March Travels Part 1: Stockholm

Selfie of the three of us!

I have been travelling again, and this is the best I could come up with for an opening sentence. I think I caught a cold or something on a plane and as such am a baby and am going to blame that sentence, and this one, on it. This is doubly-weird because I decided to post that piece on "The Emotional Toll of Climate Change" last month instead of this one and so am editing it months later and am once again struggling to recall what all happened. Protip fellow bloggers and wannabe bloggers: blog in the moment. Human memory is not great for specifics. Anyways, back to Kostyn of the past: I love travelling. Like really love it. But I also hate planes and airports, and strict scheduling. My parents came and visited me in Denmark, and I got to do a super fast single-day Copenhagen tour featuring The Little Mermaid, Nyhavn, and Christiania before we came to Aarhus. In Aarhus, I showed my parents the various libraries and cafés I spend my time in, along with bars and restaurants I could never go to were they not taking me out. As such, the trip was filled with many treats, of which I was filled. Similarly, I took them to see the wonders of ARoS and one night even subjected both them and some friends to a night out which I had to bail from leaving both parties socially stranded.

I am immensely disappointed with the turn out of the photos I took in Stockholm, partially because I don't have a proper camera and have thus been taking all of these with my phone, but also because I am not much of a photographer. This is my favourite photo from the trip however and is from Gamla stan.

After a couple of days exploring Aarhus, we got on a plane to Stockholm, the first city of our trip I had not visited prior. All three of us spent much of the rest of this trip in awe. Arriving in Stockholm, we quickly realized that we were totally not cool enough. Stockholm, as it turns out, is a definitively cool place full of definitively cool people. We realized this after taking the most impressive train I have ever been on when the lobby of our hotel was scored by club music and shockingly beautiful people in shockingly club-like dress. Still blinking, mouth agape, we opened the door to our room only to find gold finished fixtures, some poor creature’s pelt on the foot of one of the beds, and comedically trendy light fixtures. I have never felt so simultaneously impressed and underdressed. When we were ready to hit-the-town, as it were, we found our way to this killer izakaya place, Lokal Izakaya, which, near the end of our meal, was also transforming into a nightclub. At this point, we retreated back to the hotel excited to find what other seemingly ordinary not-clubs could turn into clubs for us tomorrow. 

Stockholm is a city full of water. Lake Mälaren flows through the city into the Baltic Sea.

The hotel stay (again travelling with my parents comes with major perks), came with breakfasts in the form of a free-for-all buffet. Everything was delicious but the first day — and maybe this is because of Easter or something — was so busy and helter-skelter that my dad spent most of the morning trying to wrap his head around the insanity that took place over his eggs. We then moseyed on over to the Royal Palace. In my post about Copenhagen, I talked about how weird and wonderful it is to see things that I had basically only read about in fairy-tales (e.g. castles, palaces, kingdoms, etc.) but I had never been in a palace that was anything like the Royal Palace. It was intense. A massive building/complex full of paintings, sculptures, tapestries, clothes, chandeliers, bedrooms, writing rooms, offices, dining rooms, and quarters which I have in my mind associated with fantasy are real and can be seen and walked through without reaching the limits of movie sets or fiction. The Palace was beautiful and fascinating and where I think I got a pretty decent history lesson. I have found it especially fascinating to hear about events through the lens of modern monarchies. This seemed most notable in the descriptions of the French Revolution in the exhibit on Axel von Fersen and Marie Antoinette’s secret love affair detailed in coded letters called “I love you madly,” which was really interesting. The use of emoji, however, was mildly infuriating. Beyond history, years of slowly cooling anti-theism, and an obvious preference for more democratic systems, I have little to say on the subject of monarchy here, and even less to say about the Swedish one.

Forgive me internet for I have sinned. I know this is a vertical photo. I know...

