Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tot Ziens Amsterdam (So Long)

This has been such a remarkable summer. We fly home tomorrow - through Reykjavik Iceland to Seattle to Portland. Three flights - five suitcases - three kids - one Mom - may the force be with us.

I'm going to miss my three kids being all mine - no friends, no school, no activities, no camps - just us and the adventure of every day and the things we would discover. I will miss hearing so many different languages just walking around. I will miss living like a tourist but feeling like a local. I will miss shopping like a European - going to the bread and cheese store, picking up things for dinner the same day. I will miss the Dutch language and the Dutch people - I have never met such all around niceness. I will miss watching the kids' world broaden and expand, from Karina's new obsession to go to college to become a church bell-ringer to Sullivan's understanding that English is just one of many languages that people speak to Ethan's mastery of the tram system.

The canals and architecture in this city are just marvelous - it's like walking in a museum all the time. I imagine only Venice can be its equal for sheer just walking around wow factor.

Here are the things the kids are going to miss the most:
Dubbel Friss - a juice box drink that is slightly carbonated.
The Dyson Air Blade for drying hands in public bathrooms

The candy store nearby that sells delicious candy -

Sullivan will miss the Jewish Historical Museum, and Max the Matzo. We went there 8 times this summer.
Getting ice cream most everyday. When Grammy came to visit, Karina finally got her wish for two scoops with whipped cream on top at her favorite ice cream place.

Riding trams.
Ethan will miss the street names and figuring out words in Dutch. His pronunciation and understanding of Dutch are amazing for living here such a short time.
The parks! They are simply amazing in both their number and their design (and amazingly dangerous). Look at the height of this climbing structure.

Here are the things I won't miss -
Hauling all our groceries home on our shoulders. Soda and milk are extremely heavy, and almost everything else is in glass bottles.
Karina will not miss "the naked Dutch kids at the park."
The smell of the "coffee shops." And the regular smoke smell. No one here has seemingly heard of the Surgeon General.
Nearly getting run over by a bike at least once a day.
My nightmares about Sullivan falling into a canal, that I have about once a week.
Paying too much for stuff, not being able to comparison shop, and losing money with every purchase because of the exchange rate.
Keeping the kids away from certain areas of this fair city - not always successfully.
I never really did figure out the washer/dryer with all Dutch directions- and I think a lot of the clothes have shrunk. Or the kids have grown. Or I've eaten too much bread and cheese.

Here are the things we are most excited to see and do when we get home.
the brand new ice maker in the brand new fridge that makes crushed ice.
being in the same or similar time zone making talking to family and friends easier
Mexican Food
the Wii
the kids own rooms again
go to see a movie in English

And of course, the thing we will miss the very most for the next month - Tim. He doesn't come home until September 28th. And then the May family adventure stateside will begin again.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Danish Castles are Cool

Denmark has had a royal family for more than 1000 years - one of the oldest monarchies in the world. So you know what that means......lots of castles! We only had time to visit two- but the two we chose were spectacular.

This was our favorite - Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerod about 40 minutes north of Copenhagen - three moats, very few tourists, and just gorgeous. It now houses the Danish National History Museum, which we will have to check out on our next visit.

Here's just part of the opulent gardens.

And here are the carillon bells playing as we left this marvelous castle.

Here's the view from our ferry from Sweden to Denmark of "Hamlet's Castle" - where they were actually setting up for a performance of Hamlet inside the castle.

The kids loved this castle - there were lots of walls to climb, and pretend cannons - as well as sound effects and an ice cream place!

How great is the color of this building? (not to mention the cuteness of the boy)

Denmark has dozens of these places. If you are a castle enthusiast, I heartily recommend a visit.

Copenhagen Denmark

We have discovered the next place we must spend the summer. Our second trip to Denmark was just as marvelous as the first (with the exception of driving through Germany, where we met inexplicable traffic of epic proportions). And this time we had my parents, Grammy and Skipper, along for the ride.

Denmark is a peninsula, and then two large islands. Here is the marvelous bridge that takes you from Fyn to Zeeland where Copenhagen is located.

