Christmas markets in Vienna: part III.

The time has come, Christmas is around the corner, and everyone’s getting ready for the big holidays. I’m staying with my family over the holidays, and I’m really looking forward to some – hopefully – quiet time at home. Especially in the past few days, the city has been crazy – people on the hunt for their last Christmas gifts or just leisurely strolling around. Both can be pretty annoying to someone who has to go to meetings and zig-zag through the crowd. But I totally get it and I wish every single one a joyful day in Vienna.

This post will be part III and thus the final one of the mini-series on Viennese Christmas markets. I’ll show you two of my favourites, the Art Advent at Karlsplatz, and the Christmas Market Schloss Schönbrunn. If you’re interested in more – check out the previous parts here and here :)

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Christmas market in Vienna: part II.

In my last post I already showed you the most popular and the most famous Christmas market of Vienna – the Viennese Christmas Market in front of the city hall. In this episode of the mini series of Christmas markets in Vienna I will show you two other markets of Vienna. One is almost equally popular to the one in front of the city hall but smaller and more romantic – the Christmas market at Spittelberg. And the second is even smaller, but situated right between two grand, old buildings (museums to be precise) – the Christmas Village Maria-Theresien-Platz.

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Christmas market at Spittelberg

The Spittelberg Christmas market has a very unique atmosphere because it is set in the charming Biedermeier lanes of the 7th district. The market has an arts and crafts focus, and you can buy many delicious treats from there which are sometimes sold by the local cafés. And of course, you’ll also find your mulled wine and punch there!

This market is definitely one of my favourite ones. Because of the lanes it exudes a romantic feeling, and I just love walking through the streets while looking at all the things that are offered there and stopping for a bite to eat once in a while. Unfortunately, the narrow lanes are prone to be quite crowded as well, especially on weekends, so I actually hardly ever go to this one.

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Where to find it
At the Spittelberg, in the 7th district of Vienna

Opening times
Mon–Thu 14:00–21:00 | Fri 14:00–21:30 | Sat 10:00–9:30 | Sun 10:00–21:00

Duration
November 17 until December 23

For more information – check the website


Christmas Village Maria-Theresien-Platz

This market at the Maria-Theresien-Platz is one out of four Christmas Villages that can be found in other locations in Vienna as well. There’s the usual Christmas market knick knack that you’ll find at any other market, so the Christmas Village isn’t that special when it comes to market stalls. However, the location of the village make the market especially unique in my opinion.

This cosy little village (in German it’s Weihnachtsdorf) is situated in an imperial setting right between the museum of art history and the museum of natural history, and you’ll also get a glimpse of the Hofburg imperial palace through the Äußere Burgtor on the Ring side (the Ring is an important street in Vienna), and at the Museums Quarter on the other. So the visitors of this little village are surrounded by some great pieces of architecture.

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Where to find it
At the Maria-Theresien-Platz between the KHM & NHM (museums of art history & natural history)

Opening times
Sun–Thu 11:00–21:00 | Fri–Sat 11:00–22:00 | special opening times December 24–26

Duration
November 22 until December 26

For more information – check the website

There will also be a Silvesterdorf there from December 27–31! Check here fore more information

Christmas feeling in Moscow.

Christmas and especially the advent season has become my favourite time of the year. So I was really looking forward to experiencing this in Moscow.

Russians do not celebrate Christmas on the 24th or 25th of December but on January 6th and 7th. This is due to their Orthodox religion and the Julian calendar. Religious people start a fasting period 40 days before Christmas in which they don’t consume any animal products such as meat, eggs or dairy products.

Novy God (Новый Год) – New Year – is the New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day celebration, which represents the start of their Christmas celebrations. January 1st involves a lot of joyous entertainment, fireworks, large meals and other festivities. It combines secular traditions with the Christian Orthodox Christmastide customs. Russians usually take the week between New Year and Christmas off – which they call the Новогодние каникулы “New Year’s holidays”.