Later in the day, we met my parents’ Swedish friends which they had not seen for 25 years, one of whom, Cecilia, is the woman my sister is named after. To some degree, this distant Swedish namesake was a mythic figure to me, for I knew nothing about her beyond her living in Sweden. It was utterly fantastic to meet these two lovely women and some of their families, and they were the best tour guides we could have asked for. Seeing my parents reconnect with friends from years past resonated with me as I gear up to leave some of the friends I have grown so close to in Aarhus. We began by exploring Gamla stan (the old town), the area of Stockholm with the most history, carved through by tiny walking streets, bars and cafés underground, and through inconspicuous and ancient passageways. Then, we crossed the bridge over to the Northern part of Södermalm and explored some of the lively café-laden streets, stopping for a beer, and then moving further on to Mariaberget, a spectacular look-out from which much of the iconic areas of Stockholm can be seen in all their glory. After taking in what we could, we continued to explore the city, eventually ending up in Stockholms very impressive art gallery of a metro. Many of the stations are beautifully carved stone, and some of those are decorated and painted. For some stupid reason I didn’t take any pictures, but you can just check it out here.  While we didn’t spend much time on the metro, on my next visit, I want to do a full tour. We spent the rest of the afternoon touring Norrmalm before getting a lovely dinner in Kungsholmen and parting ways for the night.

The following morning we met back up with Cecilia and took one of those somewhat cheesy looking boat tour things, and it was great! I was very skeptical but happy to go along for anything. The view from the water and the quite informative audio guide blew away my expectations. I’d actually highly recommend one of these if you want some relaxing time while seeing pieces of the city that might be hard to access on your own with extra historical insight. We spent some of the early afternoon partaking in Fika (the Swedish cultural concept word for coffee and cake) and saw some more of the commercial Norrmalm area before parting ways with Cecilia and her family. We then ventured our way to the Vasa Museum. The homepage of the museum's website says better than I could have, “[t]he Vasa ship capsized and sank in Stockholm 1628. After 333 years on the sea bed the mighty warship was salvaged and the voyage could continue. Today Vasa is the world's only preserved 17th century ship and the most visited museum in Scandinavia." The story, while horrific at the time and in near history, has by now, become somewhat of a hilarious historical oddity but with significant implications about the period in which it was built, when it was salvaged, and today, while it is being taken care of and continually restored and preserved. The gist of the situation is that the King of Sweden at the time, Gustavus Adolphus wanted a massive and symbolic ship to demonstrate his and the country’s power and wealth while striking fear into military opponents. The King was insistent on hastily getting the ship on the water and dictated some dimensions himself though they made it incredibly unstable. As those who knew of the instability were unwilling to speak up and against the King, it was set off on its maiden voyage and sank after only 1300 metres in view of much of Stockholm (Museum's History Page; Wikipedia). The ship is massive and genuinely imposing to museum visitors who can view the ship from above and below. It is a breathless sight and the surrounding exhibits featuring various aspects of the ship and finds from the wreckage are unbelievable. Following this, we wandered more of the city and eventually ended up at a delicious Lebanese restaurant called Restaurang Underbar before going out to try some proper snaps at Rolfs Kök.

Tracks of some description. I really ought to write these sooner to remember this stuff.

On the following and final day in Stockholm, we checked out of the hotel and began wandering. My parents spent a fair bit of the trip discussing the merits of “Kostyn’s Two-Week Exercise and Diet Program” which included, according to them, eating little, at odd hours, and walking upwards of 20 kilometres most days. I think we could have gone harder but DJ is coming in a month and her and I will undoubtedly push the limits of this system. Anyways, we walked again through some of Norrmalm, eventually going to the Kulturhuset, a cultural centre wherein galleries are hosted, films can be viewed, along with theatre and much more. While there wasn’t too much going on when we visited, we did get to spend some time of the top floor viewing an exhibit of local photographers, which was beautiful, and visit their Swedish design store. Also, the view from the top floor from the tower is quite spectacular, so we got to take in more of the city. From there we walked through  Gamla stan into Katarina-Sofia the borough on the East side of Södermalm which was an area we had little explored prior. We didn’t have much time there however and continued on stopping in a few shops along the way and looking at some street art without taking really any photos. We then walked all the way back to Kungsholmen stopping briefly for fika at Vete-Katten and caught a bus to the Stockholm Skavsta Airport hotel and planned the ensuing days travelling through Rome while having drinks from the bar. My parents and I were fairly impressed with the airport hotel, so much to that we asked the person at the desk what was up. She basically said that since they were the only hotel people could go to for an early flight out of Skavsta, they had to be quite nice; a position which we found extraordinary refreshing comparing it to the too often North American mindset of “well, they have no other option so lets gut them for a terrible stay.” It will be no surprise to most readers that part of the reason I wanted to do my exchange in Denmark (/Scandinavia broadly. Through all of the Scandinavian cultures are distinct and should not be considered as same) was to get first-hand experience with their social systems and way-of-life which we in Canada are often told is either ‘a golden utopia,’ or ‘a crumbling impossibility.’ Our experience with the hotel is a taste of a small part of the attitude-difference. I will return to the Danish and more broadly Scandinavian ways of living on this blog very soon.

