As I awoke, not even the sun had started to rise, the wind blowing hard and strong. I didn’t know what to think as I rode my bike to the station, it was as if my mind was numb from the cold. Although it was early, I was wide awake, for the people I was about to meet I had not seen since I had left home. It was a strange feeling seeing my family again. As the walked through the gates at the airport I was happy to see them, but at the same time I was nervous. I had changed so much since the last time I was with them; I had grown as a person, experienced more than I ever had at home and started a new life without them. I had grown up. Luckily, they didn’t seem to mind. The next three weeks were wonderful, spending time with my family and hearing of stories from home, however I have a newfound appreciation for my independence and self-responsibility here in Denmark.
To start my family’s stay in Denmark, I decided to take them around my city, showing them as much as I could of the place I loved. To anyone coming to Copenhagen, a cannal tour is essential. Thankfully for us, the weather was clear and the trip was a relaxing way to see the city. In the afternoon, we visited Kronborg Castle, north of Copenhagen. Standing on the shoreline, the imposing fortress creates a strong medieval atmosphere, it is no wonder that Shakespeare set Hamlet there. These activities had both been on my ‘bucket list’ since the beginning of the year, therefore it was a great day for everyone. The following day I led my family on a city tour visiting places such as the Round Tower and Rosenborg Castle. It was a pleasure to have dinner with my second and third host families, however it was a little strange. That was where my two worlds met, casually chatting over flæskesteg (Danish roast pork, my personal favourite). On one side of the table sat my past, and on the other side my present. Not every exchange student will experience this, but for those that do, they will understand the feeling of being caught between two versions of yourself; one where you lived in your home country and one where you live abroad. It is wonderfully horrifying, as I know I will have to leave my fantasy behind soon and get back to reality. Tak to the Rasmussen family for being pleasant hosts, as well as the Damvig family for joining us. Finishing their first stay in Denmark, we caught a train to Odense in order to see Hans Christian Anderson’s home town, before heading back to Copenhagen for dinner at Halifax, a Danish burger restaurant that was started by two exchange students. After three lovely days in Denmark, it was finally time to start travelling.
With my family, I was fortunate enough to see parts of all the Scandinavian countries as well as St Petersburg, Russia. Although similar, each city had a unique culture and heritage giving us an interesting insight to the lives of Scandinavians and Russians.
Our first stop (outside of Denmark) was Oslo, Norway; a pretty city in the middle of the Norwegian Fjords. As the capital of Norway, there are many important buildings and places throughout the city, and by taking a bike tour we were able to see these in the most Scandinavian way possible. With a few more hills than in Denmark, the ride was a little tiring but worth the effort. Two notable places we visited in Oslo were the Nobel Peace Centre and the Open Air Museum. The Nobel Peace Centre celebrates the great work of its inductees, who are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in the city each year, unlike the other Noble prizes which are awarded in Stockholm. It was different to any museum I had seen before. In the late 19th century, the king of Norway decided he should preserve the many historical buildings scattered around the country in one park for future generations to admire and learn from. Thanks to this man’s brilliant idea, the first open air museum was opened in Oslo, showcasing culturally significant buildings from as early as the 13th century. We greatly enjoyed this museum and the history it held within.
Whilst in Norway, we spend two days in Bergen and the fjords. In the middle of Norway, there is a route know as the Flåm Railway, notorious for its spectacular view of the surrounding cliffs. In the afternoon, we sailed through the fjords on a ferry, admiring the fjords; massive structures of nature’s power and beauty. They were a breathtaking sight, with a calm chill in the air as we took in the large cliffs and smooth rivers.
Our next stop was Stockholm, Sweden. Stockholm was a lovely but massive city. Starting our time here, we explored the old town on a tour with a local guide. Through this tour, we learnt about Sweden’s history, which was largely tied with Denmark.Our guide told us the story of the Stockholm Bloodbath of 1520, showing us there is always two sides to history; to the Danes it was seen as victory, to the Swedes it was a great tragedy. Stockholm is filled with museums, my two personal favourites were the ABBA and Vasa museums. The ABBA museum was an exciting place celebrating the extensive work of the Swedish pop group from the 1970’s until today. Although the band is yet to reunite, they are still one of the most well known bands in the world today. My family loves ABBA and Mamma Mia, so to see this museum was a memorable experience. The Vasa museum is like a scene from a pirate film. The Vasa is a large war ship the sunk only 20 minutes into its maiden voyage in 1628. The 17th century ship was preserved in mud in Stockholm Harbour until it was uncovered almost 300 years later. Thankfully the mud has left the ship almost fully intact, and it was restored to its former glory in the museum, a spectacle for anyone who sees it. My mother was especially happy because we were able to see reindeer in an outdoor park, an animal unheard of in Australia apart from in Christmas stories.
Helsinki was a cold place with good sushi, but otherwise not all that much to do. Despite this, we were able to visit an old island war fortress on an known as Suomenlinna. The blistering winds and heavy fog set the mood for the isolated array of stone walls, battered buildings and heavy artillery. The most interesting part of this fortress was that it is still inhabited today by a few Finns. There is even a preschool for the local children.
Before returning to Denmark, we made our way to St Petersburg, Russia. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time here and am very grateful I now understand more about Russia after my visit. Our time in Russia was very busy and filled with fun, spending the first day on a guided tour of the Hermitage before going to a ballet in the evening. The Hermitage is a serious of buildings centred around the Winter Palace. The beautiful blue facade is only the beginning, with each of the rooms filled with artefacts from around the world. Paintings, christian relics and even a dog with Putin’s face on it. There are over 6 million objects in the museums collection. Along with seeing the main points inside the palace we visited the section of the museum which holds many famous impressionist paintings. I enjoyed both the art and the architecture of this wing greatly. Russia is known for it’s ballet, so my little sister, mother and I spent the evening watching Sleeping Beauty, wonderfully performed in a quaint, pretty theatre in the art square of the city. The next day we took a walking tour around the city, our guide leading us through the large city showing us the main, almost monstrous buildings throughout the city. The weather was nice and luckily it was not too cold. In the evening, we went to a hockey game between St Petersburg and Moscow. Russia has a strong national hockey team and half of the players were in the game we saw! It was lots of fun and something that is uncommon in Australia.
Finally it was time to return home from our travels, for me at least. Back in Denmark, we travelled to Legoland, Billund. Matthew was able to join us and we were both overjoyed to be visiting the famed Danish theme park. Yet another Danish bucket list item checked off. We all feel asleep on the way home, exhausted from our big day out. Another day pasted which my family spent at Tivoli, then it was time to say goodbye. After a few tears and hugs, I waved goodbye to my family once more however this time it was not so hard. I will see my family again soon, and I don’t have to leave Denmark just yet.
Another town, another train. It seems as though the adventures never end.