September

So I’ve really dropped the ol ball on keeping this updated. Father Time has just been flying on by! I’ve also just had a few things to deal with on my own, one being the death of my Gramma Barb a couple weeks ago. I haven’t lived in close proximity to my family really since I was 13, which has never really bothered me because it’s easy enough to stay in touch with today’s technology, but there are certain things that don’t translate well without actual physical presence, and knowing that my parents were dealing with everything without either me or my brother around was pretty tough, especially given my Grampa’s dementia. That disease is really one of the toughest things to deal with, and especially to see your parents go through it, it’s really something I couldn’t imagine, so I really hated not being there for my dad.

But, September has mostly been good otherwise. Getting to experience the Dutch fall, which brings a lot of rain, but we’ve been able to make the most of it, mostly through the continued plethora of festivals in Holland, and several trips out of Den Haag.

Den Haag Embassy Festival

Getting our drank on at Museumnaacht. Think ROM night but with 40 different museums open after hours and for 15 bucks.

Museumnaacht gets dark at the Humanity House

What a bunch of cuties, having their pleasant evening destroyed by the Humanity House.

Humanity House – words on hatred vs tolerance

Museuum voor Communicatie – Love is what you want, an exhibition on love letters, and obviously one of my favourites.

Love lost

So perfect.

Love is what you want

Museumnaacht was very cool, and apparently is a thing all over Holland, so if you live in the country, watch for it. It’s such a good price to see a lot of museums, and there was an official afterparty at a hip club, so it was a pretty full evening. I also got to visit museums that I wouldn’t normally think to go see, so it was a good excuse to go in to those ones as well as the more well-known venues.

I also managed to visit Rotterdam, Malmo, and Copenhagen this month. I do not have enough good things to say about Rotterdam – I absolutely loved it. As beautiful as Europe and all its old buildings are, I actually miss modern architecture, so the blend of old and new in Rotterdam was really refreshing for me. Plus, it’s a much younger crowd in Rotterdam compared to the Hague, so there was a lot more going on generally.

Blaak Market Food Hall – a giant gourmet indoor food market

The Cube Houses in Blaak Forest, by architect Piet Blom. The cubes themselves were imagined as the leaves of the tree, and the pole as the trunk, which is how the nickname Blaak Forest came about. Each cube has a total surface of roughly 100 square metres spread over three floors. They are for sale, so I was able to go look inside one. It’s pretty cool.

Trendy Rotterdam, doling out my life motto via street art.

Old and new on display in the Rotterdam skyline.

View of the city from Noordereiland

The Erasmusburg (aka the Swan) seen from Noordereiland, with the nhow Rotterdam (a hotel designed by Rem Koolhaas) in the background. The Swan is the second largest bridge in the Netherlands, and connects the north and south sides of Rotterdam. It was designed by Ben van Berkel, was completed in 1996, is 802 metres long, and at its highest point, is 139 metres.

The Maastoren and surrounding buildings – Maastoren is the tallest building in Holland, at 165 m.

Street art in process in Rotterdam’s Cool District (literally what it’s called, for good reason).

Street art in progress.

Despite my ornithophobia, I find this adorable.

Cool District with my favourite, and likely, Warhol’s most prescient quote.

More street art in the Cool District.

Design Museum

Stately Rotterdam

Why is the Tribunal not in Rotterdam?

Rotterdam Centraal

I feel bad for not having more fun facts to share with you. I don’t know what it is about Europe – it could just be where I live generally – but in Africa I was just a lot more interested in knowing everything that was going on where I visited and really understanding it. I think maybe because Western Europe is really familiar that it has less intrigue, perhaps. Don’t get me wrong, I like Western Europe, but it shares a lot of similarities with North America, in my opinion, particularly when you live in Den Haag and there’s like three Dutch people here. But actually, this past weekend someone asked Sarah, who is American, and myself the main difference we find between North Americans and Europeans, and our best answer was that there are way fewer noticeably obese people in Europe. I also find that Europe can be a bit overwhelming because there is so much to see so close together, and that’s particularly true for Holland. It could also be that my dad did not lend my a James Michener book about the Netherlands, so I didn’t get to read 2000 pages of a civilization in a delicate blend of fact and fiction.

