A Polar Giant – Weekly Travel Photo & Product Review

When you watch a giant ice bear walk across crisp snow you can’t help but mentally narrate the crunch of ice in your head.  For a creature of such size and obvious power, it is difficult to picture the reality: these king and queens of the north can move in almost complete silence across treacherous frozen landscapes that humans would find impassable. There is a slow precision and grace as they amble forward. Mouth slightly ajar, pivoting from left to right and back again…inhaling and tasting the plethora of scents frozen upon the brisk northern air.

The Sojourner’s Dilemma

I love Copenhagen. It is, quite possibly, my favorite capital city in the world.  Yet, recently, I found myself falling out of love with the city. A combination of factors – winter, a cold, the stress of the job search, and a daily commute that ate up three hours of my schedule started to weigh on me. I found that sense of doubt creeping into my psyche, combined with the seeds of bitterness.  It wasn’t until I had a day to walk the city – something I hadn’t done in more than three months – that I had an epiphany and sense of renewed love for Copenhagen.

Springtime in Copenhagen

What I’ve taken to calling the Sojourner’s Dilemma is something no doubt familiar to anyone who has done a long-term study abroad, lived abroad as a sojourner, or progressed to the full-expat stage. It is that inevitable stage in the experience where your love and zeal for a place starts to slip away.  In some cases losing that magic is a very real thing tied to changes in your needs as an individual.  But, more often than not, I believe it stems from a loss of connection with the aspects of the city and daily/experience which were the source of that magic to begin with.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in a city for 6 months or 10 years, it’s when we lose touch with the daily richness that the balance begins to shift from a place of inspiration that puts an added bit of zip into our steps towards a weighty chain that drags us down.

Fishing Boats Dragged Ashore – Weekly Travel Photo & Product Review

Generations ago fishing ships were dragged ashore through brute force, a bit of creative mechanics, and a stalwart work ethic. This avoided the need for the construction of grand breakwaters and deep harbors.  However, as technology has progressed and the ease of construction has increased, more and more safe harbors have been created up and down Denmark’s wind-tossed shores.  With beach erosion a perpetual issue these developments have been for the best, as the process of dragging the ships to and from the water is often far from easy on the local ecosystem.

This means that the opportunity to see a fleet of reasonably large fishing ships muscled ashore in the traditional fashion is highly unusual and this in turn makes Thorup Strand “Thorupstrand” one of the largest coastal landing sites in Europe. The site, which has been active since the 1700s, serves as home to as many as 25 fishing vessels at any given time.  Utilizing the deep sand and specially designed ship keels the modern vessels take advantage of a winch system and series of tractors which are used to drag the ships into the water in the morning and to pull them ashore above the tidal line every evening. Sounds daunting doesn’t it? 

The Little Mermaid – Copenhagen’s Tribute To Disappointment

When it comes to tourism, talk of Denmark far too often revolves around what is, perhaps, one of its most unimpressive and disappointing landmarks – the Little Mermaid. This sorrowful lass reclining by the sea is not ugly. And yet, she is not beautiful. In truth, the Little Mermaid is bland. She is a small statue crafted in a style that neither captures the entirety of the female form in vivid detail nor the essence of it through less specific but still compelling lines and curves.

She stands as an example of what happens when you take something mediocre and attempt to force it to greatness. With people, they sometimes excel – rising to the moment and to become something truly spectacular. With statues…well…they just become a disappointment. Something to take a photograph with, for the sake of taking a photograph, before moving on to the discovery of things that are more compelling and engaging.

Autumn In Jutland – Weekly Travel Photo

There is a special window each year. A window of time ever so fleeting and hard to track. It is never the same day, week, or month. Ever in flux it varies from valley to glen, coast to fjord. In places like Arizona it is nearly non-existent except in the high country and yet in Denmark the amber hues of fall and rich colds of autumn gradually spread across the landscape like a freshly fallen layer of snow.

See My Photo in National Geographic Nordics This Month

As an aspiring photographer and lifelong traveler there is one organization that, above all others, has fueled my imagination since I was a young boy. The images of majestic animals, exotic peoples, and grand cultural undertakings are part of the foundation which crafted the traveler I am today. Even in the modern digital age where most magazines are relegated to the end table at the dentist’s office or car dealership waiting room, National Geographic stands apart. Their more recent forays into digital have led to the sourcing and democratization of a process which brings to light captivating and inspiring photos on a regular basis – a process I consider myself extremely lucky to have been able to partake in.

The Elephant Crossing – Weekly Travel Photo & Product Review

The choice to cross obviously rested in the tusks of a powerful matriarch.  As she deliberated, surveying the water carefully for threats, her familial herd clustered around her with eyes open and surveying in every direction.  From time to time they would move ever so slightly closer to the water’s edge.  When they did, we readied ourselves, perched as we were in a raised observation platform atop a deck on the opposite side of the river. With equal care our eyes were focused as we surveyed the river as it stretched out before us…likely looking for the same threats the great matriarch worried about.  We spotted several crocodiles and a handful of seemingly docile hippos nearby. Were either threats? It was hard to know.

What is the difference between Scandinavia and the Nordics?

The Deutsch, who are German, are neither Danish, Dutch, Scandinavian nor Nordic. The Dutch, who hail from the Netherlands, also commonly called Holland, are neither Danish, nor do they speak Danish.  This is despite a number of similarities including elements of the language, culture, and social behavior which are very close to those found across the Nordic and Scandinavian peoples.  Not only are the Dutch not Danish, they also fall outside of both the Scandinavian and Nordic categories. Also, while less common, it is important to recall that the Swiss are not the Swedes as they hail from Switzerland, which is not remotely near Sweden and also falls well outside the Nordic and Scandinavian regions.

So. Now that we’ve got THAT out of the way let’s tackle one of the most common questions I’ve heard and discussed. That is the difference between Scandinavia and the Nordics. For many, and perhaps with good reason, Scandinavia is thought of as a country and comes as part of the assumption that the Scandinavian people and by extension the Nordics are essentially all more or less one and the same. Before I re-located to Scandinavia, the distinct character of the various Scandinavian countries and the sharp contrasts between their Nordic siblings was something I found deeply confusing. Luckily, I’ve had a chance to learn a bit more about them. I’d like to share those thoughts with you.

Danish National Museum in Copenhagen

Scandinavia vs. the Nordics

The term Scandinavia encompasses the two countries that make up the near-majority of the Scandinavian peninsula and Denmark which consists of 400+ islands and the majority of the Jutland peninsula (Cimbrian Peninsula). Though Finland arguably shares the base of the Scandinavian peninsula with Norway and Sweden it is not considered a Scandinavian country.  Finland also tends to be excluded because, while they do share many behavioral traits, the Finnish language and much of the Finnish cultural heritage differs widely from those of the relatively homogeneous Scandinavian countries.