Our first stop on the way to Copenhagen was a brief stop to visit Tim's "Danish Mom" Jytte
in Slagelse, who he met on his mission. She of course greeted us with a spread of food, because that's what Danish people do (note the American flags- how cute is that?).

We started each morning with pastry from a different bakery. Yummy doesn't begin to describe it.

Copenhagen is such a beautiful city, and we were only able to scratch the surface. So many gorgeous churches and historic buildings and marvelous seafronts and castles (see our next post). I love the use of color and all the green copper.

But the most thrilling for Tim was probably our visit to the Copenhagen temple, which had only been a church when he served there as a missionary.

The Magical Family History Tour

As part of our Copenhagen trip, we decided to venture out to Sweden (since 2000 connected to Denmark via a bridge) to visit where our ancestors came from in the 1880s, specifically my great great great grandfather Christian Hanson Granat who emigrated to Minnesota.

The first church we visited was in Asmundtorp, where my great great great grandmother was born (her name was Johanna, which is my middle name as well as Karina's). We looked through the churchyard cemetery but didn't find specific relatives, but it was a beautiful church.

The second church was Ekeby, where another generation lived and was buried.

There are lots of these white churches in both Sweden and Denmark.

Again cool church, but we didn't find any specific ancestors. But lots of Johannas.

The last church we visted in Sweden was built in 1414, according to the old lady sitting in the churchyard. She might have been a ghost.

On our way out of Denmark, we investigated another line of the family, the Mortensens who came from the island of Møn in Denmark to Utah in 1855.

My great great great grandparents were married in the Fanefjord Church, beautifully set right near the water, and unlike the other churches, we were able to visit the inside.

Sullivan was a pretty good sport about spending hours looking in church graveyards.

We pretended that some of the older farmhouses might have belonged to the Mortensens 160 years before. Love the thatch roofs.

It was really something to be able to visit these places that before had just been names on a pedigree chart. Thanks Dad!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Camera's always poised and at the ready, we have at times chosen to capture subjects that catch our eye more for their peculiarity than their aesthetics. Take this um, err, ghosty-pediment crying in soul-crushing pain, for example. Someone had to sculpt that bad boy out of genuine marble. That was totally on purpose.

I surreptitiously photographed this lady who seemed to see it as her duty to gaze down scornfully upon everyone as they went about their business on Harlmerdijk. Maybe she was just tired of life above a coffe shop.

There is a bohemian decorative streak in this city. Applies to floating platforms.

And bikes.

And medieval boats with shetland ponies on them.

There's got to be a story behind this:

Apparently there are several "narrowest houses in Amsterdam." But this is the only one with my three kids in front of it.

The Dutch are incredible engineers and designers - I was particularly impressed by the square toilet:

Although religion is not popular in the Netherlands, there is a reverence for Michael Jackson:

One bear might have been cute - thousands of bears + fluorescent green = creepy.

And I don't think this is a translation error, the Dutch are incredibly facile with the English - but it makes me laugh reading it:

Random trumpet in the market = cool.
Random guy shadowing the random trumpet asking for money = lame.

Your guess is as good as theirs.

I know we've posted before on the wilds of Amsterdam. Here is the swan that very nearly killed our son Ethan. You can see it's angry fowl posture.

Sorry about the fowl posture thing. They have several of these zipping around the city just incase an animal is injured:

PS: I don't think I've ever seen an ambulance for people in amsterdam.

Chickens have played a larger role in our time here than I might have expected.

Of all the cats we've seen in this country, none was less pleased to have her picture taken than this one. Id say this one's screaming for a caption.

Continuing our coverage of weird animal stuff, here we are in Utrecht with Sullivan on the stature of the majestic Bear-pig-dog-?

Which seamlessly segues into this enormous Dutch pig.

Some thoughts about food. Our kids rage around all over this country everyday - and we don't always have a full battery of the necessary ammunition to clean-up the messes they make.

The only thing funnier than Mormons with alcohol, Mormon kids with alcohol.

A red circle around indicates prohibition in the Netherlands.
I'm not quite sure why they have a sign here prohibiting the smoking of ham.