Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My Pesach Vacation, So Far

The high point of coming to Israel, especially to Jerusalem and obviously especially for Jews, is being here for Pesach (Passover) to celebrate the Israelites' freedom from slavery in Egypt and their journey to the promised land as told in Exodus. For Christians, the high point this time of year is Easter to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. We students get two weeks off for these holy days. Since I don't belong to either a Jewish or a Christian community, these holy days for me - both in Israel and at home - are special times to be with family and friends. And, since I couldn't make it home to be with my family for Easter or Tammy's family for Pesach, and I really needed a vacation, I decided to head north to Denmark to be with Adrienne and her family for a week.

I arrived on 6 April, and from what I was told, my timing was perfect, seasonally speaking. The heavy gray clouds and fog and rain of a Danish winter had lifted and we had sunny days punctuated with fluffy white clouds in a blue sky. The temperature there had warmed to about 15degrees celcius, so very much like Ontario (although I heard it snowed at the beginning of April back home) but chillier than the 25-30degrees that are again the norm in Jerusalem. This was my first time flying with a stopover, which was in Riga, Latvia, and the logistics of it all were easy to deal with but my ears would strongly disagree. I was in a lot of pain on the way there during both take-off and landing. Argh, stupid ears. But, it was worth the discomfort:

Copenhagen is a lovely city, quiet but not sleepy. Being me, I was most impressed by how well-shod everyone is! The buildings aren't taller than 5 stories, so there is a cozy, old-world feeling in the architecture. There are more modern (often ugly as compared with the older) buildings but not highrises, so to speak. What struck me most upon my arrival was how quiet the streets are. Other than normal traffic noise from the cars themselves, the only sounds were the occasional bicycle bells signaling that a faster rider was coming up to a slower one and could they please move aside. This might not seem like a big deal, but Jerusalem's drivers are pretty funny and pretty vocal in several ways: they honk when the wind changes direction or if someone is too slow to accelerate when the light turns green or if they want to get someone's attention. Many of them blast their music. Plus, they drive really fast, so often you'll hear tires screeching along the road especially just outside the kfar. Copenhagen, in comparison, has much calmer drivers, it seems, and it is a bicycle culture. Everyone rides their bikes everywhere. Plus, the public transit/metro system is excellent and is set up like London's Underground using a zone plan where one pays for one's ticket depending on how many zones one is travelling through. And, like London's, Copenhagen's transit is expensive. Plus, it was really odd not hearing the Muslim call to prayer five times a day.

I met Adrienne at her office on campus, the building of which was originally an insane asylum. I stayed at her place in Hvidovre, a suburb just outside the city's limits. She has a comfortable, cozy house with a huge yard. Our morning coffees lasted the entire morning. Her kids, Emile and Ella were great fun to hang out with and talk with. One afternoon we went used-clothing shopping, another to the mall to grocery shop, and a huge highlight was driving up the coast to Elsinore and visiting Hamlet's Castle. On the way back, we stopped in Elsinore for fishcakes and chips and a beer and Adrienne pointed out Isak Dineson's house. Saturday we attended her nephew's 20th birthday brunch, and Sunday her father-in-law's 85th birthday celebration. The second party was back in Elsinore, about a half hour drive from Adrienne's, and I met most of the family: Adrienne's husband, Johs, (who is currently in Seattle for "The Marriage of Figaro") is the youngest of 8 or 9 kids so it was a pretty monumental undertaking to remember everyone's names, even for me who is really good at remembering names. Everyone was warm, welcoming and thankfully fluent in English. I now know maybe four words in Danish, three of which escape me right now. Adrienne's friends, Stefan (who is Danish) and Luli (who is Israeli) and their two kids came for Shabbat dinner. They live in Jerusalem but were visiting family in Denmark, so I now have new friends at home in Israel.

Wednesday night we attended the Pesach Seder with Adrienne's progressive congregation. There were around 50 people there, and it was so much fun. And funny. The meal was catered, and the ladies doing the catering didn't realize that matza-ball soup is supposed to be served hot and the gefilte fish is supposed to be served cold. Yup, we had chilled soup and warmed fish...horseradish was included with more bites than in just the haroseth sandwiches. Rachel, the woman who conducted the Seder, is British but now lives in Stockholm where she's a cell biologist looking into cures for cancer. She asked me if I would like to read a portion of the Haggadah and I was very tempted to read the Hebrew, which I can do now, but most people there knew only English and Danish so I thought I'd stick with English.

I have to go to develop the photos I took with my 35mm, but have already added the digital camera's photos to the blog. "Sing-along" fun has two little videos, one from Pesach and the other from our picnic in the King's Garden with a group of Asian Christians singing in a circle and our running commentary on it. I like Israel very much, but love Europe even more. Being in Copenhagen and with Adrienne was wonderful, relaxing, and is a place to which I anticipate returning. Aside from the architecture, the urban ambiance, the homey atmosphere, the yummy food, the best part of the trip was spending time with my new friend, whom I feel I've known forever, and being irreverent and serious and laughing and being one of the locals, sort of. I can't wait to introduce her to my 'old' friends. I've always had this thing (that's the technical term, of course!): if I can go into any situation and walk away from the experience with one great friend, I've done well.

I've done well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Tanya

Enjoyed reading about your trip to Denmark. Sounds "lovely" and a place I would like to visit sometime. Love you lots, Mom