6 months!

I can’t believe it! My family has been Denmark residents for six months! I have to use the cliche saying that time has really flown. I still feel like we’re trying to settle down here, like we just arrived. Sometimes when I’m on my 100th drive to the school, it seems natural and familiar.

So…you may be wondering, what does my family love about Denmark? Or what do we miss from the USA? That’s what this blog post is!

So what do we love about Denmark?

The School
The girls adore their school. It is a completely different learning experience than what most students experience in the States. There is no homework, no quizzes or tests and few worksheets. This is true throughout much of the school. Learning is based on learning through play. Claire has done things like create her own robot, learn about money around the world, learn about different artists and their influences, use math in practical situations like counting money and so on. She loves all her teachers and classmates. She is being exposed to the arts and is now in drama club.

I would say Avery’s class and preschool in the US is very similar. However, Avery, who is four, goes to school every day. It’s not twice a week like it would have been back home. She is learning her colors, numbers, alphabet and how to socialize with others.

I love the community of the school. It has been incredibly easy to talk to other parents and get pointers on how to navigate other aspects of Danish life. Since the community is international, everyone is kind and understanding.

Is the school perfect? Absolutely not. But I am 100% confident we made the right decision for our girls schooling here in Denmark.

Access to Europe
Guys. We can get on a plane and be in Italy in two hours! Or Ireland! Or Spain! Or we can get on a train. Or we can take a ferry across the sea to Sweden or Norway. And happily, this can all be done on a budget. Plane tickets (per person) can go for less than $100 one way. Most countries also have English parts of their website (or I use Google Translate) to help navigate where and when to go to their countries. The easy access we have to all of Europe is so cool. Now if only we could find more vacation time….

Ocean
Water surrounds Denmark. The ocean is typically within a 30 minute drive wherever you live in Denmark. Although the weather may not cooperate all the time, I love the fact that when it is nice, we can take a drive to the beach.

Cultural Learning
I am learning so much about Danish culture. The Viking history. Jante’s Law. The traditions. The language.

I love that we are getting a wider view of the world. We no longer see just our culture from back home. I feel like it has broken us out of the bubble people tend to build around themselves when they stay put in one location their whole lives. We are able to see the USA culture from a different point of view. We’re also able to enjoy and learn a new one. Learning a new language is good for the mind too (or so I’ve been told).

Less Sugar
Simple. There’s less sugar here. Is it here? Of course. The Danes LOVE their sweets but there is less added sugar in many products. There is also a high tax on sweets here so that helps to discourage too much sweet buying (even though you can just jump the border into Germany to skip that tax).

Environmental Concern
It is refreshing to see a country that doesn’t fight over climate change. Instead, Denmark is taking steps to become carbon neutral. Nearly half of the countries energy came from renewable sources this past year (source) with 47% being wind. The government is aiming to be CO2 neutral by 2050. They even have the cleanest waste-to-energy plant in the world. Way to take action, Denmark!

The Healthcare (the good stuff)
It’s “free”. By “free”, I mean we have to pay taxes into the system but it’s a number we know and we don’t have to worry about sticker shock during a visit. I don’t have to wonder anymore if the kids or I are sick enough to justify the cost of going to the doctor. I don’t feel as bad walking out of an appointment that only lasts five minutes and being told to go home and rest. Our doctors have been quick but thorough. We have been looked after and gotten the medicine we needed. I also enjoy that I can email our doctor anytime with questions on our health. While I haven’t had experience yet (and hopefully won’t) in the Danish hospital, the general care has been fairly sufficient.

Political Ads
We don’t see those here or at least we don’t understand them in Danish.

Green
Everything is still green. It’s been a warmer than normal January, so the grass is still green. One of our shrubs is even blooming. The trees are covered in moss and cover crops are in the fields.

What do we miss from home?

Family/Friends
I miss family. We are missing a lot of great family events and memories. It’s hard to call family and hear them talk about the fun memories that they are making. My girls miss their cousins and grandparents. They are counting down the days till our vacation back to the USA. I also miss that cushion. Knowing I can call a family member who can help in the event of an emergency. While we have made friends here who have been amazing, nothing replaces family.

