Thursday, June 30, 2011

Marketing your City

Simple, effective marketing. You want a city that connects with you. The I amsterdam sculpture is a pretty easy way to buy yourself some photo opportunities. It is a simple metal sculpture next to the Rijksmuseum. It's probably a little out of place from a historic and cultural landmark point of view and I imagine it was hated when it was first installed by the local community, but it works for the tourists that are in the area for the museums. The girls got a kick out of it and it had Abby singing a made up song about Iamsterdam. Sheet metal, paint, and creativity.

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Building from 1627

Unbelievable architecture in Amsterdam and the construction that has standed the test of time.
Perhaps the old adage of bend but don't break would be a better pun, these homes are definitely leaning in and maybe that was the reason the roof was slanted in on the top.
I asked Abby if she knew what the numbers meant and she astutely answered, is it the address. When I told her it was the year the house was built she exclaimed Whoa!
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Amsterdam Trams

You can't spell Amsterdam without T R A M S. Okay, not exactly in the right order but you get my drift.
It seems you can't be anywhere in the central city without being a few blocks away from one of the white and blue rail cars. They are fairly ubiquitous throughout the first and second ring of canals. This was not a new thing for the girls although negotiating them with bags was something we don't do much in Portland! Our hotel is two blocks from a stop and that made it easy to get from the Centraal station where our overnight train dropped us off with just one transit connection to make. Luckily, we only brought one rollerbag per person and Abby could carry her bag. It was tough for Amelia who had a roller bag backpack, but couldn't quite manage to lift it over things much, especially when she was TIRED!
We did fine though, we just had to keep in mind to take it easy and luckily when you miss one tram in Amsterdam, the next one is bound to be on its heels in a minute or two.

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Vondelpark Highlights

We are staying near the Riksmuseum area of Amsterdam which gave us easy access to Vondel Park. It is one of those urban areas that makes you feel like you're in the 'burbs. There are carfree paths that are primarily for bikes (some high speed ones at that) and it was also an area where parents were teaching their kids to ride, so there were a few close calls. Walking in Amsterdam is an experience. One thing that Portland does extremely well is focus on the pedestrian experience... in Amsterdam, not so much.
The park was one such example. But this is a discussion for the "Transportation blog".

This play structure was a little daunting to me, but Abby didn't seem to mind. She scampered up the three (perhaps four?) story structure of ropes in the A frame and across the wire mesh tunnel to the slide portion. Amelia was a little slower, but still made it. It left me a little tense when Amelia felt like she couldn't make it but was being very stubborn and I had visions of a trip to the emergency in a foreign country. Yikes! All in all, a nice day to walk in the park to and a nice start to the stay in the Netherlands.
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Amsterdam Centraal

You wouldn't know it from this picture that the family had travelled in the Night Train from Odense. We arrived about two hours late. Luckily, they made some of the folks heading to Cologne (Koln) transfer at Hannover.
We were fortunate that we didn't need to and were on the train until the end, yet the extra two hours on the train wore thin on everyone and maybe that's part of the reason everyone is smiling in this picture.
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Ever felt like this guy?

Tough day for travelling on the night train. I think having kids in that small of space with limited food was a difficult combination. Perhaps the kids are just tired of being away from home, I don't know but it seemed like one of those days where all of us could make a mountain out of a mole hill and feel like we were carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders.
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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Svendborg Beach

We enjoyed our trip west from Copenhagen to Svendborg for two nights. It was a nice break from the City and as a coastal town commonly does, we got to visit the beach.

We borrowed some bikes and hit the streets. It was a short ride to the beach and as luck would have it, it was one of the warmest days they have had in awhile, so we weren't the only ones with the idea.
So when we arrived it felt a little more crowded than I expected and got busier as the day went on. The beach was very nice and the sand reminded me a bit of Oregon. There was no terrain to speak of and it is fairly far inland, so no waves to speak of except when a ship rolls by and creates them for us. It didn't seem like the ships had to be that significant either,

Geske and Lau joined us a little later and enjoyed some lunch with us. The Danish love their ice cream (so do Oregonians) and hot dogs and it seems like in every snack bar that combination is bound to be present in some form. I think it is in the U.S. as well, but perhaps it is just that we're choosing to eat them here more than I would have expected.

Geske was the star of the show when she helped Abby catch a crab. We had a lot of un with the jellyfish as well, but the crab resulted in some major squeals and excitement.

Our ride back from the beach was nice although after a few hours of soaking in the rays, I was ready for a shower and some time in the shade.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

National Museum by Guest Blogger Abby Koonce

First, we went to the museum. The museum had a alot of nice exhibits. We went to one separate Children's Museum within the National Museum.
At the National Museum we saw a lot of old fashioned things. When we went in the exhibit on Danish history, we saw a sailboat that was really detailed.
Then, we went into a room that was full of doll houses. The doll houses were old fashioned and very big. The pictures show the outside of the house and the inside. You had to go around the back and there was a window on the other side that let you see the inside. (The doll houses are historically significant because they were first made for the elite and royalty and over time become commonplace. They gave girls a chance to learn about their place in the home - direct translation - yikes!)

