One of the fun things about traveling so much is that our English colloquial vocabulary is changing.

The first foreign phrase to enter our everyday speech after moving to Rome was “caca di cane”. If I use it in context, you’ll figure out the meaning quickly enough: “Look out! You almost stepped in the caca di cane!!” Now anytime the need arises (and it arises often on the streets of European cities), we shout “caca di cane!!

Enjoying a lovely dinner outside at Pernille and Steve's summer house.

More than any of our other trips thus far, our week in Denmark brought new words into our everyday vocabulary. Perhaps this was because we were staying with our dear friends from Madison, Pernille, Steve, Elliot, and Sophie, in their summer house outside Copenhagen. They all speak Danish (even Steve, bravely) along with English, and so we had ample opportunity to have the language wash over us. We also got to meet and hang out with many of their friends and family, which was a special treat. Nell now insists on calling me the Danish word for Mom, which is transliterated something like “Mwaw”, and she’s calling Seth “Fa”.

Sophie REALLY enjoyed her dinner (Eli Pollak, photo credit)

Another linguistic/cultural tradition that we have now adopted is what the Danes say after each meal: “Tak for mad,” which means “Thanks for the meal”. There’s something particularly nice about a tradition of thanking those who prepared the meal after consuming it. We enjoyed many meals under the trees in Steve and Pernille’s backyard – the summer house tradition is to enjoy long evenings on tables on the lawn while kids run around and adults enjoy conversation.

Eli enjoying one last tebirkes in the Copenhagen airport.

Another tradition that we enjoyed was “coffee with cake.” Every time you visit with somebody, you are offered coffee with cake – even if it is just to pop by before heading to a Copenhagen playground (thanks Birgit and Ned and Eva and Tobias, our new friends from New Haven via Madison). And what cakes they are! Eli and Nell became obsessed with a particular kind of sweet roll called Tebirkes. While this word has entered our vocabulary, we still can’t pronounce it. Oddly, they sell great tebirkes at the 7/11 convenience stores that are located all over Denmark. I was pretty wary of buying pastry at the 24-hr store, but our friend Elliot was right: It’s excellent!

Nell in Viking finery.

Another tradition that I was previously unaware of was the ubiquity of the kayak. Every time there was a body of water, even in the most crowded canals in Copenhagen, there were kayaks. One morning, at our hotel in Copenhagen, we awoke to a kayak water polo tournament in the canal below our room (it looked pretty dangerous, actually)! At Pernille’s dad’s birthday dinner, a group set out to kayak between dinner and dessert. I guess it makes sense given the Viking history, which we got to enjoy at the Viking Ship museum in Roskilde. Maybe not a culture that I personally identify with, but fascinating nevertheless.

Eli the Fierce!

We particularly enjoyed the use of classic culinary  traditions in high cuisine. Smørrebrød (open sandwiches) have an entirely new meaning to me now. The culinary highlight of our trip was a meal at Herman, a Michelin starred restaurant in, of all places, the Tivoli amusement park. That is, in itself, is an interesting piece of cultural commentary – can you imagine an internationally-known restaurant at an amusement park in the United States? Part of what was so fun about the restaurant was that the food – while haute (foams and dry ice and the like) – was made up entirely of the flavors that I now associate with Denmark: Elderberry, rose hip, licorice, and of course fish, fish, and more fish.