Copenhagen, Denmark: Where Wanderlust Began

Sunday, June 21st, 2015
Nyhavn

Nyhavn

Like many Americans of my generation, I studied abroad for a semester in college. I stayed with a host family in downtown Copenhagen, went to school with about 50 other Americans, rode a bike every day, didn’t mix with the locals, discovered that urban living was great, and once the semester was done I packed up to backpack around the continent.

It has been 12 years since that semester, and when we began planning this trip, Copenhagen was at the top of my list. I wanted to show Nik the first city I ever saw outside of the United States. I wanted to retrace my steps and bike through my old neighborhood. I wanted to eat Danish rugbrød, “snails” (cinnamon rolls), bagel sandwiches, Fransk hotdogs, and shawarma. I wanted to browse through the Danish furniture and homewares stores for days. All of my memories of this place are precious, and I wanted them to all hold up.

Well, some held up, but many didn’t.

First, I wanted to find all the buildings and plazas I remembered from my daily life. Before we arrived, I starred everything on my phone to jog my memory, but I didn’t think I would need it once we were there. Wrong. The problem was that we came into the city from the west, and I used to come into the city from the east. Because of this, nothing was where it was supposed to be. We even found the Carlsberg brewery on our first bike ride, which I could have sworn wasn’t even in the city of Copenhagen. This made me realize that I missed a lot of the city even though I was there for 3 full months, so I was glad we decided to stay in two neighborhoods I had never heard of because it was a completely new-to-me city.

My second set of memories to recreate were food based, and I mostly failed at this. The rugbrød was exactly as I remembered and I ate a ton of it. I never found the “snails” shop I remembered, and the cinnamon rolls we tried did not live up. I never found the bagel sandwich shop, but I also didn’t look very hard because of my geographic confusion. I couldn’t bring myself to try the Fransk hotdog (a hot dog shoved inside a french baguette with mayo) or the shawarma, but the Døp classic organic hotdog was delicious. Luckily, all was not lost because Copenhagen has become a foodie town in the last decade. They now have local and international food trucks, great coffee shops, top-notch bakeries, several farmers markets, and beautifully designed restaurants with menus to match. We had our first Asian meals since we left the US, we had great coffee and pastries, and we had one amazing dinner at Sankt Annæ 8. I wish we could have taken more advantage of the food, but the one thing that has stayed the same about the food is that it was all very expensive. I’d say everything was at least 25-50% more expensive than San Francisco, so we weren’t willing to pay that.

The third memory I wanted to recreate was my adoration for Danish design. For this one, it was a complete success. Just as I remembered and better. Their homes are simple and well thought out. Their restaurants are clean with no fluff. Their parks are comfortable and well used. Their bike lanes are wide and safe. Their bikes are beautiful with all the kid seats and hauling capacity. Their fashion is sharp. They are just a notch above the world in so many ways. Of course, they know this and are proud and sometimes pompous about it. But they have a successful and creative country, so why not?

In hindsight, I put a lot of pressure on Copenhagen to be perfect, and when it wasn’t I struggled to not be disappointed. But the city has changed, and I have changed. I think both are for the better.

Where I slept on my very first night in Europe

Where I slept on my very first night in Europe

Danish Parliament

Danish Parliament

Spires

Spires

Parks

Parks

It's a biker's city

It’s a biker’s city

Up the ramp of the Round Tower

Up the ramp of the Round Tower

From the top of the Round Tower

From the top of the Round Tower

Places I missed the first time…

The Main House

The Main House

Our Garden

Our Garden

Our Cottage

Our Cottage

Stucco vs Raw

Stucco vs Raw

Jolly Cola

Jolly Cola

Louisiana Cafe

Louisiana Cafe

Bricks

Bricks

Louisiana Cafe

Louisiana Cafe

The Øresund Sound

The Øresund Sound

Mid Century Auditorium

Mid Century Auditorium

Basket weave seats & linen

Basket weave seats & linen

Louisiana garden

Louisiana garden

Tuborg

Tuborg

Through the Labyrinth

Through the Labyrinth

Aspects of the city that didn’t exist before…

New Construction

New Construction

Hip

Hip

Wholesale shopping carts

Wholesale shopping carts

We didn't go in, but we saw it

We didn’t go in, but we saw it

The gymnast

The gymnast

Dreamy canal apartments

Dreamy canal apartments

Useful Info:
Our AirBnB wish list for Copenhagen
Bycyklen: The Copenhagen version of City Bikes