  Mom and dad (middle, mom has got a pink hat on) walking down one of the big shopping streets.

Mom and dad (middle, mom has got a pink hat on) walking down one of the big shopping streets.

As the “Part 1” bit of this entry’s title indicates, Part 2 will follow soon about Rome and seeing as I have just returned from Belgium, you can expect one on Belgium in short order. For now though, thank you so much for reading, and I’d love to hear from you! Do you like these travel blogs? Shall I continue pieces like this once I have returned to my home continent? When I do, do you prefer it when I name the restaurants and shops I go to, or is that like a weird/gross influencer thing? No idea, let me know! 

Warm regards from Aarhus,

Kostyn

 

Lovingly and well edited by my spectacular mother.


EDIT 1 — the following day — 12:35: rearranged the first two photos. And properly credited my mother as editor.

The Emotional Toll of Climate Change

Trigger warning: suicide, mental illness.

  All of the photos in this post are from a trip to  Engbjerg, Thyborøn (above), and Lemvig . We went out to the West Coast of Jutland, Denmark to see the places in the country which are being and will be most significantly impacted by climate change via sea level rise.

All of the photos in this post are from a trip to Engbjerg, Thyborøn (above), and Lemvig. We went out to the West Coast of Jutland, Denmark to see the places in the country which are being and will be most significantly impacted by climate change via sea level rise.

I have been writing and rewriting this entry for months, but in light of David S. Buckel’s self-immolation in protest of fossil fuels on Saturday, I thought I’d better post it now (New York Daily News"Prominent Lawyer in Fight for Gay Rights Dies" and "He Called Out Sick, Then Apologized for Leaving This World", The New York Times). Buckel had unfortunately not crossed my radar until this crushing news but reading about his legal work and advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community, and his grassroots environmentalism has been heart-warming, and I wish I had come across him sooner. Buckel’s death/protest struck a chord with me because the seemingly endless despair brought about by the threat of climate change to our civilization and humanity is something I am intimately familiar with. I will quote from Buckel’s email sent to the The New York Times the morning of his death:

“Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather … Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result — my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.”

In his note, … [he] discussed the difficulty of improving the world even for those who make vigorous efforts to do so.

Noting that he was privileged with “good health to the final moment,” Mr. Buckel said he wanted his death to lead to increased action ("Prominent Lawyer in Fight for Gay Rights Dies").

The original version of the post was all about how climate change makes me feel, and it was largely inspired by a blog dedicated to scientists sharing their feelings and stories called Is This How You Feel?. I am not a scientist of course, but I empathize with their position. I don’t want to glorify Buckel’s suicide or piggyback on the virality of his death, but he wanted people talking about climate change so here we are. I also want to acknowledge that all situations and suicides are different, and that I think you are more valuable to life as we know it, your fellow animals, humans, and me, alive. I want you around.

  Photo from Engbjerg where the area can be seen well.

Photo from Engbjerg where the area can be seen well.

With this piece, I hope that people who feel the same can potentially find comfort in company and to try to explain to others the emotional toll of the environmental crisis. For both groups and more passive readers: please remember that I am in a privileged position, I am a white, male, who lives in an area less likely to be drastically affected by climate change on a short timescale. But still, this is how I feel, and I hope that it provides perspective, and if nothing else, it feels better to write this down.