The Weather
It is cloudy and dreary nearly every day. We had one day of sunshine this week and it was glorious. True, it only lasted half the day but man, those blue skies were awesome!

Food Options
Now don’t get me wrong, much of the larger cities in Denmark have great food options. There just isn’t quite the food variety in our area, especially for restaurants. I also have to translate labels a lot to make sure I’m getting the right ingredient for anything I make at home. There are some certain items I have had trouble locating here. The peanut butter is also not the same as the States (less sugar issue).

Foods we miss:
-Saltine Crackers
-Pepper Jack Cheese
-MexiCali Food
-Cheetos
-Certain Candies

Language Barrier
This hasn’t been a huge issue but I’ve had a few instances where I couldn’t convey my point to someone due to the language difference. It would be nice to just pick of the phone and speak clearly to the person on the other end.

The Healthcare (the bad)
There is little to no bedside manner. I think it has a lot to do with the system here compared to the USA. Doctors do the appointments quickly and efficiently. Medicine is seen as a last option (which isn’t always bad). However, I typically feel rushed and not always heard. Our doctor back in the USA had excellent bedside manner. I felt listened to and that all concerns of mine were addressed without judgement. I didn’t feel as rushed there.

Online Grocery Shopping
I miss it. A lot.

Snow
The husband and girls miss the snow (I may miss it just a little). We do miss our winter sports like snowmobiling, sledding and snowball fights. Claire will hear from a relative they got snow and she’ll always comment on how much she misses it.

The Danish Language
It is hard! The letter “d” is either said, ignored or made into a soft “l” sound. “G”s are a whole other story. Look up glottal stop. That’s fun too. Another fun example: “Vi tog to tog.” Those t-words are all pronounced about the same but translate to “We took two trains.” *sigh* Danish is listed as one of the hardest languages to learn by Babbel Magazine. We’ll get it…it just may take a while.

A Job
There are days I miss my job back in the States. It does get old doing the same chores in the house from one day to the next. I also loved what I did in Iowa. I miss using those skills to forecast major weather events and sharing them with the public.

In conclusion…
Do the cons outweigh the pros? Absolutely not. We are happy and healthy and we’re together. Home is where the heart is, right? It’s a wonderful adventure for us to experience as a family. I think we will be able to survive the next year or two.

Family Trip #9 (Part 2)

As mentioned in my previous post, we headed to Norway for Christmas after a short visit to Copenhagen.

I will admit, I was tired…and cranky. We had an 8 AM flight so we were at the airport by 6 AM since it was considered international travel. The interesting thing about this whole trip from Denmark to Sweden to Norway to Finland, we never once had our passports looked at. No identification ever. Just our boarding passes were used to get on the planes. Very odd and I don’t think typical of flight travel (something with the Nordic Passport Union might be why).

We had a brief layover in Stockholm. It was great that there was a little play area for the girls so they were able to release some energy before another flight. They also flew very well. Snacks and sticker books along with some screen time is what kept them calm both flights.

We landed in Tromsø, Norway missing one piece of luggage. It had been kept in Sweden for some reason. We were told it would come that evening or the next day. This particular piece of luggage also contained my winter boots, grandma’s clothes and some other winter gear. We also had plans for outdoor adventures the next day so yeah…not great but we’d have to manage with what we had. Luckily, the girls had all their gear. Grandma and I would have to brave the cold.

After a bit of a snafu with the rental car, we were on the road toward our AirBNB. It was also about 4 PM and pitch dark so we didn’t get to see much of Tromsø. We did get to go over a HUGE bridge. I couldn’t get a picture of it due to, you know, the dark. Pictures of it upcoming…

Anyway…we made it to our AirBNB and it had a wonderful view. We just had to step out on the steps and we could see the fjord and mountains surrounding it. Gorgeous!

The girls were also excited to see SNOW!!! After grocery shopping and eating, we came back to the house for them to play in the snow. They made a snowman and we had a snowball fight. The temperature was just around freezing with no wind so it was excellent outdoor fun!

On Monday, we split up and the two groups had very different experiences.

DAY 1
Group 1: Grandparents, husband and Claire
As told by a 7 year old.

