Tuesday, August 28, 2007


From Copenhagen we went to Amsterdam. We went via train, then boat, then train again. But, here's the amazing thing that I've never thought of or seen before:
I don't know if you can tell, but this is a picture of the train ON BOARD THE BOAT!!!! Can you believe this???? I had no idea. Wow.

Here is a long-distance photo of another one of the boats and I don't think it really gives you any idea of the size of the boats, but I was impressed (especially because my train was on board the boat I was on!):
Not so clear.

We got into Amsterdam late at night so we didn't do anything but go straight to our hotel. We did manage to pass a few red light windows, which was sort of interesting, but we kept walking. Then, with our back packs on our backs and waaayyyy too much yarn in hand, we encountered this:

which we had to walk up.

This set of stairs led to this:
which we also had to walk up. I thought I was going to lose my mind when I saw these, but once the back packs were off (after we were at the top of the stairs in our room), the stairs weren't quite so scary. Still.... Whoa. I don't think these photos do these stairways justice!

It's hard to say what we did in Amsterdam, exactly. No, this is not because we were hitting all of the coffee shops and imbibing in all those things that aren't legal here in the U.S. It's because we were there for a short time and we mostly did the Rick Steves' walk again. We had a nice time.
Amsterdam is a pretty city

and there is a lot of interesting history there. I particularly liked learning about the Dutch resistance to the Nazis. It's just too bad the people in the Netherlands didn't wake up to the threat the Nazis posed until after they had taken hold of the country!

We went to the Anne Frank House, too, which was very interesting. It's always a unique experience to have something physically in front of you that you've only read about. You get to walk about the whole house and it brings the book to life. Oh, and you should definitely follow Rick's advice: go later in the evening. In the earlier part of the day, the line is really, really long. For some reason, it becomes much more manageable later on and you can walk through the place without feeling claustrophobic.

Besides the historically significant stuff, we just enjoyed walking around. Among the random things we took in was the Amsterdam Tulip Museum, which was surprisingly informative and enjoyable for being so small and not being something we were looking for.

Also near the Anne Frank House was the yarn shop De Afstap. Their site is entirely in Dutch, by the way. This site has a very brief English description -- plus the address! Franklin, of the Panopticon, wrote about this place and was quite excited. I, however, was less so. I am sure that this is at least partly because I was looking for Dutch wool. De Afstap sells Rowan wool exclusively, basically. That's great, of course, if that's what you're looking for. I wasn't. And I couldn't really fathom going to a shop that sold only one brand of yarn. It was a cute place, though:
This second picture is of the inside (with me posing painfully for the camera). In the lower right hand part of the photo you can see the wool along the wall. The frames to the left are for all of the needlepoint, which is located upstairs.

Other random stuff we saw:
lots, and lots of bicycles!

A funky flower that lots of people were growing:

And many tilting buildings!
I don't know how well this photo conveys this, but they were all leaning to and fro. It was pretty strange to see. Apparently it has something to do with the water.

The highlight of my trip to Amsterdam, though, was seeing a dear friend of mine whom I haven't seen in a number of years. She moved to the Netherlands from the U.S. about 10 years ago! She looks as fabulous as ever and it was as if we had just seen each other last week when we got together.

On our way back to our hotel from meeting Jasmine, Andrew met the woman of his dreams:
There were a bunch of metal lizards crawling around the grass in this area (the Leidseplein) and he couldn't resist her.

Lastly, on a whim, brought about by Jasmine, we went to Utrecht the next day on our way to Paris. It was a lovely town -- a college town -- and would have been a lot of fun to check out if we hadn't been rained on. However, before getting too wet, I did get this shot:

Jasmine also showed me the shop where she gets her yarn and that is where I got ours for our blanket. Amusingly, despite my unwillingness to get the Rowan while at De Afstap (where I would have gone back if Jasmine and I hadn't had a discussion about yarn the night before we left), I ended up buying Rowan at the place in Utrecht instead! I can't remember the name of the place, but it was probably Modilaine. There is not much Dutch yarn in the world, as it turns out, so we had to settle on something else. We got Rowan Felted Tweed. I have a photo on a card in a camera that isn't at my house right now, so I can't show you, but you can imagine. It's not too exciting (here is a picture of someone else's).

The store was cute and I'm glad that it provides my friend with a nice place to get her yarn. :) I will warn you, though, that the woman who was there when I was (I think she was the owner) didn't speak English at all. Now, this is perfectly reasonable, given that I was in the Netherlands and all, but it's easy to get used to finding English speaking people all over Europe, because so many of them are excellent at it. I'm sure you can handle a yarn purchase in Dutch, if you have to, though, right?

From Utrecht, we set off for Paris...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Denmark! (Copenhagen)

Well, I've finally located a camera that I can use for getting pictures of the yarn that I bought in Denmark, so we can move on!

We arrived late at night from Sweden and walked all of about a block and a half from the train station to our hotel and promptly crashed.

The next morning, we set out to do as much as we could, given that we were going to be there only for a couple of days. In fact, if I remember correctly, we were only there basically for one day (not counting the days of travel as complete days).