Grandfather Frost – Дед Мороз / Ded Moroz – is their version of Santa; he brings the presents to children on New Year’s morning. He is accompanied by Snegurochka (Снегурочка), who is his granddaughter and helper. As opposed to wearing robes in red, they wear blue and silver. As a result of the Russian Revolution, Christmas traditions were discouraged due to being ‘bourgeois and religious’. Even Ded Moroz was considered to be evil. Regardless of that, Ded Moroz took his form during the Soviet era and became the main symbol of the New Year’s holiday which replaced Christmas.

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Even though Christmas is celebrated later and not in December, Moscow started to look very Christmassy very early on. Especially the shopping centres were full of decorations. Everything was very pompous and full of Christmas knick-knack. The early fall of snow at the end of October was the icing on the cake. It made everything look like a winter wonderland and was perfect for the season. I am not used to having this much snow so early and for such a long time (we had snow almost throughout November and December).

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Red Square Christmas market during the day

The most beautiful and most christmassy place in Moscow was definitely the Red Square. In mid-November they started setting up the market and a small ice rink. The market offered the usual touristy stuff such as matryoshkas, but they also had food such as blinys and mulled wine there. Oh and they also had a few other attractions such as a merry-go-round. My sister and I insisted on going on one during the day, and together with Madlene I tried another one in the evening. Very exciting!

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Saying goodbye in the evening

As I wasn’t spending Christmas in Moscow my friends and I decided to go to the Red Square shortly before I left the country. Even though I had the flu we spent a few hours enjoying the beautiful lights and Christmas decorations.

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Bliny in the making

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East meets West: Kazan.

A while ago when doing research about potential travel destinations within Russia I came across Kazan. I haven’t really heard much about the city before, I only knew that it was one of the megapolises of Russia. A quick google search told me that the architecture was supposed to be different from other Russian cities so of course I was hooked immediately and the decision was made to go there at some point. Some friends were easily convinced to tag along, so my old travel pal Madlene and I abandoned our former travel group members Frederik and Marcel and got us a new crew. Together with Monika, Viktoria, Daan and Ghezal we spent a weekend in Kazan.

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Part of the new crew

Kazan

Kazan is the capital and the largest city of the Republic of Tatarstan. With a population of around 1.14 million people it is also the eighth largest one in Russia. The city lies at the confluence of the Volga and the Kazanka River. The most special aspect of Kazan is the mix between East and West / Muslim and Orthodox. Apparently it is also one of the most tourist-friendly cities of Russia. Yay!

People are proud of their culture and try to preserve it, which can also be seen on state level. Tatar language is official – students must learn it at school. Signs are written both in Russian and Tatar. In that sense it is not a typical Russian city which makes it even more interesting. In 2009 Kazan got the right to brand the city as the ‘Third Capital’ of Russia. The city has a rich industrial side, and is a cultural and educational centre. Kazan federal university for example is the oldest university in Russia.

Due to its continental and far inland position, Kazan has a humid continental climate which includes long, cold winters (it’s even colder than in some areas further west in Europe, eg Moscow). In December the average low is -11.4°C and the record low is -42.9°C. Freaking cold!

Exploring the city

While driving from the airport to our hostel we already passed many beautiful buildings that gave us a first impression of the city. Even though our cab ride was ridiculously overpriced (for Russia at least) our driver was very nice and tried to explain most of the buidlings and told us interesting things of the city. Some we understood and some we didn’t, but Google our friend and helper filled the gaps. The thing that sticked out the most were all the sports related buildings in the outskirts of the city. We learned that in 2013 the Summer Universiade – an international multi-sport event for university athletes – was held there (also referred to as World University Games, or World Student Games). It is the largest multi-sport event in the world apart from the Olympic Games. Apparently it was the most northern held Summer Universiade thus far. Also, in 2009 the city was chosen as the ‘Sports capital of Russia’.

