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Road ahead

Posted 5 August 2008 - The Hague (NL):

After doing everything for the last time – during the last bit of the big European trip – it`s now time to do everything for the first time again. Seeing everybody for the first time, walking through streets for the first time, go cycling for the first time, wearing T-shirts for the first time, play tennis for the first time, football for the first time, cook at home for the first time, having to pay bills for the first time.

It`s all fine and I am still happy about being home. The way of filling up the days is a bit different from what it used to be during the last year, but there`s plenty of stuff to work on. I also have some interesting meetings planned for the coming days and weeks. For now, the near future looks a bit like below photograph. Plenty of options: it`s just a matter of connecting them in the right way and making things work.

(© Esbjerg - DK, July 2008)
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Remodelling Us Europeans

Posted 21 July 2008 - Esbjerg (DK):

Another day closer to home and also my last day in Denmark. I am quite actively preparing for my return home, maybe more so than I am still paying active attention to the remainder of the project. Still, it compensates for the ease with which I can generally do interviews here. People speak English, and by now I sort of know what to ask for and how. The writing still takes some time, but when I look back at the first couple of articles, I notice that I have definitely improved since then.

The reason for noticing the change is that I have had to look back in the archives while preparing the new website. After returning home, I want the Us Europeans website to change from a blog into a modest encyclopaedia. No more focus on the daily updatums, but more so on links between articles. I want to make it easier to look up specific information, or to browse around for fun. I haven`t got very far yet, but here`s is a quick initial overview. Links still open in the old website, and many things are not the way they should be. I will have to do some re-writing on the old articles, change some titles, make some adjustments here and there. Hope to have all of that finished before mid-August. There will be lots of other stuff to focus on in the meantime.

Here`s some more Danish houses for you. Off to Hamburg tomorrow. The rest of the list reads: Göttingen, Frankfurt, Köln and home.

(© Esbjerg - DK, July 2008)
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Heading home

Posted 20 July 2008, Arhus (DK):

Hi all, I haven`t been very loyal to my photoblog in the last couple of weeks and I can`t promise that it will be much better for the remaining 13 days of my trip. My computer only had space left for another 40 photos of so, while my head may be suffering from similar conditions. I will for sure manage to keep filling Us Europeans with articles, but the Daily Photo may suffer a bit.

Well what`s new then.. Nothing much. I am enjoying the last bit of my trip as much as I enjoy the idea of getting home soon. Having no home for one year is exciting, but preparing for one year also means I have enough of it after one year. Both the landscapes and cloudscapes of Denmark are telling me that I am on my way home. And so does pretty much everything else.

Out of all the 27 countries, Denmark is probably the one country that resembles The Netherlands most. More so then Germany or Belgium, I would say. The language is similar, the standard of living is similar, the houses look similar, the humour is similar, the `genius underdog` principle is similar, the chubby faces are similar. People like liquorice and cycling. They spend more time thinking about helping Third World Countries develop than they would be willing to do on drinking coffee with their neighbours. Differences include the following: Denmark has lots more space, it`s more rural, more nationalistic and less metropolitan than The Netherlands.

One thing that annoys me as much in Denmark as it does in The Netherlands is the screaming facial expression: `I do not want to talk to anybody today, and especially not to you`. I can get quite annoyed if I sit down on a train, straight opposite to somebody, while that person deliberately refuses to notice my very existence. I have seen people do that all over the place, but it has nowhere been as deliberate, as obvious and therefore as annoying as in Denmark. No wonder so many people feel lonely here.

Those are not the people I wish to speak to for this project. I am not Donald Duck the vacuum cleaner seller and I am not interested in talking to people who are not willing to talk to me. I am happy to have found out that Denmark also has many friendly and helpful people. The people I speak to for Us Europeans have all been very friendly and honestly interested in my initiative – much more so than people from most other European countries, with the UK (`can`t be bothered`) and Czech Republic (too busy trying to get rich) ranking worst. As I reach the end of the project, more and more people feel tempted to invite me for coffee or meals: something I can only gratefully accept in a country that is as much of a burden to the budget as Denmark is.

(© Arhus - DK, July 2008)
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Book idea

Posted 11 July 2008, Malmö (SE):

Hello from the South of Sweden! I am back in country number 6, simply because it is a country that I enjoy visiting and also because all `Us Europeans` reports from Sweden relate to the north of Sweden. Copenhagen is close enough to Malmö to give Sweden a second chance so here I am, preparing for one weekend of absorbing Swedish vocabulary.

Yesterday`s posting on Daily Photo related to Danish Happiness. I am aware that it would be worth dedicating entire books to the question, but instead of doing that, I used today to ask the Danes what they themselves thought of the issue.

Last but not least, I have decided that there will be a book after this giant journey. I think I have a title for it (not Us Europeans), am working on a conceptual framework and will hopefully fill it up with the appropriate information within the next two months.

That`s all from Sweden. Below photo is from Copenhagen, where I hope to be back again on Monday morning.

(© Copenhagen - DK, July 2008)
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The Danish secret

Posted 10 July 2008 - Copenhagen (DK):

No matter how unwilling Dutch media are when it comes to writing about Us Europeans, there are fortunately also people who are willing to accept that one year of travelling potentially also leads to some cross-cultural understanding, a certain degree of proficiency in interviewing and writing as well as and some coherent mass of impressions about what is actually going on in Europe.