We got on a bus early in the morning for an hour and a half. Some snowmobilers got off the bus first. We then drove a little longer to the dog sledding place. We went inside and were given winter gear. I only got boots because I was a kid (I was the only kid).

Then we went outside. Our teacher was named Lucy. She told us what to do and how to guide the dogs. She said to not put your feet in the middle because doing that could break the sled.

We then got to meet the dogs. The dogs were good and we started to ride. I was a passenger and I held on really tight to some handles. At one point, my feet even went off the sled. But I didn’t fall off!

One of the dogs was running and pooping at the same time!

Our ride was over an hour and it was fun!

We undressed and then we got to eat some reindeer stew. It was really delicious! But I couldn’t have seconds. They ran out!

We got back on the bus and went back to the where we dropped off the snowmobilers which was where the ice domes were located.

The ice domes were so cool! We watched a video about how they are made. First, they blow up a huge balloon. Then they throw snow on it. They wait another day then throw more snow on it. They do this many times. When all the snow has frozen, the balloon is deflated and pulled out. Artists then come and do all the artwork inside.

You could even spend the night there if you wanted to. It’s not an ice bed but there is an ice frame around it. I would like to spend the night there sometime but Grandma said she wouldn’t want to.

I also got a drink of fruit juice in an ice glass. It was cold!

After our tour of the ice dome, we went outside to see some reindeer. There were even baby reindeer! We didn’t feed them, the tour guide did. That was the end of our trip and we made the long drive back to Tromsø.

Group 2: Avery and I
Avery was too little to go on the dog sledding tour so I looked around for something for her and I to do. I decided on a reindeer sled ride. It allowed young children and I could ride right along with her.

We arrived by bus just outside of Tromsø. Avery was a little upset she wasn’t with her sister but I tried to tell her we were going on a ride too.

The group started off in a tent with a roaring fire. Norway is home to the Sámi people. The Sámi people are indigenous to the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and parts of Russia. They are best known for their involvement with reindeer herding.

The speaker told us about the reindeer and how we would be allowed to feed them. He went through many rules and I decided right there that Avery and I would just watch. No way I was going to have her trying to feed a semi-tame animal with antlers.

We were split into three groups and Avery and I were in the group that got to go on the sled ride first. We were told to sit in the sled and not to get up for any reason. Getting up could spook the reindeer. After everyone was seated in a sled, we started going.

There was one guide with the lead deer and Avery and I were in the very back.

Now here’s where it gets hard for me to write. *deep breath*

After a couple minutes in, one of the reindeer ahead of us came loose. It stopped and someone was telephoned to come hook it back up. No problem. Once the reindeer was hooked back up, the guy jumped behind the deer. This spooked that reindeer and it started galloping. This flipped over the poor riders sled with him on it. Luckily it stopped and while the sled was being straightened out, I realized our reindeer was now unhooked. I tried to signal to the worker that something was amiss. And I’m not sure if it was my signaling or the commotion of the flipped sled, but our reindeer took off at an all out run with us hanging on for dear life.

It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. I was holding on to Avery and the sled with all my strength. I switched from screaming for help to trying to be silent hoping the reindeer would slow down.

It did not. We headed toward a group of small trees and I worried about us hitting one but the deer decided to run around them. Next, it headed toward the feeding area. The workers were trying to corral our reindeer to keep it from entering the feeding area where other guests were. Other reindeer started running with ours and I then started to worry about us being trampled if we were thrown out in the middle of the them.

The workers were continuing to try and corral our out of control deer. They were working to get it into a smaller, fenced in area. The next few seconds seemed to happen in slow motion for me. I saw it. The barbed wire fence and the pole. The first thought was if this deer tries to go through the wire, we are in serious trouble. Instead, it veered left and that’s when our sled hit the pole. Avery and I went airborne. I tried to hold on to her as hard as I could but we hit with such a force, she flew out of my arms. I swear I saw her head hit the side of the sled.

The image that will stick in my mind for the rest of my days will be when I turned around and saw Avery laying face down in the snow and dirt. I get teary eyed writing about it now. I thought she had been knocked unconscious but she was crying and ran right into my arms.

