How Much is Enough?

One of the things that I look forward to the most when I travel to Europe is breakfast!  You see, Danes—like most Europeans—-eat some really interesting things after crawling out of bed. 

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(Image by Joit, licensed Creative Commons Attribution)

Most of the morning meals that I've eaten across the Atlantic include really nice breads and cheeses.  There are also tons of cold cuts to be found, surrounded by enough granola and yogurt to make even the most committed tree-huggers happy. 

Considering my tendency to grab a 12-pack of chocolate mini-donuts and a jumbo Diet Coke at the Quicky-Mart on the way to work, it's pretty obvious why I think European breakfasts are better than sliced toast, can't you!

But the food selection isn't the only thing interesting about Danish breakfasts. 

Check this video out to learn more:

Pretty crazy, huh?  I mean, here in the good ol' U.S. of A., we've gotten used to plates the size of Rhode Island covered with enough food to feed six small children or three adults when we're eating out at restaurants, haven't we?

And yet most of the Danish restaurants that I ate in served me reasonable sized portions that left me full—-instead of busting at the gut—-and I was perfectly happy with what I had for dinner. 

This has left me thinking about one simple phrase:  How much is enough?

Is it necessary for Americans to have six cars, five televisions, and fourteen cell phones per family, or can we live with less?  Why is it that Danes seem perfectly happy with smaller meals, smaller cars and smaller toys? 

Does that tell us something about our cultures?  And if so, what?

Interesting questions, huh?

Signed,
Bam Bam Bigelow

Posted in Denmark, Food | Leave a comment

Homogeneous is Easy. . .

America is a pretty remarkable place, isn't it?  We're a nation full of different cultures, religions, ideas, celebrations and values.  In almost any state, you can find people who can trace their family's history back to Europe, Africa, Asia, South and Central America, Canada and Australia. 

You can worship in Mosques, Cathedrals or Synagogues.  You can eat Chinese food, bratwurst, spaghetti, or good ol' fashioned apple pie.  You can speak in English, Spanish, Japanese, or Korean while wearing blue jeans or burkas and playing croquet or cricket. 

That's why we're sometimes called "The Melting Pot" or "The Tossed Salad," and that's one of the things that makes life so interesting in the U. S. of A. 

But what about Denmark?  Do they have the same collection of cultures worth celebrating? 

Watch this video to learn more: 

Pretty amazing, huh?  It's hard to believe that until just recently—when immigration from Eastern Europe and the Middle East began to pick up—that Denmark was a nation of mostly Danes!  The lack of diversity is really pretty noticeable as you walk on the streets or spend time in public squares. 

That's called being homogeneous—-and being homogeneous is, in many ways, pretty darn easy.  You see, when you're a nation of people who share the same beliefs, languages, cultures and traditions you don't have a whole heck of a lot to fight about, right?! 

But is being homogeneous a good thing?  Do countries lose a little something when there are only a small handful of different cultures? 

Whaddya' think?

Signed,

Bam Bam Bigelow

Posted in Denmark, People | Leave a comment

The Danish Resistance Movement. . .

Like many of its neighbors, Denmark was occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II.  What made Denmark unusual, though, is that Germany—hoping to show the world that they weren't bullies trying to conquer all of Europe—allowed the Danes to keep their own elected government and their own police force for a long while. 

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As a result, life in Denmark after the German invasion in 1940 was largely unchanged from the years before the war.  While the Germans stationed troops in Denmark and censored newspapers, there was little to make the Danes want to fight back against the Germans. 

Over the years, however, many Danes began to resent the German occupation and a resistance movement slowly formed.  While this group undertook lots of different tasks ranging from feeding information about the Germans to the Allies and sabotaging German war efforts, the Danish Resistance is best known for their efforts to protect the Jews of Denmark. 

Working with fisherman to smuggle Jews out of Denmark and into Sweden, the Danish Resistance rescued all but 500 of Denmark's 7,000-8,000 Jews.  The risks of rescuing Jews were great and over 850 Resistance fighters were killed during the war, but their work saved lives. 

Learn more about the Danish Resistance fighters by watching these two videos:

The real question becomes what would you have done if you were a Dane living during World War II?  Would you have stood up on behalf of the Jews and tried to protect them from being sent to German concentration camps even if it meant risking your life?  Or would you have sat on the sidelines, looking out for yourself?

Would your answer have changed if you were a mother or a father? 

Really think this one through.  While the quick answer might be that you would have stood up for the Jews in the face of the bad treatment they were receiving, would standing up be as easy as it sounds?

Signed,

Bam Bam Bigelow

Posted in Denmark, History | 5 Comments

Travelling in the EU. . .

One of the main advantages of living in a country that is a European Union member nation is the ability to travel easily across borders.  Considering how close European countries are to one another, crossing borders without having to stop to have your passport checked is a pretty big deal!

This policy of "invisible borders" is called Schengen, and it is something that Danes living in Copenhagen can experience all the time.  You see, Copenhagen—Denmark's capital—sits just across a narrow body of water called the Oresund from southern Sweden, and in 2000, the two countries completed the Oresund Bridge connecting Copenhagen with the Swedish city of Malmo. 

