Happy new year! I wish you all an exciting 2018! And to my fellow researchers – may this year bring you exciting, but more importantly, reproducible results and a nice second reviewer!
It’s been an exciting last couple of months for me in Copenhagen! The days shortened and so began the winter season hygge.
Embracing the relaxed Danish lifestyle
This was the first winter for my boyfriend in Copenhagen. We embraced the relaxed Danish lifestyle with weekend walks in parks and in our local beach. We’ve been enjoying the many nights of games and dinner at friends’ homes and hosting them in our home.
I also voted in the Danish local elections that took place on 21st November. I had one vote for the region and one for the municipality. The ballot papers were A3-size sheets with all the different political parties and their representatives on it! I felt very privileged to be able to vote and because I always chose a postal vote in the UK, I also enjoyed the experience of going into a busy gym hall filled with excited voters!
My boyfriend tried the very Danish hobby of outdoor swimming in the Øresund strait when his sister came to visit us. They said it was exhilarating but the downside was getting dried and dressed on the jetty in the wind! Brrr! Time to get a membership with the local outdoor swimming/sauna club!
We had several visitors this winter and I think we have our Copenhagen touristing down to a T! Top spots that I’ve mentioned before are Louisiana Museum of Modern Art and the Church of Our Saviour spire. My new Italian colleague, who’s lived here for 5 years, recommended that I buy an årskort – an annual membership card for myself plus one guest for museums to save myself and a friend some money when they visit!
Something else I discovered was the tradition of children giving up their dummies or pacifiers to a suttetræ or ‘dummy tree’ in Frederiksberg Have. Children give up their dummies and come to hang it on the tree, often accompanied by a cute farewell note. (While you’re in the park, visit Cisternerne, a unique underground exhibition space.)
Home cooking versus eating out
Having spent our first two months furnishing the new apartment we have done more cooking at home to enjoy the space and ate out a little less. I even managed to replicated a smørrebrød lunch! After visiting my best friend and enjoying her mum’s home cooking, I’ve had serious cravings for Asian food. I hunted down the nearest Asian supermarkets (and made a list) and was able to find ingredients to make vietnamese phở, chicken katsu curry and dumplings!
Food we’ve tried out this winter which are worth mentioning are a dessert dish of deep fried camembert with blueberry jam from Restaurant Karla – I stumbled across the restaurant when my go-to Danish restaurant Puk was fully booked; the seafood set menu from Oysters and Grill, which was highly recommended by friends; and the Korean BBQ eat-as-much-as-you-like buffet from Seoul Restaurant – perfect with a bunch of friends.
When I took a friend to Tivoli, we also visited their newly opened food hall. You can access it without entry into Tivoli and its central location makes it a good substitute for Papirøen now that it has closed down.
Scientists on tour: Riga edition
My PhD friends and I had a reunion holiday in Riga! It was cold but it was a great weekend! We saw all the main sights, bought cheeses and handmade wreaths from the Riga Central Market. The city is small and perfect for exploring in a long weekend!
Highlight of the weekend was the fiasco that was our Latvian sauna experience! We had no idea what we were meant to do! We walked in on many totally naked mature ladies with felt hats on their heads, soaking birch branches, and rubbing coffee grounds on one another. Whilst rehydrating with a Latvian beer afterwards, we Googled what we were meant to do and we were like “Ahhhh!” – why didn’t we do that beforehand?!
Birthday, personal achievements and mini goals
I managed to get free tickets for myself and some friends to see the Rødovre ice hockey team Might Bulls play on my birthday! Unfortunately they lost but I had a great time and also tried my first fransk hot dog!
Since moving here I missed going to gigs, plays and musical so I aimed to see more shows. My old flat mate introduced me to RuPaul’s Drag Race and when I found out some of the drag queens were putting on a Christmas show at the beautiful DR Koncerthuset, I didn’t pass up on the opportunity! We also tried out a night at Improv Comedy Copenhagen and it was good value for money but not quite up there with other comedy nights we’ve experienced before.
