Highlights: Copenhagen

August 2015

A pale blonde girl in a black bathing suit dives head first into the canal. She comes up for air with a gasp from the gray water. All along this side canal in Christianhavn, young women are taking the plunge with thrilling screams or are lying on blankets in the grass taking in the sun.

It is a glorious day, warm and sunny, a real summer day. And in a cold weather country, these glorious summer days are few. So you have to take advantage of them.

Continue reading →

New Nordic Cuisine

Copenhagen
August 2015

Seems like every other restaurant on the Strøget is a shawarma joint. I counted at least a dozen, especially near the university. They must be secretly filming Iron Man 4 in Copenhagen. Robert Downey Jr. is always posting about shawarma on Facebook. It’s the only explanation.

Until I saw The Avengers on television last year, I’d never heard of shawarma. Perhaps it’s becoming what falafels and doner kebabs have been in Europe — a sign of growing ethnic diversity coupled with a need for quick and cheap eats. It’s probably not a threat to the open-faced sandwich, though.

Continue reading →

North of Morocco

Copenhagen
August 2015

Crossing the bridge to Islands Brygge after a long day in Central Copenhagen, I hear music and see crowds along the waterfront. I hadn’t anticipated such activity after my arrival late last night. There is a tent set up on a wooden platform, and the sound of Moroccan and Arabic drums.

Inside, a woman is singing, while the drums build up slowly the way they do in the Jemaa al-Fna in Marrakech. Then come the belly dancers — tall, blonde. Their dancing is, well, Scandinavian, but they work the hand gestures and dramatic effects for all they’re worth.

Continue reading →

Copenhagen Side Trip

August 2015 

“Where are we?” someone on the street asks me.

“Copenhagen,” I reply.

It was a smart-alecky thing for me to say. It’s my first day in town, and I don’t know anything. The first thing I’ve noticed about Copenhagen is there are a lot more tourists here than there were in Norway. They are the summer holidays kind of tourists, too. There’s construction going on along the canals downtown, so any directions you get require an improvised detour. Still, what are people asking me for?

Continue reading →

When in Oslo

Oslo
July-August 2015

My first time in Europe in ten years, I’m summoned by the landscapes I’ve only seen on television. But first it’s Oslo, Norway’s capital, with its mix of the nation’s past and present.

Fanning out from a splendid harbor, Oslo spreads onto winding neighborhood streets and wide avenues circumnavigated by the ever-present trams. In the city center, Henrik Ibsen stands imperiously in front of the National Theatre, just blocks from the Grand Cafe where he once took his daily lunch. Along the harbor, an imposing medieval fortress stands sentinel over a burgeoning modern waterfront, while on a peninsula out on the bay, Viking ships are a reminder of Norway’s rough-hewn past.

Continue reading →

Photography in Art Museums

Oslo
July 2015

The security guard scolds the American woman who was photographing Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” in the National Gallery. The woman is aghast. She says she didn’t know. But there was a sign at the only entrance to the room dedicated to Munch … in English … with a picture of a camera with a line through it.

The Munch room is the only part of the museum where photos aren’t allowed. Everywhere else, people can happily snap photos of any painting they want, so long as they don’t use a flash.

Continue reading →