Winner of www.Denmark.net's International Blog Contest, 2009. Updated version, March 2013.
All Danes are blond and gorgeous. And every single of us have a cabin with a view of a lake. No wonder the whole world wants to be Danish, but don't get your hopes up. We're very protective of our gene pool.
You're planning to go to Denmark.
You've always wanted to visit our country because you know that it's the most exciting nation in the world. You tell yourself, "Why would I want to go to Paris, New York or the Himalayas when I can go rock climbing on Falster?"
"Yes, I'm trendy. I want to visit Denmark because the Danes are so eco-friendly with their bikes, cuisine, and state of the art dildos. And most important, they're the happiest and most trusting people in the world."
Yes, that's right.
In 2008 Denmark was named the happiest nation on the planet. And I'm living proof of that. Right now this Danish novelist is sitting in cozy Copenhagen staring at the sleet, enjoying the 43 degrees of happy spring.
Come and visit us, will you?
And please bring all your credit cards because you're damn well going to need them!
GUIDE TO DENMARK
Here's a superficial introduction to my Southern Scandinavian Paradise. Enjoy.
Name: Denmark (Danmark)
Inhabitants: 5.6 million
Capital: Copenhagen (1.5 million)
Ranking: Most livable city in the world (Monocle, British Magazine, 2008)
Other Top Rankings in the World That We Take Pride In:
a) Most trusting people in the world (April 2011)
b) Best restaurant in the world (Noma, 2010, 2011, 2012)
c) Most Pork consumption per capita (not counting your neighborhood sheikh)
Government: Constitutional monarchy.
Currency: Kroner. (5.7 DKK to a US dollar)
Religion: No, thank you.
Name of Queen: Margrethe II.
Name of Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt. As popular as chlamydia, just prettier.
Size: The 8th biggest country in the world if you count Greenland. (Always count Greenland).
Weather: Not really.
Unemployment Rate: Rising
Hospitality If You're Not White: Falling
Crime per Capita: Fourth lowest in the world.
Corruption: Second lowest in the world.
Average Consumption of Beer per Capita: Fourth highest in the world.
Famous Dead Danes: Hans Christian Andersen, Søren Kierkegaard (philosopher), King Canute (conquered England), Tycho Brahe (conquered the universe), Isak Dinesen (conquered Africa), Karen Blixen (conquered Meryl Streep), Vitus Bering (explorer), Niels Bohr (physicist), Georg Jensen (design), Carl Nielsen (composer), Carl Dreyer (film director), Victor Borge (comedian), Hamlet (Shakespeare's boy toy)
Famous Living Danes: Caroline Wozniacki (fading tennis star, known for her Sienna Williams' impersonations), Lars Ulrich(founder of Metallica), Anders Fogh Rasmussen (General Secretary of NATO; he'll be happy to bomb any country America tells him to), Helena Christensen (model, unfortunately not in porn), Peter Høeg (author), Jussi Adler-Olsen (like Stieg Larsson, just alive), Michael Laudrup, Peter Schmeichel (soccer players), Nicklas Bendtner (happy drunk), Lars von Trier (film director), René Redzepi (chef)
Danes Who Ought to Be Dead: Jante.
Famous Half Danes: Viggo Mortensen, Scarlett Johansson, Ludvig Holberg.
Biggest Danish Film Star of All Time: Asta Nielsen (Die Asta from the silent age)
Best Mads Mikkelsen: Mads Mikkelsen
Danish TV-Series That Have Conquered the World and Perhaps Mars, Too: The Killing (Forbrydelsen), The Castle (Borgen), and The Bridge (Broen, co-production with Sweden)
Most Popular Danish Children Song of All Time: Barbie Girl by Aqua
Most Famous Danish Building: The Opera House in Sydney (Jørn Utzon)
Danish Imperialism: Lego, Maersk, Ecco, Vesta, Bang and Olufsen, Carlsberg, Tuborg.
Daily Smokers: 10% of population. (All of them will be sitting on your lap when you go to an outdoor café)
Obesity Rate: 22% of population.
Best Danish Food: Moss, lichen, and soil mixed with bone marrow from an animal you don't want to eat. (Noma, world's best restaurant)
Denmark's Claim to Fame in Spain, Greece & Cyprus: Blond girls with herpes.
Denmark's Claim to Fame in the Far East: Badminton.
Denmark's Claim to Fame in the Middle East: Cartoons.
Denmark's Claim to Fame in Great Britain: Bacon & The Killing (Forbrydelsen) starring Sofie Gråbøl and her sweater.