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First look at the Kremlin

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Our first expedition in the city lead us to a viewing platform on the other side of the river on which the Kazan Family Center is located. This tower has the shape of a huge cauldron and is a place for weddings. Unfortunately, the viewing platform on the tower itself is closed in the winter season. We had a nice view over the city nevertheless.

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Within the Kazan Kremlin walls

As in many other cities in Russia there is also a Kremlin (or in Tatar kirman) in Kazan which was declared a World Heritage Site in 2000. The skyline of the city is dominated by its beautiful fortress. Inside the white walls of the citadel there are various major monuments such as the Annunciation Cathedral, the leaning Soyembika Tower, or the Qol-Şarif mosque. Also, the central government of the republic is located within the walls. The kremlin is located on a relatively high point of Kazan so we also had a very nice view over the city and the frozen river.

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The Mosque Qol-Şarif

The Qol-Şarif mosque is the biggest mosque in Europe. Before Kazan was conquered by Ivan the Terrible in 1552, there used to be a white mosque with blue domes and minarets, and it used to be the capital of the Kazan Khanate. In the years after that the native population, Tatars, were massacred or forcibly christianized. In 2005 the mosque was rebuilt in honor of the Kazan’s Millenium Jubilee (yes, apparently the city is one of the oldest ones in Russia). It represents a new symbol of Kazan and Tatarstan – ‘a bridge connecting the past and future’. The mosque got its name to honour the imam who was killed by Ivan the Terrible’s troops in 1552 while trying to protect the city.

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Annunciation Cathedral

The cathedral inside the Kremlin was built in 1561-62 and is the only 16th-century Russian church to have six columns and five domes. Interesting fact, right?

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The Ministry of Agriculture

The building of the Ministry of Agriculture is a magnificent work of architecture. Very eclectic with a beautiful massive wrought-iron tree in the centre of the building. The building is located across from the Kremlin, so it can already be spotted from within the Kremlin walls.

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Group picture!

Tatar Food

Unfortunately, I cannot tell much about Tatar Food as most of it contains meat. However, I tried soft manti dumplings filled with pumpkins and something else that I can’t remember at the Dom Tatarskoy Kulinarii (House of Tartar Cuisine) where we were able to listen to local live music for some time. We also tried chack-chack – a pastry coated in honeyed sugar syrup – at the Tatarskaya Usadba (Tartar estate). I did not really like the dessert, the place was very nice though and the waiter was very good at English, which is a rarity sometimes.

Christmas Feeling in Kazan 

Kazan was covered in snow and it was freezingly cold. Some streets were covered in ice which made it really tricky to walk without slipping. Nonetheless, the city was magical as parts of it were illuminated in fairy lights. There was even an ice skating rink on next to the river and it was the most beautiful one I’ve seen so far in Russia. Christmas was all around us and we even had a cup of hot cider in a cute little café near the ice rink.

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Kazan was a lovely city despite the harsh wind and the freezing temperatures. We explored as much as we could while trying to stay as warm as we could by spending a lot of time inside restaurants and cafes, or taking an uber from A to B.

The Kremlin of Kazan makes a strong statement by having a (orthodox) church next to a mosque. It shows that is possible to live peacefully next to each other despite representing different religions. It was my first time ever inside a mosque and it was really interesting to see it and learn more about it.

Taking a step back over the holidays…

Have you ever had the feeling that everything’s just too much and you need to stop and think for a moment and figure out a way to reconnect with yourself and your environment? Over the past few weeks I was rather absent. It’s been over one month since my last blogpost. Of course I stayed online and even posted the occasional picture on instagram. However, I made the conscious decision to take a break from blogging and being online ’24/7′. With everything that’s been going on around me – be it exam wise or in my personal life – there has been so much that I had to deal with and therefore, I decided to take a break from… (almost) everything. Spending time at home with my family and my closest friends was great.

