Tuesday, September 15, 2015


After our 4-hour train trip to Denmark that turned into an 8-hour trip, we were happy to see our host Betty at the Copenhagen train station. We knew Betty through Esperanto, but in an unusual way. For the past few years we've been donating money to a microloan organization called Kiva. Within Kiva are special interest groups, and one of ours is the Esperanto group. When Les wrote a message to the group last spring asking if anyone was going to be at the Universala Kongreso in Lille, Betty responded that she'd be there, and also invited us to stay with her for a few days.

Nyhavn in Copenhagen

We spent two days exploring downtown Copenhagen, by light rail, metro, foot, and kayak. Betty was another super host, and spoiled us with delicious vegan soups and stews. The day we left, Betty was to join a demonstration in support of migrant refugees. Betty has also been working hard to raise money for a water project in Africa. Feel free to contribute if you'd like to.

Les liked watching all the photographers at the Little Mermaid statue

We kayaked in the canals of Copenhagen

Donation center for refugees at the Copenhagen train station

Betty arranged for us to stay with another Esperanto speaker in Odense on our way back to Germany. We learned that it's pronounced Oo'enseh (no "d" at all). Lisa was another fine cook, plying us with food. By a happy coincidence, a young Esperanto speaker had recently arrived from Hungary to study at the university, and joined us for dinner.

New students at the university in Odense were roaming the streets doing spirit-building exercises; this is "The Simpsons" group

Odense is the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen, and we spent a few hours in the museum. We had not realized what a difficult life he led. Born into abject poverty, he had to struggle to get an education. Rejected in love several times, he longed for a wife, and was constantly plagued by bad dreams. His real efforts went into plays, which faced a lot of criticism, and it was only at the end of his life that he got some acclaim. He was a nomad like us most of his life, with no real home, traveling all over Europe and beyond in an age when traveling was quite difficult. He always carried a long thick rope in case he needed to escape a fire in a hotel from an upper floor.

Princess and the Pea setup in the museum

Lisa told us how she saved her father's life. He was in the Danish underground during World War II. One evening baby Lisa developed whooping cough, and her parents rushed with her to the hospital. Her father was supposed to meet with his group that evening, but didn't. The group was captured by the Nazis, tortured for information, and killed.

I learned that university education and health care is free not only for Danish citizens, but also for foreigners—seems incredible.

We took a train to Flensburg, just across the border in Germany. Again, there were swarms of refugees camping out in the station, and refugee help centers.

The next day we took a train to Frankfurt. I haven't mentioned here one of my favorite features of the first class passage we get with the railcard: we can choose to sit in the "quiet" car, where cell phones can't be used. I've found that Europeans can be just as inconsiderate as Americans, making one loud phone call after another during a tram or train ride. On the negative side of the railcard, the German stations don't allow railcard users to take advantage of the first-class lounge; so it's a first-class ticket, but without all the first-class perks.

A few weeks ago we were very worried about Frankfurt, because we couldn't find any hotel rooms at a reasonable price. We had thought mid-September would be easy, but it turned out that there's an autumn festival going on, and all the prices more than doubled. I even contemplated camping out at the airport. But then I thought of Pasporta Servo. We've used it 6 or 7 times, but those stays were planned months ahead. Would it work on such short notice? There were six listings in Frankfurt, and we contacted two of them. Angelika saved the day by saying that we could stay with her.

The phrase that comes to mind is "blessing in disguise". I shudder to think that we might have been in a sterile Ibis (the hotel we use most commonly) in downtown Frankfurt. Instead, we're at Angelika's cozy apartment in the wonderful Höchst section of the city. It's very historical, dating from 790, at a meeting of two rivers. There's a large Turkish population, which means lots of döner kebab restaurants, and Angelika took us to her favorite one. (We've come to love this type of restaurant in Europe; I hope we can find some in Seattle.)

Angelika took us on a walking tour of the castle (built in the 13th century) and environs last night, and today we went back to see it again. We had a scary experience, though. We went through an open gate next to a church, to see a garden Angelika had told us about. After wandering around for ten minutes, we went back, but...the gate was locked! The walls were high stone ones, the area kind of isolated, so all we could think of was that we'd have to climb the tall metal gate. (I had visions of bruises and sprains.) Fortunately a man came by, we explained our predicament, he knocked on the church door, and soon somebody came with a key to let us out. Whew!

Part of the castle in Höchst

Lovely houses in Höchst

It seems so fitting that we ended our trip, whose theme always was Esperanto, by finding yet another kind-hearted Esperanto speaker through Pasporta Servo.

Now we're packing for the trip home tomorrow. It's more difficult than usual. Until now we've managed to never check any luggage on a plane. But Condor Airlines, which flies non-stop from Frankfurt to Seattle, has a strict limit of one 6kg suitcase each in the cabin, so we have to check one bag. We're trying to decide what items we won't mind getting lost.

It will be 19 weeks, or 133 days, since we left in early May. To tell the truth, we're neither of us looking forward to getting home. It will be lovely to see family and friends, but we've gotten hooked on the nomadic lifestyle (kind of the epitome of "simplified living"), and the prospect of new adventures each day. Next week I'll write a final entry, which will include statistics for the mathematically-minded.