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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sportlov and Copenhagen

Last week in Sweden was the winter school break called Sportlov.  This is a week long holiday, when children are encouraged to go out and do sporty things.  I have heard two different stories as to the origins of Sportlov.  First, is that back in the winter of 1940, there was a fuel shortage and the schools were closed down to conserve resources, and somehow it continued.  The second explanation, is that so many children are ill during this time of year with colds and flues, that the government thought it best to shut down the schools for a week.

In true Swedish form it was also determined that the best way to further diminish the viral threat was to push all those little germie vectors outdoors into the fresh air. With the snotty nose threats all puffing clouds of condensation in the cold Scandinavian air, for a week the rest of the population could relax as the influenza risk diminished.   OK I embellished that last part a bit.  Maybe the first explanation is how it got started, and the second is why it contiued? I don't really know.

Many Swedes take advantage of the week off and head to the Åre, (a large ski resort), a six hour drive North of Stockholm.  Since I haven't been on ski's in over 20 years, and our kids have yet to experience the exhilarating, controlled, terror of downhill skiing, we thought we would pass on that one this year. Might as well delay my post about Swedish emergency healthcare as long as possible.  Finance Guy did not get Sportlov off, and was doing some work related site visits in southwestern Sweden, so we opted for a modest 5 hour train trip and a long weekend in Copenhagen.

Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark, which hangs out just across the Oresund Straight from Malmo Sweden.  The two are connected by the Oresund Bridge, which is the longest road and railway bridge in Europe.  The general attitude of Swedes and Danes towards one another reminds me the relationship between New Yorkers and folks from Jersey. Of course Sweden and Denmark have a history of jaunty tete-a-tetes, in the form of wars during the 1500-1700.  I certainly am no expert on European-Scandic history, but in a city where interpersonal conflict is at most passive aggressive, we have heard some strongly worded opinions voiced by Swedes, and Danes alike regarding the perceived shortcomings, and idiosyncrasies of their neighbor.

Being new and outsiders to this relationship, we find the relationship very entertaining.  Like watching an old married couple that ruled out divorce, but can't resist taking a shot with a back handed complement to ease decades of marital frustration, they are bound together for eternity.  All this made us quite curious to about Denmark and what we might find there.

Here is a little of what we saw.


The cool architecture of Tycho Brahe Planetarium 



The doors of Town Hall

The Little Mermaid

Nyhavn

Deadly Pigeons

As far as food was concerned, Copenhagen was not as gluten free friendly as we thought it would be.  There were no gluten free buns at McDonalds, and when we ordered in restaurants the staff while very helpful, did not seem to have the same competent grasp as those in Sweden.  Some restaurants flat out  said they could not feed us gluten free, which I appreciated.  I would rather be honestly turned away, then made ill by some chef's good intentions.  However we did manage to find a few happy food surprises in Denmark, which I will fill you in on later.









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