Going places
Karlsplatz is my personal favourite when it comes to touristy places in Vienna. Generally I’m not the biggest fans of churches, but I have a thing for the beautiful Karlskirche. During summer it’s just great to sit out front by the fountain and enjoy the occasional concert or festival that is held at Karlsplatz. During winter there’s a big Christmas market which I absolutely love. So I couldn’t miss it this year and even though it was cold and rainy on that day, my boyfriend and I had to have a cup of fancy Schilcher Glühwein.

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Karlskirche in the heart of Vienna

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Short hair – don’t careShort_hair1!
I went to the hairdresser and let the lady cut my hair to a length that I haven’t had since before Kindergarden :O However, the change wasn’t that drastic as the length before was a bit longer than shoulder-length. The only thing that I still want to change is the colour but I am still looking for the perfect hairdresser plus I want to wait until after my sister’s wedding :D (or even longer – depends on how fast I can make the decision on which colour to get and if I really want to part from my signature colour…)

Trying new things
I also went to a photography museum to see “Augen Auf! 100 Jahre Leica Fotografie” – an exhibition about the history of Leica. Great & interesting exhibition, great pictures and great cameras. Unfortunately, not in my price range ;) And on a special date night, my boyfriend and I saw a play that was very unusual and different. SPAM, written by the Argentinian Rafael Spregelburd, is a two-man show that revolves around a guy that suffers from amnesia and he tries to reconstruct what happened to him in the past 31 days. The play consists of 31 scenes and their order is randomly selected by fortune cookies. It was very confusing at some points during the play but the involvement of the Internet, technology and the audience was really unusual and funny. At the end of the play I even had to discuss with my boyfriend just to make sure that I got the whole story right ;)

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On another day, the boy took me to a ‘fancy’ restaurant, as we really wanted to try a new place. So Mercado was the place to go to. The restaurant serves latin inspired food, the interior is just great, the staff is friendly, the place is huge. However, it wasn’t the cheapest one and both me and my boyfriend preferred the dish that the other one had ;) But we were really glad that we tried it out and after exchanging dishes we were also happy with our food. Strangely enough, we both liked the side dish the best :D

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Mercado

Coffee | Friends | Family
Drinking numerous cups of coffee was kind of the motto of my holidays. I even went to a coffee festival with a friend of mine. However, so-called coffee experts can become really snobbish when you tell them that you prefer your coffee with a splash of milk. Apparently, that’s not the way you’re supposed to drink coffee and the only true way to drink it is if it’s an espresso (insert eye-roll here). I get that you can only taste the difference between types of beans, grinders, roasts, machines and whatever else when you drink the coffee black, but that’s just not how I like my coffee :( So my experience was not the best at the festival, I still drank a lot of coffee (and even one with milk! Anarchy!) and the venue was great as well. I was also taught that filter coffee has a higher amount of caffeine than an espresso. Good that I have a filter machine in CPH with me ;)

Also very important over the holidays was meeting friends. I spent a lot of time drinking coffee and eating delicious treats. It was good to reconnect with them and hear their most recent stories from their lives. Most importantly however was the time that I was able to spend with my family. As my sister is getting married and I am her maid of honour we spent a lot of our time together speaking about the plans and I also got to see her beautiful dress!

I also got to meet the newest member of our family, a little tomcat. Well, he was already born in summer but I haven’t seen him before so he’s not that little anymore but still between being a kitten and a grown-up. He hasn’t got a name yet, but somehow most of the cats that we’ve ever had hardly ever received a proper name (they never listen to it anyways). But he’s also cute without a name, and eventually, he’ll get one (or not). By the way, he’s not camera shy at all, he’s a real poser and loves all the attention he can get.

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This girl says hi to everyone.

It’s been a week since I got back to Copenhagen and I already had an exam, had lunch with a friend, coffee with another, and went out for a drink with others. It was great to catch up with them, and it’s time for me to be my usual self again – so I’m back! :)

So whenever you just have the feeling that something’s off and you need to take a step back – just do it! Take a break.

Adventure in Germany: Hamburg.

