The Duke Rides a Motorbike

From a Roman fortification known as Lucilinburhuc (′little castle′), to the present day seat of the European Court of Justice, Luxembourg has been through a great deal over its thousand-year history. With a population of 576,000 and a landmass of just under 1000 square miles, this tiny country has three official languages: French, German, and Luxembourgish (it’s real!). You can drive across the entire country in just over an hour. It is the only remaining grand duchy in Europe (Tuscany and Finland were both grand duchies at one point). After repeated invasions by Germany – the last of which resulted in the foundation of the European Union – Luxembourg is heavily influenced by bordering nations Germany, Belgium, and France. And yet, it boasts a style all its own. “We want to remain what we are” is the country’s motto. And they do so with style and flair.

I traveled to the country to attend a professional development conference at the International School of Luxembourg (gorgeous campus, generous teachers), with much of my time spent with a group of ten art teachers from all over Europe. We spent a full day downtown, exploring and creating artwork in visual journals.


We started our day at Skatepark Hollerich, taking inspiration from the gorgeous graffiti which covers the place from top to bottom.


Hopping on the bus to downtown, we switched over to architectural drawings, practicing making art wherever we stood, and focusing on the details we encountered.


Known as the City of Roses during Europe’s Belle Epoque, Luxembourg City has retained its charm. Arriving at the tail end of autumn, the city was abuzz with Christmas market preparations. I was one week too early to shop but the carnival made for some sweet compositions.


An organization called Urban Sketchers ( had mounted an exhibition in one of the main squares. On this gorgeous fall day, the sun danced across the building facades, taking the edge off the chill as we sat and sketched.


A tangle of sidewalks and alleyways make up the city’s historic downtown, with upscale butcher shops and boulangerie around every turn. Perhaps my favorite part of ducking in and out of the little cafes was talking with friendly local shopkeepers. I tried out more French than I’ve dared speak in years without any judgement. Everyone speaks a smattering of languages here and they truly appreciate the effort.



Off the center of town, the fortress walls drop off into a wide, tree-filled valley. Below the rampart walls lies a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Bock Casemates, 14 miles of tunnels which still exist today. Once a staging area for gun and cannon artillery, the tunnels also housed shops and barracks for over a thousand soldiers in the 18th century.


The valley provided a reprieve from the constant wind up above. A series of bridges resembling Roman aqueducts allow passage overhead. The whole city exudes a regal flair, particularly magical at sunset.

While I was there, I was fortunate to meet up with a friend from my old school in Korea. Soo had recently moved to Luxembourg with her husband and daughter. We had a great time exploring the city together. Here we stand outside the Gare Centrale, a slightly sketchy part of town with all the best restaurants and bars, of course.


Luxembourg proved endearingly charming, so much so that I would love to return. I think a combined road trip through Belgium might be just the ticket (here’s looking at you, Bruges!), and sooner than later. Until next time… à bientôt, Luxembourg.



Århus: Art City

Nestled between Aalborg and southern Denmark lies an enclave of culture known as Aarhus. A city of substantial size – 275,000 inhabitants – in a fairly small country, Aarhus packs a major artistic punch not to be missed.

Given my current zip code, booking transportation can be challenging (read: unacceptable foreign credit cards, Google Translate incompatibility), but chalk another one up for the Danes – they’ve got that on lock, too. DSB trains are efficient, timely, and extremely comfortable. As it was school vacation week, I opted to reserve a seat (always worth checking before booking!). Since my timing was flexible, I opted for the orange ticket – cheaper fares found at slightly less-traveled times. Very easy on the wallet in a country that leans towards the pricier side.

Pulling into Aarhus’ Central Station, I followed the signs to luggage storage. I easily deposited my overnight bag at the cost of 20 Danish krona for 24 hours (roughly 3USD). As I had opted to travel without a SIM card or an international phone plan – digital detachment being the vacation goal – I had prepped by downloading the city limits of Aarhus on Google Maps. Plugging in my first destination, the ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, I set off into the chilly, grey morning on foot.

My destination was less than a kilometer from the station and I spotted its famed rooftop installation almost immediately. The Rainbow Pavilion had attracted my eye on an Instagram feed, leading me to plan this stop on my return trip to Copenhagen.

ARoS did not disappoint. Within the museum’s impressive contemporary art collection, I spotted works by artists I recognize and noted a few new names to investigate.

World-renowned American artist Julian Schnabel’s canvases stretch over 40 feet high in ARoS’ cavernous underground galleries. Though I’m not necessarily a huge fan, I have to give him credit for these massive undertakings.

After wandering the galleries, I made my way to the museum’s roof. Perched on a hilltop, the building already has a height advantage over the surrounding low-lying city below. If you add a tunnel of the color continuum, you’re in business – views for days, and ever evolving ones thanks to the blustery autumn day.

