Saturday, December 22, 2007

Goodbye, Hirtshals!

I left Hirtshals last Monday to head south (first to Bornholm, a little Danish island in the Baltic, and now to Copenhagen to spend a week with my family as a more standard tourist), and I must say – it was about time. It’s not that it was an unpleasant place, but I really stayed longer than I should have, since I didn’t really manage to find enough to do either for my project or just as plain entertainment. Though I did get the chance to get to know some lovely people and Hirtshals is probably the most long-term home I will have until I come back to the US (and potentially for even a while after that), I was ready to move on. That said, though, here are some of the things I will miss about living in northern Jutland.

Bike rides through the countryside

Bicycles are a popular mode of transportation in Denmark, much more so than in the US, and there are many nice paths and roads through the forest and countryside, so I borrowed a bicycle and spent many lovely days biking around northern Jutland. Though not all excursions were as eventful as this one, it was a good way to get to know the area. Lots of rape seed fields, producing both rape seed oil and, recently, bioethanol. It’s very flat, and I joked that without the windmills I would have thought I was in the Midwest.

Windmills in farm country:

My frequent biking companions, Andrea and Doug, as we were passed by a tractor. Farm country indeed.

Along these bike rides through the countryside, we also found some neat little places in the small towns scattered around the area, like this cute church with lovely tree-lined churchyard:

View out over the dunes to the sea…and a car driving right along the beach (seemingly a popular thing to do here):

Sunset over the fields. Rural Denmark really is picturesque.

Danish folkedans

I had such a good time at my first Danish folk dance in Hjørring that I kept going back – every other week in Hjørring and another dance (more like a lesson, though the instructions were in Danish and thus less helpful for me) weekly in Tornby, about half way between Hirtshals and Hjørring. Although I wouldn’t say I’m quite good at Danish folk dancing, by this point I’m at least decent – hopefully I’ll remember well enough to schottis and hambo (Swedish dances, but also done in Denmark, along with some Danish variations) once I get back home and go dancing in Greenfield again.

Benches set up during the break in the middle of the dance for coffee and snacks and for group singing of traditional Danish songs (one of my favorite parts, even though I usually needed explanations of what they were about).

Some blurry pictures of the dances themselves:

(Look, it’s Michelle! We went to a dance while she was visiting, where she picked up the polka much faster than I did at first.)

Some dances, though, are just plain awkward until you really master them. This one, for instance, which made me feel like a gorilla trying to dance and hug someone at the same time.

My Danish dancing shoes, which I borrowed from a woman who had been a dance instructor in Sweden for many years and was very helpful in explaining some of the steps to me in English. These were the first real dancing shoes I’ve ever had, and made me feel much more authentic.

It was sad to leave behind the dancing…but hopefully I’ll get more chances to try local dances in Scotland and Newfoundland and build a repertoire of North Atlantic folk dancing to go along with my new knowledge of North Atlantic fisheries.

Hirtshals nightlife (ok, not quite, but some good times with fun people)

While I was in Hirtshals, I stayed at the guesthouse for North Sea Center researchers and got to know a number of interesting people who came in and out while I was there – ranging from zookeepers-in-training to Scottish fishermen visiting the flume tank for a training course to fisheries biologists. It was quite a diverse crowd. The three people who were there for most of the same time as me were Andrea, a Brazilian sociologist analyzing her research on fisheries communities in Spain, Maria, a Mexican fisheries biologist studying stress responses in fish, and Benedikt, an Austrian masters student in aquaculture doing a one-semester internship in a place that actually has some ocean (for those of you rough on your geography, Austria is quite decidedly land-locked).

There aren’t too many exciting places to go in Hirtshals – we visited the local pubs a few times, but it turned out that the bowling alley right down the road was the liveliest place on the weekends. It felt eerie to be in a place that felt so, well, American, but we had a good time.

We also held some small dinner parties together, which was fun both to not have to cook just for one and to sample other people’s home cooking. For one memorable dinner, Benedikt “caught” us a cod (actually, he bought it off a fisherman at the harbor) and Andrea cooked Brazilian-style fish.

It was good – and very attractive.

And, of course, we practiced our Danish. Skål! (Cheers!)

And now onwards I must go, to see and learn and, you know, do stuff.

Goodbye, Hirtshals!

1 comment:

Wing said...

Well good! You can teach me random dances when you get back!