Saturday, December 8, 2012

Stress, Snow, and Julehygge

Oh boy has this week been crazy...

Three papers in three days....not to mention two all-nighters. Even studying abroad can't save me from the stress of finals week.

...finals week? Yeah. That's difficult to think about. I only have TWELVE DAYS before my semester is over and I return to the states. How can four months have gone by so quickly? It seems like just yesterday I was arriving at my host family's house on a warm, sunny August day. And now it's cold, dark, and SNOWY in December.

It's supposed to snow another 20cm tomorrow...and I didn't even think I'd see snow in Denmark! Usually it doesn't snow until January.

It might look beautiful, but riding my bike through the snow is not the funnest/easiest thing to do...

How perfect that it snowed on the first day of December too? It's like Christmas decided to show up with perfect timing. And unlike Texas, where even the littlest bit of snow melts in a couple hours, the snow is still on the ground!

Snow also makes Christmas time extra hyggeligt :)

Copenhagen dressed up for Christmas

Christmas Market off of the Stroget

Multiple Santas?

Window decorations :)

Christmas lights in Nyhavn

Full moon the night before the snow storm

Little hot dog stand all "juled" up

It's obvious that Danes love Christmas (maybe more than I do...but that's a tough call). The Danes have tons of holiday traditions! My host family has a huge party every year to make Christmas cookies, decorations, and Christmas candles!

The night before our Christmas festivities, "Santa" decided to bring me an Advent present and calendar!

How sweet! Hand-knit socks and a cookie tin :)

Cinnamon sugar cookies :)

So many cookies...this isn't even half of what we made

Making Danish Christmas ornaments!

And here is my jule-candle!

All of this "Julehygge" is a good distraction from the stress of finals, and now I only have one paper left before I'm officially done! The snow and Christmas lights are keeping my spirits high, but it's also a bittersweet reminder that the end of my adventures in Denmark are coming to an end.

I'm gonna miss looking at this out of my window

If anyone is interested in some of the traditional Danish Christmas recipes, here's a website that has everything you need to know about a Danish Christmas dinner:

Also, here are the recipes for Vanillekranse and Pebber Nodder, my two FAVORITE Danish Christmas cookies, if you want to make some in time for your holidays!

Paris in one week!!!

Hej Hej,


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Breakfast or "Morgenmad"

I have never been a morning person. Ever. When I was a little kid, I was always the student late for class, or the one with all the absences because I just hated getting up in the morning (I blame my mother). This terrible habit has continued throughout my adult education, and because I was always rushing in the mornings, I never really had the time for breakfast...

...until now.

Breakfast has become my favorite meal of the day. On Mondays and Thursdays I have had to get up at 6am in order to get to my 8:30am classes. However painful the early mornings may be, I always look forward to a big breakfast and the chilly morning bike ride to the train station.

I feel like a completely different person. Texas-Emily would be so ashamed...but new Danish-Emily has realized a whole new side of herself.

Also, having extra time in the mornings let's me experiment with my cooking skills and create delicious dishes like this:

My take on a frittata, but I scrambled it because omelets are hard...

Spinach, mushrooms, potatoes, and cauliflower...mmm

Another fun thing to do in the mornings that I never used to do is workout! Since the weather has increasingly declined in temperature and overall prettiness (no more warmth and Autumn is officially over), my plan on running 4 times a week failed miserably. Who wants to go run outside in the dark with cold, misty rain?? Unless I'm training for a thank you. Instead of paying $200 for a 2 month gym membership, I had to improvise. Luckily, I found my Insanity workout videos online and for the past three weeks I've been (literally) busting my butt. And the best part... I don't have to go outside!!

However, the cold might get a little bit more bearable this weekend because it's supposed to SNOW!!!

I think it's safe to say I'm officially engulfed in the Christmas season. Who needs Thanksgiving anyway when you get to make Christmas cookies with your host family and decorate pretty cakes?

This will make writing my finally papers easier...this and hot cocoa

Also, decided on my final travel trip toooooooo.... PARIS!!!

Paris for Christmas, how romantic is that?

Hej hej,


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Let's Go Back in Time... Iceland 2012

So the first weekend of November, I had decided to embark on my first solo travel excursion. I could have gone ANYWHERE in Europe, any place at all... Barcelona, Paris, Rome (basically anywhere warm), but what fantastic country did I decide was worthy enough to test my new-found independence and backpacking expertise?


