Well folks, we’ve reached the home stretch. In less than two whole weeks I’ll be on a luxurious flight to Boston, where I will meet my family for the final leg of my journey home. (I say luxurious because I’ve been flying with Ryanair all semester, and Aer Lingus’ complimentary water is going to be a dream come true.)
So as the end of my semester abroad rapidly approaches, it’s safe to say that I’m encountering quite a few “lasts.” Take my last science class for example, although I can’t say I’m too sad about that one. (Sorry Stephen, your class was pretty cool. Lab though….) But it’s still strange knowing that it’s over.
Speaking of things that are over, let’s get to the point of this blog post already. You know how I’ve been living this crazy life for the past few months, jetting off to foreign countries to spend the weekend in places like Brugge and London? Well, this weekend marked the end of all that: our last hurrah, the final trip. Dramatic, right?
So where did we go? Dear Abbie and I set off for Copenhagen, Denmark on Saturday. Our fellow 29ers were already living it up in Amsterdam, where they seem to have had a swell time. You can read all about it in Sarah’s blog post. (Probably. Apparently it’s a little abstract.) I’d link to it, but someone isn’t done yet. Lookin’ at you, Serah.
Anyway, I absolutely adored Copenhagen. It was probably my favorite trip of the semester, and I’m ashamed to admit that it almost didn’t happen. I was pretty much willing to go anywhere this semester; there was just so much I wanted to see. But Copenhagen has always been on my short list. And yet somehow that list got put on the back-burner. I made it to Brugge, another top choice, and then kind of just let the semester take me where it would. Which was great by the way! I don’t want to sell it short. But like, Copenhagen.
Let me start by telling ya’ll that Abbie and I have become travel experts. Or something. (Shout out to Sarah for my southern influences.) But actually, there’s hardly anything to tell about our whole trip to Copenhagen because it was just so easy. From hopping onto the AirLink bus at Christchurch to whizzing through visa checks and security to navigating foreign airports with relative ease, we’ve come pretty far since our first days here. (Flashback to that time when we were trying to catch our flight to Dublin and Courtney kept forgetting to take metal objects out of her pocket at security. Poor girl.)
Honestly though, it’s so incredibly empowering to travel and feel like you know what you’re doing. I felt so professional slipping through security with ease, knowing exactly what clothing items to take off and what to take out of my backpack to go through separately (a clear, sealed plastic baggie with all of your liquids, pastes, and gels in their appropriate 3oz. or smaller containers along with any laptops or tablets.)
Abbie had a bit of a mishap with a foreign ATM upon our arrival at the Copenhagen airport, but all was soon well again. Turns out she was just putting her card in backwards. But other than that, we made it to our AirBnB without many snags or hold-ups. Sure, traveling can still be exhausting, but it’s definitely given me confidence in my own abilities to handle whatever situation may be thrown my way. (For example, when you’re waiting for your latte number to be called in the airport cafe and the man behind the counter yells something in Danish, politely stare at him with a confused face for a moment. He’ll say it again in English and you’ll get your coffee and be on your merry way.)
We checked into our AirBnB with our kind and pleasantly-awkward host, Jeppe (pronounced Yep-a), and set out to explore the city. The apartment we were staying in was a bit out of the city centre, about a thirty minute or so walk away. Luckily, our time in Dublin has trained us well, so Abbie and I didn’t have any trouble with it.
So the first thing we did in Copenhagen? We bought lattes from a Danish bakery. Hey, we’re Jessigail and Abbica. What do you expect? To be honest, we didn’t really have a plan. I’d looked up a bunch about the city and I had a rough idea of things I wanted to see, but I also really wanted to be a bit spontaneous with this trip. I wanted to explore the city naturally, just seeing where it took me. Being my long-lost secret twin sister, Abbie was on the same page, so that’s what we did.
As we meandered into the more tourist-y area of the city, we stumbled across a canal boat tour for half the price of the other tour we’d seen that was just about to set sail. Lattes in hand, we hopped aboard.
Our first night in Copenhagen ended up being one of the best evenings I’ve had while abroad. I was enthralled by the city and I had such a good time. Abbie and I decided to sit up front on the boat tour, braving some water splashes and a cold, Baltic breeze for the sake of our photographs. Our tour guide spoke in Danish and English, telling us interesting little facts about the various buildings we passed along the way. By the end of it, we had a better sense of our surroundings and some pretty stellar photos. We were also frozen.
