2010年8月11日 星期三

7/30 Farvel!

Good time always flies fast; after three weeks of summer course at København Universitet and all the fun time spent with other Danish and international classmates, my stay in Denmark has come to an end. In retrospect, it totally felt like it was only yesterday that I just arrived in Copenhagen. Time flies, indeed!

Move-out day, which coincided with the last day of our class, was really hectic, especially when our final paper was due at the same time as the check-out time. Thankfully the last-minute scramble wasn't too bad and everything worked out smoothly (thanks to the all-nighter the night before); everyone managed to electronically submit their final paper and return their key before noon. Then, as usual, we headed out to the train station for a ride to the university, except this time we were going to the farewell party and carrying our 50-lbs luggages along with us.

All in all, my study abroad experience in Scandinavia has been truly memorable, having the chance to meet and interact with many amazing people along the journey as well as going around to see different parts of this incredible country. Thanks for being a great host city, Copenhagen! I am going to miss everyone from the program, the friendliness of the locals, and the Smørrebrød! Tak for en fantastisk oplevelse! :)

2010年8月10日 星期二

7/25 Day trip to Roskilde

I've really enjoyed our excursions in and around Denmark for the past two weekends; it's always nice to go beyond the typical touristy, metropolitan areas and explore other historically rich sites. While Copenhagen is certainly the heart of the country, Odense, Helsingør and Helsinborg each had its own unique small town flavor and we all loved their own cultural heritage.

The day after our visit to Kronborg, I headed out for another excursion to Roskilde (recommended by my Danish classmates), a historically rich city that dates back to the Viking Age. Formerly the medieval capital of Denmark until the year of 1443, Roskilde is now the tenth largest city of Denmark and the second largest in Zealand. Since 1971, it hosts the annual Roskilde Festival, one of the largest music festivals in Europe featuring a variety of music such as rock, metal, electronica, dance, and hip-hop. It was a pity that the festival this year ended five days before I came to Denmark...

Since it was a Sunday, most of the stores were closed by the time I arrived and there was a huge contrast between its small-town feel and the big-city scene in Copenhagen. With plenty of spare time at my disposal, I leisurely strolled down the pedestrian street and enjoyed the nice serenity of the atmosphere. When I walked by the Roskilde Cathedral (Roskilde Domkirke), there was a long line of tourists waiting to see the interior of the church. As one of the landmarks in Roskilde, this Gothic-style brick cathedral was built early in the 12th and 13th centuries and remained the sole cathedral in Zealand until the 20th century. It has also been recognized as one of the World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO since 1995, notable for being the burial site of many Danish monarchs since the 15th century.

I continued walking down the pedestrian street towards the harbor, where the famous Viking Ship Museum (Vikingeskibsmuseet) is located. The collection of Viking ships (Skuldelev ships) displayed there was really incredible, ranging from cargo-ships, longships, to warships. One of them, named Havhingsten fra Glendalough (meaning "Sea Stallion from Glendalough"), situated majestically on the ground and stole the spotlight by its rich colors and pure magnitude. I found myself staring at its beauty for a good while. Even though the ship we see today is a reconstruction, it is the largest replica Viking ship every built (29 meters long and can carry 60 oarsmen)! The original Sea Stallion was built in Dublin, Ireland circa 1042 with oak from Glendalough in County Wicklow (hence the name). According to the museum, the Sea Stallion embarked on a voyage to Dublin in 2007 and made its way back to Roskilde in the following year.

Despite the tourist information center and other local shops being closed early on Sunday, I was thoroughly delighted to spend my entire afternoon in Roskilde. Next time when I come to Denmark for vacation, I'll for sure pay this beautiful town another visit and make sure that I don't miss out on the Roskilde Festival!

2010年8月7日 星期六

7/24 Day trip to Helsingør and Helsinborg

During our second weekend in Copenhagen, my classmates and I set out for an excursion to the world's famous Hamlet's castle, Kronborg, in Helsingør (or Elsinore in English). Built in the 1420s and recognized as one of the World's Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 2000, Helsingør is internationally known as the setting for Shakespeare's play, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, and attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. It is also one of the most important Renaissance castles in Northern Europe.

We left our dorm at around 9:30am and first went to Nørreport Station to buy tickets (4-zone clipcards, or klippekort ).  Then we took the regional train and headed north for 35 minutes to the tip of Zealand, where Helsingør is located. Upon arriving at the Kornborg castle, all of us tourists were in awe of its magnificent appearance and started snapping photos. After we crossed two moats to get to the interior part of the castle, there was already a long line in front of the ticket office. Luckily, the line moved quite fast so all of us got our tickets within 5 minutes.