I was therefore very happy to talk to Polish newspaper Dziennik again. They had just received new Eurobarometer results that showed that the Danes were the happiest of all Europeans, the Dutch second and the Polish somewhere down the bottom. Question of the day: what`s the secret of the Dutch and what are the Poles doing wrong. Which I find a very fascinating question. There is for sure not one correct answer, but the message I tried to get across is the following:

Both the Dutch and the Danes complain quite a lot, but - more so than Poles - they have realistic ideas about life. Generally speaking, both the Dutch and Danes take responsibility for their actions to a higher degree than Poles do. They have fewer (imposed!) taboos, which allows them to get to know themselves better, be more balanced by not excluding undesired elements but integrating them, be confident about themselves and true to themselves. All of that makes it much easier to think ahead in time and prevent future mistakes rather than being preoccupied with the past and making the same mistakes over and over again.

Driven by the need to compromise, Danes and Dutch are more eager to understand opposing viewpoints, and less fanatic about thinking in extremes. The Dutch and the Danes may not be a warm and welcoming to their friends and families as the Poles are, they are also not as restrictive in what they think their friends and families should do and should not do. Generally speaking, they take life a little gentler. As it comes, because some things you can`t change anyway. The weather for example, or the rising level of the sea.

Well, none of that served to say that there are no problems in Denmark and The Netherlands because life is just as imperfect there as it is anywhere else. People die, fall ill or have accidents, some people are richer than others, some have evil ideas and life isn`t always fair, it`s hard to make a living and can`t ever afford being to naieve because you will be faced with the consequences.

Well, then about today`s photo, with the question: Who`s real? (the lady bending over is NOT). I found it very charming to see how the older kid is helping me get the photo right by trying to turn the smaller kid`s head towards the camera. I didn`t ask or say anything. Just smiled and said: click.

(© Copenhagen - DK, July 2008)
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Meeting people in CPH

Posted 9 July 2008 - Copenhagen (DK):

I have safely arrived in the last country on my list: Denmark. It`s hell expensive which means: back to a diet of plain Knäckebröd, cucumber and chocolate, with an instant noodle meal as dinner - and still having to exceed the daily budget. Such is life.. It`s a worthwhile experience to notice how 30 euros can allow you to sleep in pensions and eat in restaurants in one country while it`s not even enough for one night in a youth hostel. I could have travelled in a cheaper way - hitchhiking and camping illegally - but I wouldn`t have been able to keep up with that for one entire year. It`s all a matter of choices..

It`s not my first time to Copenhagen, like many other city-visits were also déjà-vus. Still, it`s pleasant to be here. Danes are friendly, they smile and they are very helpful which makes quite a change from the Czech shop personnel and bus drivers I happened to meet in, say, Karlovy Vary for example. `No` is a very likely answer to any request in Czech Republic, just like the eternal `Nie wiem` in Poland. In Denmark, people often make an effort to help. One lady told me the way to some address, then cycled off and came back with precisions, then cycled off again and came back once more with an even more detailed suggested itinerary. Danes may be less friendly to people in the inner circle, as opposed to the Czechs and Poles being very dedicated to their families, but none of that is a problem to me now.

Being in Copenhagen also allows me to meet up with people. I am meeting up with Camilla whom I first met in Romania in 2002, then in NL in 2003 and then again last year in Copenhagen. Beside seeing her again, I will also meet up with a photographer whose work I enjoy viewing. The guy is called Simon Hogsberg, and just like for example Sipke Visser from London, he just does cool stuff. Observing the world, trying to make sense out of it, catching impressions and even people`s ideas. I first landed on his site by learning about the Though project for which he asked random people in the street what they were thinking of just before he started speaking to them. Cool stuff!

Today`s photo: a Danish crossroad just outside Fakse Pipidówka.

(© Fakse - DK, July 2008)
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J-4: Cannot get lost, will not get lost

Posted 28 June 2007 - The Hague (NL):

Did not I write last week that one of the few things I am not afraid of before going on this trip is getting lost? Yesterday was my last day at work and my colleague Mark gave me a GPS keyring so I can check my wherebouts and link it up with the data of my photos. I am going to use the day of tomorrow to find out how to operate it and whether I can integrate it in any way in my website.

Apart from this present, a wonderful goodbye dinner and lots of positive words, our main client offered me sponsorship for data connectivity! That means I do not have to go looking for internet cafes all over the place: instead I can just log in from my computer and that is just uebercool. A small logo will appear on the Us Europeans site within the next few days as a countergesture.

(© Copenhague - DK, June 2007)
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From Denmark to Sweden

Posted 11 June 2007 - Varnhem (SE):

We left the outskirts of Copenhagen this morning to make our way to Sweden. We first passed the big bridge that connects the two countries. Then spent some time in Malmö and took the X2000 high speed train to get to Nässjö and catch a train to Skövde, right inbetween the big two lakes. We arrived in the early evening and were served a nice dinner by Bas's parents' friends. After dinner, they showed us their little Stuga, a nice little building bigger than a hut but smaller than a house. We'll be staying there until Thursday.

Below photo shows the Christiania neighbourhood in Copenhagen, where just about anything is allowed, except taking photos...

(© Copenhagen - DK, June 2007)
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Denmark Day 2

Posted 10 June 2007 - Copenhagen (DK):

Our second day in Denmark's capital has been just as pleasant as the first one. We have once again walked around the city and picknicked and slept in the park -this time accompanied by three Danish friends. We're leaving for Sweden tomorrow and got our train tickets secured so all looks good for the days to come.

(© Copenhagen - DK, June 2007)
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CPH, status OK

Posted 9 June 2007 - Copenhagen (DK):

In spite of some heavy thunderstorms passing by at Schiphol Airport last night, we had quite a steady flight into Copenhagen. During our approach to Kastrup, we had a nice view over the city. One thing that itches is the fact that I can't say a word here. Danish people sound like Germans speaking Swedish. I can copy the sound, but that's where it ends. We're here for only three days, and that's too short to really pratice.

No complaints apart from that. The weather is nice and the parks are filled with happy people enjoying the sun. Summer is in the air :)

(© Copenhagen - DK, June 2007)
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