30 November 2010

Juledag (Christmas Eve)

Christmas Eve is the major festival of the year. Danes eat their traditional Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. The menu usually consists of roast duck and pork with caramelized and boiled potatoes, baked apple, and red cabbage. This is followed by a cold rice pudding with cherry sauce and chopped almonds. A whole almond is hidden in the pudding, and the lucky finder wins the 'almond gift,' traditionally a marzipan pig. Afterwards there is dancing around the Christmas tree (which is usually put up on this day) and the singing of traditional Christmas songs, followed by the opening of presents.

It is hard to be away from family and friends during the holidays, but luckily Erica will be visiting Denmark for Christmas and New Years! I am looking forward to her time in Europe.

I also have a big trip to Germany planned prior to her arrival to meet some distant German ancestors and drink a brew at the Seelmann Bräu. Click here to check out the website. I have been looking forward to this trip since I've arrived in Denmark considering I am only one country north!

The brewery is in a small town called Zettmannsdorf, which is a village of 200 inhabitants situated in the nature park Steigerwald - about 20 miles west of the Upper Franconian city of Bamberg in the town of Schönbrunn i. Stgw.

Well, this concludes blogging everyday in the month of November! It was not easy, and I apologize for some lame posts. The first three weeks of December I will find myself in studio finishing up phase 2 of 3 of my project.


28 November 2010


Christmas celebrations start in Denmark with advent which means "coming". It is the coming of Christ that is referred to. Originally it was also a time for fasting and doing penance and thereby preparing yourself for the Christmas feast.

On the fourth Sunday before Christmas Eve - the first Sunday of advent - a wreath of pine twigs mounted with four candles and red or purple ribbons is hung up and one candle is lit. The following Sunday the next candle is lit, lighting one more each Sunday. This tradition is the first sign of Christmas approaching. That, along with the ample amounts of Christmas decorations around town.

27 November 2010


Gløgg is a hot, red-mulled wine that is common to consume in the Scandinavian countries during the holidays. The main classic ingredients are usually red wine, sugar or syrup, raisins, almonds, spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves and bitter orange, and optionally also stronger spirits such as vodka, akvavit or brandy. One of my Danish classmates told me that some families put slivered almonds into the mix, with one whole almond. Whoever finds the whole almond gets a special Christmas treat, and the anticipation to find it keeps people going back to the punch bowl and drinking more!

All over Scandinavia 'gløgg parties' are often held during the month before Christmas. In Denmark, gløgg parties typically include æbleskiver (like a donut hole) sprinkled with powdered sugar and accompanied with strawberry marmalade.

This will be one tradition I will continue when I someday have my own family.

As most of us know, Sandra from the FoodNetwork is technically an alcoholic. Check out her gløgg recipe by clicking here.

26 November 2010

Cultural Differences...

It has been quite jolly and merry around here, as most of us would prefer biking in the snow over the drenching rain. Many Christmas parties are coming up, including one tonight. It's a small party with all the people in my grade of Department 1 attending.

Today at lunch we discussed some of our different holiday traditions, considering many of us are from different countries at the school. (This is just one of many reasons I would advocate studying abroad - it is important to learn and appreciate other cultures around the world.)

Anyways - Gladys, a french girl, asked me if my family made "spicy bread house."

She was referring to a Gingerbread house!

This was a good laugh.

Have a good weekend all!

25 November 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Dear all celebrating the great holiday of Thanksgiving! Please eat my portion of turkey, mashed potatoes, and oyster stuffing. It is a beautiful, snowy, winter wonderland here today at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture!

24 November 2010

The Disfarmer Project vs. The Oxford Project

Dear all from Oxford, Iowa - did you think the Oxford Project was original? I indeed did until I pondered across The Disfarmer Project. Research about it and I would bet artists Feildstein and Bloom were greatly influenced by Mike Disfarmer (Meyer).

Disfarmer's portraits capture a similar essence to that of The Oxford Project, although during the decades prior - during the Second World War and the Great Depression.

Regardless, both sets of portraits are quite beautiful.

23 November 2010

The week of weather ahead....

