Monday, May 17, 2010

Spring’s here! The sea is no longer frozen!

No kidding ;-) We see flowers blooming, people are going to the beach on weekends to eat ice creams in the wind and to do some kayaking... No sun tanning yet though, not because there is no sun (although this week there wasn’t much of it), but because it is still way too cold for that. We still wear our windproof jackets and our hats to go to the beach...

It’s great to see spring in Denmark. As you might guess from its geographic location, and its climate, this country is very green! A green that we rarely or briefly see in Colorado. The Marselis forrest south of Aarhus is just a green paradise. We are talking about deep woods right by the sea, another particularity made possible by our northern latitude. Q went on a little back road trip on Friday to check out Aarhus from the peninsulas on the opposite side of the bay. Friday was actually Q’s last day of sabbatical/unemployment/retirement/etc. before his job that officially started on May 15! He marveled at the rolling green and golden hills rolling down to the sea. With that dramatic dark grey sky, it made for some stunning views. And look at that little old cabin in the woods... Hey, it’s like 95% pure green on that picture, and it’s not even artificial!

So OK the mountains are no longer there, but there’s quite plenty to make up for their absence... Plenty of green, but also lonesome windmills, lighthouses, insanely long and for the most part untouched beaches, cute churches and villages... All the views here (and on the previous posts actually) are from areas that are within 20 miles of Aarhus, so there is really plenty to explore and to be blown away by.

Finally, we’ve noticed how slowly spring unfolds here (magnolia trees are in bloom now, when they were in San Francisco in February, and in Strasbourg in early April). This just perfectly parallels the pace of life in the Danish way, where there is a big emphasis on quality time to be spent with friends, family, and outdoors. And with all the Roman catholic holidays we have here, that really means a lot of free time ;-) This is still somewhat of an interesting adjustment for us coming from the US. But we’re getting there, to some compromise between being workaholics and tourists. Maybe we’ll have reached that balance in time for the summer season, when it’ll be time to switch from rhubarb (ah! rhubarb pie!) to strawberries and raspberries, and then back to rhubarb again...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Chrysa's 29th birthday celebration

Well, we started celebrating already on April 30th, which is a day off here in Denmark! Q had baked a strawberry fruit pie, with that buttery crust and that creamy and vanilla-flavored filling. Before that, the “piece de resistance” was a pork filet mignon baked in puff pastry dough. We naturally had some white wine from Alsace to accompany all this and celebrate the event. Afterwards we met with some colleagues from work to drink some original cocktails in a trendy bar.

Happy B-day sweetie!

Further exposure to the local history

Part of our settling-down process naturally involves a progressive discovery of Denmark. After a discovery of Aarhus that is still undergoing, we started widening the circle to close-by towns (within 20-40 miles) that we can reach using Q’s mom’s car that we are fortunate to still have with us for a little while longer.

Two Sundays ago, while C was working in the lab to make up for vacation days, a still unemployed Q went to check out the cute and charming town of Ebeltoft. The old part of town is reminiscent of what visitors can already see here in Aarhus when going to Den Gamle By (see post entitled “So, what’s Aarhus really like?”). Although in Ebeltoft, the town is an actual living town, with shops, restaurants, etc, so that gives it a different appeal.

On the way to Ebeltoft, Q also stopped at the ruins of Kalø Slot (slot = castle in Danish), which are still standing on this tiny peninsula overlooking the Aarhus bay. The ruins by themselves don’t have much to offer, as they consist mostly of broken walls and a tower (reminiscent of Panama Viejo, see post entitled:"Wandering among the ruins of Panama Viejo”). However, with the particular backdrop of the bay in the background, they added to the dramatic nature of the scenery. Q was sort of expecting ghosts and headless horse riders in full-body armors to come after him at any minute... I mean, we are in celtic country here, to which stories of Hamlet, of Thot, and of a certain Ring belong...

Off to more historical adventures last Sunday, with a trip to the castle of Gammel Estrup, about 23 miles north of Aarhus. Passing through villages reminded us of how proud the Danes are of their flag, as it was displayed about every 30 feet, on both sides of the road, from one end of the village to the other... And when we thought Americans were sometimes overly patriotic!

The castle of Gammel Estrup was now a Renaissance castle, built and rebuilt between the 14th and 18th centuries. No more spooky spirits and specters, but rather an invitation to romance (I mean, look at lovely C among those daffodils! :-). Q was reminded of that French movie “Peau d’Ane” by Jacques Demy, for those who might know. We both thought that this castle was probably a popular destination for wedding parties... And for the difficult father or mother in law, there is always the option to have him/her sleep in the Green Tower room, which owes its name to the still glowing green from the arsenic-based dye that was used in the coloring of the wallpaper that sticks to its walls after a few centuries. Hmm, isn't it always so wonderful to stick to those things from the past that otherwise we would miss too much...

Our second home in Aarhus

Dear family and friends,

We are back with some new posts of the latest news up here in Aarhus, Denmark. Not much traveling has happened, as you might guess, so our posts are a bit less frequent. We are looking forward to some adventures in South of France in three weeks though, to visit Q’s first niece, Mila, who was born today, May 2nd, 2010 :-)

It is still cold and windy at the beginning of May, but that won’t change much any time soon. Or maybe it will get warmer, but it will still be windy... But we love it! At least it is sunny a lot—almost daily, although perhaps not for the entire day. We really appreciate the sunny weather in our new place, which has lots of big windows all around, and some even through the roof (see photo).

Our second home here in Aarhus is slightly further away from work, but not by more than a few minutes of walking distance. We are closer to the historical downtown area, with its cafes and shops, so we enjoy the opportunity to just be able to walk everywhere. The street we are on is pretty quiet, and although from the outside it looks like a row of apartment buildings (see photo), on the other side the buildings actually surround an open space area with people’s backyards, a little soccer field, among other things. So it is great to be downtown yet to see the trees slowly turn green. Our apartment is on the first floor from the street side, but that ends up being garden level on the other side. Our apartment ends with a door that opens to one of these yards, which is almost in the sun all day (see photo).

Other than that with about 800 feet of surface area, our place is quite big by Aarhus’ standards, and for what we are paying per month ($1,100). It has hardwood floors throughout, and came with some rather useful furniture, if not of the best quality... Oh if you could see that old yellow leather couch! Reminds Q of used cowboy chaps... But the high point when we first arrived was the tiny bathroom (train/plane size of course) which is at the end of a hallway, with no window. On top of that the bathroom and the shower are really one single space, i.e. the floor of the bathroom floor is the shower floor, you know, European style... The mold that had consequently been growing behind the sink, the toilet, and inside the drain over years of poor maintenance made Chrysa really unwell at first. Luckily lot’s of cleaning and the purchase of a dehumidifier/air purifier were able to reverse that. We just loved the irony that after living in dry Colorado for several years we were thrown right into having to deal with the exact opposite problem: too much humidity!

We have been living at this place for about a month now, and brought our cat back with us after a trip to France over Easter. So it feels good to be all together again. Sascha is definitely enjoying the opportunity to sit by sunny windows and to go outside day or night (no danger to be eaten by a coyote any longer ;-) (see photo). We should be here until October, when it will be time to move to yet another place (hopefully with a larger bathroom, but it is a challenge here, so we will keep you posted...).