The weekend following my little excursion to Rotterdam was the Peace weekend in the Hague, and I ran a half marathon as part of my marathon training. Terrifying fact: this Sunday marks my four week countdown to Athens. Also, can we please appreciate how incredible the human body is? When I was training for half marathons, running 16km was like the worst thing ever. I now do double that amount. It is wild. Also, for those wondering what I think about, generally, if you know me you know that I have a train in my head that takes off to the Imagination Station. Put me alone on a path for three hours with nothing to do but imagine and wow. But anyways, I was satisfied with my half marathon results, I was 38th of all the women and 15th in my age category, and I seem to be on the right track of hitting a sub 4 hour marathon, but the hills of Athens may have something to say about that.

Could not find a photo of me during the race, but I thought this photo was better anyways. Also please note that we ran on sand in this race.

The following weekend was another great UN holiday weekend, so I left the Wednesday night for Malmo. Julia, one of my roommates from Cape Town, is doing her masters degree in Denmark, so we had planned to meet up in Copenhagen Thursday evening. I wanted to see at least a bit of Sweden though, so I headed to Malmo on Wednesday and spent the day there on Thursday.

Sankt Petri Church by night. Construction started in 1391. Apparently it’s entirely white inside, but I never went in.

So I’m not going to lie, there is not a whole lot happening in Malmo, but is it ever adorable. And also, what is with Sweden? Literally, it’s like walking into a magazine of beautiful people. Denmark let me down, but Sweden was just constantly like, hey, what’s up.

On the adorable note though, I found this statue of a gryphon in one of the squares of Malmo, and cannot find any information on it. There is a website about it, but it just talks about what a gryphon is and the fact that people love this statue. Which is logical, because look at it.

He’s so cute.

And look at his little buddies.

Like, what are you?

So if anyone knows anything about this little guy (Monika, I’m looking at you), please tell me more, because he’s just a mysterious little treat right now.

I did a lot of park visiting in Malmo, part of which was spent walking someone’s Golden Retriever. And people used to think it was adorable when Misia, my childhood dog, carried her leash in her mouth – this dog was carrying A BAG OF CROISSANTS. I’m sorry I didn’t take a photo but I was too distracted by this dog and his self-restraint.

Did get a photo of this lovely fountain though.

And of course, some trees.

Not what I was expecting from Sweden in September.

Just beyond the fish market.

Back in the city.

So during my strolls, I happened into a little construction area, but, it did mean that I got to see the tallest building in all of Scandinavia, the Turning Torso.

In all its majesty – 190 metres high; it’s, surprisingly, a residential building.

I actually quite like how it looks, minus its location. It was apparently quite expensive to build, but was an important part of ‘recreating Malmo’s skyline.’ I don’t know how well that worked because the skyline is still essentially nonexistent, but it is nonetheless a cool building, and maybe in a few years I’ll house hunters international it.

Random trendy Malmo.

I really enjoyed Malmo though – not just because of the beautiful people – but, it had excellent coffee, and people in general were quite nice. I headed to Copenhagen on Thursday though, and was not disappointed by that city, to say the least.

Copenhagen Centraal

Copenhagen skate park.

For those who don’t know, Denmark is the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen, who wrote many fairytales, including The Little Mermaid. He lived in Copenhagen for many years, and died in the city. Thus:

I present: Tourist taking photo with HC Andersen’s apartment in Nyhavn.

But more importantly, beautiful Nyhavn:

Postcard quality.

Nyhavn is the historical waterfront of Copenhagen, with the harbour having been constructed in the 1670s. It is now home to many an overpriced beer (I was paying roughly 11 CAD for a pint there. It was absurd).