We were both surrounded immediately by the workers of the camp and even some guests. Everyone was making sure we were ok. I felt fine. I was more worried about Avery. She had a bruise forming near her eye and said her neck hurt. I immediately was concerned about a concussion. I was asked if we wanted an ambulance. I didn’t hesitate; I said yes. I didn’t know the extent of Avery’s injuries.

Now the rest is a blur. I cried most of the time. Avery had calmed down after being given a cookie and some water in the bonfire tent. She was wiping away my tears the rest of the day. The workers were trying to talk to me and wanted to know what happened. They were all very kind and spoke good English. I’m pretty sure I even talked to someone who had once worked or interned in Fort Dodge, Iowa (small world).

The ambulance showed up and they did a quick rundown of Avery. We asked her what hurt, where she thought she got hit and what happened. They decided she was likely fine but wanted to bring her to the hospital so it could be documented by a doctor in case something changed in the next 24 hours.

So away we went on my first ever ambulance ride. Avery recounted that the ambulance ride was one of her favorite parts of the Norway trip because she didn’t have to be in a car seat and she got a stuffed lemur toy.

The doctors office was uneventful (thank goodness). The doctor checked over Avery and asked her lots of questions. She asked her what happened before the accident, what happened during and what happened immediately after. This was all a way to determine if there was any brain injury. Avery remembered everything and spoke clearly with her. The doctor ran through what I should watch out for over the next few days and that we should sleep in the same bed as well.

In retrospect, we were very lucky to walk away from this event mainly unscathed. Avery just had a few bruises and I had a small one on my leg. I was also extremely sore the next day. The mental side was hard as I went to bed for the next week or so reliving it before falling asleep and thinking about what all could have gone wrong (I’m happy to report I’m much better now).

In summary, Avery and I’s first day in Tromsø did not start on a good note. The company (obviously) reimbursed us, an employee was with us through it all, and they decided to pay for a northern lights tour for us. We do not blame them. We were told the metal part of the harness had broken which had never happened before. Reindeer are still wild animals. Our experience will likely bring a change to the reindeer excursion.

Day 2:

Tuesday was much less crazy. We decided to sleep in. Avery had an uneventful night in our bed so I was trying to keep a positive attitude. Our plan for the day was to go into Tromsø and take a ride on the cable car that takes you to the top of a cliff that overlooks Tromsø.

The way to get there is pretty cool as well. Tromsø has a big underground road, complete with roundabouts and rock formations. It also connects to the underground parking. While it may not be the cheapest parking, it is very convenient just to pull up in a non-icy parking spot with plenty of room. Parking out on the street, especially in downtown Tromsø, seemed a bit precarious. It is very hilly in the downtown area and if our rental car had not had studded tires, we would have been sliding all over. Therefore, parking in the underground lot (Fjellet P-hus) was nice.

The cable car was on the other side of Tromsø island. We were there just 30-40 minutes after opening and it wasn’t too busy. So up we went…

WOW! This provided an amazing view! It was definitely colder on top of the mountain and more windy. I was wishing I had put on my snow pants when we reached the top. Luckily, there was an indoor area where we could escape the cold (and don’t forget, my winter boots were still lost in the luggage).

The girls were also very happy with the little playset buried in the snow. They worked at digging out the slide and going down it for quite a long time. They also both said they were warm and happy. Claire also tried to make friends with any children that showed up to play too.

The sights from the top of the cliff were breathtaking. Downtown Tromsø sits in the middle of a fjord on an island. Although it was cold, it was wonderful to capture these pictures (click on picture to see larger).

I should also point out that Tromsø is 350 km (217.5 miles) north of the Arctic Circle. It was warmer than normal while we were there (just above freezing) but dark. We noticed there is really only a “glow” for about four hours during the day. The sun “glow” started around 10 AM and ended just after 2 PM. We had planned our trip on the cable car wisely!

After grabbing lunch at Fjellstua Café (amazing salmon and all allergens are listed on a small menu), we went back down the cable car. We were informed that some people do hike up or down the mountain and only buy a one way ticket. We were very happy with our round trip.

I want to point out that we drove by the Arctic Cathedral. The outside has gorgeous architecture. It definitely doesn’t look like your usual church. We thought about touring it but a quick Google search showed that it was closed for tours due to Christmas worship.