During the tour, we’d briefly docked at Nyhavn, a little canal harbour area lined with colorful houses and restaurants. The area’s known for its food and I was more than a little in love with the quaint boats tied up along the edge of the canal and the pastel buildings sitting behind them, so when our boat tour ended, that’s straight where we headed. It was probably around 7 at this point, so we were cold and hungry and in search of a warm meal. With so many options along the strip, we quickly found a suitable place that had both a vegetarian option and was within our price range.
At Nyhavn, all of the dining occurs outside along the canal under the cover of umbrellas. I was a bit skeptical at first. Um, hello, I’m freezing here and you want me to eat outside? But some savvy business person had thought to attach heat lamps to the insides of the umbrellas to radiate warmth down on the diners. They even provided a warm, red blanket on the back of every chair. Between that and another cup of coffee, I was feeling toasty again in no time.
Abbie and I both ordered burgers and fries – chicken for me and celery for her. (Because apparently that’s a thing they can make burgers out of? According to Abbie it’s pretty good.) They were massive. Like, so big. We had to cut them in half just so we could lift them to our mouths. But they were delicious, so we finished them anyway.
With stuffed-full tummies, we set out again, walking aimlessly down a random street before realizing, “Hey, aren’t we like halfway to the Little Mermaid statue? Let’s check it out.” Time zones are weird, so the sun didn’t actually set until 9pm in Copenhagen, and Abbie, for those of you who don’t know her, is a huge mermaid fan. (She just got one tattooed on her arm for goodness’ sake.)
We’d passed the famous statue on our canal boat tour, so we had a general idea of where she was located and set off in that direction. On the way we passed through Amalienborg, the palace where the royal family lives. The flag wasn’t raised, indicating that no one was home, but that didn’t stop the dutiful guards from marching around guarding things. We weren’t really sure if they were allowed to talk or acknowledge us, but we were feeling silly so I awkwardly waved at one man as he marched toward us. He nodded and suppressed a smile. I was beyond excited.
We passed a pretty fountain and some flowers and basically just skipped around taking pictures and being major, happy dorks. It was wonderful.
Dusk was just setting in when we arrived at the Little Mermaid. The statue was a gift to the city in the early 20th century, made of granite and bronze and meant to honor the famous fairy tale writer Hans Christian Anderson, who hailed from right there in Copenhagen. Despite the late hour, there was a surprising amount of tourists still at the statue. We patiently waited our turn and after just a couple of minutes, made it up front to take some pictures of her.
We later learned that the Little Mermaid was voted the most disappointing tourist attraction in all of Europe, which really surprises me. (Apparently people think she’s bigger and are disappointed by her size?) Sure, she’s exactly what you see on the postcards, but what do you expect? She’s a statue.
As the sun set we began our long trek back to our apartment, a feat which ended up taking a whole hour and a half because of how far we’d gone. Somehow though, it didn’t feel like we were walking that long at all. Maybe we were still riding out the high of being in a new city, exploring and eating burgers alongside a picturesque canal in the sunny evening light. But either way, we finally made it back, relatively unscathed and after missing the turn only once.
By the way, guys, I have a little PSA for you. If you’re a man and you’re inebriated and you think it might be funny to freak a couple of American girls out by attempting to follow them down the street a little ways, it’s not. Don’t do it. We were fine, and the guy backed off as soon as we quickened our pace, but it still wasn’t cool. Especially because I’m pretty sure he just did it for the laughs. Because praying on the fears instilled in females by our sexist, male-dominated culture is totally hilarious. Not. (For the record, Abbie and I have both seen Miss Congeniality and we totally could have taken him if necessary. Just remember to S.I.N.G., everybody!)
But back to the wonders of Copenhagen. It really is a lovely city, despite this one drunken fool. So we headed back to the AirBnB, put on some PJs, set an alarm for the morning, and crashed.
I’d read about a free walking tour that starts every day at 11am, so Abbie and I gave ourselves matching hairstyles and bought matching breakfasts (vanilla lattes and muffins) at a cafe before heading of in search of the tour. We only got ever so slightly lost and made it there just in time to join Roger, a spirited and slightly cheesy British tour guide.
Despite being from London, good old Roger knew quite a bit about Copenhagen, and told us all kinds of neat historical facts about different places around the city. He even took us down some cute little side streets, one of which was home to the oldest cobblestones in the city.
The tour was supposed to pass through Nyhavn and end at Amalienborg, but when we made it to Christiansborg Palace Abbie and I decided to hop off and do our own thing. There’s a tower at the palace that’s free to climb and had amazing views of the city. Plus it was already 12:15pm at this point and the tour only seemed half over. Roger’s facts were cool, but we had things to do and only one day to do them. So we were off.