View towards the south.

Downtown Copenhagen

Outside the winter home of the Danish royal family, Amalienborg Palace.

The organ inside the Church of our Saviour.

Angels.

Church of Our Saviour.

So Julia, Vanessa and I had rented bikes and toured around Copenhagen to some of the buildings in the immediate downtown. We also visited the free state, Christiana, which is essentially a giant commune. It’s regulated by its own law, dating back to 1989. The area was originally a military barracks, but stopped being used in the 70s, so squatters moved into the buildings and have essentially been there since. The sale of hard drugs is forbidden, but marijuana is legal. Stealing, guns, knives, and bulletproof vests are also illegal in Christiania.

It’s quite interesting to visit. The main drag where drugs are openly sold is called the Green Light District, or, more aptly, Pusher Street, and what I found most bizarre was the fact that all the dealers and non-tourists (I assume) in this area had their faces covered. Which makes sense given that it’s not legal in Denmark to sell drugs, but it was just a bizarre sight. It was actually the birthday of Christiania the Saturday night while I was in Copenhagen, and there is a club that goes until 5am, but I didn’t go there that night.

I did happen to see Jamie xx perform at Culture Box on Friday night, which was fantastic.

Anyways, another part of the touring Julia, Vanessa, and I did was visit the statue of the Little Mermaid. If you don’t know the original story of the Little Mermaid, it’s super dark, the mermaid is a moron, and the ending sucks.

The Little Mermaid statue. It’s quite small and underwhelming.

So basically, the story starts out the same: Little Mermaid (we’re going to call them Ariel and Eric, to keep it simple for me) saves Eric during a storm and falls in love with him. But when she saves him, she drops him off at a temple, where a random girl and her friends find him. Ariel is super sad that she won’t see Eric again, and starts asking her gramma more about humans. Her gramma tells her merfolk live for roughly 300 years, but that when they die they turn to seafoam, and that’s the end of it. Humans, on the other hand, live a short time but have an eternal soul. So Ariel gets it in her head that she wants an eternal soul so she and Eric can rock it in heaven together. So Ariel goes to the sea witch, who we are obviously calling Ursula, and asks to become human. Ursula grants her wish, but only in exchange for Ariel’s actual tongue. And not only does Ariel have to cut her tongue out, but she is told by Ursula that she has to take a potion that feels like a sword going through her body. When she wakes up, she’ll have two human legs and will be able to dance like a fiend, but that she’ll constantly feel like she’s walking on knives and that her feet are bleeding. Finally, she’s not even going to get her soul if she can’t get Eric to marry her, AND, if he marries anyone else, she’ll turn to seafoam the morning after they get married. And then no soul.

So basically Ariel makes THE WORST DEAL EVER for some rando she saw on a ship who probably was super inbred and not as attractive as the Disney drawing of Prince Eric, and likely did not have as cute a dog as Disney Prince Eric did.

So Ariel cuts out her tongue, takes her stabby potion, and heads on up to land, where Eric finds her and is smitten with her beauty and her dancing skills (I can relate). She dances for him ALL THE TIME despite the bloody foot feeling, and she becomes his bestie, and hangs out with him all the time.

Then, Eric’s parents are like, please stop hanging out with the mute dancer, we’re arranging you a marriage. And Eric goes to Ariel to tell her he can’t marry the princess because he doesn’t love her. He’s like no, I don’t want the princess from the neighbouring land, the only person I love…

…is Ariel?

FALSE.

Eric, the chump, is as dumb as Ariel, and fell in love with the random temple girl who found him after Ariel saved him, BECAUSE HE THINKS THE TEMPLE GIRL SAVED HIM. He hasn’t seen her since, and Ariel’s been dancing her bloody feet off, but WHATEVER, ERIC. AND HE JUST TELLS HER THAT CASUALLY. Like, oh, hey, orphan girl I’ve been hanging out with and all smitten with by your looks and dancing for the past year or whatever, so much fun hanging out, but one time I saw this girl in a temple and I’m pretty sure she’s my bae.

