30 November 2010

Ultra Danish, a Christmas calendar

In a televised debate the two opposing leading women in Danish politics recently tried to define what was Danish. One was focused on humanity and the social conscience, the other was less so, but on the other hand very fond of fresh, new potatoes and the picturesque coast line. To me the definition is a blend of these things, and also very much a combination of how it is, how it once was, and how I want it to be. I love Denmark with all of my heart, and I cringe when people talk about being ashamed of it. I can understand not supporting the political direction (I don't have to say how I feel about them, do I?), but turning your back on the entire country, its history and the potential to be great once again, is not an option.

So I have put myself on an assignment to try and describe what being Danish means to me. And to make it digestible, I have made it into a Christmas calendar, so you get a little bit every day for the next 24 days. For every Dane there is a definition of what it means to be Danish, but this version will be all mine. Ultra Danish, the Christmas calendar will launch on December 1st (drumroll), and all you have to do is click the heart on the top of the page to get your daily Danish.


I found this on the back of a red car parked down my street. Although it is only two pieces of tape, I got right away how it is our flag, Dannebrog. The last decade or so, our beautiful flag have been hijacked by the extremist Danish People's Party, as part of their image. I strongly feel like it should be illegal to use a national symbol for evil, as this closely resembles using it for toilet paper. There is now a stain on the flag, that I can only hope some day will go away. Because to me it still represents something good and pure. It is my flag too, you know. And I am taking it back.

Update: by some small miracle I survived yet another Christmas. 

29 November 2010

I kid you not

I am not kidding when I say we were not eased into this snow-craziness. There are still leaves on the trees in my backyard, and today I saw this poor frozen rose bush, with the beautiful heads intact, encapsulated in an icy glaze. I am still riding my bike, although it too is encapsulated in most places. But the main thing is that most roads and bicycle lanes are cleared, and maintained at all hours. Everybody slows down these days, and the stress brigade get a much needed rest. The weather has forced us to read each other, and cars drive by nice and slow when they pass you.

This post will not be ultra long, because I am busy preparing a little Christmas something for you that you get to unpack on the 1st of December. But you have to see the beautiful frozen rose bush. And did you notice that the pictures are a bit bigger now? If it bugs you, let me know.

Poor thing.

I spotted this one today, and it is not the coolest sticker you have ever seen, I know. But I find it interesting how "regular" people have taken to use the jungle drum and stickers to make themselves heard. It is like the city is one giant pinboard.

The children are paying for the party

The children are paying for the party. One for the City on the gross cuts in childrens care and education.

And this is what it looked like right above the sticker. For every angle there is a new view of Copenhagen. I never get tired of looking at it.

28 November 2010

Love on the rocks

One day last week, I have already forgotten which, it started snowing, and it hasn't stopped since. There was no sliding into it, really, not the way I remember it from last year. But then last year was also only something like 5 minutes ago, I just can't keep up with this. But I am happy to surrender, and this guy makes it easy. I am in love with him, even if he doesn't swing my way. 

Out and proud

Out and proud, standing on one of the small hills next to The Nile (I want to call him Niles, haha, I am a Frasier-o-holic). The lakes are getting ready to freeze..

Hi there

Mr. Cool

Love on the rocks
Love on the rocks.

25 November 2010

Lifting the ban

Just today I remembered the words spoken one Christmas by my exasperated grandmother: Christmas is for the children. This was the time of year that the grown ups sucked it up and endured each other, in the name of the children. Of course children pick up on these things, but we in turn pretended not to notice what a huge sacrifice it was for them to be around each other. Many Christmases went by like this, before it was put to an abrupt end by a lawsuit (one of many, the words "see you in court" was frequently uttered in our home), when my mother sued her own brother. 

But before it all derailed, we managed to experience all of the classic Christmas traditions: the home made elf-village, trimming the tree, singing and dancing around it and the grand moment when it was lit for the first time. And the delicious food, the marzipan pig prize (more on that one later), and the presents of course. If I one day get the chance, I will know exactly how to pull off a traditional Christmas evening, minus the migraine. 

Anyway, my grandmothers words came back to me today, as I watched a mother pull the cargo bike up to the the over-the-top Christmas decorated windows, at a huge department store. It was complete with pink glitter, moving bears, wrapped presents and sparkly lights. The child was mesmerised, and as I walked by, I just heard the words: "imagine you could be in there with them". And with that I realised that Christmas is perhaps not out to get me. It is not about me at all. It has simply become my turn to suck it up and play along, to give the children the Christmas rush while they can still catch it.

That does not mean I am all of the sudden in a Christmas spirit, but simply that I have lifted the ban on elves and all things Christmas in here, so you may see a little of it in the next couple of weeks anyway. You know, just to report on events and such. Can you forgive me?

Merry Christmas

One guess where we are?

Yes, it is La Glace, in a midnight session all for you.

The marcipan pig, I have seen enough crappy machine made marcipan pigs in my life to recognise a lovingly handmade version. Look at those personalities, I bet they taste delicious, but who has the heart to eat them?