That's right folks. Iceland in November. This picture might not express how insanely cold this place was because there isn't any snow...but I don't look like a lumber-jacking oompa loompa on a regular basis, I swear. I was greeted by Iceland with a pleasant 55mph wind storm (courtesy of Hurricane Sandy), which was lovely considering my hostel was right on the water. Every time I walked out the front door, at least for the first couple of days, I would literally be blown off of my feet. But hey? I should've expected crazy weather. It is Iceland after all... and at least it wasn't raining, right?

Honestly, the weather was doable (after putting on 8 layers) and despite having no protection from the wind, I don't think I could've picked a better hostel. KEX Hostel was absolutely fantastic. It is everything you expect and want a hostel to be: great people, awesome breakfast, great location, cool/hip atmosphere, and a fun bar and music venue!

Magnetic wall

Concert stage in the hostel


View of the hostel at dawn

I'm not quite sure if concerts are a normal occurrence at KEX (which is Icelandic for "biscuit" because it used to be a biscuit factory...), but I happened to be in Reykjavik during the Iceland Airwaves Festival!! There were sooo many indie-rock bands performing from Iceland and all over the world, including the headliner Sigur Ros and Of Monsters and Men (who's from Iceland!!). Most of the bigger name bands you had to have a ticket to see, but there were so many performers that had FREE shows, like the ones at my hostel.

There's a band performing in there...

Concert line-up for the day!!

Basically Reykjavik was invaded by hipsters for the weekend...and I was loving it. I also spent a day doing the Golden Circle Tour where I got to get out of the city and explore the REAL Iceland.

A "small" waterfall to start things off...

Before the Geysir erupted... 

BOOM! Fun fact: "geysir" is the only Icelandic word to contribute to the English language

Gulfoss or "Golden Falls"

Absolutely breathtaking.

Feeding the Icelandic horses! Whatever you do, don't call them ponies...they're just "petite"

The rough, uninhibited inner terrain of Iceland. Looks pretty intimidating...I now understand why Icelanders believe in trolls. There has got to be something magical living out there...

The North American ridge meeting up with the European Plate

A little bit of green and sunshine to end the day

Reykjavik is an amazing city, or rather a quaint seaside town. Iceland only has a population of 350,000 people, so when I say "quaint" I really mean it.

Leif Eriksson...the REAL first man to discover America, about 500 years before Columbus, and he called it Vinland (The land of wine)

Reykjavik as seen from atop the church. So many colorful rooftops

I had to try some Icelandic "delicacies": fermented shark and dried fish. They actually weren't that bad... **gag**

Of course I had to try the sweet delicacies as well: traditional Icelandic caramel cinnamon roll, and a hot chocolate just because :)

My last day in Iceland, I woke up very early to get to the Blue Lagoon. I could get used to waking up to this every day.

The Blue Lagoon is a natural hot springs that has been turned into a spa of sorts. I felt like a relaxing princess gliding through the mineral waters, lounging in saunas, and pasting on mud masks. Ahhh, what a life.

I am being completely serious when I say that I could absolutely, positively, 100% for a fact live in Iceland. The people, the landscape, the culture...everything just oozes wonder, while at the same time, it felt like home.

So maybe I'm not that crazy for going to never know what random place could change your life.

Go to Iceland.

Hej hej,

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Women's Rights in Ireland

Finishing up my third travel break in Dublin, then back to Copenhagen tomorrow. Ireland is a gorgeous country with such a rich history, but there's no avoiding its troubled past, especially when considering issues of Human Rights violations.

Most people know about the Potato Famine back in the late 19th century that happened under British rule and hundreds of thousands of Irish people died of starvation. More recently, in the 1970s, fighting broke out between the Protestant and Catholic populations in the country during a period known as The Troubles. Thousands of people were killed in car bombings and protests due to religious intolerance and political corruption. There were also several accounts of torture being used to gather information on the IRA.

Thinking about Ireland today, tourism is booming (even though the economy is pretty weak), the tensions between Catholics and Protestants have diminished, and the current president of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, is a popular leader both nationally and internationally. Ireland appears to be on an upwards slope, but there are still some major legal issues standing in the way.