Since the glow was about gone, we decided to go to Polaria. Polaria is an Arctic aquarium that hosts seals and other Arctic sea life. When we arrived, they were starting a hands on/learning lecture for kids. So that was where we stopped first.

The girls loved it. Claire was scared at first and stayed seated with the adults while Avery and I went to the front to touch the sea creatures and learn about them. It didn’t take long before Claire was up at the front asking questions. The teacher did a great job explaining all the different creatures to the kids. It was only our girls and two other kids so it was nice and personal as well. Oh and it also had a real cool backdrop of the seals swimming by.

After that, we explored the aquarium. It was pretty small so we allowed Claire to explore it with her new friend she made at the lecture. The grandparents caught a video on the northern lights. Avery found a play area with a HUGE slide (in her words). I hung next door to Avery in the climate change section. It had a lot of sobering but good graphical pictures/displays.

We then heard an announcement for the seal feeding/training. We made our way up to that area. There were four seals. They all had different names and while I’ve already forgotten their names, Claire remembers them (she’s in bed now so I’m not going to wake her up).

We were told that they feed/train them at least twice a day. The training is to keep them fit and their brains active.

The training started well but then one of the seals seemed to give up. The seal just kept swimming and poking its head up. It completely ignored it’s trainer. The trainer did say at the end of the session that it was likely scared of something and I have a suspicion it was my daughter’s stomping up and down the wooden steps. *sigh*

After Polaria, we called it a day and went back to the AirBNB to watch some Home Alone 2 (we had watched #1 the night before).

Day 3:
Christmas Day we decided to take it easy. There wasn’t going to be much open in Tromsø. It really didn’t feel like Christmas to me due to 1) we were traveling and 2) Santa didn’t visit. Santa didn’t want us to have to haul presents back to Denmark on an airplane (they were under the tree when we arrived home).

After some talking, we decided to go to Frozen 2. Frozen 2 was actually released in Tromsø on Christmas Day so we figured we had a good shot of getting in. I looked online and they offered it in three different languages; Sámi, Norwegian and English. We obviously picked the midday English one.

The theater was pretty neat. It was underground and had the most interesting snack bar I have seen. The popcorn was in hot, cooler looking containers and you picked out your size. There were also bacon flavored crisp (maybe pork rind) snacks and a few other choices. And so much candy! It was very hard to convey to the girls they were only getting popcorn and a drink.

The movie was excellent. It was in English but with Norwegian subtitles. I also now have all the Frozen 2 songs downloaded and memorized.

We went home to relax before the big northern lights tour that night.

The northern lights chase started at 5:30 PM. My in-laws and I drove back into Tromsø and met the group at a hotel. It was a small group of only 16 and two guides (one driving, one talking/chasing).

After loading onto the bus, we made our way to a warehouse. Here we dressed in outdoor gear. The tour company provided us with snowsuits, boots and gloves/hats if we needed them. Then we loaded back into the small bus and were told we were going to Finland.

I asked the tour guide if we needed our passports but he said they don’t bother checking at the border and if they do, they typically let the tours go right on through. So we headed in to Finland, a two hour drive.

The tour guide explained to us how the fjord on the coast can create a trap of moisture (orographic lifting or windward side of the mountain) which creates clouds that would prevent us from seeing the lights. We were headed into Finland which was farther inland and on the leeward side of the mountain where the chance of cloud cover is lower. He said it is known as one of the driest spots in Finland.

I found the aurora chase very comparable to storm chasing. We weren’t technically chasing the lights, we were chasing clear skies. There was a lot of cloud cover so we were just trying to find some breaks in the clouds. He was calling his friends and other guides around the area looking for updates on the cloud cover in their location. A lot of patience was needed just like for storm chasing. But with aurora chasing, you don’t have to worry about your car getting hailed on.

We pulled into an area with a frozen lake. We were given headlamps. I grabbed my camera and tripod and we headed out onto the lake. There were only a few breaks in the clouds and the guide was hopeful we would see something. Over the horizon, I saw a bit of green. It was the northern lights!