Climate change often keeps me up at night. I follow climate change news and activism across the globe, I follow scientists and journalists who work with climate change and science communication, and I try to be an activist but because of the scale of the environmental crisis, it’s hard to believe that my insignificant contributions are worth anything at all even though they are all I can do. I think that I have felt very close to where Buckel was at the end a number of times, and I think I am going to get guidance to cope with these feelings when I return home. 

  The harbour in Lemvig, a town struggling rising waters.

The harbour in Lemvig, a town struggling rising waters.

There is a lot of research and discussion about how to think about, and how to deal with climate change, but it’s hard to keep up with the discourse. I  grieve for the myriad species we are driving to extinction, for the largely comfortable climate most of our recent history has taken place in, and maybe even for the continuity of modern human life. I am horribly angry and upset at politicians, lobbyists, corporations and their leaders for misleading the public and governments and, frankly, being responsible for the problem. I think that it is important to feel these things but not let them destroy your life, and also to, if possible, channel them into action.

I have spent too much time utterly terrified thinking and reading about climate change and global warming, too much time feeling sick to my stomach. I feel disgustingly guilty about my individual failures to be endlessly more sustainable. I am not even a vegetarian, and I have never participated in a protest or demonstration of any kind even though I ought to be out on the streets every day. There is always more I could do, more I should do. I am scared, I am angry, and I am depressed. All of these feelings are real, but I am not alone, and if you feel like this, you’re not alone either. And just because I (we, you) have a very specific, very real reason to feel these things doesn’t mean we have to or should feel like this. I can be an activist and feel happy. I can and should, guilt-free, live a fulfilling life and ask for help when I need it. And I think so should you. Mental health needs no justification and having one doesn’t mean we ought to suffer.

I can see the terrible emotional spiral of guilt and fear that would lead Buckel to set himself on fire in a public park in hopes that finally this will get the message to the right group of politicians or people in power, or empower masses to demand change. The fact is, however, I think, that this dramatic act probably made less of a contribution to environmentalism and social justice than staying alive for 10, 20, 30, or 40 more years of much needed legal work and activism or otherwise. Thank you for all that you have done David S. Buckel. And thank you for giving life on Earth everything you had, including the very end. I hope that this brought you the peace you were looking for and I hope that it makes the kind of impact you wanted it to while steering others who have the same or similar inclinations into the arms of those who can help them. 

  Another photo from Engbjerg.

Another photo from Engbjerg.

This is a call, I suppose, for environmental and other social justice advocates to put the oxygen mask on themselves first, before or at least while, attempting to help others, and to think of this as a valuable act of social justice. 

If you feel that you are depressed or are taking on too much emotional labour, please ask for help from friends, family, and professionals. It gets better.

All of the topics brushed upon here will be topics that I return to over and over again. But for now, thanks for reading. I love you.

Kostyn

  Lemvig has built  "Le Mur"  or "The Wall" to avoid flooding the waterfront area.

Lemvig has built "Le Mur" or "The Wall" to avoid flooding the waterfront area.


EDIT: Almost two hours later: Gabrielle Brigid commented on the Facebook post for this entry and pointed me to Parents for the Planet which is a spectacular group dedicated to discussing all aspects of climate change, especially acknowledging the emotional implications. Their Facebook Group is especially brilliant. The organization also brought me to this article by Think Progress which is discussing this exact topic. You should check this out. 

 

EDIT 2: 15/05/2018 - 17:42: Added the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP)  to the Resourses section.

Copenhagen

I spent a good bit of my first morning in Copenhagen exploring and taking photos in the weird morning light.

Travel writing* seems to have many of the same hangups as autobiographical writing and then some. The key element here, I think, is that good travel writing is a somewhat introspective pursuit since, saying anything of significance about a place one visits for a short period of time may be an empty gesture, and the credibility of the writer is highly suspect. 'Good' autobiographical writing is more about the growth and development of the writer at the time of writing than it is a historical account. Given memories can’t really be trusted, it seems irresponsible to say that a collection of memories strung together via narratives, which may not really have occurred, and edited by various people intent on selling said work, is anything more than ‘based on true events.’ The fundamental difference, however, is that when one is writing autobiographically, one is mining meaning from their history, but when one is travel writing, one is mining meaning from other histories: that of other people, places, and cultures. In this way, it appears, somewhat disturbingly, to resemble a kind of colonial practice. Go somewhere else and take what you can for yourself for when you return.  