(it is the oddest thing... I feel like Happy is returning)

23 November 2010

Copenhagen anatomy

If there is such a thing as the heart of Copenhagen, the very core, I would say it is buried right under the Stork Fountain on Hojbro Plads. Not quoting history books, but simply going by how I feel: this is the place. At the moment the area is under attack/heavy construction. On Gammel Strand, a stone throw away they are building a metro (ugh, don't get me started... I am so against that fragile location), and on the adjoining Amagertorv, the energy company are working about 3 metres below street level.

It was already dark last week when I spotted a series of Bert's near the Stork Fountain. I knew the shots would not work, but I stopped to pet them anyway, and had a nice chat with the construction workers. As we were talking, they uncovered a heavy bone from the ground. To them it was no big deal (they even come across human remains sometimes, I was told), but for me it was a major rush. Like having a glimpse of the past. If you like this, you should take a look over there, one of them said, there is a part of an ancient floor showing (if you were on Twitter that night, I am sure you caught my excitement). I returned the next day to get a disappointing shot, wrecked by an annoying piece of rainbow colored plastic, but nevertheless I got a peak into the anatomy of Copenhagen.

Some of the earliest photographs of my fair city turns out to be from this spot, making me think that others before me have felt the heart here too. Leaving us plenty of now & then images. Listen to that beautiful heartbeat:

Earliest shot from 1865, back turned to where the fountain was later inaugurated (in 1894):

The lower far right corner is where they uncovered the bone. And on the opposite side the well (?). I was looking to see if there is a well on some of the old photographs, but all I can tell is that it used to be a vegetable market.

[Hochbrucke Square, Copenhagen, Denmark] (LOC)

A rare photocrome from the Library of Congress, ca. 1900.

And the same spot, 1938:

And today:

The well (at least I think it is) below:

Almost too dark again, my ever loosing fight. I just wanted to show the depth. 

And closer. Wild, huh?

20 November 2010

Mind the gap

I feel bad about the 4 day post gap. And it is not exactly because the last couple of days have been uneventful. Just yesterday I watched a man die on the street. The medics were working frantically to revive him, but it didn't look good. I did not want to stand around and watch, and I certainly wasn't going to take pictures (and neither did anyone else, I am relieved to say), so I can't tell you if he made it. But I think not.

I came straight from my very first flash mob experience. It was raining hard, and although Danes have a way of dissolving in the rain, along with whatever we had planned, I still expected a big show. I decided to give up the chance to be a part of it, to take pictures and bring you the whole story. The idea was simple: bring your bike to Town Hall Square, park it in the middle at exactly 16.35, leave it for 5 minutes, then go back in and ride it away. Bicycle flash mob:

Seven bicycles. I feel really sad for them, because the idea is so cool. And I would still love to be part of a flash mob sometime, rain or not. (Still not entirely friendly with the after dark camera settings, grrr..)

Today I had a way too quick 1 hour trip to Sweden. Malmö is exactly 40 minutes away from my local train station, a ticket is 80 crowns each way (around €11/$15), and you get the full experience of going to another country. The first indication that you are entering a new country is 20 minutes into the ride, when the speakers on the train switch from informing you in Danish/English, to Swedish/English, so funny. And then you get the alert from your greedy tele provider that everything is now thrice the price. When you arrive, everything is different: friendlier, much more relaxed and zero graffiti, tags or stickers (on the first stretch anyway). 

The all important first sight, exiting the train station, not a bad welcome:


The Swedish Crown is the Pesetas of the North, it goes a long way. And while stores in Copenhagen are right now struggling to stay afloat, the Swedes kick some overseas ass. I talked to a girl in one of the coolest independent fashion stores, and she told me that on an average 80% of their saturday customers are Danish. And I completely get why. It is energetic, funky and above all positive. I pity the Danish stores for how much they have to struggle right now, suffocated by rules, regulations and unreasonable taxes. But I also think they could take a lesson from our friendly neighbours, and throw in a smile once in a while. After all, it costs nothing to make people feel welcome. Perhaps this is why Swedish staff is in such high demand here.

I was just in town for a quick meeting, but I did make time for a cup of coffee at a local café, and even there I felt welcome (sad that it is such a big deal, but it is..). Someone left a packet of cool Swedish candy behind: love pills, to make your heart flutter. Oh, Sweden.

Pirrpiller / heart flutter pills

As I returned to Copenhagen, I really felt how different we live. The all important first sight, exiting the train station:

Whenever I hear the word culture..


And then I looked up and felt at home again: the big, beautiful glossy heart garlands were lit today.



A classic Copenhagen treat.

Broken heart

Broken heart...

If I could, I would hug you. Thank you for reading my blog.

17 November 2010

Hide your rabbits!

Copenhagen is blooming with 40 decorated fiberglass Christmas trees. And by december 25th when they are done being on display, they will be auctioned off and the proceeds will buy Jatropha trees to be planted in Mali, Africa. I can't say which of them are decorated by renowned international and local artists, and which are by the children, so I better say no more. The people behind Danish initiative Happyxmastrees mean well, and I hope they raise a lot of money and plant a lot of trees.

