Friday, July 31, 2015


Wednesday we spent a lovely day and night visiting Ingrid's "aunt" Ulla, a concert harpsichordist and organist.  She and Eli played much music together, and we enjoyed many fruits of her garden -- fresh potatoes, gooseberries, currants, apples, plums ...  and collected 231 slugs in a futile effort to put a dent in their truly impressive population.  Ingrid mused why our similarly sized banana slugs in Santa Cruz are so cute whereas these are rather hideous.  It would be great if we could find a good recipe for them.

The next day we headed back out to the Højby sommerhus, this time by way of the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, with spectacular statuary and paintings. The special exhibit of Peter Doig was impressive, and the Henry Moore sculptures brought be back to my university classes in art history.  

Eli was sufficiently inspired by playing music with Ulla that he woke early today to begin composing a Sonatina in C for Clarinet.  Fortunately Klemens left the keyboard at the sommerhus, which has made that possible. I think he hopes to finish it before we return to see Ulla again. 

Today we spent in Hølbæk, at the Middle Ages Fair and Combat Tournament.  This has been Eli's dream to come to these games for a year and a half, and we organized our summer schedule around it. Unfortunately, they moved the combat tournament until tomorrow (although the fair was much fun on a very blustery day), so we will return tomorrow to see medieval "vikings" pound each other on the head with swords.  

I've made time every day for a while now to learn the birds of Europe.  This is much fun, since almost everything I see is brand new to me.  It has been years since I've felt I could spend time birding as I did for so many years.  Birding was my first love in nature, and regular weekend birding kept me sane through university and much of graduate school.  But it has faded over the years with competition for so many other things.  This year is my opportunity to get back to my roots as a natural historian, with so much new to learn.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Tivoli and Højby

Three more great Danish days.   Saturday we had a wet but fun-filled day at Tivoli gardens, where Eli and Ingrid did tons of rides and I enjoyed keeping my feet on solid ground (except for a ferris wheel ride!).

We had a wonderful lunch of very traditional smørrebrød (open faced sandwiches with assorted pickled or smoked fish, eaten with fork and knife), and enjoyed the traditional pantomime in the Peacock Theater (in the rain), the jazz band (with a great Tom Jones-style singer), and stayed for the 11:45 fireworks.

Sunday we took a train west to the summer house of Klemens and Ana (and Rosa, Sarah, and Sunneva) in Høby.   We ate and ate, visited the fish market (to get more to eat) and briefly hung out at the beach and waded in the North Sea (warmer than Santa Cruz water) until sandblast from the wind drove us home.

Today, back in Copenhagen, we slept in a bit of the cold, misty morning, then took the train across to the amber museum and climbed the Round Tower.

We then headed out to the suburbs to visit Hanne's cousin Kristian and his Greenlander wife Judithe for a long afternoon of stories of life in Greenland and multiple rounds of cakes, sweets, and alcohols.

Eli was particularly fascinated by getting to watch home movies about dog sledding from the 1970s -- on a genuine super 8 reel-to-reel movie projector!

The genuine narwhal tusk, walrus tusks, and stool made of walrus penises were pretty special too.  Elias and Kristian made a great connection over track when we shared a picture of Eli throwing discus.  It turned out that Kristian was the Danish champion discus thrower - in 1953 -  throwing the discus about three times farther than Eli's best throw.  What a hyggelig day!

Friday, July 24, 2015

GBIF and Christiania

A great day mixing business and pleasure.  Ingrid and Eli climbed the crazy spiral tower of Vor Frelsers Kirke while Greg checked out birds in a nearby Stadsgraven park, then we all strolled through the "hippie city" of Christiania.   Christiania was a great follow-on to the morning's discussions about Animal Farm, which Eli just finished reading. 

Eli with a sperm whale heart
We had lunch with colleagues Dmitry Schigel and Olaf Bánki from GBIF.  Then Eli went to explore the Natural History Museum with a couple GBIF staff kids while Ingrid and Greg talked fungi, wood decay, and tree diversity with Dmitry and Olaf.   Great connections over the best way to collect sawdust for Illumina sequencing and the relative merits of flat files and relational databases for broad-based access to project-based biodiversity data. 

After lunch we went to the Glyptoteket museum to see some great Rodin and Degás sculptures, as well as as a lot of great Danish works.

By the end of the day we were tired from 14 km of walking, and opted not to go to the open-air Snoop Dogg concert at Tivoli and instead bussed home.  We are hoping to see the hedgehog that supposedly lives right outside our back door tonight.   

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Casual Bird List in Denmark

Birds of Denmark (21 July  - 2 August 2015)
Woodpigeon                 Great spotted woodpecker
Collared Dove              Tree sparrow                
Pigeon                     Redstart
Magpie                     Blue tit
Jackdaw                    Chaffinch
House Sparrow              Greenfinch
Mute Swan
Great tit
Great-crested Grebe
Grey Heron
Black-headed Gull
Hooded Crow
Graylag goose
Canada goose


We are finally settled in to Copenhagen, and reasonably well time adjusted.  We traveled with more baggage than we ever have (3 people for a year with a diverse variety of activities planned), but made it without incident.   We are staying in Ingrid's childhood friend Klements' house while his family is away, so we are comfortable and can eat at home when we want.

We have fresh pastries for breakfast each day, and Eli had his first Danish pølser (red hot dog).

We've spent the last two days exploring Copenhagen as tourists walking all over Nyhavn, Christianhavn, visiting palaces and museums and just walking about. A special treat at a museum cafe was rhubarb soda!  Who could resist?   Quite tasty -- pleasantly tart. 

The architecture and colors around Copenhagen are wonderful, and we've done more walking than we have in a long time.   We will visit some colleagues at GBIF and the University tomorrow, then to Tivoli on Saturday.

Most of our time in Denmark is vacation and visiting Ingrid's relatives and friends, with a little "cleanup" work (grants, revisions) for Greg the first few days and a couple University talks and meetings.   And lots of catching up on sleep.

I will be posting some photos on instagram as gregorysgilbert.    Click on the icon at right to follow me.