Category Archives: Denmark


Having lived in Copenhagen for over four years now, and having ridden my bike pretty consistently since arriving, I know the area pretty well. I have a lot of routes memorized, and I can ride them without thinking about where I am or being worried about getting lost. But often I get tired of my familiar routes, and strike out in a new direction.

Part of Copenhagen's old outer defense system (Vestvolden) Part of Copenhagen's old outer defense system (Vestvolden) Part of Copenhagen's old outer defense system (Vestvolden)

Sometimes these experiments don’t turn out well — I work myself into a dead end, or I find myself on the entrance to a highway where bikes aren’t allowed, for example. But sometimes I discover great paths. This happened to me a few months ago when I ventured just a few blocks down from one of my regular paths, and found a quiet, leafy path that goes on for miles.

Part of Copenhagen's old outer defense system (Vestvolden) Part of Copenhagen's old outer defense system (Vestvolden) Part of Copenhagen's old outer defense system (Vestvolden)

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Bella Hotel

Our apartment is next to Bella Center, the largest conference center in Scandinavia. Bella Center is where COP15, the global climate conference was held. President Obama has been to Bella Center twice in the year that we’ve lived here, once for his attempt to get the Olympic committee to choose Chicago, and once for the climate conference.

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A hotel is under construction at Bella Center. Bella Hotel will be the largest hotel in Scandinavia. It’ll have 800 rooms, and an estimated 300,000 people will stay there every year. It features two leaning towers that are joined by a bridge at the top. The images below are depictions of the finished hotel.

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Apparently it’ll be a four star hotel (I don’t even know what that means except that we’ll never stay there.) According to this site, the design is in part due to a height restriction due to the the relatively close proximity of the airport.

It won’t be finished for another year, but it’s already quite impressive.

It’s the thaw that counts

I have a lot of fun making fun of Danes. I do. It’s fun. It’s fun for me, and it’s fun for them. I’m sure it’s fun for them…  Well, they certainly have fun teasing me back. I’m subjected to steady stream of American jokes at work, that’s for sure.

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One thing that’s fun to mock is the Danish obsession with the sun. When you grow up in New Mexico, sunlight is not exactly a scarce resource, but here — especially at this time of year – you’ll see people walking own the street and suddenly stop, close their eyes, and just savor the light on their faces. I’ve frequently made fun on that account.

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But, having been here for a few winters now, I’m beginning to understand. I don’t mind the winters (and this one was really very nice as far as winters go) but when the spring comes, and the days get longer… suddenly it’s is possible to conduct a tiny part of your non-working day in the light — it’s a revelation. Suddenly it seems like the dark was weighting down on you all winter and you didn’t even realize it.

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Winter, properly

This has been an amazing winter. There’s been snow on the ground for two months now. Weeks have gone by very little time spent above freezing. And every time it seems like the snow might be melting, another batch comes down. Two years ago I wrote an entry called This winter’s limp handshake. We’re certainly getting a firm handshake this winter.

On the way home from dinner on a particularly cold and windy evening The building next to ours Almost home

This is not typical. Denmark had much milder winters than Americans tend to think. It is, after all, at the same latitude as Southern Alaska. But this January was Denmark’s coldest in twenty three years. Several I’ve talked to say they don’t remember a winter like this.  Read More →

Winter by bike

On the long way home from work

In some ways this is my first winter in Denmark. We had a pretty good snow when I first got here, but since then the winters were more rainy than snowy. We’ve made up for that this winter — there’s been plenty of snow, and it’s been crisp and cold for long stretches at a time.

But maybe it just seems more like a real winter to me because I’m spending so much more time outside. I spent the first two winters commuting by train, as the Microsoft offices are about 22 kilometers north of Copenhagen, so I wasn’t exposed to the elements much. And although I rode my bike last winter, the office was about five minutes from the apartment. now I bike 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) each way. Read More →

Danish Christmas

Glædelig jul! (Merry Christmas!)

Overall, Christmas in Denmark isn’t that different from Christmas in the US. There are differences, but they’re fairly subtle. Except for the tree. That’s not subtle. But in terms of Christmas being a special time, in which family gets together and eats entirely too much — that’s the same.

Naturally the food is different. I’ve gotten so used to the food that I don’t think about it very much anymore, but the Danes have a lot of of specific foods that they only enjoy on special occasions, so there were two dishes I hadn’t had before. The first was brunede kartofler, which translates to roasted potatoes, but are in fact caramelized potatoes. I’m of the opinion that you can’t improve on the potato, be it mashed or merely boiled, so I wasn’t particular impressed by the description, but they’re very good. Read More →

Snow more Christmas

Ellen, up to no good

Up until now, no matter where I’ve been living, I’ve managed to get home to New Mexico for Christmas. But on this, my fortieth Christmas, I’m not going home. We’ll spend next year in New Mexico, but this year we’re spending Christmas with Lisbeth’s family.

It’s quite strange not to go home. It’s nice not to have to worry about airports and jetlag, but I miss my family, I miss the food, and going to my grandparent’s ranch.

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But it’s not all bad. Read More →

Dog v. Protester

It’s been a surreal two weeks. Security around Bella Center was incredibly tight. Tall barriers were constructed around the center, engulfing entire streets. There were generally five to ten police officers at every gate, 24 hours a day, and many more than that on days when protesters were expected. On Friday, when Obama came in, guards with assault rifles were added. It was like living next to a military base.

The police used our building as part of a line of defense to prevent protesters from reaching Bella Center. I've seen far more cops in the last two weeks and I had previously, even if you count cops on TV Given the police present, I expected hordes of protesters

I took these pictures from our terrace on Wednesday morning (I had a headache and it was bitter cold, so the blur in these pictures is my unsteady hands). Protesters were expected to make another attempt to push past security and get into Bella Center. But, as seemed the case the entire time, police were two steps ahead, and were clearly not going to let things chaotic, even if it meant arresting 600 people at a time. (The mass arrests were later declared illegal.) Read More →

The Wheel of Excellence

Haven’t been on it, don’t know anything about it, but it’s in Copenhagen right now and it just nice lookin’.

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The End is coming

Art installation near Bella Center

Starting tomorrow, 100 heads of state from countries around the world will meet in Bella Center, the largest conference center in Scandinavia. There will be about 15,000 participants and the Copenhagen police are expecting as many as 50,000 protesters — and as a result, over half of Denmark’s police force is in Copenhagen for this event.

Apparently every hotel in the greater Copenhagen area has been booked for months, and many people are hosting participants in their homes. Obama will make an appearance at the conference. It’ll be brief, but this is the second time in three months that Obama has been to Copenhagen, so the Danes aren’t unhappy about that. (He was here for the Olympic committee meeting in early October, which also took place at Bella Center.)

Art installation near Bella CenterWe live across the street from Bella Center. We’ve watched over the last few months as the preprations have intensified. Every entrance is heavily guarded. We’re sure to see many a protester, many a cop, and — mostly likely — some trouble. Last week we got a note form the building management announcing that extra insurance has been taken out on the building, and advising residents to make sure their private policies are up-to-date. Read More →