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The bridge has literally changed life for both Danes and Swedes—and has strengthened the economy of both countries.  Because the journey over the Oresund Bridge only takes 35 minutes by train, people can live in one country and commute to work in the other.  Students can also take college classes at universities in both Malmo and Copenhagen. 

Heck, goofy American tourists can even travel from Denmark to Sweden for dinner!  Don't believe me?  Then check out this video:

Pretty interesting stuff, huh?  By building a bridge, Denmark and Sweden have made travel for their people easy. 

Can you think of other advantages that the EU's invisible borders might provide for countries?  For EU residents?  What about disadvantages?  Are there potential problems in letting people travel freely between countries?

Signed,

Bam Bam Bigelow

Posted in Denmark, Movement | 1 Comment

Fonden Bycyklen i København

Denmark_335_3Probably my favorite thing about my trip to Denmark was a neat City Bike program in Copenhagen.  Basically, any where you went in the city, you could find colorful bikes that were available for tourists to rent for 20 Kroner. 

After sliding a Kroner coin into a City Bike lock, you could essentially take a bike and ride it around Copenhagen for as long as you wanted!  Each bike included a map to popular tourist destinations so you could get to anything that you wanted to see—and feel like a real Dane at the same time!  To get your Kroner back, you simply returned the bike to the place where you found it, refastened the lock and your money would be returned.

Renting a bike was the only thing that I really wanted to do when I got to Copenhagen….and my mission was quite successful!  Don't believe me?  Then check out this video:

So what do you think of Copenhagen's City Bike program?  Have you ever seen similar programs in other big cities that you've been to?  What would make such a program valuable to tourists?  Would you want to see a city by bike?

Would there be any disadvantages to a city bike program?

Signed,

Bam Bam Bigelow

Image retrieved from my own personal collection!  Cool, huh?

Posted in Denmark, Movement | 6 Comments

Into the (Bright) Danish Night!

Sunshine_by_nandolucasI've got to tell you that when I first went to Denmark with the Center for International Understanding, I was a bit ticked.  You see, the agenda that they had set for us was full from the crack of dawn until the crack of dusk. 

We were scheduled to get up at 7 each day, get on busses at 8, get shuttled around to meetings (which were almost always held inside colleges), sit and listen attentively for hours and hours and hours, and then be free around 6 pm every night. 

"You're kidding!" I shouted when I saw our schedule the first time.  "I'm not going to Denmark to sit in college classrooms all day for 10 days.  I want more free time to explore.  I want to check out Danish restaurants, visit Danish shops, meet some Danish people.  How am I supposed to do that if we're stuck in meetings until 6 pm every night?!"

Little did I know that the "crack of dusk" during the summer months in Denmark is COMPLETELY different than the "crack of dusk" here in the good ol' U.S. of A!  Instead of stumbling around in the dark for hours after getting out of our sessions, I had at least 4 or 5 good hours of daylight to explore.

No joke—it didn't get dark (in the creepy Halloween evening kind of way) until about 11 pm—and then daylight came back again by 3 am!  Even crazier:  There were literally HUNDREDS of people hanging out long past my typical bed-time. The town square in Copenhagen—where I spent a bunch of my time each evening hanging out with friends—was constantly crowded with people enjoying the Great Outdoors!

Don't believe me?  Then check out this video:

So how would having an extra five hours of daylight change your life?  Would it make things better or worse? 

Better question (for all those science oriented folk out there):  Why, exactly, do countries further north on the globe have long days in the summer and long nights in the winter? 

That's something I've never been able to figure out!

Image retrieved from http://www.typepad.com/t/app/weblog/post?blog_id=1341986 on February 7, 2008.

Posted in Denmark, Environment, People | 8 Comments

Vor Frelsers Kirke. . .

SpirYou're not scared of heights, are you?

The only reason I ask is because if you are, you'll miss out on one of Copenhagen's greatests landmarks—Vor Frelsers Kirke.  This Lutheran church—known as Our Savior's Church and completed in 1752—has one of the coolest architectural designs that I've ever seen:  An outdoor staircase that winds 400 steps to the top of the spire! 

The climb is pretty harrowing—I'm not even afraid of heights, but I was hanging on for dear life (and I passed several other tourists who seemed to be frozen in place with fear)—-but it was definitely worth the view.  From the top, you could look out over the entire city, seeing landmarks like Marmokirken, Alexander Newsky Kirke, and Radhuspladsen. 

Very cool. 

Want to know more?  Then check out these two videos:

View from the ground up:

View from the top:

So why do you think communities invest so much money into the design of their churches?  Are churches some of the most beautiful buildings in your community? 

What other buildings do you think should be beautiful?  Why?

Leave a comment to share your thinking and join us again soon on Get Lost!

Signed,

Bam Bam Bigelow

Image retrieved from http://arkitekt-raadgivning.dk/Fotos%20barok/spir.jpg on September 16, 2007.

Posted in Denmark, History | 3 Comments