Last week I went to Germany to have a little Erasmus-reunion with an Australian and a German friend. One of my friends from my exchange semester got the opportunity to work in Germany for a few weeks and another friend is living in Germany, so we all decided to meet up in Berlin. Carina has also never been there, so she came along as well :) As the best way for us to go to Berlin was by taking a bus via Hamburg, Carina and I stayed in Hamburg for a couple of days before meeting the rest of the gang in Berlin.

Our adventure started off with a >1h delay of our bus in Copenhagen. It was early in the morning and we had to wait in the cold outside. Yay. We could have gotten coffee instead, but you never know… However, we safely arrived in Hamburg and after checking-in at our hostel, we went straight to the Christmas markets and strolled around in the city centre.

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Christmas market at Rathausplatz

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Christmas market at Jungfernstieg

You could see all the people enjoying themselves. The markets were really really beautiful, even though a creepy Santa was apparently reading stories in a sledge over our heads (it sounded more like he was telling scary stories, but whatever). The whole city was decorated in Christmas lights (sometimes they went a little bit overboard with them though).

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Speicherstadt

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Pure excitement (or not) *

On the second day we explored the city itself. We spent a lot of time wandering around in the HafenCity quarter, especially in the Speicherstadt. This warehouse district is the largest one in the world, and has quite recently been awarded as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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After spending a lot of time in this district, we walked along the river to get to the Landungsbrücken (St.Pauli Piers), a landing place in the port of Hamburg. However, we were rather unimpressed by the buildings of the Landungsbrücken :D The port itself was very impressive, though.

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Landungsbrücken

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As we’ve been walking around for hours we were pretty hungry and cold, so we sat down in a cafe and had a cup of hot chocolate and a delicious bagel. Oh how I’ve missed this. Just sitting in a good bakery, with a delicious sandwich (in my case a bagel) with cheese, salad, cucumber and pumpkin seeds. Besides, finally being able to know how much something costs was great. I am still not accustomed to the different currency in Copenhagen and can never tell if something is ridiculously overpriced or just Copenhagen-expensive :D

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Jungfernstieg

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On the Lombardsbrücke

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Christmas tree!

After the break we walked around for a bit, went across the Lombardsbrücke, where we had a nice view over the Jungfernstieg and Hamburg in general, we did a little bit of Christmas shopping and had Raclettebrot/Bratwurst & Heidelbeerglühwein (Blueberry Mulled Wine) at the Christmas market at the Rathausplatz.

We also went to the Christmas market at St.Pauli and had a look at the Reeperbahn, but as it was a Wednesday night, there wasn’t much going on there :D

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Decoration at the main train station

On our last day in Hamburg, we only had breakfast at an Italian place on Mönckebergstraße. As both Carina and I were not feeling very good, we didn’t do much else than going shopping for a bit (everything’s so much cheaper in Germany!). The only exciting thing we did that day was trying Crêpe with Kinderschokolade. Very interesting choice. Later in the afternoon we took a bus to Berlin… So stay tuned, you’ll read more about the Berlin adventure in the next blogpost ;)

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Hamburg was a lovely city, too bad we could only spend 2.5 days there. We were amazed by all the Christmas lights, the whole place was just full of them. As you’ve read above, we spent a lot of time exploring various Christmas markets. I really felt the Christmas spirit there and can’t wait for Christmas to arrive :)

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* Credits: Carina Wiesinger

Christmas spirit in Copenhagen. or not.

It’s that time of the year again where Christmas markets are open!! Finally! My friends and I decided to go to a few Christmas markets in town. Unfortunately, we picked the wrong time/day as it was snowing and raining at the same time and it was quite windy as well. Very wet, very cold. However, we got to try Glögg for the first time and we could have a look at various markets.

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Christmas trees!