When I arrived in Ireland earlier this week, I heard on the news a story about a woman who died of blood poisoning in a hospital after coming in a week earlier suffering from a miscarriage. Even though her life was at risk, the hospital did not allow for an abortion since the baby's heart was still beating.

Abortion is a really sensitive topic, especially in a country like Ireland where 95% of the people are Christians, but it's still unbelievable to think that, with all the advances in modern medicine, a woman could lose her life so easily. The real problem is that there are no clear or detailed laws regarding abortion (probably because it's such a sensitive topic that nobody wants to talk about in politics). I'm not going to comment on my personal beliefs on the matter, but it's still interesting to think about the legal systems of two, small European nations like Denmark and Ireland, and see how contrasting they are. In Denmark, abortion was fully legalized in 1973, whereas Ireland's last law regarding abortion was passed in 1992, allowing abortion to be legal if a woman's life was at risk, however it was a very vague law and apparently does not hold much credibility in real cases.

If you want to read more on this story, here's a link to a recent article about it:
March for Women's Rights in Ireland

Also, here's a full list of equality issues and Irish women's rights provided by the European Union:
The EU and Irish Women

Not the most cheerful topic to talk about, but there's so much more to these places I'm visiting than just the "tourist traps" and pretty buildings. Every country is dealing with real conflicts that shouldn't go unnoticed. I am a Human Rights major after's my job to seek out the sad, depressing issues and show them to the world so that, hopefully one day, these injustices will be dealt with and resolved.

Oh the life of an undying optimist (

Friday, November 16, 2012

I Love Ljuuu-bljana

Before I go any further, this is how you pronounce Ljubljana = Looo-bleee-yana

Easy enough, right?

This hidden gem of a capital in the little-known country of Slovenia (not to be confused with Slovakia...) takes you back to a time in Europe before tourists invaded, when the beauty and charm of the Old World comes alive. Ljubljana is one of the last European cities yet to be discovered. So how did I ever come across this unpronounceable place? Well, during my extensive travel research on the blogosphere this past summer, I kept stumbling upon this one picture whenever I typed in "Most Beautiful Places in Europe"

Gorgeous, right? This is Lake Bled, located in the Northern part of Slovenia

After discovering the beauty that is Slovenia, I knew I had to go. Sadly, I did not get to visit Lake Bled, but I did get to do/see tons of other things/places during my stay. With that said...

1. Go to Lake Bled- Take a day trip from Ljubljana on either the bus or train. Spend time on a beautiful day relaxing on the shores and wandering through the village streets. If you can, take a boat to the tiny island cathedral, where legend says the fairies that created Lake Bled still live.

2. Stay at Sax Hostel- This hostel is a small, converted house that has a jazz bar on the first floor. Every room in the hostel is themed as a different jazz musician. My room was Ray favorite. Love.

So colorful

Oh hey Marilyn

3. Go to the Old Town Market- Every weekend there's a huge farmer's market in the center of Old Town Ljubljana. They sell all kinds of fresh fruit and veggies, wood carved souvenirs, homemade cheese, and even a huge block dedicated to clothing (basically an outdoor mall). Walking through the market, you get a feel for the people and the culture on a deeper level than just walking in and out of castles and museums. 

Handmade pizza, made right in front of you. Authentic and incredibly delicious

Best strawberries I've ever tasted. No joke.

4. Start a conversation with a Slovenian- Most speak English and they are some of the friendliest people I have ever met. You will start to feel at home very quickly in this city.

5. Check out the Dragon Bridge- The city's mascot is the Ljubljana dragon and it's on everything: flags, bridges (obvi), and even the sewer covers. Apparently the dragon lives on the mountain under the Ljubljana Castle, still acting as guardian of the city.

See! There's the dragon

I am obsessed with dragons. I think I was meant to live here.

6. Visit the Postojna Caves- I had never gone cave exploring before, so I really didn't know what to expect...but this place blew my mind. I don't even have the words to describe how incredible these caves are, so I'll just let the pictures do the talking:

Beautiful rolling hills of Postojna

The cave entrance...

"Spaghetti gallery"

It looks like an ice cream cone!

Well, here I am sitting in Galway, Ireland...and finally finishing my second travel break posts. More to come on my recent travels soon. I didn't forget about Iceland I promise!!

Hej hej,