To me, it honestly looked more like light pollution that you see reflecting off the clouds from large cities. We were starting to settle down on the lake when our guide came back and told us to pack up. His friend was reporting better clearing north.

Another 20-30 minutes back the direction we came from, we settled on another frozen lake. This time our guide said this is where we were staying put. He set up his camera, cleared a spot for a fire and set down some blankets/mats. He also started explaining to us how the lights happen (science here), the best events he’s seen and other facts about chasing the lights. We stayed in this spot for probably over an hour, maybe closer to two. We also had freeze dried soup (gluten-free chili for me) and marshmallows (tasted way sweeter than Kraft Jet-Puffed mallows).

During our stay there, I grabbed a lot of pictures so below is the slideshow of all I caught and my favorite one.

The above pictures are unedited, JPG images. I did not edit them BUT my camera was set to certain settings to make sure I caught the most amount of light and color as possible. They did NOT look quite this colorful to the naked eye. I would say it was more of a dull green. Our guide said that social media is ruining the lights as many of the aurora borealis photos are highly edited. He said many people on his tour expect to see these huge colorful displays when in reality, it’s not quite that powerful. He also stated in the many years he has been giving tours, he has only seen five corona events which he would rate a 5 out of 5. He rated our experience a 3, maybe 3.5.

Around midnight, we finally made our way back to Tromsø. I slept most of the way (it was late) but we did witness two moose on the way back. We didn’t return back to the cabin until around 3 AM. Long day!

Day 4:
Thursday we said goodbye to Tromsø. We cleaned the AirBNB up and loaded into the car (luckily, we had a noon flight). Tromsø treated us with a pretty “sunrise” before we arrived at the airport.

The flight to Denmark was uneventful (no passport checks) and the train ride back home was simple.

We said goodbye to the grandparents the next day who were real troopers for putting up with our impatient travelers (me sometimes) and battling jet lag.

In retrospect, it was a good trip with some much needed relaxation sprinkled in. Next winter though, I think I may want to go somewhere more tropical with more sun and no reindeer.

Family Trip #9 (Part 1)

The Christmas season was upon us and we were all excited for our upcoming visitors and trip. Of course, it started out with sickness (tis the season, right?).

I had to pick up Avery early from school a week before the holiday season. She was complaining of an earache and the teachers were unable to console her. I brought her home and gave her some pain medicine. She seemed perfectly fine until that evening. Her eye started oozing (gross) green gunk. Great…

Off we went to the doctor’s office the next morning after dropping big sister off at school. The doctor said it was likely viral and she wasn’t too concerned since Avery’s ears looked fine, her eyes were still white and she had a runny nose. Likely just symptoms of a cold. So we spent the weekend wiping the eye and cuddling. By Monday evening, it had spread to the other eye and was not getting any better. Her eye area was completely irritated and the gunk didn’t seem to stop. Another trip to the doctor Tuesday morning and she was diagnosed with a bacterial eye infection. We picked up our eye drops at the pharmacy and headed to the aiport.

GRANDMA AND GRANDPA WERE COMING TO VISIT!!!

We were so excited to see them! Avery was especially excited that she was able to pick them up at the airport. She was suppose to be in school but since her eyes were requiring constant wiping, I decided to keep her with me. She was so excited to see them when they walked through the security gate.

We then went to pick Claire up at the school and showed Grandma and Grandpa the classrooms and our home. I made them an authentic Danish meal of frikadeller (Danish meatballs), potatoes and veggies.

Wednesday we allowed some time for Grandma and Grandpa to rest. Jet lag is no joke and can really mess up a person’s schedule. Avery stayed home again and she was happy to have two new playmates. We made a few crafts while the grandparents caught up on some sleep.

We then decided to check out the Christmas market in Esbjerg which was located near the ice skating rink we had visited earlier in December. It was small but was a good way to get out of the house for a bit.

That night, we opened Christmas presents and enjoyed another Danish meal of flæskesteg.

Then late into the night, Avery came to our room. This time she was crying while going to the bathroom and I noticed blood. I called the on call doctor and we were told to call our doctor in the morning. We were instructed to take a urine sample from her and bring it in for testing. Collecting a urine sample from a three year old. Fun stuff. But with some bribing and a little ingenuity, I dropped the sample off at the doctors and was told we’d have results the next day. Well this made me super nervous. We had plans to travel. How was I going to get the prescription if it was determined to be bacterial? What if it wasn’t? How serious would it be? What about all the activities we had already paid for that were nonrefundable? To say I was stressed out was an understatement.