I enjoyed my time in Aarhus so much that I’ve made a promise to return. With delicious restaurants, pedestrian walkways, and plenty of good shopping, there’s a lot to love. A few hours later, I arrived found myself back in Copenhagen for the evening. After spending time loading up on groceries not found in Moscow, I wandered the canal sidewalks, watching the lights of the row houses dance on the water. Denmark has a very special charm, buttoned up in stormy navy blue skies and shimmering golden light. Until next time…

A few days in the land of LEGO

Back in August, a good friend reminded me that the school year is a marathon, not a sprint. After a pretty jam-packed 8 weeks, I was in need of a true break. Blessed as I am to live this life of exploration, I have begun to take pleasure in lesser known travel destinations. Quieter, less touristy, and generally more subtle in their cultural distinctions, these countries offer a true departure from the daily grind and intriguing insights if you know where to look.

As I racked my brain for destinations of interest, I immediately landed on Denmark. My good friend Kristen has been living there off and on for nearly a decade, first studying abroad in Copenhagen, then completing her Fulbright, and finally a PhD in Aalborg, Denmark. Clearly this land had a pull on her and I struck out to find what has captured her attention for all these years.

A short two-hour flight from Moscow, I had been to Copenhagen once before on a layover. Finding the city charming, I took advantage and booked a night there on either end of my trip. Mindful of my need to unwind, I booked a 5 hour train ride to Aalborg for the next morning. Denmark, a land of islands and fields, proved the perfect antidote to a mind in need of quiet contemplation. For those with less time to spare, Aalborg is a quick 45-minute flight from Copenhagen.

As ease of travel goes, Denmark has it down to a science. An easy 13-minute ride into town from Kastrup Airport, Copenhagen boasts my favorite train station in all of Europe. Easy to navigate with signs in English and Danish, I circled the station collecting little creature comforts to outfit my train journey. Make fun if you will but Danish 7-11s have the selection in the world. These are not your average American convenience stores with slurpees and days-old hot dogs rotating on a spit. No, this is quality fare, the stuff of Marks & Spencer grocery store legend (see Edinburgh Airport, April 2018). Have a look for yourself.


Clearly we are not in Kansas anymore. I was well-stocked for my 5-hour ride.

As the train gathered speed, we left the spitting rain behind and a glorious sunrise burst forth from behind the clouds. The Danish countryside rolled past, with manicured lawns giving way to farm land and streams. Wind turbines dotted many ridge lines and horses and cows could be spotted every few kilometers.


As we headed north, I watched the seasons change, with greens turning to vibrant yellows, and green farmland quickly becoming brown. October is not Denmark’s high tourist season, which suited me just fine.

Kristen in front of a beautiful turning ginko tree

Aalborg is a town of industry and academics. Boasting gorgeous water views across the local fjord, this port town was officially established in 1342 but dates back as a settlement over 1300 years. Wind power technology and cement distribution as its major exports, Aalborg is also home to 20,000 university students and faculty, which includes my good friend Kristen, an assistant professor in the IT and Design Department focusing on marine governance.

Kristen and I go way back, all the way to Mrs. Carey’s 2nd Grade class, and she and I have remained good friends throughout our post-college years, overlapping in DC for a time and now as a handful of Medfield kids living abroad in Europe. It was so great to finally see the town where she’s lived for all these years.

The Danes are currently trending in contemporary mainstream culture for their art of hygge (pronounced hue-ga in Danish). As the days grow shorter and the darkness comes sooner, hygge is the practice of embracing the night with candles and conversation to stimulate the mind and senses.

Never short on conversation or laughs, Kristen and I hygge’d for hours each evening, taking in some of Aalborg night life as well. From food trucks to fjord bathing, Aalborg knows how to keep it entertaining.

Chilling by the fjord with my trusty rent-a-steed, King. For only $15 I rented this bike for 24 hours, thanks to the aid of bluetooth technology and a simple app. Speaking of, turns out Bluetooth is a Danish invention named after a Viking king. Who knew?
I tried guf, a marshmallow-like topping that melts in your mouth. If you find yourself in Aalborg in need of a sweat treat, I highly recommend Guf & Kugler.
Wandering the charming cobblestone streets of Aalborg was relaxing, with adorable homes and friendly shopkeepers at every turn.

One of my favorite chats with a local included an elderly fellow who shook my hand and welcomed me to Aalborg in perfect English. Like many, he wanted to know just what had drawn me to this little corner of Denmark. He went on to tell me that he had spent 7 years living in the United States, specifically in New Jersey – a state, he informed me, which has an undeserved reputation. I quite agreed 🙂

Before I knew it, it was time to head onto Aarhus for some art and culture. I truly enjoyed my stay in Aalborg, a little gem made infinitely cooler by having a local guide. Friendly people, quaint side streets, and plenty of bike paths made Aalborg a very chill Danish destination. I would highly recommend it.

One last cotton candy sunset over Aalborg.