So, I will be the first to admit - it is getting quite hard to blog everyday. So today I encourage you to check out the weather forecast for Denmark during these next couple of days. Click here to see how the cold the cold-front will be! The bike rides are getting harder because of the wind, the layers of clothing are becoming more ample because of the cold, and vitamin D intake is dependent on a little pill. But I love it!

22 November 2010

F.C. København vs. FC Nordsjælland Football Match

Last night I attended the F.C. København vs. FC Nordsjælland football match with James, Felix, Alex and David (all classmates at the Academy) and it was good fun. Both teams were from Denmark, but the F.C. København team took the win, 2-1. It was a good game and good for me to get out of the studio.

After the match, we got some tea and chatted about...well, architecture...the only thing architecture students really know what to talk about with each other. This is part joke and part not, but no - the conversation was good and I look forward to going back to another match.


21 November 2010

Here Comes the Sun

Considering the weekend was dark, rainy, and gray, I thought I would write about the sun. The sun is very important to a Dane, and they will often do as much as they can to obtain it. I remember when I first arrived in Denmark - it was the end of the summer here - and the Danes were very social as they basked in the sun and spent most of their time outside. It's a much different story now. The lack of sun keeps most of my architecture classmates in the studio for most of the day, and since it gets dark around 3:30 everyday, the only time to enjoy the sun (if there is any) is during our bike to school or lunch.

Coming as they do from a cold northern climate, it is no surprise that sunny, warm destinations are a favorite among vacationing Danes. Every summer Danish cars towing trailers and camping vehicles can be seen crossing the borders like herds of migrating wildebeest in search of sunnier climes to the south. During the winter vacations travel agents do a brisk trade, sending Danes off to more exotic destinations in their quest for some winter sun. Skiing vacations are also popular, particularly in Sweden, France, and Austria.

20 November 2010


The minimum wage ensures that nobody has to rely on tips to make a living, and tipping is neither usual nor expected. Most bars, restaurants, and cafes add a service charge of 15 percent. Danes therefore only tip waiting and hotel staff if the service has been particularly good. If you feel that the service deserves it, then a tip in the region of 10-15 percent of the final bill would be appropriate, or you could simply round up the check.

19 November 2010

Venice "Get Lost" Exhibition

As part of our trip to Venice, an afternoon was spent getting lost. All 5 groups started within 1.4 km different radius of Piazza San Marco, with the goal to get lost and find our way to one of Europe's most prominent and important public spaces. Today, a small exhibition in Department 1 showcases our different routes of travel - and highlights photographs taken along the way to represent the global and local labyrinth.

Read my 2 November blog post to learn more about my journey to Venice and to view my movie including more photography and a time-lapse of getting lost!

17 November 2010

Tisvilde Hegn

Tisvilde Hegn is a coniferous forest about an hour drive west of Copenhagen that represents both production and natural forest ecosystems., Recently, I have been experimenting in black and white on my camera, as our assignment is to only use those two colors throughout the entire semester. The limitation has proved to be the beauty of the project so far - forcing me to thinking about contrast, representation, and hue quality throughout design. The forest documentation is phase 2 of our semester project, encouraging us to first document and understand existing forest types in Denmark before applying vegetation to our site.

"If the tongue had not been framed for articulation, man would still be a beast in the forest." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

16 November 2010

Lousiana Museum of Modern Art - Anselm Kiefer

After hiking and doing a thorough inventory of the Tisvilde Hegn coniferous forest in North Zealand - Jens, Martin, Sara, Gladys and I stopped by the Louisana Museum of Modern Art (Read 10 September blog for my first visit to Louisana.) I am so grateful we did. Free entrance to all museums in Denmark is just one of the many perks of going the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture! Anyways, the current exhibition is that of Anselm Kiefer. Born in 1945, Kiefer is a German painter and sculptor that works with straw, ash, clay, lead and shellac as a material palette. The poems of Paul Celan have played a role in developing Kiefer’s themes of German history and the horror of the Holocaust. Most of his paintings were visually representative of landscape, but the meaning behind them was more social and political in nature. I am attracted to this sort of abstract painting, and I love the aggressiveness put into gestural drawings of this kind.

