to Paris.