Weeks Twenty-Five & Twenty-Six

The last couple weeks have not been great for travel. After the shenanigans last week, I’ve been nervous when thinking about having to take more trains. As it turns out, it’s not the trains I should have been worried about. More on that in a minute.

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Last week, a friend from the US came to Europe and we visited Copenhagen together. It was a lovely city that reminded me quite a bit of Portland, Oregon, which I do miss. From the warehouse of street food carts at Paperøen (which turns into a party at night) and the upscale version of the same at Torvehallerne, to the fine/homey dining and fancy beer culture, Copenhagen definitely shares Portland’s love of mixing together the up-scale with the everyman, the weird with the comfortable, the unique with the traditional. (Well, maybe Portland isn’t known for traditional, so in that I suppose they differ.) Both also have a great transportation system, and are also incredibly bike friendly (Copenhagen moreso in both cases, since it is a European city).

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Yea, I feel ya, lady.

However, unlike Portland, Copenhagen is just so damn cold! By March, Portland is usually experiencing that weird spring weather, where it can’t decide whether it wants to rain, hail, or be sunny. By contrast, Copenhagen was quite firmly in the grey, rainy, windy and near 0 degrees Celsius camp. I got through the cold by looking forward to flying immediately afterwards to Porto, where the weather promised to get up to 17 degrees C.

Long story short, go to Copenhagen for food, beer, coffee, gaming, adorable shops, cool castles, viking history, beautiful canals with coloured houses in Nyhavn (an idea apparently borrowed from Amsterdam by King Christian V), and a cool language (check out that vowel space) plus Elder Furthark runes for those of you who are linguists out there– but go during the summer! By the way, you can also visit Sweden, by taking a short train from the Copenhagen Airport to Malmø. Malmø is quite small and there isn’t much there, but if you want a bit of quiet, away from the bustle of the big city, it’s still nice for a half-day trip.

Our last day in Copenhagen, we met some friends for a hot coffee, had an amazingly unique and delicious dinner, and were headed home via the efficient transportation system, when I received an email from Ryanair, the budget airline I was taking to Porto in the morning.

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Malmø, Sweden.

My flight was cancelled.  Apparently, there was some sort of air traffic controller strike in France (is anyone surprised?), and no airlines could fly over France. So even though my plane was not landing in France, since it would have to fly over it, the flight was cancelled. Ryanair reimbursed me for my flight; however, I had already booked a non-refundable train ticket home from that vacation a few days later and an AirBnB. Plus, now I had to get transportation back home from Luxembourg in the morning. Ryanair refused to reimburse me for this (of course), so I am basically out approximately €70. I also don’t know if I’ll have another opportunity to go to Portugal while I am here. Probably not this year, since it’s already looking like it will be a very busy 5 months.

I considered taking the time and going somewhere else for a few days, but honestly, I actually do have a lot of work to get done, and coming home gives me a chance to crack down on some of it before a trip to Switzerland next week. It also gave me a chance to attend a few different gatherings to say bye to folks who are leaving this semester. I gotta say, Saarland is a bit meh, but we have a great group of people that I will really miss. It’s hard to believe I only have 4.5 months left here before I move to Italy… and I don’t speak a word of Italian yet, aaahh!

Costs

I spent a lot on fancy food during my travels so far. It’s only been two weeks, and I’m already projecting to be way over my ideal budget (I expect Switzerland will be quite expensive too). Hopefully, I can stay within my break even budget. That reminds me… I have to catch up on my HiWi job hours.

  • €225 – rent
  • €90 – health insurance
  • €21 – other medical expenses
  • €30 – phone (called my mom a lot this month)
  • €17 – bouldering (wish I knew why they let me in for cheaper one of the times)
  • €230 – dining out/drinks in Copenhagen
  • €86 – dining out/drinks in Köln
  • €20 – souvenirs
  • €24 – groceries
  • €2 – laundry
  • Total: €775

Herb-Cheese Scones

Warm, cheesy, delicious.

Warm, cheesy, delicious.

Every third Thursday of the month, I participate in a Kickstarted cheese club here in Portland. It works like this. When that month’s cheese is announced on Kickstarter, you buy a ticket to the cheese party or a ticket plus a pound of cheese. If the Kickstarter gets funded, the restaurant owner and cheesemonger, Sasha, buys the whole wheel of cheese, and puts on a pick-up party for everyone involved. If it doesn’t get funded, Sasha tries again next month. (It has never failed to get funded.)

At the pick-up party, Sasha explains what the cheese is all about, the cheese is usually prepared into a delicious recipe for you to try, you get your pound to take home (if you paid for that Kickstarter level), and you vote on next month’s cheese.