Nik’s Blog: An Expensive Week in Copenhagen, Denmark

Croatia: Road Trip Leg 7 & Dubrovnik

Sunday, June 14th, 2015
Agriculture of the Neretva River Delta

Agriculture of the Neretva River Delta

Our final view of the Dinaric Alps meeting the Adriatic Sea

Our final view of the Dinaric Alps meeting the Adriatic Sea

The epic views of the Dalmatian coast continued on our seventh and final leg of the Croatian Road Trip. The Dinaric Alps kept crashing into the Adriatic, and a smattering of little islands were always to the west. A new element in this section was the introduction of agriculture to the delta of the Neretva River just after we passed through the small coastal section of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The river has been damned in multiple locations upstream to take advantage of its flow for hydroelectric power, and it has been distributed throughout the delta for irrigation resulting in a green and blue patchwork of farm land.

At the southern tip of the country, Dubrovnik is our final destination in the Mediterranean. Every day has been sunny and mostly dry with average daytime temperatures of 80-85˚F so we spent the first few days ducking into the shadows of the old town with frequent stops at mini markets for cold beverages and ice cream. Then we spent a couple days in the sea swimming and kayaking. Then we spent a day walking around the newer sections, and today we have stayed put in our air conditioned apartment.

The old town is better than I expected, but the city as a whole is geared to tourism much more than I expected. This made it easy to get around and comfortable to be in, but it certainly wasn’t a glimpse into the average Croatian life.

The city within walls

The city within walls

Dubrovnik & Lokrum Island

Dubrovnik & Lokrum Island

Old and new terra cotta roofs

Old and new terra cotta roofs

Hiding from the sun

Hiding from the sun

Construction

Construction

He brings his own shade

He brings his own shade

Fishing nets wrapped and ready

Fishing nets wrapped and ready

Beautiful door

Beautiful door

I love people

I love people

The Onofrio Fountain

The Onofrio Fountain

Photo bomb

Photo bomb

Walking on walls

Walking on walls

The Stradun of Dubrovnik at night

The Stradun of Dubrovnik at night

Dubrovnik Cathedral in the distance

Dubrovnik Cathedral in the distance

Inside Lovrijenac (St. Lawrence Fortress)

Inside Lovrijenac (St. Lawrence Fortress)

New Dubrovnik

New Dubrovnik

Swimming

Swimming

Kayaks for the open Sea

Kayaks for the open Sea

Before their arms ache

Before their arms ache

Cold Drinks...aka Buza Bar

Cold Drinks…aka Buza Bar

The cliff side of Buza Bar

The cliff side of Buza Bar

I have a feeling that this might have been the last time I will swim in a huge body of water this year. I’m going to miss it.

Alone

Alone

Croatia: Road Trip Leg 6, Makarska Riviera & Hvar

Monday, June 8th, 2015
The Coastal Route

The Coastal Route

After Leg 5 of our Croatian Road Trip, we were supposed to switch to public transportation. The plan was to drive along the coast and explore Paklinica & Krka National Parks, then return the car at the Split airport before taking a bus the rest of the way down the Dalmatian coast to Dubrovnik. That plan changed when we saw the road wind along the base of the Dinaric Alps as they dropped into the Adriatic Sea when we left Krk Island. How could we pass up the chance to drive the entire length of a coastline like that? We couldn’t.

Random fortification wall

Random fortification wall

Guard rails

Guard rails

Makes me wonder what it was like new

Makes me wonder what it was like new

He's in abandoned building heaven

He’s in abandoned building heaven

The Million Dollar View

The Million Dollar View

Abandoned children's resort in the middle of a functioning campground

Abandoned children’s resort in the middle of a functioning campground

Trogir - Tvrđava Kamerlengo

Trogir – Tvrđava Kamerlengo

Trogir - Tvrđava Kamerlengo

Trogir – Tvrđava Kamerlengo

Cloister garden

Cloister garden

Drainage

Drainage

Chapel

Chapel

Trogir

Trogir

Trogir

Trogir

Former palace courtyard

Former palace courtyard

Stone

Stone

Because we decided to keep the car all the way to Dubrovnik, the options for where to stay after Šibenik opened up and I discovered an area called “The Makarska Riviera”. It is 60 kilometer stretch of coastline in central Dalmatia around the town of Makarska. The slender region is cut off from the rest of the mainland by the Biokovo mountain range (part of the Dinaric Alps) and has only one main access road connecting a long string of small towns with populations of 300-1500 people each. Many of the former fishing villages have developed tourism economies where there are up to 4 beds to every inhabitant. The attraction to the area for tourism is obvious…beaches, dramatic landscapes, and fantastic weather. We were there for a full week at the beginning of June, and the average daily temperature was about 75˚F. Perfect for lounging on the beach and swimming in the sea.