We visited several parts of the castle. The royal apartments and the ballroom are definitely the must-see's of the castle. The tour guide even said that people can make reservations to use the breathtaking ballroom for private special occasions, though it can be quite costly.  The famous statue of Holger Danske, or Ogier the Dane, can be found in the casemates. He is the national symbol of all Danes. According to the legend, Holger Danske will awaken from his slumber and save Denmark when the country is in grave danger. The castle chapel also has an interesting history. Besides being spared from the catastrophic fire that destroyed most parts of the castle in 1629, it had been once incorporated into military barracks and used as a fencing hall before being switched back to its original purpose.  
After visiting Helsingør, we decided to take the ferry across to Helsinborg, the Swedish town just on the other side of the Øresund strait. Because Helsinborg is located on Sweden's closest point to Denmark, the ferry ride was very convenient and only took about 20 minutes. The medieval tower Kärnan (or Kernen in Danish, meaning "the core") is the oldest part of the town, and it is actually what remains of a larger Danish fortress that, along with the fortress in Kronborg in Helsingør, controlled the gateway to the Baltic Sea. Although we really wanted to climb up Kärnan to see the parorama of the city and the beautiful Øresund, by that time of the day our legs were already giving out on us. In the end, we opted for a walk along the scenic coastline in the breezy afternoon.

Despite the overcast weather, it was a great decision we made to immerse ourselves in the rich historical and cultural significance of Kronborg castle and the breathtaking scenery of Helsinborg coastline instead of staying in our dorm. The excursion made a profound impression on us, the same way Shakespeare was inspired to set his play in this magnificent castle and extraordinary town.

2010年7月22日 星期四

7/17 Day trip to Odense, home of H.C. Andersen

Last Saturday, some of my classmates and I paid a visit to Odense, the third largest city in Denmark as well as the childhood home of the world-famous Danish fairy tale author H.C.Andersen. Odense is about an hour and a half away from Copenhagen by train, so we went early in the morning.

I really like the small-town feeling of Odense: serene, clean and away from the hectic scenes in the metropolitan setting.  Following other tourists, we found our way to the H.C. Andersen Hus (local name), or the H.C. Andersen Museum. When we arrived, the outdoor parade featuring 35 of Andersen's characters just ended, but we were told that we could come back and catch another one at 1pm. Here are some photos of the fairy tale characters!

The museum exhibit features many aspects of his life, including the historical era in which he was born (1805-1875), biographical exhibit detailing years of his travel and the relationships he had with the significant people around him, his original hand-drawn sketches and illustrations (very creative and exquisite!), collections of his works in many different languages, as well as reconstructions of his childhood home and his room during his late years in Nyhavn. The Memorial Hall, a dome hall embellished by Danish artist Niels Larsen Stevns' stunning murals and frescoes, is situated in the middle of the museum. There is also a video room that shows a 15-minute informative biographical film of H.C. Andersen in Danish, English, and German.

At the end of the day, we were all glad that we learned much more about H.C. Andersen but were sympathetic towards him upon learning the difficult circumstances during his childhood and the hardship he encountered in adulthood even after he garnered fame and success as an author and poet. He confessed that his work The Ugly Duckling was actually "a reflection of my own life." Despite his life being not so fairytale-esque like his stories, he still maintained a positive outlook on life. When reading this quote from Hans Christian Andersen: The True Story of my Life, I was deeply moved by it. He wrote:
"[Life] is like a voyage to some known point.--I stand at the rudder, I have chosen my path, --but God rules the storm and the sea. He may direct it otherwise; and then, happen what may, it will be the best for me...my life will be the best illustration of all my work."
It was an extraordinary experience to visit the hometown of the world's favorite fairytale author and learn more about him as a person beyond his works. Now as a student traveler studying abroad in his native land Denmark, I definitely echo his sentiments during his years of traveling:

          "To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, to gain all while you give, to roam the roads of lands remote: To travel is to live." - H. C. Andersen

2010年7月14日 星期三

Velkommen til København!

It's been about a week since I've arrived in Copenhagen for my summer program at the University of Copenhagen. I admit I'm still quite jetlagged at the moment, but I'm glad that with the tremendous help from many friendly Danish classmates in our program, floormates in my dorm building, and nice Danish locals in the city, I've managed to find my way around this extraordinary city and have settled quite smoothly into my home in this kingdom of fairy tale for the next three weeks.

Highlights from my journey so far:
I embarked on my journey last Thursday, July 8th, flying from SFO to Chicago O'Hare then finally arriving in Copenhagen on Friday, July 9th. I was expecting the weather in Denmark to be colder than that of the Bay Area, but to my surprise it was actually quite hot and humid. After a ten-minute ride on the Metro from the CPH airport then a 15-minute bus ride, I arrived at my dorm in the suburb.

For the first two days, I spent most of the time getting myself oriented in downtown Copenhagen and familiarizing myself with the KU campus. (A little trivia about the University of Copenhagen: it was founded in 1479 and its notable alumni include the famous physicist Niels Bohr and philosopher Søren Kierkegaard.) The picture on the right features Alyssa, one of my fellow classmates, and the CSS building (Center for Sundhed og Samfund, translated into English as Center of Health and Society), where our summer course takes place.

After a quick visit to the KU campus, we decided to take a walk in the the Rosenborg Slot (Rosenborg Castle) and headed down to Nyhavn (meaning "New Harbor,"pronounced as "new hound" without the "d"), the famous waterfront and tourist destination in Copenhagen.

By the time we got back to our dorm on Sunday night, we were just in time for the World Cup final match between Spain and the Netherlands. One of my floormates is from Spain, so we watched the game with his family. It was a great game and we ended up celebrating Spain's victory together.