Sunday, July 11, 2010

When in Denmark... (we do as the Danes do!) – Intermission: We fly to the US

Not too surprisingly now that we live in Europe, some of our far-away travels include trips to ... the US! In fact, we just went there two weeks ago, primarily to participate in Marielle’s wedding (C’s sister) to Eric, celebrated in northern Maryland on June 27th. The ceremony and reception f
ollowed with dancing and dinner were great! We send our best wishes to the couple who is now on some Hawaiian island (lucky bast...).

We enjoyed also meeting again C’s family members we had last seen at our own wedding, two years ago, in a place less than two hours away from where we were (and just as jammed with fireflies!). It made for a great opportunity to recall our own wedding at the time of its second anniversary. We were also particularly glad to finally meet another of the bride’s maids, Lauren, who’s planning a trip to... Bora Bora! (Hi, Lauren!)

Our American consumerist nature also took over, as we spent most of our time shopping ;-) Well, we had quite a list of “stuff to buy in the US”, mostly because we knew we’d find them for much less money there. As an example, both of us really needed shoes, which are typically three times the price here, and rarely come in size 14 in spite of the Danes being rather tall...

Since taking pictures was not a focus on this trip "back home" (we preferred to wait for the professionally taken pictures of the wedding!), the only pictures we have are from the preparation of the flowers at C’s mom’s kitchen the day before, and of Q showing off his new Stetson hat... that he bought in Denmark!

So we come full circle and it is now time for more on our entertaining program for summer in Denmark!

When in Denmark... (we do as the Danes do!) – Part II: We celebrate Midsummer’s Eve

Up here in Denmark, people celebrate Midsummer’s Eve, referred to as Sankt Hans Aften in Danish, meaning “the evening of Saint John”. This is a pagan celebration, dating back to Celtic times, that was subsequently taken over by Christians. On June 23rd, all over Denmark, people gather around big bonfires (usually set near or on water) to sing some songs and have some good BBQ time with friends and family. Interestingly, the same tradition exists in the Alsace region where Q is from, probably because of shared Celtic roots.

This past June 23rd, Q went down to the little harbor, where he had spotted where the bonfire would happen there a few days before. That was his last evening in Denmark until flying out to the DC area for the wedding of C’s sister (C was already over there by then).

Around 9pm, people were well into their BBQ and singing together around the fire. It was, again, a very convivial event, that the Danes seem to have a secret for. People were lining up the jetties, some were barbecuing on their boats, and since night is so short up here at this time of year, many people were heading out to sea after the singing, so around 9:30-10pm! The smoke of similar bonfires could be seen all along the coastline, north or Aarhus.

Didn’t feel lonely though in spite of C’s absence, as Q bumped into Rodrigo, his Colombian friend from the Danish class, who was there with a Danish friend. Rodrigo was going back to Colombia two days later, so this pleasant event also made for a great way for both him and Q to meet again and celebrate before their upcoming travels to far-away places!

When in Denmark... (we do as the Danes do!) – Part I: We wish the Queen a happy 70th birthday!

Alright, after our last posting some fast forwarding back to the future now with what happened here in Aarhus since early June. No wait! Keep reading! It’ll be as exciting as pictures of Bora Bora... in other ways...

Hey, at least it was also sunny then! And re-hey, wasn’t the outfit of that old lady as colorful and in similar tones to our beloved Bora Bora light blue shades?

But who is that dear old lady in bleu-ciel?

Well, she’s Queen Margrethe II, the Royal Highness that leads this country. And the guy in a grey suit that sits next to her on the carriage is her husband, Prince Consort Henrik, a French guy named Henri de Laborde de Monpezat born in the Bordeaux area (he must have seduced her —without too much difficulties— using some of these fine old nectars that they make over there with red grapes...). For the trivia aficionados, Queen Margrethe II is actually the first woman monarch of Denmark since Queen Margrethe I who died in 1412. Another interesting fact is that she studied both archeology (in Cambridge, UK) and political science (in Aarhus), back in the 1960s.

So anyway, here was the Royal couple in Aarhus, on the national holiday (June 5th), not called “Independence day” or anything like that, since Denmark hasn’t had to be independent from anybody in a long time, but called “Constitution day”. Wasn’t even a revolution for that either, it sort of all happened rather peacefully; on June 5th of 1849, the King accepted to surrender his power to his ministers, and to keep only some symbolic status. That was pretty smart: not only did he still have a head, but he also had now a life without work to enjoy! So Denmark, like England, Norway, Spain or Belgium, is a constitutional monarchy.

The Queen was actually doing that trip on the occasion of her 70th birthday, which was celebrated in Copenhagen on April 16th (we had not been invited to that one). The whole event here in Aarhus involved her arrival on her cute boat, the Dannebrog, followed by a circuit through town in an open carriage, with a whole procession of soldiers on horses dressed in fancy old-style uniforms. We were told this would end with a speech (in Danish) and a concert at a large venue in the Southern part of tow.

So here we were, standing by the Aarhus cathedral, waiting for the royal carriage to pass by, in between kids waving flags and grannies lined up in their wheelchairs, and also waving flags. It was all very fun to watch. Hopefully the little movie will help get a better glimpse of what it was like to be standing there, listening to some military music. We also appreciated the whole low key and convivial attitude, as there were no fences, only the mandatory few cops and a couple of secret service people. It was like welcoming the country’s grandmother or something...

Had we had bikes, we would have probably caught up with the whole procession a couple miles down, and watch the carriage drive by again. Instead, we took advantage of the now dispersed crowd to check out the boat, which looked like a real-size toy, or the fantasy of a kid came true! I mean, it was all there, slick and perfect, complete with flags, a shiny brass bell and a team of seamen (and women) dressed in white, with swords, and so on.

The whole experience was delightfully old-fashioned, and as C put it:”Now I totally understand why the people won’t want to get rid of this, regardless of the amount of taxes it costs them!”. And here we go: one more pioneering American conquered by Old World traditions and vintage charm ;-)

The Queen actually has her summer residence here in Aarhus (see one of the earlier posts from Aarhus), and she spends about a month every year in Aarhus. So we might bump into her at the market one Saturday morning... Stay tuned...