This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Helsinki (and my mind) at its darkest

helsinkidecSomewhere along the way, months ago, Helsinki grew dark. In early December it remains dark even on a reasonably clear day. This is the time for salmon soup lunches, served hot with toasted rye bread. For mulled wine made in the Nordic way with berry juice blended in wine, with or without spirits, with raisins and sweet almonds covering the bottom of the mug. And this is also the time of frantic christmas shopping, for most people.

This year Helsinki was especially beautifully dressed. And good it was, because I belong to those (few) who do not like christmas. I used to love it: the traditions, the food, the warmth inside, the candlelight, the mulled wine, the togetherness. But for quite a while christmas has been a stark reminder of a sense of completeness now lost forever. I do not mourn the loss of childhood christmas as such, but the loss of the christmases of my twenties. There have been multiple changes in our family and connections, and the christmas dinner guest setups of the past are, indeed, of the past.

Each year I try to tell myself that this is a first-world problem: a problem of a privileged mind, mourning the loss of perfection, of “having-it-all”. I try to turn it around as a reminder of the constant change in this world and my own existence. I try to find beauty in imperfection. And I try to smile, to participate in the coziness of my family’s christmas. Because after all, it was a considerable effort on their behalf to send me postal invites to a “midwinter dinner celebration” the first years after my divorce, which was perhaps the most impactful in a row of family changes. When I was seriously considering spending each forthcoming christmas in a Jewish or Muslim country, or with a tribe who never heard of Jesus.

It does not get easier with time. But each christmas is different. This year I thought it would be easier, as we spent it in the countryside for the first time. It turned out to be more difficult than in years. Even if there was snow and candles and family and coziness. Living in the present is not an easy trick to pull off. helsinkidec-2(Helsinki, Finland; December 2018)


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Just a little light

bllThe only light of day here in Denmark may not be longer than five minutes. The sun only shows itself provided that the ever-ruling clouds give way. Sometimes weeks pass without direct sunlight. And I am struggling to remember that the sun has never left us. It is shining just as brightly, if only we fly a few kilometers upward in search of it.

(Billund airport, Denmark; December 2018)


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In Prague, 48 hours

prague-148 hours in Prague meant 48 hours in a glamorous old-bank-turned-hotel. And good thing too it was glamorous, as I did not see anything else of Prague than what I glimpsed from the cab window on my way in and out of the city, both times after sunset.

I did not really visit Prague, even if I geographically spent two days there. The airport was confusing and the lounge was possibly the worst one I ever visited. Does this count as a travel bucket list item or not?
prague-2(Prague, Czech Republic; November 2018)


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To the lighthouse (and then the spa)

vejlefjord-3The lighthouse at Vejle fjord was much easier to reach than the one in Virginia Woolf’s novel. I recall it took the family ten years and a death in the family to finally set sail and arrive. Whereas we simply walked across the grounds of the old sanatorium and followed the path down the beach. vejlefjord-1The Vejlefjord sanatorium was built for wealthy Danes to “take the airs and waters”, especially if they suffered from tuberculosis (or “consumption”, as it was called back then). Today there still is a rehabilitation center, but it has given way to spa now installed in the new building. Two visits later I am still too consumed by the experience to manage one single photo from the inside. But imagine this: a simple, Japanese-inspired layout with natural stone and wood, lots of natural light, a forest sauna accessible by a walk outside (even throughout the winter), a hot outdoor pool, turkish baths and aromatherapy saunas and sound baths and light baths and meditation and yoga and spa treatments and free herbal tea and a healthy buffet and to top it all off: a thalasso spa with a salt sauna. One can easily spend 6 lazy hours without having the time to try everything offered.

Hence, no photos. Maybe I will manage during my third visit?
vejlefjord-4(Vejlefjord Spa, Denmark; November 2018)


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Is Denmark really Nordic at all?

silkeborg-5The more time I spend here in Denmark, the more I am struck by how it is not really much like the rest of the Nordics. Instead of fells or mountains, Denmark is (nearly) flat. Copenhagen, with its bicycles, canals, cobblestone streets, beer, waffles, and rain reminds me of the Netherlands. So do the roads and many smaller towns, as well as how houses are built. The forest is nothing like Nordic, impenetrable, shrubby spruce or dry, lichen-covered pine. Instead there are airy beech forests like in central Europe, with dead leaves rattling under one’s shoes; and pine and spruce plantations where trees live in rows or are, at the very least, standing far apart with a clean, green moss floor in-between.silkeborg-4What is Nordic about Denmark is the language. And perhaps the setup of the social-democrat welfare society. Income tax is among the highest in the world, but schools, healthcare, libraries, child care, elderly care, you name it – are nearly or completely free of charge.

But hiking in Denmark is far away from rambling through the shrubs in Finland and closer to the tidy forest walks in the Netherlands or northern Germany.
silkeborg-3(Silkeborg, Denmark; November 2018)