Anselm Kiefer, Nigredo,1984, Oil, acrylic, emulsion, shellac, and straw on photograph, mounted on canvas, with woodcut. Picture from here.

See more pictures of my hike through the Tisvilde Hegn coniferous forest in tomorrow's blog.

15 November 2010

Grocery Shopping in Copenhagen

When I first arrived in Denmark I was a little skeptical in my search for finding a legit grocery store. One of my biggest problems has been finding good sources of protein, but I think I have finally found a good store close by - Fotex. The store has been giving me good quality at a comparable price to the everyday smaller stores like Netto and Aldi.

I’ll make sure to upload a video soon of me shopping in a grocery store, it will be quite entertaining. Anyways, Danes like value for their money, and this is reflected in their shopping habits. Most people do their shopping a the budget supermarkets, the largest of which are the Netto chain and the German-owned Aldi chain. Both of these chains have a no-frills, value-for-money approach to the sale of foodstuffs. Service is minimal to keep down overhead and thereby, prices. The upper end of the market would be represented by the Irma and Iso chain stores, but fewer Danes use them for shopping on a daily basis, preferring to use them for the purchase of luxury goods. Service in the Danish supermarkets is in general below the standards of the U.S.A., due to the high cost of wages and the need to keep overhead down in a competitive market.

Shopping hours are controlled by legislation. Store hours are Monday to Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 1 p.m. Shops are open longer on the first Saturday of every month, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Store hours are gradually being extended, but it is a slow process as the legislation is to be updated.

The most recent change has been the easing of restrictions on Sunday hours, with shops now allowed to be open on a limited number of Sundays during the year - usually the first Sunday of each month. The hours of operation really proposed a problem, considering when I usually wake up on Saturdays the shops are closed, and on most Sundays of the month they are closed as well. It has required me to do much proper planning.


14 November 2010


It's beginning to look a lot more like Christmas around here - garland has been hung in the streets, the weather is that perfect "winter weather," and the food in the markets are becoming a whole lot more gingery. Since the Danes don't celebrate pilgrims taking the Mayflower across new water, they engage in Christmas activities quite early in the winter.

A custom that the Danes have made their own in the Christmas season is that of Julefrokost, or Christmas lunch. It is an informal occasion that bears more resemblance to the medieval traditions of the carnival than to a Christian feast. People have the chance to let their hair down, drink too much, and generally engage in activities that might at other times be frowned upon. These occasions are held by friends, families, and employers, and most Danes have a pretty hectic social calendar at this time of the year as a result.

I am looking forward to the few Julefrokost I have already been invited to. And it is nice starting Christmas celebrations early, considering most of the streets are well lit with Christmas lights which helps ease the darkness of the sky at around three in the afternoon.

13 November 2010

The Dannebrog

There is a lovely legend about the Danish flag, or Dannebrog, meaning “red cloth,” that states that it fell from heaven during a battle in Estonia on June 15, 1219. It was picked up by the Danish Bishop Anders, and the Estonians, seeing this as a sign from God and realizing that the fight was lost, surrendered and promptly converted to Christianity.

In reality the flag was the banner of the German order of knights known as they Knights of Saint John, later the Knights of Malta, which tore itself loose during the battle and landed among its Danish contingent. To celebrate the victory King Valdemar adopted the flag as the symbol of the Danish army and it was later adopted as the national flag of Denmark. The event is still celebrated today and on June 15, Valdemar’s Day, the flag is flown across the country. The Dannebrog also shares the distinction with the British Union Jack, the Stars and Stripes, and the Tricolore, of being one of the few national flags to have its own name.

Excerpt from “A quick guide to customs and etiquette: Denmark.

12 November 2010

Time for bed....

Well, it's about 6 p.m. here and I am ready to hit the sack. It's been a lot of late nights and all-nighters this week finishing up some work for my project. I had a constructive critique today, so I am excited to see where the project goes throughout the semester. It's hard for me to stay awake during all-day long critiques at Iowa State after nights of no sleep, but it's even harder here considering most of the critiques are in Danish.