After the tower, where we took lots of photographs and were momentarily terrified by the advances of modern technology (a door that unlocks and opens on it’s own?!), we headed off to the SMK National Gallery on the other side of town. Along the way we passed a juice bar called Joe & the Juice. It’s a chain over here in Europe, but neither Abbie nor I had been to one. So we decided to pop in to grab some smoothies. Maybe. If we could read the menu. Which was entirely in Danish. Hmmm. Luckily the guy behind the counter noticed our confusion and took pity on our souls, helping us figure out what everything meant so that Abbie and I could order yet another matching meal: strawberry banana smoothies. (I swear we’re actually the same person.)
Juice at the ready, we took a nice stroll through the Royal Gardens, which is basically just a very pretty park with some kind of fancy royal building in it. All of Copenhagen is actually really walkable and easy to navigate, especially with our handy dandy map. (Thanks Jeppe!)
The gallery was massive. They had art from all different time periods, from way back in the 16th century all the way up to present-day. Unfortunately there were no Van Goghs to be seen, but I spotted a few Picassos and that was cool. (My darlings in Amsterdam had the pleasure of visiting the Van Gogh Museum, where they were kind enough to procure me a few momentos in the form of a bookmark, a postcard, and some photos of his work. Thank you, friends.)
We spent a good two hours in the museum and, after a quick pit stop in the gift shop, we headed out once more, this time in search of souvenirs. The short trek to the pedestrian walking area was relatively easy, and we descended upon a souvenir shop along with all of the other tourists. I left with a brightly colored bag sporting the Danish flag and, my camera dangling around my neck, was the epitome of all things tourist. Sometimes you just need to embrace it.
The day had flown by, and it was nearing dinner time. Abbie and I are both big proponents of waffles, and we’d seen a little place selling them in Nyhavn the night before. So we headed over to procure some. Covered in dark chocolate and sugar. Dessert for dinner? We sat along the edge of the canal to enjoy our treats. The sun was shining on us yet again and I felt incredibly content.
Eventually we moved on again, deciding to head over to our last stop, Freetown Christiania. We’d heard that it was this cool, little artsy city within a city and wanted to check it out. The sky threatened rain on our way over, sending a few drops our way. We had also decided to walk along the canal to get there, so the wind was freezing. But I didn’t really have time to be too bothered by all of this because apparently in Copenhagen they just have trampolines in their sidewalks. Obviously we had to bounce on them. Sorry, kiddos, just excuse us as we act like the oversized children we really are.
Bouncing completed, we set back out for Christiania. Which was…sketchy. I’m not going to lie, this one definitely disappointed me a bit. I’d read that because it was all about making up it’s own rules and being kind of hippie-esque that drugs were more prevalent there than other parts of the city, but I’d also read about all of this cool art and interesting vendors. Unfortunately all Abbie and I saw was the marijuana. (And one “art gallery” in a dimly lit hole in the wall that we decided not to venture into.)
We stuck it out, wanting to be able to say we at least walked through this famed area. And then we found ourselves in what they’d dubbed the “Green Light District.” Basically this was just a series of camouflaged huts all selling one particular substance. I’m sure you can guess what that was. This combined with the fact that 90% of the people around us were suddenly male, some of whom were in masks, was enough to creep Abbie and I out a bit. We were in Christiania for a grand total of about 10 minutes before we found an exit and decided to just head home.
Honestly, I’m not sure how that one ended up on the tourist to-do lists. I guess if you’re into that kind of thing it might be appealing, but overall the atmosphere was kind of creepy. Definitely not what the travel sites described. But it was an experience, as is everything while traveling.
At this point, we were pooped, so we headed back to the apartment for hot showers and some sleep before our morning flight. I couldn’t be happier with my trip to Copenhagen, even if Christiania was a bit of a bust.
Our travels back to Dublin were easy as pie, and the Copenhagen airport is pretty nice to boot. But it was off to science for us. Those presentations don’t give themselves.
And that was that. No more international weekend adventures, at least not for now. But I’m so grateful for all of the opportunities this study abroad experience has afforded me. Not only have I experienced a variety of different cultures, but I’ve also become much more independent. I’m confident in myself, and I think that’s a really extraordinary feeling.
Copenhagen was the perfect last hurrah. The weather was beautiful, the people were friendly, I adored the city, and I had a whole lot of fun. When I reflect on it, I know this experience has changed me. It’s opened my eyes, both to the world and to myself.
So now it’s time to plow through those last few finals and drink as many Dublin lattes as possible before I leave. I’ve had an incredible few months, but I have a kitty cat waiting for me!