Personal achievements I’m proud of include continuing to cycle as much as I could. Although this year I was feeling some effects that might be due to vitamin D deficiency or inadequacy. I was cycling slower despite riding regularly and I felt that my leg muscles were already filled with lactic acid a third way into my journey. The new Italian postdoc suggested that I take some supplements, which I do now. Hope this gives me more power to get back to my regular cycle fitness!
Another achievement was passing my DU3 Modul 3 Danish test. After the test in October, work commitments and a not-so-great Danish teacher meant I missed a lot of classes at the end of the year. I’ve just started them again in the new year with a new stricter and more demanding teacher! I have a lot of catching up to do, especially when I have only two more modules left until I am supposedly Danish-ready. So this year I would like to push harder!
Maybe in the ‘goals’ category: I’m looking forward to the delivery of a compost bin to remaining apartments in Amager this month. Very happy that recycling food waste has reached us here! I have been really excited about this!
It’s not been all good times. It has been really frustrating and it got me down sometimes, then annoyed but ultimately I have to tell myself to suck it up and make it work. It does and will work, but just slower due to resources I have at hand. Meanwhile, I have also helped organise a University of Copenhagen (aka KU) PhD course for matrix biology and got to catch up with invited speakers Graham Riley and my old boss Karl Kadler, and make connections with the experts from KU!
There are still papers to finish off from the old lab! It has been very stressful since I am in desperate need of a CV boost for the next round of funding applications. I managed to push through with a small paper and it was accepted in mid-October! Members of my old lab have been really nice and helpful with discussions and trouble shooting. They are the only other people looking at the tendon clock and doing similar techniques after all!
My new side project that involves long ultracentrifugation steps is working out! There aren’t many lab photos to update you but just imagine more selfies of me and the ultracentrifuge and doing western blots! Fingers crossed it continues to work out!
Other work news: Over the last two months there has been a LOT of birthdays and this always mean a lot of breakfast bread, which is always good! The hospital canteen has also been revamped and there’s been some improvements but there are still some awful meals! We’ve had a champagne tasting courtesy of my boss to celebrate the department’s big publication. The Department of Dermatology, where I do a lot of my day-to-day experiments, held a Christmas gathering, and I finally got to try æbleskiver or pancake balls – a traditional Danish Christmas treat.
I didn’t spend much time in Copenhagen last December. This time, I made more effort to explore what the city had to offer during the run up to Christmas. First, on recommendation from my Danish teacher, I took a visiting friend to Tivoli to see this year’s Crazy Christmas Cabaret. It can only be described as a panto with themes/jokes from the year’s current affairs that is catered to a loyal Danish following. It was not really my cup of tea but it was fun to experience it especially since it was the last one the writer planned to do.
It was a great excuse to go to Tivoli though! Wow! I had only experienced Tivoli once at Halloween and once in the summer but now I know why people flock to it in the winter! There’s fake snow atop all the pretty buildings and trees, and the whole place is lit by fairy lights making it a real magical wonderland!
After bringing back handmade wreaths from Riga, we put them up along with the Christmas tree and lights on the balcony! My apartment was meget hyggeligt! To top up the Christmassiness, I met Mr and Mrs Claus! I met them on my way to the work Christmas do last year. They give chocolates and Christmas greetings to people on the Metro. This year they had Metro-sponsored chocolates! After meeting them I was definitely ready for the Christmas holidays!
What I missed in the UK and in Copenhagen
The main thing I was looking forward to going home was food (after friends and family, of course). There were Christmas lunches (three!), a visit to my family’s favourite Vietnamese restaurant for some of their delicious steamed rice rolls called bánh cuốn, and many catch ups over tea and cakes!
Returning to Copenhagen I realised there was not really anything I was looking forward to eating here. There are many nice restaurants but not anything really special that I find Copenhagen does better than anywhere else in the world. Maybe the burger from Halifax…
Still, everything else is just better here and a break from Copenhagen makes me appreciate it more. One small example, the nicely paved streets and regular flushing of street drains. So the roads are not filled with puddles containing the last 3 days’ worth of rain water because slimy leaves from Autumn are blocking the drains, which is what I was reminded of when I wen to Manchester. Taxes are high here but I’m really happy to pay them!
Thanks to the lovely Elaine for prompting me to get this written up!