Next week my department's exhibition will open over our work completed in Venice. I am excited to see all the projects and photographs. Check back to see for yourself.

Have a good weekend all.


11 November 2010

Happy Veteran's Day....

Today, I salute all veterans that have and are currently serving the great country of the United States of America.

This picture I captured during the summer of 2009 while on a Washington D.C. vacation with Sara and Shaun.

10 November 2010

Learn some basic Danish...

Hello: Goddag/Hej (polite/informal)
Goodbye: Farvel
Yes: Ja
No: Nej
Thank you: Tak
Excuse me: Undskyld

And the word I have used the most since arriving in Denmark:
Cheers: Skål

09 November 2010

Danish Immigration Museum in Elk Horn, Iowa

The next time your loved one and you are driving on a road trip to the Rocky Mountains from Iowa, make sure to convince them to stop at the Danish Immigrant Museum in Elk Horn. The museum is situated along the I-80 corridor midway between Des Moines, Iowa and Omaha, Nebraska. Elk Horn is one of the many small communities in the Midwest settled by a large numbers of Danes who came to this country.

The museum was interesting and a good break after driving about 3 hours on our 15-hour journey to the Rocky Mountains. The restroom facilities were superb. We also did not have to pay to enter the museum, because I claimed I was a landscape architecture student - and the elderly Danish woman said, "Well since you are just looking at the architecture - I won't charge you." I then practiced some Danish and we were on our way.
The museum was founded in 1983 to preserve the history of Danish immigration to America. In 1994 the first phase building, reminiscent of Danish architecture was completed, housing significant artifacts important to the interpretation of the Danish immigration story.

The museum's artifact collection of over 35,000 artifacts is diverse and wide ranging. There are family heirlooms brought from Denmark, remarkable examples of needlework, tools of early immigrant tradesmen and memorabilia from Danish-American clubs and organizations. Many of the items on display are treasures which have been passed down through the generations in Danish families.

Oh, and make sure to stop at the Danish pastry shop on the way into town. There will be a group of old Danish ladies enjoying coffee, they will stop and stare at you - but just order the "spandauer" and all should be fine.

08 November 2010

Danes on telling time…

"...One of the greatest sources of confusion in the area of timekeeping stems from some Danes’ habit of translating directly from Danish to English while speaking. The source of this confusion is the Danish way of saying the time. If a Dane arranges to meet you at “half twelve” in the afternoon, and you arrive to find a rather irritated Scandinavian waiting for you (if he or she bothered to wait at all, that is), the explanation is quite simple.

When Danes say “half twelve,” they mean half an hour to twelve, and not half past, as has become the norm in the English-speaking world. They will also give the time as being, for example, “five minutes to half twelve” or “five minutes past half twelve.”..."

Excerpt from “A quick guide to customs and etiquette: Denmark.

I always make sure to confirm times when meeting with or scheduling an arrangement with a Dane. It can be extremely confusing.

Today was spent at lecture. And then I headed to the United States Embassy in Copenhagen to inform them of my stolen pocketbook, as well as the police station to fill out a police report regarding the incident. All my cards are canceled - and I thank my mom for the worrisome and trouble back home of canceling all my other cards and identities.

Into the Wild

Simon recommended I watch the movie, Into the Wild, which I am extremely glad I did considering the place I am in my life at this current state of time. Here is a short summary of the story, based on the true life of Christopher McCandless.
After graduating from Emory University, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandons his possessions, gives his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, Christopher encounters a series of characters that shape his life.

Watch the trailer by clicking here.
This is one of my favorite quotes from the movie from Leo Tolstoy, "I have lived through much, and now I think I have found what is needed for happiness. A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor — such is my idea of happiness."

06 November 2010

I didn't want to ever have to type this...

My wallet was stolen last night. I am only blogging about this for if some reason I decided to reread these post in the future, I can remember this as the worst ending to one of the most stressful weeks of my life. Let's hope things turn around.

05 November 2010

I'm dreaming of a BLUE CHRISTMAS...it's time for J-DAY baby...