Then like two seconds later, Eric finds out that the princess IS THE TEMPLE GIRL, and he’s like oh, sick, perfect, wedding time. They go out to a ship to get married, Ariel is like WHAT IS MY LIFE, and then her sisters rise from the sea and are like, girl, we got you, we gave Ursula all our hair in exchange for a dagger. All you have to do is kill Eric with the dagger, drip his blood on your feet, and boom, mermaid again, live in the ocean until you’re 300.

So Ariel takes the dagger, sneaks into Eric and temple girl’s room, and then is like, nope, I love Eric, can’t kill him. So she jumps off the ship with the dagger as the sun is rising, and turns into seafoam. BUT THAT ISN’T THE END, WE NEED A LAME CHRISTIAN MESSAGE. Ariel floats into the air, discovers she’s a spirit, and is told that happened because she tried really hard to have an immortal soul. But she still doesn’t have an immortal soul, BECAUSE CHRISTIANITY, so she basically has to do good deeds for humankind for the next 300 years and then she can join the kingdom of God.

Moral of the story? If you’re a mermaid, you should probably be stoked on that fact and avoid humans at all costs. Seriously. Live out those 300 years and become seafoam.

Vanessa, Julia and I didn’t have the choice of being human or mermaid.

Vanessa had to leave that night, so the next morning Julia and I went for a fantastic brunch – I miss brunch; it is such a North American thing and I just want to go somewhere on weekend mornings – looking out over one of the Copenhagen lakes.

Smile!

We visited with one of her friends, Amelie, who I also had met once in Cape Town, and who is now doing her masters in Copenhagen, and went for a walk through one of the cemeteries in Copenhagen. It’s less weird than it sounds – it is the cemetery where HC Andersen is buried, after all.

We also got to head up to her rooftop view, and stroll through Norrebro, which is a very cool hipster area of Copenhagen.

Views from Amelie’s.

Can’t even with the cool.

Julia had to head back Saturday evening, so after our brunch and wanderings with Amelie, I moved into a hostel and promptly went for a 27km run around Copenhagen (and into some random town outside Copenhagen). But I had a lovely time with some hostel randoms and ended up spending my Sunday walking around the Copenhagen Botanical Gardens with one of them.

Clearly the best plant in all the gardens, the Fluffy Ruffles.

But seriously these gardens were amazing. They had a giant set of green houses that you could visit with tropical plants, including carnivorous plants, aka the best kind of plants, and some of the coolest lily pads I have ever seen.

Look at the babies unfolding!

It catches water, and then flies, and then closes its lid until the flies drown. And then it eats them. What a fantastic plant.

In the outside part of the botanical gardens. Also, it was like 22 degrees out – so amazing.

I’ll always have a soft spot for maples.

Flower garden.

Rosenborg Slot – originally built as a summer house for the Danish royal family in 1606.

Leaving Kongens Have – the oldest park in Copenhagen.

So that was my September in Europe! I hope to be more present and update more frequently in October (at least twice this month?), but it’s looking fairly busy – I’ve already visited Belgium, and my soulmate Tina is coming to the Netherlands in TWO DAYS! Combine that with Amsterdam Dance Event with my 3Ls (and now I’m a #5L) and my marathon training and October is looking quite busy as well. The time is just flying on by, I tell ya.

I’m currently getting over what is probably the worst illness I’ve had since I was a kid. Last week, I came back from Copenhagen with a bit of a sore throat, and then woke up on Tuesday unable to talk and/or move. I literally slept Tues/Weds for probably 30 hours, and had a ridiculous fever. I had to take the week off running, so I’m just getting back into it, which is a terrible feeling. But, hopefully after this, my immune system has whatever it needs to get me through until mid-November. Then I can be sick for days.

I’ll be better at updating this month, mom!

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