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Group picture in front of the Hotel d’Angleterre

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Christmas decoration in the city centre

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Gløgg = mulled wine

The markets were really beautiful, the Glögg was just like our Austrian mulled wine; however, they also put raisins and almonds in it. It tasted good, though :D As we were staying inside of one of the huts (I guess it was a German stand), we got to listen to very beautiful songs from Helene Fischer (note the sarcasm). They also played a lot of typical Apres Ski hits :D Not very christmassy, but it was funny. We decided to go home after one hour due to the cold and our wet clothes. I hope that the weather will be slightly better next time! :D

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And another group picture with perfect lightning


For a long time I’ve wanted to go to “Det Kongelige Bibliotek” (Royal Library) and I have only seen it a few times from my side of the town. One day I was trying to be productive and had a look at it. Finally. The library is located on Slotsholmen and is (with 35.1 million items) the largest library of the Nordic countries.

It turned out to be rather unproductive after all as I only managed to read a couple of pages for one of my courses :D Also, I did not really see the whole building as I only had a closer look at the Black Diamond (waterfront extension to the old building). The place is different than the usual study places that I go to in Copenhagen and I got to see a very beautiful building (which reminded me a bit of the library from my university in Vienna).


Unfortunately, the weather hasn’t really improved since (with that I mean no beautiful snow) and it’s gone back to being just cold, windy and rainy. However, some days were quite nice and I had to take advantage of it and went out for a long stroll around my neighbourhood.

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View at Christianshavn

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View at Amager

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Bird.

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Norwegian church on Amager

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Beautiful Christianshavn

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‘Celebrating’ J-dag in Copenhagen.

I was finally able to move into my new apartment (though not yet into my room) so I wanted to usefully spend my time, namely at Ikea. As Carina has also just moved into her new flat we both took one day off studying and went to IKEA and got a few things. Most of the things I got were of decorative purpose – lots of candles, candle holders and cacti. Probably most importantly we also got ourselves some cake and Köttbullar/Grøntsagsboller (veggie version of them). Cheap and yummy :)

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You can’t go to IKEA and not eat at the restaurant.

Besides getting stuff for my new flat I also had to prepare for my next assignment which starts on 9th November. This time I only have 72 hours to write a 10-page-paper. Therefore, I had to do all the reading beforehand as I usually don’t keep up with the readings during the semester. I just don’t see why I should do that – most of the time the professor just repeats the stuff from the book and the articles during the lecture, so if I read everything beforehand, the lecture would be extremely boring sometimes. From time to time they get boring anyway, so… whatever :D All in all I spent quite a lot of time in the library again, yay!

Friday was another ‘special’ day in Denmark – J-dag. J-dag is the day on which the arrival of the Christmas brew of Tuborg is celebrated in various bars. The Danish brewery Tuborg (member of the Carlsberg group) has been brewing a special beer for Christmas for quite some time and the beer is available only for a few weeks. The company started with this tradition in 1990 and the event turned out to be quite a success. Another special thing about this event is that the beer is only available to the public after 20.59 on that day. So you can already see the Julebryg in stores all over town but you won’t be able to buy it :D The Julebryg (Jul = Christmas –> Christmas brew) has a slightly higher alcohol concentration, is malty and apparently tastes like liquorice. Since 2010, J-dag is celebrated on the first Friday of November.

So on Friday, Carina, Sarah and I wanted to bring a bit of a change into our study sessions and went to the university café/bar, where there was an event for J-dag. The whole bar was decorated accordingly (all in blue and ready for Christmas) and Christmas music (at times other music like Michael Jackson as well) was blasting out of the boxes.

We even got a bagel for free and it was sooooo delicious! On the facebook eventpage it only said ‘snacks’ were included so we were expecting nothing like that and were quite suprised :D They even had a veggie bagel and it was so delicious!

The beer was better than expected, but I would never buy it in a bar as it was just too malty for me. At least I think this was the reason why I did not like it :D And it did not taste like liquorice at all.Though, not many people were there – lucky us. We were not in the mood for a night-out and just wanted to taste the beer and have a good conversation. we had a lot of fun and they were already playing Christmas music. So I am already in a very Christmassy mood and am looking forward to going to the first Christmas markets of the season. Stay tuned, I will definitely report on them ;)