Min danske eventyr (‘My Danish adventure’) — part two

Helsinki City Center (Photo by Suzee Belles)

Editor’s note: Following is part two of a two-part series. Part one appeared in the Nov. 28-Dec. 4, 2012, issue.

By Suzee Belles
Contributing Writer

This fall, I was given the opportunity to travel with my classmates Molly Brown and Emma Berry to study with the Royal Danish Ballet for six weeks in Copenhagen, Denmark. While we were there, we took class with the company and apprentices twice a day, but when we weren’t dancing, we got to experience the European life and culture.

Copenhagen is a very easy city to go sightseeing in (though I won’t say it’s easy to navigate) because you can walk across the city in a matter of minutes. However, bicycling seemed to be the transportation mode of choice by most native Danes. You can even use one of the city bicycles by paying a 20 kronor (the exchange is $5.6 to 1 kronor, making 20 kr less than $5) deposit that is returned to you when you lock it back into a specified bike rack. Because of this, I was able to do a lot of sightseeing, including a couple castles, a palace that, to this day, the royal family actually resides in, quite a few museums, many ultra-contemporary buildings and much more.

Helsinki Cathedral in Senate Square (Photo by Suzee Belles)

One event that occurred during our stay in Copenhagen that I found especially cool was “Kulturnatten,” which translates to “Culture Night.” Kulturnatten reminded me of a combination between Rockford’s ArtScene and On the Waterfront. It is an event where you buy a button, and then this button admits you into hundreds of different culture events with live music, dance, art shows and activities for all ages. That night, we visited the Amalienborg Palace and watched a performance inside one of the palace rooms, visited the Danish Design Museum, watched a band perform on an outside stage on a pedestrian street, visited the post office museum and made crepes over a campfire. Also as a part of this event, the Royal Danish Ballet School had an open house where the first-graders did a short performance, and then the viewers watched part of the Apprentice modern class that we exchange students were a part of!

While I was in Europe, I took the opportunity to see more than just Denmark. One of my best friends, Kabba Jallow, whom I know through ballet, is from Helsinki, Finland. I got to visit him for a weekend! My only disappointment of this trip is that I didn’t get my passport stamped! Because the EU has open borders, I was able to travel between the two countries hardly even showing my identification.

Backstage at Royal Danish Ballet’s production of "La Sylphide." (Photo by Suzee Belles)

Helsinki was recognized as the World Design Capitol 2012. While I was there, I got to see the works of many well-known designers and architects, such as Alvar Aalto and Marko Kivistö. I also got to see the Uspenski Cathedral, which was designed by a Russian architect, Alexey Gornostaev, in the 1800s and is the largest Orthodox cathedral in Western Europe. We also visited the Temppeliaukio Church, which was designed by architects and brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalaine. This church, also known as the Church in the Rock, was given this nickname because it really is built inside a large rock. With my parents, Lynn and Rob Belles, being architects, I have a different appreciation for architecture than most people, especially for my age.

As I made many friends while in Europe, one of the coolest things that happened to me was getting to see some old friends. One of my friends from Rockford Auburn High School, Lizzie Phelan, was studying in Copenhagen while I was there. Another one of my friends from high school, Sarah Laken, was studying in Lund, Sweden, just across the Øresund Sea and a short train ride away! I was able to spend a day with both of them exploring Copenhagen. I think this whole experience has really shown me how amazing Rockford is that I can run into two of my friends from home in, of all places, Scandinavia!

All in all, Copenhagen is a city I will always hold close to my heart, and never forget. It is a remarkable city with rich history and charm, and an amazing ballet company! I hope to visit again one day soon.

From the Dec. 5-11, 2012, issue

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