Turning 23 in Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Malmo

Being isolated away from my family and friends has made me reminisce a lot on all the times I took for granted with the people I love. Stopping by my parents’ every day after work to steal their food, visiting my grandparents, and most of all, hopping on planes to see my friends who live around the world.

Some of my fondest memories are from celebrating my birthdays abroad. To be fair, I am that girl that LOVES her own birthday and will start talking about it at least a month beforehand. Last year was possibly my favourite birthday, with a wonderful party at my house where I made jello shots and got to wear a pink sparkly dress, but I also had some pretty great ones in the years before. I turned 19 in New York City, 21 in Hong Kong, and then 23 in Amsterdam and Copenhagen! Seems like this needs to be a biennial tradition….let’s hope travel is back on the books by this November for my 25th.

My 19th birthday in NYC!

My 23rd was absolutely amazing. I flew to Amsterdam with two friends from my university, to meet another friend from university who lived there with her Dutch boyfriend. The best part was that the four of us had never really been friends as a group: we were all friends with eachother, but to varying degrees and for varying lengths of time. A love for travel and a cheap flight deal brought us together, and we crashed on the floor of Theresa’s living room for a weekend of binge drinking, late nights, and birthday celebrations.

Amsterdam has always been a place I’ve loved in a different way than most European cities. I visited once on my post-graduation solo trip and made a friend at my hostel to bike around with. I enjoyed myself and saw some great sights, but didn’t really feel a strong connection to anything I had done – except maybe the Anne Frank House. Visiting a second time around, with a local and other friends, was different. We only went to one museum, and replaced tourist attractions with various bars and clubs. I realized then that I don’t feel the excitement of visiting a brand new exotic place when I’m in Amsterdam. I just feel at home, especially when I’m with those I love.

Ironically, two years later I saw this original painting in Bethlehem, Palestine. Super cool!

Can you tell we are sober?

We wandered around the trendy districts of town, ate at my request of Vegan Junk Food Bar (amazing), did a lot of Jagerbombs and dragged ourselves out of bed one day to visit the MOCO museum for a Banksy exhibit. It was also my friend Alyssa’s birthday, so the celebrations lasted all weekend. Alyssa and I sat idly by while Tori and Theresa shopped in overwhelmingly fashionable boutiques.

This is clearly not a post to really recommend anything, but MOCO Museum was really cool, and on my previous visit to Amsterdam I enjoyed a bike ride out to Zaanse Schans to see some windmills and local scenery. That is the extent of my recommendations other than drinking, so here are the only scenery pictures I took all weekend.

When I booked my flights, in classic Bethany fashion I couldn’t go to Europe for four days and only see one country! So I went to Europe for five days, and saw three countries. I booked an overnight Flixbus to Copenhagen, and realized I could also pop over to Sweden for a few hours. I am aware that a lot of “real travelers” think country-counting is silly, but it makes me happy to see the number of places I’ve visited grow, even if some of those were just a surface look at a place. I was exhausted, but really loved my short stay in Copenhagen even though it was rainy and cold. My friend Erin from England met me for the night, and I absolutely loved that she was willing to fly over for literally 24 hours.

I’d love to return to Copenhagen in summer and visit Tivoli and all the parks, and enjoy outdoor time a little more, but it is a charming winter city as well.

The main touristy thing we did was visit Nyhavn, this stunning canal lined with rainbow buildings and just brimming with charm. It was almost empty of tourists and I felt as though I had stepped back in time to the Viking era, even though that makes absolutely no sense.

We also did an Urban Adventure tour through Vesterbro, which was a great experience. Our guide was around our age, and it was super cool to hear about the minutiae of living in Copenhagen from someone I could totally see myself being friends with. We stopped in at bars I would have never visited on my own, and I tried beers that would normally repulse me – finding I kind of actually enjoyed them. Scandinavia has a fascinating culture that we all seem to be obsessed with, and it was cool to see places that were a little rougher around the edges than I might have pictured.

For the final country of my birthday weekend, we were off to Sweden! There is a train that takes roughly 30 minutes from downtown Copenhagen to downtown Malmo. It’s not the most exciting city in Sweden, that’s for sure, but it was really cool to get lunch in a different country and then hop back over to Denmark. There is much more exploration to be done in Sweden, but for now this was a great taste to walk around the historic centre and see what the differences were between countries.

5 days and very little sleep later, I flew back to Canada one year older with three more countries checked off the list. I love getting deep into a destination and really exploring, but sometimes weekends like this are just the break you need from work and life. Sweden and Denmark – I’ll be back!