So, we went first on the Self-Guided Walk -- "Stroget and Copenhagen's Heart and Soul" from Rick Steve's Scandinavia 2007 book. To do this walk, we started at the Radhuspladsen (City Hall Square). There we saw the Radhus (big surprise) -- City Hall. It is a beautiful building and I could show you image after image of little details on the building.

As a side note, I think that of all the places we went, Copenhagen surprised me the most. I had never thought much about it, but it turns out to be a very beautiful city and I would love to go back.

From the Radhus (where there is, of course, a big statue of Hans Christian Andersen (you can find the text of a lot of his stories for free here), who is Danish), we looked across the square to see the Weather Girls on what is now the Phillips building. Here they are:
They are meant to predict the weather and when it is nice out, the girl on the bicycle is supposed to be showing and when it is going to rain, the one with the umbrella should be out. As you can see, they are somewhere in between in this photo. Apparently, they have been stuck there for quite a while. In other words, years, I think. It's almost nicer this way, though, because despite the fact you can't count on them to tell you the weather, you can see them both better this way!

From the Radhus, you can also see the Tivoli Gardens (if the link doesn't show a page in English, look for the tiny English flag in the upper left hand corner of the website). It is a rather large park and it would have been wonderful to see what was inside, but alas, we didn't have enough time!

According to Rick Steves, "In 1843, magazine publisher Georg Carstensen convinced the king to let him build a pleasure garden outside the [former] walls of crowded Copenhagen. The king quickly agreed, knowing that happy people care less about fighting for democracy." (pg. 56) Well then! Sounds like a reasonable assessment, I think.

From the Radhuspladsen, we walked on to the Stroget, which is a pedestrian shopping mall. What this means is that it's along a street (so it's not like a mall in the U.S. -- one huge building, but it's also not a strip mall) that is closed to car traffic, which allows pedestrians to spill into the "street" and walk all over the place, while window shopping (and shopping for real, no doubt).

Here is a picture of part of the Stroget. The people are all standing in one place because they are watching a street performance (break dancers).

Besides tourists, there was an abundance of bicycles. I don't have any good photos of them, but wow were there a lot!!

At a few points along the Stroget walk, we wandered off the main drag and found some other cool things to look at. One of those things was the Copenhagen University. It had some beautiful buildings and a wonderful interior. We couldn't imagine going to school at a place that looked like this as you walked in to go to class:

Here is an outside photo of one of the University buildings (I think -- or it was right near it at least) and I thought it was magnificent. Like so many of the other buildings in Copenhagen, it had all kinds of wonderful little details on it, but I can't bring myself to upload the bazillion photos I have of the details, so we'll stick with this:

Sadly, it doesn't tell you much. It's a cool photo, though, right?

Near that building, too, we saw Niels and had to take his picture for my father-in-law, since he's a physicist. Niels was apparently a faculty member at Copenhagen, but he fled the Nazis and that's how he ended up in the U.S. If you don't know who Niels Bohr is, join the club, but I can tell you that he won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1922. I can also tell you that he worked on the atomic bomb . . . .
I can also tell you that he wasn't real pretty.

From the Stroget portion of the walk, we ended up walking over to the Little Mermaid.

I'm sure you can't really tell this from my words, but we walked a LONG ways. Rick recommends doing this on bicycle, if I remember correctly, but we didn't have a bicycle and we are very stubborn, so we carried on.

Here is one of the things that we saw near the statue of the Little Mermaid:
Why do I have this photo? Do you see the windmills in the background? There were a LOT of windmills in Europe and Andrew made me photograph all of them. So, here is one of those photos. Exciting, no?

On the way back to Nyhavn where we took a boat trip, via a really old, but functioning army barracks, we walked by this gorgeous thing:
I have better photos of the structure, but you can't see how pretty the grounds around it are, so I settled on this. Anyway, it's a church, pretty clearly. All I can tell you about it is that it's an Anglican church built entirely of flint.

From there we went on a boat tour that departed from Nyhavn:

I forget our tour guide's name, but she spoke 4 languages. Yes, really. Crazy, huh? It wasn't the best boat tour ever (we took a really good one in London a few years ago), but I think this is because the woman couldn't really ad lib at all, since she would state something and then repeat it in three different languages. You pretty much have to stick to a script in that situation, I think

On our boat tour we saw some interesting buildings and some interesting people:
I suspect he's one of the inhabitants of the liberal, alternate-reality outpost in the city called Christiania.

That's just a guess though . . . .

Okay, so I think I've gone on plenty. I will leave you with this. The next day, before boarding the train for Amsterdam, we went to Sommerfuglen, which was a terrific store. It looks small, but they had some delicious stash and the women who worked there were great.

It was the best yarn shop I saw while we were in Europe -- hands down. They had a great variety and lots of good stuff knit up. Should you need it for some reason, they also have English-Danish translation for knitting patterns on their website! (Click on "Tips and Advice," then "Glossary.")

For our Danish yarn purchase, we got a kid mohair/merino blend and it soft and beautiful! And, no, I still don't know how this is all going to go together, especially given the different weights of yarn, but we'll see:

I couldn't get a picture that showed the colors too well, but I think this is the best one I have.