Acknowledging that, I am going to write a bit about Copenhagen, a city which I have spent some time in now. Back in October, I enjoyed my first few days there with some friends and a few more alone. Two of us, Fran, a fellow exchange student and I, arrived in the early afternoon via bus and took most of our time getting our footing and walking through the massive and crowded shopping streets, searching through a used bookstore, staring agape at stunning works of architecture, while slowly milling our way through the crowds to properly begin our journey in Nyhavn. Frantically we tried and failed to figure out how to get to a friend's place near the city for dinner with frozen breadsticks from the grocery store in hand but ended up, after not a little bit of panic and frantic map app and time-checking, bailing and getting pizza right near the hostel where I was staying. The hectic but whimsical day was then topped off with a drink back in Nyhavn and then parting ways wherein our very sad, now unwanted and frozen-with-no-way-to-cook-them breadsticks were to go find their final resting place in a hostel in Nørrebro.

Admittedly this photo of the somewhat decrepit-looking Copenhagen Botanical Garden has nothing to do with this post. I just like it. Also, I went there and it was beautiful.

The next morning — and I’m pretty sure about the dates here, given my previous assertions I’m not going to double check the chronology of all this — I took a walk down to the Royal Library, an immensely cool-looking glass building attached and built upon the former building. I spent some time walking around there, bought a few postcards, and continued on to the Christiansborg Palace (Danish parliament building). This was essentially my first proper palace/castle experience, and as such, it was a bizarre and also amazing one. The era of European castles, knights, and feudalism never interested me much past Monty Python, the history of the first World War, and fantasy, so it was very strange to see fairy-tale features manifest. I continued then walking to the local goth/alt shop to pay my subcultural dues (Black No. 1 and Sex Beat Records; would totally recommend).

  I took a lot of strange photos that first morning. This one is of the Royal Library.

I took a lot of strange photos that first morning. This one is of the Royal Library.

Our aforementioned immensely wonderful Copenhagen-native friend, Mie, took us on a long walk starting at Østerport Station and then walking to Langelinie, where The Little Mermaid stands, and all the way down by Amalienborg and up again through Christiania. It was a fantastic time and a substantial walk for the three of us to get to chat about our travels, the city, and Denmark while covering a lot of relevant ground. Christiania, as is probably no surprise, captured my imagination and reminded me a little of East Jesus, a mind-blowing habitable art collective in the California Badlands not far from some of my other favourite sites including Bombay Beach on the shore of the Salton Sea, and Salvation Mountain. Christiania is, of course, something very different from those places as well and I won’t get into its history or politics very much here, but safe to say it is an exciting place full of people with different and interesting ideas about society, living, and cooperating smack in the middle of one of Europe’s capitals. You can learn more about all of these places on their websites linked above, and watch a video which kicked off my desire to go to the Salton Sea. We walked through the day and into the evening where we stopped off for a dinner and some much-needed rest at Kafe Kys before returning to our respective lodgings.

Photo of the tracks near Østerport Station.

On the following day I met up with Fran again, and we further explored the city, grabbing a meal at Copenhagen Street Food (now sadly closed) on Papirøen. Then we went to see the fascinating exhibit called “Skibet” by Eske Kath and Nanna Fabricius Øland (Oh Land) at Nikolaj Kunsthal, a church turned contemporary art gallery. The premise is that they turned the building into frozen waters with a massive container ship in the middle, all of which is interactive and visitors can explore the whole thing. It was wild and mostly bright pink and damn good art-fun. Not long after this Fran headed back to Aarhus and I made my way to the GL STRAND, another art gallery, for their utterly amazing Stanley Kubrick exhibition. 2001: A Space Odyssey is one of my favourite films, and I have been slowly working my way through Kubrick’s catalogue the past couple of years and so felt a very recent connection to the exhibit. It took visitors through every film in Kubrick’s career including his very early documentaries all the way to his plans for A.I. Artificial Intelligence based on the short story, "Supertoys Last All Summer Long", by Brian Aldiss which I read last year. I haven’t actually seen the final film, but I endeavour to do so. Apart from cameras and lenses, for me, it was all about Kubrick’s handwritten notes as well as the models, props, and costumes, especially, of course, for 2001. I then used this blog post to find a cheap and delicious meal at Samos Greek both of which I highly recomend.