Every single cheese that has come out of this cheese club has been completely mindblowing; these are top quality cheese from all over the world. I think my favorite was Harbison– a brie-like cheese with a very creamy texture, aged in pine bark– but Brian seemed to prefer the Burrata.

Anyway, Last month’s cheese was a French comté, which we decided to use for herb-cheese scones. The recipe is adapted from a similar one that Sasha emailed out many months ago for a tea-rubbed cheese called TeaHive, but it goes well with any grate-able, sharp cheese. An English Cheddar (the cheese for the month before last) would probably have gone very well with this recipe. We are hoping a Dutch gouda (this month’s cheese) will do well with it too, since we have company coming and would love to share these amazing scones.

Herb-Cheese Scones

  • 2 cups white flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 stick (2 oz) cold butter, cut up into small chunks
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 5 oz cheese of choice, grated (comté, sharp chedder, gouda etc.)
  • 1 teaspoon each of basil, dill, and/or other herb*

*I found that 1 teaspoon or so each of basil and dill worked well with the comté, but depending on your taste preferences and your cheese, you may want to pick different herbs. I recommend slicing off a thin piece of the cheese and trying it with a small pinch of each herb to find the perfect combination. Once you find the herb(s) you want, mix them in with the dough mixture until it is lightly speckled with the herbs. You may want to use a little less or a little more than the amount I listed, because you don’t want your herbs to overpower the flavour of the cheese — as always, your taste is your best tool!

To make the dough, combine 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Put the butter chunks in and mash with your fingers until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Then mix in the sugar, herbs and cheese.

In a separate bowl, whisk together 1 egg and 1/2 cup of milk. Pour most of the mixture into the dough, setting aside just a little for the glaze. Knead the dough with your hands into a rough ball. The dough will seem dry and shaggy, and may take a moment to come together. If needed, add a little bit more of the egg/milk mixture. Once it sticks together, turn the dough out onto a board and knead 10 or so times, just enough to get it to stick together without overworking it.

Flatten out the dough into a round about 1.5 inches thick. Cut it up into 8 wedges. Place the wedges onto an ungreased baking sheet. Brush the wedges with the reserved egg/milk mixture, or if you used up all of the mixture in the dough, whisk together 1 egg for some glaze.

Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes, or until golden.

That’s it! Super easy, and very tasty. They can be frozen for later consumption or otherwise held in a covered dish at room temperature for a couple of days. Enjoy!

Note: To give credit where it’s due, I want to say that this recipe was adapted from a recipe sent out by Sasha Davies of Cyril’s Cheese Club, and was written by Laura Birsham for TeaHive cheese scones. However, Ms. Birsham adapted that recipe from a recipe by Molly Wizenberg, which may or may not have involved cheese.

EDIT: I have since made this recipe with an English cheddar and a Dutch gouda in addition to the French comté and they were all great in it. =)

Portland 400

Portland 400 miles.

I’m on the road, and over halfway there. The wide, straight freeway has changed into a crooked mountain pass, as sunny inland pastures have given way to snow-dusted pine woods. Maybe it’s the change in terrain that does it, or maybe just the thought of the distance I’ve traveled, but the music blaring on my radio can no longer drown out the confused mixture of emotions that I have been struggling to contain– I am moving far away from all I know.

Coming around a bend, black rows of pine studded hills suddenly split open ahead of me. The early morning sun illuminates the pure snow-clad face of a great mountain. Mount Shasta? Like the crater-pocked face of the moon, it seems to glow of its own light. Like the moon, it is at once comforting and cold.

I’ve moved other times, of course, even traveled to other countries, but this time is somehow different. Someone told me yesterday it’s because in the past, there was always the assumption of return, even if there was no set date– this time is forever. Beyond anxiety and uncertainty, the light of understanding shines as brilliantly as the morning sunlight on the mountain’s face. Sometimes, the truth is a source of comfort. Sometimes, it is a curse.

Weed 5 miles.

What kind of a deranged soul would name their town “Weed”? Perhaps an old, bow-backed hunter, clinging to his cabin hermitage, as he cleans his father’s rifle by candlelight. Damned be any man who attempts to uproot him from his ancestral home. We cling to what we know.

I grew up in a house of books. My parents clung to them like the hermit to his father’s rifle. Overstuffed shelves lined the walls, but there were not enough walls. Books lay in stacks on the floor, on nightstands, on the kitchen table, on the kitchen counters. Any available surface was covered in books. Sometimes there was more room in the house for books than for us trying to live there. Yet “home” is neither a house, nor a city, nor a book. Home is that feeling of comfort and security that comes from knowing you are cared for. In that sense, it was still home.

It’s hard leaving everything you know, but not as hard as clinging to an outlived past. If I were to be a weed, I would choose to be the dandelion. I would not wear down the path beneath my feet, but I would travel on the wind, each new breeze guiding me towards a new life.

Portland 300 miles.