Wow! That was a long post!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Sweden Part 2: Kalmar

This has taken me far too long. I thought that I didn't really have much to say in this post, but I think I have plenty as I look at it. What I was going to do was include a post on Stitches Midwest and the yarn I bought there, because Stitches was incredible AND because I could link it to the Sweden post -- the link would come from the fact that I took the Bohus Stickning class with Susanna Hansson on Sunday, which is a Swedish-designed style of knitting. However, I cannot for the life of me find my camera, so I don't have any images to share of that stuff. So, here I am, sharing with you just the Kalmar portion of our trip to Europe.

It began with our train trip from Stockholm to Kalmar. It was my husband's first European train trip, so of course I had to document it:
Doesn't he look excited? I'm sure he'll want to kill me for posting this picture. If I were him, I'd want to kill me....

We went to Kalmar for Midsummer. I thought that we'd get to see some of the traditional festivities associated with Midsummer, which is the celebration of the longest day of the year. Unfortunately, we did not. In fact, as it turns out, the Swedes take their vacation/holidays pretty darn seriously and everything had basically shut down. I was initially disappointed, but it was nice not to feel like we had to run around everywhere sightseeing, etc.

What was open when we were there, though, was the Kalmar Castle and that was a cool thing to get to see. Here it is:
I really enjoyed it. It wasn't packed full of people or tons and tons of information. It was just right -- it was curated surprisingly well considering its location. There wasn't a lot of information, but the information that was there was very clear, and it was so open, you almost got an actual sense of what it would have been like to live there (it had a more personal feel to it than many of the historical places one visits that is full of visitors and lots of audio-visual information).

In addition to the normal stuff, they had an exhibit on the botanist Linnaeus (about whom the Swedes seem to be very excited). It's the 300th anniversary of his death. While it makes sense that they would celebrate such a big year, it seems like I saw a lot of items around Sweden commemorating each decade of the man's life -- whenever the year ends in a 7. Maybe I'm exaggerating, though. I got this impression particularly at the glass studios.

They also had a really good exhibit on the women's jail that was located in the castle for a while. That exhibit detailed the kind of crimes that the women who were jailed there had committed and how those different crimes would historically have been treated.

Additionally, they had a display on rag rugs. This doesn't sound exciting, but I really enjoyed it. Here are some photos:

These reminded me of rugs I used to see (and even got to make once) at the Woods Hall Craft Shop on Madeline Island (in Lake Superior in Wisconsin). I wondered, since there are so many Swedes in the Great North Woods, if the rugs they make there were inspired by this rag rug tradition. These rugs that were shown at the castle were all old. They had been laying around, wasting away in people's homes in Sweden, when someone decided that these rugs should be documented. Interestingly, of course, the people who had them thought of them as rags and as things of very little value. Funny how that happens. They were made of men's old work shirts and other used items that were laying around the house when the weaver wanted to make something. It's much like the tradition of old quilts which were made of leftover fabrics that were around the house.

The same is true of the Bohus sweaters, I think. I mean, they were never made of leftovers and they have always been haute couture, but they were put away in people's closets never to be seen again since they went out of style in the 60's. Then Susanna Hansson (and some others) took an interest and decided to look into them and this has revived the interest in them. It's interesting how that happens -- the way that we have something for a long time, maybe even love it, but we get sick of it or things change and we stop loving those things -- sometimes swinging to a fashion that is vastly different specifically for the purpose of rejecting what we have been doing (and loving). Then, after enough time has passed, we come back to those old things that we loved and see them as new again and want to have them around once more, thereby creating a renaissance of that item. It's wonderful, I think, that the things that we've loved so much do come back to us again eventually.

Anyway, we left the castle and wandered around a little. What we found was this weirdo tree:

And at the restaurant where we had dinner, we found this guy:
The guy I'm talking about here is, of course, the guy with the Santa Claus outfit on in the middle of June....

On our last day, we decided to do the glass works tours that our guide book advised us against since we loooove glass. So, we went to Pukeberg Glasbruk first. It was an old facility and we bought some glass there. Of course, I can't show you what we got, because as I said above, no camera.... Here is that place from the outside:

From there, we went to Johansfors, where we didn't like the glass all that much (all of the glass works had really distinctive styles, so every one could find something they would like, but I also don't think anyone would like all of the glass works' styles) -- though I admit some of my dislike may simply have been for the display. Outside they had a cool mosaic, though:

From there, we went lastly to Kosta. We LOVE Kosta glass, but we didn't get anything there, because we already had bags full of yarn and it would have been hard to fill up with glass, too, but it was also a lack of desire to carry super breakable stuff around with us everywhere we went. It is also true that a lot of the things that we saw at the huge retailers, like Kosta, are things that we see in the U.S., so I think that tempered my enthusiasm for buying as well. The one thing we did miss out on, though, because of this decision, was the chance to get the glass at much reduced prices.

Well, that concludes the Swedish portion of our trip. Yes, we really made it away from Kalmar without yarn -- there was none to be seen. Boo.

Onto the train, now for Copenhagen!!