The next morning, I was called before the doctors office even opened. They said it was bacterial and a another round of antibiotics was needed for Avery. I also found out that once a prescription is ordered by a doctor in Denmark, you can go to any pharmacy across the country to get it. It is just automatically stored under your number. Pretty neat.

So with the doctor’s ok, we set off to Copenhagen. We got to ride the train for the first time. It even included a switch at another station and although we were a bit confused at which wagon we were suppose to be on, we didn’t miss it. The girls enjoyed the train too.

We arrived in Copenhagen Central Station and picked up the antibiotics and Copenhagen cards. These cards were very similar to what we used in London. For one card, we were given access to museums, tours, public transportation and discounts at certain vendors. However, I only purchased a 24-hour card so we decided to hold off using it until that evening.

We made our way out of the train station towards our hostel. It was the first hostel I had ever stayed in and it was certainly an experience. We had arrived an hour and a half before check in and were directed to drop our luggage off at the lockers. We had to pay to store it there and there were young adults scattered all around the open space just waiting for check in. We decided instead to go find food.

We located a nice little burger joint called Jagger. I was pleased with my gluten free burger and bun! Avery hated the chicken nuggets but everyone else was happy and full. The walk there was also…interesting. Google Maps led us down a street with many erotic shops including one with a large, golden phallus sculpture. Needless to say, we did not take that journey on the way back to the hotel and instead found a nice park for the girls to release some energy.

Back to our hostel we went. It included two bunk beds and one double bed for the grandparents. It was definitely cozy for all of us.

After some strategizing on what we should do first with our Copenhagen card, we decided to go to Tivoli. It was only two blocks from our hostel and is a definite must for tourists to Copenhagen. Tivoli is the world’s second oldest operating amusement park. It opened in 1843 and has been updated with some particularly scary rides. There is one called the Star Flyer that is 80 meters (~263 feet) high. You spin around in a big circle on nothing but a swing (video here). No thanks…

The sun was setting and we knew it would be all lit up for Christmas. The entrance fee was covered with our Copenhagen card.

Tivoli did not disappoint. There were lights everywhere; rides at every turn; a huge Christmas tree decorated with crystal. Christmas market booths and food. After some begging, the girls were allowed to pick one ride to go on with one adult. Avery and dad went on a Ferris Wheel and Claire and grandpa went on a roller coaster. We spent the rest of the time traversing Tivoli and finding somewhere to eat. It was also very busy so all the restaurants were packed. Luckily, there was a food court so the girls and I picked a gluten free spot and found stools right next to the ordering counter. Some nice ladies gave me a stool before they were finished eating so I could sit with the girls. Very kind of them!

Tivoli is definitely a place to take in the sites and rides. If you like amusement parks and want to do rides, I suggest buying the wristbands. You’ll get your moneys worth then. We were only there for a couple hours so we couldn’t justify the wristband. But we had a good time and only one major meltdown.

After a good nights rest, we decided to explore Copenhagen sites by first starting with a canal cruise covered with the Copenhagen card. We had to take the new metro to get there. You could definitely tell it was new. So clean!

The canal tour was about an hour long. Just long enough for two little girls. Avery and I bounced from seat to seat as she had to check out different views. Claire stayed put with Grandma and the dads spent the cruise out in the cold, open view area.

Except for the constant moving and restless children, I would definitely recommend it. The boat has a clear cover so you still get a great view of the harbor and it’s many sites. While the tour guides were not as hilarious as our London canal guides, she provided excellent information on the different buildings we saw. We even saw the Little Mermaid statue which is a famous Copenhagen icon and is based off Han Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. Claire remembered the statue the most from the tour due to the information about her being vandalized and decapitated several times.

Below are some pictures from the tour taken by me and Avery (had to keep the three year old entertained).