Most Important Danish Invention of All Time: The atomic bomb (Niels Bohr)
Denmark's Biggest Contribution to American Sports: Morten Andersen, the all-time leading scorer in the NFL.
Best Tourist Attraction If You're Into Knights in Shining Armour: Frederiksborg castle, Hillerød and Kronborg, Helsingør (Hamlet's castle)
Best Tourist Attraction If You're Eight Years Old or Behaving Like It: Legoland.
Best Tourist Attraction If You're Eighty Years Old or Behaving Like It: Tivoli.
Most Overrated Tourist Attraction: The Little Mermaid.
This is the kind of abuse we Danes have to tolerate every day: Foreigners who fondle our national treasure as if she were a common strumpet. Shameless, that's what it is.
Time of Glory I: When the Danish vikings conquered England in the 11th century.
Time Of Glory II: When Denmark won the European Championship in football (soccer) in 1992 and the whole country behaved like a frat party.
Most Beautiful Cities in Denmark: Copenhagen, Helsingør (Elsinore), Ærøskøbing, Faaborg, Ribe, Skagen, Svaneke, and Christiania (if you still think that Che Guevara and bean bag chairs are cool)
Places to Avoid at All Costs Unless You Have A Secret Death Wish: Mørke, Ringsted, Brøndby, Fisketorvet.
Best Months to Visit the Land of the Danes: From late May to mid-September.
Best Month to Commit Suicide Because It's Dark, Dreary, and Everybody Wish They Were in Thailand: January.
Best Danish Traits: Tolerance, sense of humor, informality.
Worst Danish Traits: Intolerance, pettiness, self-satisfied melancholy.
What You'll Miss the Most If You're an American Visiting Denmark: TV anchors with perfect teeth.
What You'll Miss the Most If You're Italian: Bread and Berlusconi.
What You'll Miss the Most If You're Norwegian: Norway
Most Beautiful Area of Denmark: The Silkeborg lake district in Jutland and the island of Bornholm.
Most Stupid Thing to Say to a Dane: Now, which part of Germany are you from again?
Second Most Stupid Thing to Say to a Dane: Sweden is my favorite Scandinavian country.
Enjoy your stay. And tourists, please forgive Copenhagen for looking like Pompeii. We're building a Metro that we don't need ...
Copyright, Peter H. Fogtdal, Danish Accent, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013,
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Denmark for Dummies 2013 - A Superficial Guide to the Happiest Nation on Earth (If You Don't Count Norway And Why Would You?)
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
What If the Vatican Was Overrun By Rats and One of the Cardinals Was a Transvestite Dying in His Bed? (It's All True According to Roberto Pazzi)
What goes on in a conclave?
The whole world has been asking that for almost a century, but Italian novelist Roberto Pazzi has the answer. About ten years ago he wrote a brilliant, surreal novel called Conclave. It's been sold to more than twenty countries, and if you read it you'll understand why, because it's funny, symbolic, and deeply serious.
I became friends with Roberto Pazzi in Montreal in 2009 when both of us were speakers at an international festival for European literature. It turned out that we had a lot in common. Both of us are spiritual people that don't care much for organized religion and dogma. And we seem to laugh at the same things.
Our events took place at the new, sexy library in downtown. I would love to lie and tell you that hundreds of locals showed up with Italian and Danish flags, but it was fun nevertheless, especially listening to Roberto who is a fan of Proust and hardcore Pluto aspects.
In CONCLAVE, the cardinals are locked up for months, then for years, but still can't make a decision. The world outside grows impatient, but inside the Vatican time is suspended, and things quickly become very surreal.
The Sixtine Chapel gets infested with rats and spiders, so the Church has to introduce cats and chicken to kill them off.
A hot tub is constructed so the aging cardinals don't get bored. The Americans go jogging to stay sane; an African cardinal introduces black magic and vanishes miraculously; the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is found dead in women's clothes.
Read this Kafkaesque novel. It was a big hit in Italy but sold about eleven copies in the US. I hope it's getting a revival right now.
Conclave was translated by Oonagh Stransky and came out in America in 2003 from Zoland Books. The picture on top is of Roberto Pazzi and me. Roberto is on the left.
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Sponsor Uncle has a lovely daughter in Bangalore, India.
Her name is Keerthana, and she has lived in the local SOS village since she was three. Keerthana is ten years old, soon to be eleven, and she has a rich life with a mother and ten other kids in a nice house. Keerthana is probably the most quiet and understated of the bunch----very appropriate since her Sponsor Uncle is a bit of a showboat.
