Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lee and Sheila Cohen Visit and our Trip to Ærø

In our whole time living here we have had two house guests: Carole Vranizan (my mom) last October and Lee and Sheila Cohen (Craig's dad and his wife) who just left 2days ago. These guests have been big emotional boosts for us and offered us something significant to look forward to. Carole came after we had figured out the basics but the Cohens came after we mastered them.

Lee and Sheila arrived early last Tuesday, after a red-eye flight from NYC. The first day, while the girls were at school, I drove them around our neighborhood, the beach and we had an outdoor smorrebrod frokost (lunch) in Dyrehaven (the Deer Park.

The second day I took them downtown for the Strøget (walking street), Nyhavn Harbor, The Changing of the Guards at the Queens Palace, Town Square and lunch at Peder Oxe.

Thursday and Friday were national holidays so Craig and the girls had time off from work and school. After renting a larger car to fit all 6 of us, we took off for Frediksberg Castle in the town of Hillerod, about 40 minutes away. We had not visited this castle yet, hearing that it is the most impressive castle in all of Scandinavia. Rick Steve's comments that it is the "Danish Versaille" did not let us down. We oohed and aahed our way through the grounds and insides. Later that afternoon Molly, Maya and I saw "Night at the Museum 2" while Craig had a business meeting and then Kirk Nichols joined us all for Itzi Pizti pizza at home.

Friday through Sunday we took a trip to Ærø. Ærø is one island over and one down from Zealand. It's a 2 1/2 hour drive and a 75 minute ferry to the town of Ærøskøbing, on Ærø. If you've ever seen the Rick Steve's travel show about Denmark, he raves about Ærø and has spent a lot of personal time there. We've also heard Ærø is in a book called "The 100 Places to Visit Before you Die". Well, we made it and it was spectacular so I guess we can all go to our graves blissfully fulfilled! Ærø has 3 big towns, numerous villages, 5,000 population and 500,000 visitors a year.

The old village of has been preserved in original 17th century. It takes all of about 45 minutes to walk the entire town, and that's at a slow saunter. We stayed at an Inn that dates to 1830's but our rooms were fortunately newly renovated. From our hotel we could walk to the harbor, through the village, rent bikes and ride the countryside. The countryside is filled with farms for cattle and wheat that spill right into the ocean. Most homes are still working "gaards" or 3 sided-buildings that shelter the wind and elements and include barn, workshop and house. Some homes and one church date back to the 13th century. The air was so fresh and clear and people friendly and charming - they smiled and waved. I think the farther we get away from the big city, the friendlier the Danes seem to be. Either that or a more relaxed lifestyle. Shops are open only a few hours a day, except during peak tourist season, July and August.

As remote as we were, we still managed to book a hotel room across the hall from another CIS family! and down the hall from the director of the school! Not only that, we all made reservations the first night in the same restaurant. Not much of a coincidence actually, when there were only two restaurants to choose from. On Saturday Craig took the gang into Marstal to see a fantastic Maritime museum and to view other villages while I rode 20 miles around the island.

We took an early ferry off the island Sunday morning and then drove north to Odense to the Hans Christian Anderson Museum. Being one of Denmark's 10 most well-known citizens, we owed it to ourselves to learn more about him. H.C. is a big man around these parts. Every detail about his life has been painstakingly documented in this museum, brought ot life in movies and statues and volumes of his in 150 different languages. Did you know that H.C. Anderson is the author with the most translations to other languages? I think he and Ann Frank are competitors.

I realize now why Danes are so intent on their history and proud of their heritage. They have a museum for every aspect of their lives, from post offices to authors to vikings to castles. Folks make outings to these places and absorb everything about being a Dane. One can't help but maintain pride and ownership of their country. and that's perhaps one reason why they would be slow to change their monetary system, let go of their monarchy, or willing to join the EU. But that's my opinion.

The last full day with Lee and Sheila was spend back downtown where we hit the highlights again, and then some: Lagkaghuset, the best bakery in town, where we sampled sweets and breads, over the river to the walking street, shopped in Georg Jensen and Illums Bolighus, walked up to the top of the Round Tower (a real feat for Sheila!) ate a hot dog in Kongen's Nytorv and walked through Rosenborg Castle and gardens before training home. The girls really enjoyed their time with the grandparents, playing the penny game, doing puzzles, teaching Papa Lee how to play Wii, and silly card games. All-in-all it was memorable trip for them all.

I'm feeling a little tired and grateful for a little rain to force me inside and rest. I tried playing tennis yesterday for the first time in 2 weeks but reinjured my achilles. (Just came back from the doctor who said that if I'm not careful I will rupture my achilles tendon and then I'd be facing surgery. So, I have to avoid all weight bearing exercise, don't stretch it at all and wear shoes with a heel. It could take weeks to feel better).

Maya is on the last few days of her Exhibition Project, meeting with her team this weekend to polish their presenation for Tuesday morning. Molly is beginning a Habitats 2 week project and has yet another all day field trip to a nature center next week. Craig is working more and more at his new LaCrosse position, and relinquishing more of his Danish job to locals. He still rides his bike to work at least 3 days a week and on weekends and is the leanest he's been since high school. I posted and sold more than half of our european belongings already and will continue to advertise until they're all gone. Too bad Craig's List is so unused here, or it'd be a snap. Seems as though farewell parties are very popular social occasions for the ex-pat moms and wives leaving. My friend Geeta is throwing a party for our American friend Gail and I on the 16th of June, at her house. There seems to be a party going on somewhere for someone every day for a few weeks.

This weekend we're cleaning out closets (amazing how much you can accumulate in 1 year) and sorting for moving. We'll be gone the following weekend for 4 days in Norway and then Craig will be in Asia the week after. We are moving out on June 23rd, into a hotel apartment for 2 nights while the movers pack the house. I will be sad to leave this Danish sanctuary. It's been a safe, uplifting haven and an incubator of all of our growth this year.

One final note. The pictures you are seeing with this blog entry were DELETED mistakenly on the ferry ride back from Ærø. I had a complete melt down and was beside myself with loathing and disappointment. 2 days later I investigated recovery software and after paying a pretty penny for it, got all the pictures back. I am continuing to learn more about technical stuff than I ever really cared to, but I have to keep up with my kids somehow!

This entry has been way too long, so I'll cut it off, except to say that we need to get our kids back to the USA: Molly completely forgot what the tv sitcom "Seinfeld" was. I brought home DVDs from the library to get her caught up. No member of the Cohen household can go without! And side note to Jill Fitzpatrick - I've go tthe kids watching old episodes of Little House on The Prairie. More to follow

Love and Light,
Mary Jo
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