We chose to stay in the town of Podgora because we found an amazing seaside apartment. It was within walking distance of several different beaches and any service we needed. I expected we would try out a different beach every day, but we ended up going to the same one for 3 out of our 4 beach days. The reason is that it was in a small secluded bay away from the road with a view of the dramatic coastal landscape and plenty of shade trees.

Our view

Our view

Sunset

Sunset

Nik in the Adriatic

Nik in the Adriatic

Ahhhh

Ahhhh

The only excursion we took from Podgora was a trip to Hvar island via the car ferry from Drvenik to Sućuraj. Once on the island, we drove its entire 82 kilometer length to Hvar city with only a few detours along the way. We parked the car in a paid lot on the outskirts of town and walked through the main square to the port. From what I read before the outing, I expected the city to be lavish and glitzy because this is where the rich and famous came to vacation. On the Friday afternoon we were there, it was just like any other small historic coastal Croatian town with a few extra yachts in its harbor.

After lunch, we began the drive back to Sućuraj with the hope of finding a nice secluded beach along the way to spend the afternoon. Our first try near Zaraće didn’t work out because there was no obvious beach and the road to get there was extremely steep and windy. Our second try took us on a meandering route through the towns of Vrbanj, Svirče, Vrisnik, and Pitve before we entered the most bazaar one-way, rough-cut car tunnel there ever was. At the end of the road, we were in the town of Zavala where we parked and walked along a coastal path to the perfect inlet with just enough level beach to spread out two towels. After relaxing in the sun a bit, we took the plunge into the cold water and enjoyed our seclusion. Five minutes later, a family of 5 plopped down to share our tiny beach. I couldn’t blame them. It was perfect.

After about an hour, we were getting tired and we knew the drive back up the hill and through the tunnel wouldn’t be easy, so we packed up, got in the car, and began our return trip to the ferry. Just before we got to the car, it started raining and we were amazed that we timed it perfectly. The steep uphill road was fairly empty, but we did have to play chicken with an oncoming car in the tunnel. That is not an experience I ever want to repeat.

By the time we pulled up to the Sućuraj ferry port 20 minutes before departure, the sky was dark with storm clouds. I ran up to buy our tickets while Nik waited in the car in line. As I got back into the car, the rain and wind picked up and a perfect rainbow formed an arch over the truck in front of us. We sat and watched the lightning and wondered if the boats would still cross in this weather. The answer is yes, but the rain stopped shortly after we boarded and we were able to go up on deck and watch the storm from a distance as the sun set.

Passengers enjoying the view

Passengers enjoying the view

Goodbye mainland...we'll be back in a few hours

Goodbye mainland…we’ll be back in a few hours

Where the Dinaric Alps meet the Adriatic

Where the Dinaric Alps meet the Adriatic

Rails

Rails

Chill

Chill

Hvar Island from the south

Hvar Island from the south

Farm town on Hvar Island

Farm town on Hvar Island

Abandoned children's resort pool in Jesla

Abandoned children’s resort pool in Jesla

Rooms of the resort

Rooms of the resort

Hvar city

Hvar city

Blue, Yellow & Red on Stone

Blue, Yellow & Red on Stone

Hvar Theater

Hvar Theater

Croatia knows how to do boardwalks

Croatia knows how to do boardwalks

Nik chomping on Carob

Nik chomping on Carob

Construction ramps

Construction ramps

Hvar hilltowns

Hvar hilltowns

Lightning

Lightning

Useful Info:
The listing for our apartment
Our AirBnB Croatia Wish List
Makarska Riviera Beaches
Great Hvar Restaurant: Dalmatino
Croatia Ferries: Drvenik-Sučuraj

Nik’s Blog: Abandoned Hotels and Beach Days in Podgora, Croatia

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