Want to know what I plan on doing this evening after a stressful week in studio trying to finish up work for my project due next week? I am going to enjoy some Juleøl, or "Christmas Beer," with some classmates. But we won't be the only ones enjoying the beverage, the whole country of Denmark will join us for the fun and tradition of "J-day."

"J-day" (from the Danish word for Christmas beer: Juleøl) is normally the first Friday in November. At exactly 8:59 p.m. the Christmas beer is launched, and you will find that practically every bar, café or pub in every town or city in Denmark will be buzzing with young people enjoying the first Christmas beer of the year. A great way of getting into the Christmas spirit! The tradition of J-day started in 1990, but the history of delivering beer by horses started hundreds of years ago when as early as mid November, horse-drawn Tuborg or Carlsberg wagons decked out with garlands and Danish flags, delivered the year’s specially brewed Julebryg, or ‘Christmas Brew,’ with Santa capped staff handing out free samples.

I plan on visiting the Carlsberg brewery soon, as I hear it is something to see before I depart Copenhagen. The horses are Jutland dray horses, only raised in Denmark, and bring back memories of days gone by when beer was delivered by horse-drawn drays.

Also part of the tradition is to dress as a blue Santa, in honor of the blue label. Photos by Martin Rosenauer.

Check out the J-Day advertisement @

04 November 2010

...on Danish Climate and Weather

I awoke early this morning, around 6:15 to play some volleyball with some newfound Danish friends. It felt so good to get back on the court. Something I truly missed while in New York and since playing at Iowa State. It has been forecasted to rain most of the week, which it has – and which I biked through this morning, so I thought today’s blog should include weather statistics on the Demark climate. Copenhagen is in the oceanic climate zone, bordering on a humid continental climate. Snowfall occurs mainly from late December until early March, but snow cover seldom lasts for long. Rain during January and February is as common as snow, and the average temperature for these two winter months is almost exactly on the freezing point. Between November, December, and January – there are on average 17 rainy and grey days, averaging about 2 inches of rain per day. There are about 1.5 average sunlight hours during these months – as it is dark most of the day with sundown no later than around 15:30 (around 3:30 p.m.).

Basically, it is grey during the day, dark pretty early in the afternoon, and rains a lot. And cold. Can’t forget the cold. I am embracing the change in weather, as I am proactive and optimistic in almost all situations. I am taking some Vitamin-D and multi-vitamins, but you will still see a very pale Brett when I return.

A cloudy, grey - ready to rain day in Zealand, looking onwards past the bridge to Jutland. Taken during the Danish Landscape Study Trip.

03 November 2010

Danes on Health and Fitness

"...Walk down any street in Denmark and you will soon notice that, as a nation, the Danish people are in pretty good shape. Fitness clubs do a brisk trade and there are plenty of joggers. It may strike the visitor as unusual then that the Danes are so liberal when it comes to issues such as smoking and drinking. It is not unusual to see a fit-looking young man or woman come out of the gym, stop, and light a cigarette before continuing down the street with their gym bag slung over their shoulder. A possible explanation for this may be that Danes simply do not see why, give that they smoke, they should let the rest of their physical regimen fall by the wayside. Another explanation may be that they are interested merely in looking good..."

Excerpt from “A quick guide to customs and etiquette: Denmark.

This is so true. I couldn’t believe this while reading this book for the first time, but I recently saw it for myself last week. I left the Fitness World after my workout and saw a Dane, just after finishing his workout, light up a cigarette. Personally, I don’t see how these two things go together.

The process of obtaining gym membership was quite a lengthy process. Only after the process of getting a CPR number (similar to a society security number) and then a Danske Bank account, was I allowed to get a gym membership. The entire process of confirming my eligibility took about a month. So after Venice, I started hitting the gym hard again.

02 November 2010

Velkommen til November!

Good evening devoted brett-in-denmark readers! Want to hear some good news? I will be blogging everyday in the month of November just because. Yep, just because. On days that are simply ordinary, I will include some facts and history about the wonderful country of Denmark.