Finally, in the Children's Museum there was a big horse that you could sit on and pretend to ride.
My favorite part of the Children's Museum was the Viking ship. I got to dress up as a girl Viking and so did Amelia. There was a plastic fish tied to a piece of wood, so you could fish while on the boat. (When we got there I told the girls to go and pillage, but I think that was lost on them).

Being in the ship made me feel like a viking.

Then, we went to the midieval area and tried on some chain mail armor. The helmet was HEAVY!
(and now for a leading question:)

This was one of my favorite parts of the trip, because it gave me a chance to explore, pretend, and touch.
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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Copenhagen: #12 Most Expensive City in the World

... and I believe it. There was a lot of grumbling about prices as we visited Copenhagen. The US $ was near 5.2 Krone which is as low as it has been since 2007 and lower than the nearly 6 that it was last year when I was in country. It makes an expensive city even less affordable. The McDonalds Cheeseburger index even seemed askew, with the cost of one of Mickey D's finest hovering just under $2 US. Come on Danes, haven't you heard of the $1 Value meal?

Perhaps more importantly was a 12 oz. beer at the local convenience store was 11.95 Kroner, which is $2.27. We're not talking microbrews now, it's Carlsberg, which is local but is clearly a microbrewed Pilsner. I am not one to say it wasn't tasty after a long day of walking through the streets of CPH, but it does make one pause when purchasing a tasty beverage. A latte at the local kiosk was $4.77.

What's more is that Danes love to drink. I am not just talking about alcohol either. Really, anything. For the wedding, we started out with a latte, a beer, champange, white wine, red wine, cognac, baileys and coffee, and sparkling water.

Bloomberg reports the following....
No. 12 Most Expensive City: Copenhagen

Quick lunch: $38.40 Beer at a bar: $8.95
Kilogram of rice: $5.90 Dozen eggs: $7.30
Movie theater ticket: $16.20 Transit ride: $2.67

Copenhagen, Denmark's capital and largest city, fell to No. 12, from No. 8, in ECA International's 2010 ranking. Denmark's economy, hit by a real estate slump and growing unemployment, contracted slightly in 2010 and in the first quarter of 2011 as public and private consumption fell and the country entered recession, reported Bloomberg News.

I added the transit ride category to the information that they provided there. I was going to add a Starbucks coffee, but there isn't a single one that I have found. Seems a bit surprising to me, but there aren't that many McDonalds or other fast food joints either, which is nice.

So, after my trip to Tokyo and Copenhagen, I can say I have experienced some of the most expensive big cities in the world.

Another article about this was found here.
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Friday, June 24, 2011

Solstice Celebration in Copenhagen

In Denmark, the solstice celebration is called Sankt Hans aften ("St. John's Eve"). In accordance with the Danish tradition of celebrating a holiday on the evening before the actual day, it takes place on the evening of 23 June. It is the day where the medieval wise men and women (the doctors of that time) would gather special herbs that they needed for the rest of the year to cure people.
It has been celebrated since the times of the Vikings making a large bonfire to ward away evil spirits. In Christianhavn, the bonfires is on the beach, and there is a community event with a band and beer tent. The celebration was complete with the tradition of putting a witch made of straw and cloth on the bonfire to recall the witch burnings from the 16th Century.
The bonfire on the beach was impressive.

Amelia napped on the way to dinner.
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Little Mermaid

Identified as one of the most visited tourist attractions in Copenhagen, the Little Mermaid statue is a tribute to Hans Christian Andersen's work.
I found the statue this trip as opposed to last year when the statue was temporarily relocated, rock perch and all for the World's Fair.

The kids enjoyed the mermaid, although Abby indicated that the tail wasn't as she anticipated and we had to discuss the pros and cons of a more substantial tail in detail.
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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Gefion Fountain

I am struck by the size of this monument and could not help but blog about it. This statue is showing oxen being driven by the legendary Norse goddess, Gefjun. I can't help but think of Portlandia when I look at this, so I guess it is an ode to my roots. This also makes me think about the noble nature of money these days. Today, you hear more about donations to college football programs as compared to bequests for art installations such as this.

Wikipedia describes this as a donation to the City from the Carlsberg family.

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Amalienborg Square

The Royal Guard were busy with a changing of the post when we arrived in Amalienborg Square.
We arrived just before the tour bus, which seemed like they were a little late in arriving as the Guard had just finished a few of the changes and were making the rounds to collect all of their members to complete the transition from one crew to another.
Having just woken up from a little nap on our backs, Amelia was a little shy and didn't want to get too close to the Guards. I think their bear skin caps were concerning to her. They sort of make me think of the nutcracker and make them look like toys if you ask me. I guess the guns are real.
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