A few highlights from the tour:

-The incinerator plant is estimated to be the cleanest in the world. It produces zero carbon and actually produces more clean water than it uses. It provides Copenhagen with electricity and heating. It is apparently so productive that waste is being shipped in from other countries. The plant also features on artificial ski slope on the roof, hiking and wall climbing for the public.

-The bridge (Inderhavnsbroen) featured in the pictures took many years to build and had a bit of a design flaw (depending on who you ask). Near the end of construction, there was a six to eight centimeter gap. According to our guide, steel had to be placed in the middle to get the bridge to “kiss”.

– Børsen (The Exchange) is the building with the spiral spire. My pictures do not do it justice. It actually depicts four dragons with their tails intertwined. Really breathtaking.

-The canal tour also offered a look at the more modern yet gorgeous Playhouse and Opera house. Very slick designs and even the location for jumping into the harbor (which is completely safe to swim in by the way).

-Church of Our Saviour has a beautiful helix spire. The figure on the top is known as the ugliest sculpture in Copenhagen because it’s features are so exaggerated. This is so people can still see the features from the ground. Our tour guide said it was down for a week but was put back up quickly due to it’s ugly appearance.

After arriving back, we decided to cruise the Christmas market at Højbro Plads. We grabbed lunch, grandma got some authentic wool socks, I picked up two pie-sized slices of chocolate along with coffee and Claire picked out a handmade, glass Danish heart ornament. We also used the public restrooms. And I’m pointing this out just because it was the cleanest public restroom I have ever used. It was almost cute as it was underground in the middle of the street and filled with copper pipes. And so shockingly clean!

We then decided to walk to Nyhavn (New Harbor). Nyhavn is probably the number one tourist destination in Copenhagen or at least one of the most well known. If you type in Copenhagen in Google, it’ll be the main picture.

On the walk there, we ran in to two more Christmas markets and PIGEONS! This was one of the girls’ favorite things of the day. Chasing the pigeons at Kongens Nytorv.

There were also painted Christmas trees around the plaza and a beautiful icicle display at Hotel D’Angleterre.

After yet another Christmas market, we made our way into Nyhavn and took our obligatory tourist pictures.

We decided we hadn’t heard enough complaining from the children about having to walk so we made our way to Amaliehaven (gardens) along the harbor and near the Queen’s winter residence. Yes, Denmark has a monarchy and it is over 1200 year old! (Learn more about it on Wikipedia if you’d like.)

The gardens were pretty empty since it is winter and all but it did offer a beautiful view across the harbor to the opera house and towards Frederik’s Church.

We then walked into Amalienborg, the Queen’s winter residence. We learned on our canal tour that the flag meant the crowned prince was in residence while the queen was not.

Guards very similar to what you see in England where standing guard at many different stations on the property. Many tourists were trying to get them to smile and snapping pictures with them. I kept my distance. We then heard a bit of a commotion and a bunch more guards came out of a neighboring building. We had timed our stop perfectly and saw the changing of the guards.

After watching one guard relieved of duty, we decided to walk to Frederik’s Church.

The sign on the inside said it is still a place of worship and absolute silence should be observed. Yeah. I had a three year old. We did not stay in there for long. But it was quite beautiful and decorated for Christmas. A nice, quiet place for a quick pause.

Next, we hopped back on the new, clean Metro and made our way to the Round Tower. Admission was included in our Copenhagen card so we decided it was something the girls would like. It is a tower with an observatory and no stairs. It’s just one big spiral ramp.

Of course, I still had to carry Avery some of the way and she had to go potty about one minute after we got to the top….of course. But I was able to capture some gorgeous views of Copenhagen.

Next, we walked some more. Back towards city hall and our hotel. We did run into a lot of amazing architecture and one important dude. SANTA!!

My phone also died at this point so I don’t have many other pictures of Copenhagen. But we had about 30 minutes left on our Copenhagen card so we stopped at Ripley’s Believe It or Not. The girls had a fun time there except for a few scarier parts (one about torture and another about the inner workings of the body). We then grabbed a meal and called it a day. We were exhausted and had a big day the next day. An early flight to Norway (future blog post coming on that crazy adventure).

All in all, I feel we barely scratched the surface on what Copenhagen has to offer and I feel we’ll be going back sooner than later.