(I can't believe they made me talk about Christmas in mid-november)

In front of the city court.


Exit. Only for people on scooters.

Sillemad / Herring sandwich

Herring sandwich... eat that fish.


Happyxmastrees project

My friend The Nile. The decoraters have not been keeping up on the annual makeover. This is beginning to worry me. Maybe it is time "someone else" picked up where they left off? Haha. You know who I mean..

In front of café Europa, the pricey spot with killer brunch plates (totally worth it).

Christmas reminds me of that fantastic scene in Fatal Attraction, where Glenn Close tells her regretful lover: I'm not gonna be ignored, Dan. That is Christmas for you: it's not gonna be ignored. 

Hide your rabbits!

16 November 2010

Missing in action

I miss happy. I don't know where she went, but she has definitely left the building (come back, you little shit). I think this weekend killed me. Or rather the suckiest of saturday nights out in recent time, so bad that it almost makes me question if I should ever attempt it again (of course I will, just not anytime soon). Which is good, really, because that will leave me all the energy I need to fill the Christmas orders, and think up new ideas (and finish that project..). 

To bring back happy I must make an effort. She likes sushi, so there has been a lot of that, and coffee, strong and plenty, and she absolutely craves daylight. Heeeere, girl, come to Sandra. Life is no fun without you.

Oh, and I tell you what: ever since this, I have dreamed of getting my own dog.

This was my dog "Mate" for about 5 minutes, as she was taken away while she was still a pup. 

Come spring I will get my own. And keep it. 

12 November 2010

A declaration of love

There are so many things about this season that I completely forgot about. One is the loss of daylight (pitch dark at 5), holy crap, that is a killer. I must get better acquainted with the settings on my new camera. I also conveniently repressed the worst of holidays, Christmas, one that only really works if you are employed (by someone else, that is) and have a family and/or children. Or short of that a boyfriend and/or the finances to escape it all. I am so not covered. And to make matters worse Christmas already started mocking me two weeks ago. Seriously, who needs 6 weeks to prepare for one night?

This is also the season for fleeing the scene. I have several friends who are at this very moment kicking back on beaches far, far away. And they will continue to do so for the next six months. One of them just send me an email:

Dear Sandra, all is well here on Koh Samet, check out the attached photos... Now tell me again what is so great about Denmark? You see how hard it is to miss Denmark when you can be here, don't you? So are you going to join us?

And here comes the strange part: despite the Christmas issues and the loss of daylight, and everything else, I love it here. And I am not gagging to jump on a 14 hour flight to lie on some tropical beach next to honeymooners and the later version: the bickering couples. Not now, anyway (maybe in January..). So to my friend who asks me what is so great about Denmark... how about this:

The stork fountain

Stork fountain

The beautiful Stork Fountain

Winter flowers, a classic "hygge" ingredient.

The boot forest

The sculptors festival in the Kings Garden, cut short by vandals, but let's not focus on that today..

Fall sky

The lakes

Leave this? I don't think so.

10 November 2010

Can you believe this sh*t?

I can think of no more effective way of turning people against Christiania:

The three dots representing freetown Christiania. To those trying to shut it down, this masterpiece is a present from above. Just slap a bow on it and call it Christmas.

Young People Sitting (1942)

This is beyond turd!

09 November 2010

Sticker fever

Lately I find myself zooming in on stickers. They are popping up everywhere from laptops and bicycles, to cars, doors and lampposts. I even stuck one to the heel of my boot the other day, a sure sign that I am infected. When I woke up today I just knew this would be my post of the day, and then by some strange coincidence, all the way on the other side of the world, the people of Brooklyn Street Art blog was on the same page. Sometimes the world seems like such a small place.

The first one I have been looking forward to show you I spotted in Lille during the monster fleas. There was not a lot of street art, but this one caught my eye:

3D hair sticker

Customized sticker

3D gel hair!!! I wanted to scream, it made me so happy. And the torn edges mmmm..
(you have no idea how hard it was to save this one for now, oh torment)

Stickers infused with humor are the best counter pressure to the endless scare campaigns and warning labels we are subjected to: be aware of this, be afraid of that, be extremely careful to not slip on a banana peel and kill yourself. 

Warning: Helvetica is highly addictive

  Helvetica is highly addictive: don't start.

I used to collect stickers when I was back in school, but they were all from big brands. And there is nothing wrong with that, these days I just like mine with a little bite:

Sticker van

And that reminds me of a really cool one man campaign by comedian Tom Scott, who has created a series of warning labels specifically for newspapers. The photo below is from his site:

He even had them translated by eager volunteers from around the world, and they are free for the taking, so you can print them out yourself.

Stenciled sticker

And as someone who loves a good mix of things, this one hits me in all the right places: oversized and home made with a stencil. I want one! Or better yet, I want to make my own... oh, this is going to be so much fun. You'll see.