Sponsor Auntie couldn't make the trip to Southern India, but she's proud of Keerthana, too. We had bought her a nice gift: an orange bag with crayons, pens, and a big notebook. Keerthana was very pleased since she likes to draw pictures of nature. She is good at running, too---a talent she luckily didn't put to use when Sponsor Uncle visited ...
During my stay Keerthana glowed in her beautiful dress. And so did her silly Sponsor Uncle who had a lot of fun with her great, naughty siblings. If I could, I would have stuffed them all in my suitcase and brought them back with me, but India has strict rules against that, unfortunately.
When Sponsor Uncle left the SOS Village to go back to his writer's residency,Sangam House he was moved beyond words. But his Indian cab driver soon got him down to earth.
"You pay $40 a month for an Indian kid?" he asked looking at me like I was some kind of a moron.
"Yes, and I love it."
"I can get you five kids for that price," he said and drove me into the heavy fumes of the Bangalore traffic.
Well, thanks to the many SOS Children's Villages around the world, thousands of orphans and poor kids can sleep safely at night and get an education in loving surroundings.
And you can sponsor one of them as well, if you like. There are SOS Villages around the world. SOS is active in 133 countries, and you can read about it here.
Thursday, December 6, 2012
I totally lost my heart to Nepal and the Tibetan community in Boudha.
I was in town to do two readings at an international writers' festival that actually was cancelled, but since a lot of us had received grant money to attend, ten of us showed up, anyway, including Vikum Seth from India, slam poet Sarah Kay from New York, and my Danish colleague Sally Altschuler.
The brilliant director of the Literary Jatra, Suvani Singh quickly arranged a lot of events for us, and to my surprise they were all well attended. Sarah Kay kicked some serious ass in Thalem, Vikum Seth disappeared from the face of the earth, and I presented The Tsar's Dwarf and my take on writing historical novels for a large group of wonderful writers, poets, and journalists at ICER college. And I read at the Storytellers' Union along with Sally Altschuler and five local storytellers.
When I wasn't working I walked around Boudha outside Kathmandu in awe, getting up at dawn to circle around one of the world's biggest stupas in the company of Tibetan monks. I loved it and was incredibly moved by the whole experience.
In Boudha I stayed at the Tibet International hotel only 300 meters from the stupa and would recommend it to anyone.
The people working there were absolutely wonderful. After a few days, I'd almost fallen in love with three receptionists and with the roof terrace where there was a great view of the stupa and the snowcapped Himalayas.
Well, pictures speak louder than words (as a novelist, I hate that saying) but here are a few photos from my great week in Nepal and Boudha.
Kathmandu is a ride. But leave your lungs at home. They won't like the place half as much as you will.
And the Nepalese are an adorable people. Please invite me again, won't you?
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
The first time I was in Finland I was almost beaten up by two Finnish thugs in a bar.
They didn't like my Greenpeace sticker, and when they found out I'd just been to Moscow, they were convinced I was a Commie. "We like to kill them," one of the psychos told me with a smile that would have made Hannibal Lecter proud.
But last month I was back in the Land of Nokia to present The Tsar's Dwarf (Zarens dværg) in Helsinki. And this time no one tried to bash my head in. Helsinki was sunny and friendly like a sauna of love.
My reading took place at a downtown library. Fifty wonderful Finns and Danes laughed, applauded, and fed me cheese. I spoke to Finns Who Love Denmark Because We Sound So Weird, Danes Who Married Finns And Don't Mind Too Much, and Finns Who Married Danes But Now Can't Get Rid Of Them. There were some great people from The Danish Club and the embassy as well. Even the Ambassador was cool.
I sold a lot of books, too and signed the odd body part.
I did, however, experience some drama.
In the airport bus I lost my credit card, but got it back two hours later.
"The Finns are extremely honest," my Danish host, Claus Elholm Andersen told me. He teaches Danish lit at University of Helsinki and recently moved to Helsinki from San Diego. Talking about dedication to the tundra! Claus is the man with the red shoes in the top photo. Whatever gets you through ten months of winter is fine with me, Claus.
Here are some more pictures from Helsinki. The Finnish capital isn't a bad place to hang out. And the sweet smell of Vodka is everywhere, especially in the trams in the morning.
So God bless the Finns. They put up with the Russians for centuries, and now they've put up with me.
Monday, August 20, 2012
Supertramp's Roger Hodgson in Concert at the Oregon Zoo: Even The Giraffes Got So Excited They Tried To Headbutt This Musical Genius
Sometimes I can't stand all the beauty in the world.
Nine days ago was one of those days.