One of the pieces inside “Skibet” by Eske Kath and Nanna Fabricius Øland (Oh Land) at Nikolaj Kunsthal.

On the full last day (I think) of that first trip, I went to the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek an amazing, sculpture-oriented art museum but not lacking in paintings. The building itself is worth seeing alone, primarily naturally lit and sprawling out from an indoor “Winter Garden” featuring various new and old segments and architectural styles. The ancient and modern sculptures are freakishly timeless, and the museum is alive, host to a small anachronistic city of resident gods and warriors among all kinds of other spectacular beings taken out of time and space. But as mentioned, the museum offers more than sculpture, namely in the way of French-Impressionist, post-impressionist and — what had me most excited — Danish golden-age paintings — most excited because I am here, and have a grotesque lack of art/art history education; as illustrated by the fact that I had to go to the Wikipedia page for the museum to get the names of said art styles. In the evening I made my way back to Papirøen and visited Copenhagen Contemporary, a fascinating art gallery working with new and innovative media, including several trippy VR experiences and tonnes of amazing audio-visual experiences. Finally, I finished the night off with an evening at the Copenhagen Studenterhuset and saw a number of great musical performances, namely from a band called TrailerPark Jesus. The next morning I had breakfast, across Gothersgade to Torvehallerne for lunch and to explore that part of the city before running to get my bus home. 

  Inside of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. This is a staircase outside of one of the gallery.

Inside of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. This is a staircase outside of one of the gallery.

Since then, I have been back to Copenhagen a couple of times, much of which I talked about in my sensationally titled post from last month. And these visits have mostly included some initial exploration of the bustling creative Nørrebro area Northwest from the above-mentioned spots. This is the area I am most excited about hopefully visiting when I return next to Copenhagen if nothing else for the street art and for another walk through the beautiful Assistens Cemetery. But also, for the various interesting and exciting places to eat and hang out at such as Depanneur, this totally wacky (that’s honestly the best descriptor word I have for it, sorry) convenience store/coffee shop thing inspired by their Québécois name, or this ramen place which felt like Blade Runner to me.

  One of my favourite shots from that first trip of this amazing sculpture hanging on Larsbjørnsstræde.

One of my favourite shots from that first trip of this amazing sculpture hanging on Larsbjørnsstræde.

Finally, because I can’t write a blog without going on a meta tangent, do you like my long-form, more or less monthly posts, or would you rather something shorter? I imagine these might be cumbersome for you to read and know they are to edit. Thus far, the main posts have been from about 1000-2000 words, and while I think that’s an alright length, I am always listening to my internal monologue anyways, and may thus be a poor judge. Also, speak up if you want more or less of anything, like pictures or, seriously anything that you think would improve this whole thing. Oh! And final question, when I return to Canada, inspired by my love of audio, how would you feel about audio recordings of me reading these? Finally, were there to many links here or not enough or just right? Comment below! Anyways, thanks for reading and I hope I’ll see you again soon!

Warm regards,

Kostyn

* When I talk about “travel writing” I am referring not to anthropological texts, archaeological texts, travel guides, etc. but basically, these blog posts. Drawing a bit on my very limited knowledge of 18th Century anglo-European travel writing and trying to produce a through-line with contemporary travel bloggers and essayists. I’m winging it sort of, but I also think my ideas/opinions are valid here. I have a vague, non-committal explanation for every occasion.
 

Edited by Mie who also helped me do some much-needed site design.

Check out Mie and Fran's socials: @miefox_@francesca.fitzg on Instagram and Fran's exciting new blog! They post really interesting and fun things and are all around awesome people. <3