My blog today is a video of my trip to Venice, Italy towards the middle of October. The Architecture Biennale was exceptionally interesting, but I could have spent another week looking at all the exhibitions. I encourage you all to watch the video to the end, and watch the time-lapse as I get lost for two hours trying to find Piazza San Marco for a class assignment!

Just for fun, I would like to include a schedule of how I got there, starting from when I returned from Oslo, Norway.

Monday 11 October
10:35 | Ferry returns from Oslo, head to school to get my Venice information, bike home, eat, sleep, pack.

Tuesday 12 October
11:00 | Leave Danas Plads 10, walk to Forum metro
11:34 | Arrive at CPH Airport, retrieve boarding pass from EasyJet Airlines
13:40 | Flight departs
15:20 | Flight arrives to Milan Airport (we decided to go with a cheaper flight verses flying directly into Venice. Mistake. See all events that happen below...)
15:30 | Board bus to Milan Central Station
17:30 | Get on train in Milan towards Venice (again, went cheaper, so skipped the Express train)
20:30 | Arrive in Venice

(Insert the fact we still haven't eaten since we left Copenhagen, 11 hours prior. For those of you who know me, you know what I was saying about metabolism.)

21:00 | Eat pre-fix dinner, have no idea what the crazy Italians were saying
22:00 | Leave restaurant and plan on walking 10 minutes to our hotel, Hotel Nuevo Muestro
22:00 - 24:30 | GET COMPLETELY LOST...about 6 of us...walking around Nuevo Muestro with our luggage in the complete dark, no one speaks English...(GET ME BACK TO OSLO!)
24:30 | Finally arrive at Hotel Nuevo Muestro. All design students comment on the fact the map was out of scale and lacked adequate information.
0:04 | Finally go to bed.

Watch the video of my week in Venice @:

01 November 2010

Excerpt from my sketchbook…

14 Oktober 2010, 14:21

“…writing from the 12th International Architecture Biennale in Venice, Italy. The people, the food, and the culture are extremely different from Copenhagen, and the experience so far varies drastically from my past weekend in Oslo, Norway. The weekend with Jesper (from Sweden), Nick (from the UK), and Simon (from the UK) was simply epic. The Pearl of Scandinavia delivered us to the beautiful sight of the Opera House after a 15-hour journey. The ferry was fully equipped with bars, a steakhouse, nightclubs, and a KidZone, all of which we enjoyed thoroughly. Our night was beautifully-collegiate. Beer, beer, and more beer. There was a convenience store on the ferry, so we pick up multiple “slabs” of Carlsberg (pridefully brewed in Copenhagen). We enjoyed many a good rounds of drinking games, which led to a rough next morning. My dismay turned around when I pondered upon a local butcher. The store was immaculate in terms of its vernacular quality. The smell of meat, the cheeses, the wines…everything was exceptionally Nordic. I asked the owner if a book had been written about his establishment, and he said, “You should write it.” He could sense I enjoyed the history, tradition, and quality of his products. I purchased some reindeer sticks and my day was made. It’s the little things I guess. Greatness. We hit up the architecture museum for a quick browse (as I think we all were more interested in the books at the museum bookstore than the actual exhibit itself), and then headed to the Oslo Opera House for a good 4-5 hours of architectural observation. So many elements of design present, I could hardly begin to discuss to give it justice. That evening we ended up going to the Oslo Ice Bar, found a nice place for dinner, and eventually pondered into what we taught was a young, hipster bar. About 10-15 minutes in we realized the woman were a little too aggressive and battled us many times for getting serve first at the bar. We thought we could use our male charm to get drinks from the female bartenders…but then we realized we were in a lesbian nightclub. The next day we ventured up to the Holmenkollen Ski Jump, which is where the Nordic World Ski Championships are held each year. This structure defied any structure permitted to be built in the United States. We headed back the hostel in time to board the ferry and return to Copenhagen. The returning ferry ride was more tame in nature than our first experience getting to Oslo. We all enjoyed the sunset and wrapped up the weekend by sketching in our sketchbooks. The colors of the sunset highlighted the Norwegian Fjords and was an amazing way to conclude an excellent weekend with good food, good architecture, and good new friends…”

Watch the video of my weekend in Oslo @: