Monthly Archives: May 2013

Artie Aardvark Looks into Lommel

For those who don’t remember him, Artie Aardvark is my research group’s mascot.  He’s a curious fellow who likes to tag along to astronomical conferences and the like, so it was only natural that he tagged along with me last week.  I’ll let him tell you all about it!
IMG_0709Last week was super-duper exciting, as Yvette finally took me on a new adventure!  We were off to Lommel, Belgium for the annual Dutch astronomers’ conference which is known as the NAC.  I was a little confused on the train ride over why were going to Belgium for a Dutch astronomers’ conference, but the astronomers told me that northern Belgium is an area called Flanders where they speak Dutch with a funny accent. (I guess some of them claim Flemish is a separate language but don’t ask me for details- I’m an aardvark, not a language expert!) This year they were organizing the conference, so we took a train and bus to Lommel just across the border. Continue reading

Photo: Tokaj Vineyards, Hungary

IMG_0679I went to Hungary last week on yet another random Dutch holiday- seriously, all our holidays are in springtime except for Christmas- and one of the things we had to do was a pilgrimage out to Tarcal, the small village both sides of my family are originally from (Tarcal is on the south side of Tokaj mountain, and where all the best Tokay wine comes from as a result).  And after things like visiting our great-grandparents’ graves we had to do an equally important task of going up to the family grapes which my uncle still runs every year and sample his latest wine.

I’ve been here before, obviously, but not in a few years and it is always such a nice, pleasant thing to sit with a glass straight from the barrel and contemplate the scenery.  It just looks so lovely and right, and I always idly wonder if that’s because generations of my ancestors looked onto the view here and thought the same thing…

The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark

IMG_0641Despite the implications on its location that the name otherwise suggests, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is actually in a small fishing town a 40 minute train ride from Copenhagen.  I’m usually not a huge modern art fan but enough people raved to me about this museum that I decided to check it out.

Frankly I’m glad I did as it was a museum filled with good modern art that has pieces which take advantage of the modern age to make interesting things.  Yay!  My two favorites there-

modern-art-sculpture

IMG_0651

 

 

 

An artist who used simple everyday materials (plastic straws, toothpicks, etc) to make giant, fascinating structures.  The poufs in the above were made from folding sheets of shiny mylar…IMG_0653Oh my God, it’s full of stars!!!

IMG_0652Another view of the crazy room of lights and mirrors- the lights would change color every few seconds, and was truly lovely…

All in all, I realized another reason I quite enjoyed this museum was because Europe does a lot of things well, but modern art and architecture is not typically what I think of when I think of what the continent does well (one only needs to walk around the concrete box cities built after the war to see what I mean).  I on the other hand come from a country where we have modern architecture as the standard, and while I love living in a neighborhood older than my home country and all that it’s still really nice to surround yourself with something a little different every once in awhile.

Like, you know, giant mylar poufs or blinking lights as far of the eye can see.  Trust me, it was a great change of pace!

 

 

Copenhagen Wanderings

We had a five day weekend recently at my university for various reasons (consisting of Holland getting a new king, my university’s communist roots so we get off Labor Day even though it’s not typically an official holiday, and no one interested in work Monday if we get off Tuesday and Wednesday), and the lure of a nice stretch like that was too much to ignore.  So I dusted off my “places I want to visit in Europe while I’m living here” list- you bet there’s a list!- and noticed one that fit such a length of time perfectly- Copenhagen, Denmark.

I’d never been to Copenhagen before but everyone likes to tell you just how very similar it is to Amsterdam.  And I must agree, there is some truth to this.  Both cities have canals and are defined by the water…

copenhagen-canalLots of bicycles everywhere… though Amsterdam has several times more, and the locks people consider sufficient here wouldn’t last more than a few nights in the Netherlands…

copenhagen-square

A skyline defined by various spires and towers…

church-of-our-saviour-copenhagen

copenhagen-view

This particular spiral-y tower by the way is the Church of Our Savior, which you can climb up a narrow set of steps which were never planned for tourists and I don’t advise if you are claustrophobic.  And then the best part is when you go up to the top and it’s windy the tower shudders a bit in the wind, which makes you wonder about the old thing’s building code.

But anyway, to continue the similarities, right by the Church of Our Savior is another Amsterdam parallel, which is a place famous in Europe for tolerance and soft drugs!  Which in Copenhagen is the hippie village of Freetown Christiana…

IMG_0617I walked through Christiana and it turns out it’s small enough that if you’re not actually interested in drugs it takes all of ten minutes to wander through.  I would make an awful hippie; I don’t understand people who sit around all day doing nothing with their lives and dedicated pot-smokers usually fall in this category.

Plus hey, the Danish have very good beer, so why not enjoy that?

But anyway, comparisons to Amsterdam only go so far of course.  The most lovely difference between the two is Copenhagen has Tivoli Gardens smack in the center of town, which is the second oldest amusement park in the world (the oldest is 10km north of town)-

tivoli-copenhagentivoli-gardens

An amusement park that is as old as Tivoli is incredibly small compared to a modern one, meaning the few rides are either for small kids or spin around crazily (frequented by tourists and Danish teenagers), and most of Tivoli is more a focus on gardens with nice restaurants and what not.  Seeing as this was a typical Danish weekday there was even a free classical music concert going on, complete with an audience consisting of me and Danish geriatrics, which is a rather enjoyable way to spend a springtime afternoon, really…

All in all, a very nice city!

Photo: (Lego) Locals in Copenhagen

giant-lego-girl

 

Dutch holiday season is here, and the lure of a five day weekend this past week was too big for me to ignore so I went to Copenhagen, Denmark.  Where I hung out with perhaps the most famous Danish locals on the planet!

True story: when I was in 3rd grade we had to do “career reports” on what profession we wanted to be when we grew up, and the teacher made us go around the class and say what we wanted to do so she could shoot down our childhood dreams make sure we were doing a report on something realistic.  So when it came to be my turn I told her that when I grew up I wanted to be the person who built the Lego sets for Lego commercials, because that’s what my favorite thing was to do in the world and I reckoned someone had that job.  The teacher gave me a funny look, told me to do my report on “architect,” and so my dream of being a professional Lego builder was shot down.  So it seemed kind of a shame that I didn’t stick with that dream because look, someone’s built a giant Lego city filled with Lego people!  It really is a job!

I will mention more about Copenhagen in a bit but my time is running short, so I will finish this post by mentioning I did not actually get the funniest look on that memorable 3rd grade table round.  You see, my twin brother Patrick was in the same class so when it was his turn he said he wanted to be a gas station attendent- he’d noticed that whenever my mom stopped at the gas station she kept giving the attendent like $20 each time, so that guy must be rich!

Of course Patrick didn’t realize that the gas station attendant didn’t get to keep all the money he got from my mom, and now realizes his dream job was probably “oil executive.”  But then he is getting an M.B.A. degree, so I suppose that one could still come true someday…