Roger Hodgson, the lead singer from Supertramp, had the audacity of visiting Portland, where he played some of the classics he wrote in the Seventies and Eighties. If you don't know what songs I'm talking about, let me just mention Give A Little Bit, Breakfast in America, The Logical Song, Dreamer, It's Raining Again, School, and Take The Long Way Home
The concert took place at the Oregon Zoo in front of orangutangs, leopards, and an enthusiastic crowd of aging hippies. The giraffes got so excited they tried to run up to the stage and headbutt Roger Hodgson, but he was probably protected by Babaji and a hundred other saints.
Goddammit, I don't want to admit how much I was moved by that concert. Not just because Roger Hodgsons songs were the soundtrack to my pimples, but because he is one of the most spiritual singers around.
Listening to Roger is like witnessing an archangel auditioning for Yogananda. And like the truly great artists, Hodgson is downloading songs from Heaven that he probably didn't write himself. And it pisses me off big time!
Why? Because I didn't go to the Oregon Zoo to be so viciously confronted with the beauty of existence. But I'm so happy I brought my fucking sun glasses because I was crying like a toddler when the old hippie played Hide In Your Shell, one of the most beautiful songs ever written.
And when Hodgson started on Lord Is It Mine? I totally broke down. That song is a modern day psalm. Johann Sebastian Bach probably gave it to Hodgson in a dream, and I don't even think that Bach regrets it!
So, Roger Hodson, I'm very impressed with you. But don't you dare come back to Portland, Oregon! And don't even think of visiting Copenhagen, because then I have to listen to you again. And frankly, I'm not sure me and the other giraffes can stand that much beauty.
Sunday, August 12, 2012
Chelsea Cain: Mother of Serial Killers, Murderer of Plants, and Writer's Block (And She Will Chop Off Your Fingers For a Laugh As Well)
A week ago I went to fellow Portland author Chelsea Cain's great reading at Powell's World of Books, the biggest book store west of the Rockies.
Chelsea's murder mysteries, starring serial killer Gretchen Lowell are out in 35 countries, and Chelsea told her dying public that she always looks for new exciting places in Portland to dump her bodies. (May I suggest the Scandinavian section at Powell's? No one is ever around, unless you can find a used copy of Stieg Larsson)
Chelsea Cain read from her newest thriller, Kill You Twice and told the audience a lot of scary stuff: For instance, her books are huge in Norway, and she adores the blood stains on her Japanese cover. She also handed out severed fingers to the audience which gave me a bit of a shock. Is that actually legal in the US? Couldn't Chelsea get sued if that got out of hand (so to speak)?
I don't know Chelsea Cain personally, but I once appeared in a video with her for Sledgehammer, a popular writing contest in Portland & Seattle. That was back in the good old days when Chelsea's body count was less impressive. She was a blond, too, probably because she thought she could get away with murder.
Liz Prato is the third scribe in this goofy promo about the most life-threatening condition in the world, writers block! You can see it below if you don't know what to do with your life the next minute and thirty-eight seconds.
Kill You Twice is published by Minotaur Books and will soon be available on Pluto as well. At least, I think so because Chelsea seems to be on a bit of a roll.
Sunday, July 29, 2012
Thinking Of Aleppo And Syria (And The World's Oldest Insane Asylum Where Bashir al-Assad Should Be Locked Up Now)
About nine years ago I was in Syria's second biggest city, Aleppo.
It's a charming place - a huge Arab metropolis with one of the most stupendous suqs (bazars) in the world, parts of it underground. Aleppo also has a fantastic citadel, Qal'at Halab and the world's oldest insane asylum from the 14th Century.
Back then the mental patients were treated to music and poetry instead of strait jackets. This would be a good place to put Syria's dictator, Bashar al-Assad who doesn't seem to understand that his time is up. Don't kill him though. Just tie him to an uncomfortable chair for a century or two, and let him listen to Rumi and some Sufi music to clear his murderous mind.
By the way, visiting Bimaristan Arghan, the insane asylum, inspired a Danish novel of mine, Skorpionens hale (Scorpio\s tale) that came out in 2008, so for many reasons the city is a fond memory.
Unfortunately, Aleppo is the center of the Syrian civil war right now. Hundreds have died during the first days of fighting there, and more than 200,000 are fleeing the city.
We're thinking and praying for you, Aleppo.
Syria is a beautiful country with lots of warm people and a long history of religious tolerance. I hope the Syrians will come out of the storm soon and not let any kind of fundamentalism take over.
This great country with its rich history deserves all the best. Inshallah.