Signs (Ad Edition)

As someone interested in design and usability, signs fascinate me. In the US, I often ignore them because I’m so used to seeing them. But when I travel. I find myself inexplicably drawn to all types of signage, from ads to street signs to store names. And so, with a brand new camera in tow, I take pictures, which I then share with you. These are all pictures from my summer trip to Europe.

So here are pictures of ads and storefronts. It is a long post, but hopefully it will be interesting.

Giant reindeer head museum. I can only imagine that inside the museum there are loads of reindeer heads.

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Strawberry, raspberry, and mango popsicles. I WANT.

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I have no clue what this is an ad for. Mika appears to not be a Finnish word, but it is a European pop singer. I don’t know what this means or why there is a question mark after it.

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A moving ad in the tram in Helsinki. DOCTAGON. Yeah!

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Red bull has mini trucks even in Finland.

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Dude in a jacket, bow tie and crow bar. Woman in a dress and paint roller. Weird.

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This struck me as sounding like Cook Pot. Which would be a funny name for a kitchen store.

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I want to buy things from the brand Your Face.

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TexMex is popular food in Finland. I guess so are girls with shot glasses and blonde hair.

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Here’s a TexMex restaurant called Gringos Locos. The crazy white people restaurant.

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Here is a art gallery with a show called Lorem ipsum. I thought it was a typo at first, then I saw the art. It’s a show about fonts and things like that.

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Harry Potter in Finland. Kaikki Päättyy.

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Dog parking at the local grocery store.

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Why take the time to mix Jack and Coke when you can buy it combined together in a can?

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Outlet mall in Estonia.

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I am so sad I didn’t try that soup.

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Everything’s store. Oh Estonia!

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I really want to go see Jäääär in concert.

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Shopping mall in Estonia. They have Marks and Sparks and everything!

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Captain America and Cars 2 in Estonia.

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This sign just cracked me up. I’m not sure why. Chicken Restaurant in Tallinn.

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These next two pictures are two side by side coffee shops in Helsinki. Robert’s Coffee.

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And Wayne’s Coffee.

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I’d never actually seen an actual Gone Fishing sign before this one in Helsinki.

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I think this is a maternity store in Malmö. I don’t know why there is a Japanese maternity clothes store in Sweden.

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I I really wanted to go to Burger King in Sweden in order to eat a BKool Sundae 🙂

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No clue what this ad is for. Slurp. In Copenhagen.

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Nun advertising Sister Act and praying in Germany.

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I know you’ve been wanting to see the Starlight Express, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s roller skate musical, right?

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I don’t love you. I love ice cream.

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I like that the gambling halls are associated with cherries.

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Just as rubber ducks are associated with glasses.

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Mini truck with big kegs of beer.

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A coffee shop that sells bras and underwear.

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Capri-Sun Cola Mix. Very odd. Uncarbonated, lemon flavored, uncaffenated, coke drink.

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I think this was an ad for the psychiatric museum art museum. Not that you can tell from the banner.

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Christ Jewelers. Seems like an odd choice of names…

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Home of Shirts. Whatever do you think they sell in this store?

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This is a chocolate shop in Heidelburg that has a bench out front reserved for Forrest Gump.

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The Backfactory. I don’t remember what they sell, but it’s some sort of food.

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Snowballs of ALL flavors.

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In Germany, Bridesmaids was known as Braut Alarm!

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Big Fries! The restaurant!

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Marc O’Polo clothing store. Not, amusingly enough, Marco Polo.

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There is a men’s clothing shop called Macho. Their logo is a shirtless man-chest.

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Bison. A bizarre name for a clothing store.

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I kindof want to work at a place called CyklopStudio.

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nü by staff-woman in Copenhagen. I think this was a clothing store. For women. Or woman as the case may be.

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Change. I don’t know if they just want you to change your bra or what.

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Back to Helsinki. There is a whole Sauna shop in downtown.

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Bright and Shiny Hippies in Helsinki means BEN AND JERRY’S. No, I didn’t eat there.

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TINTIN. If you don’t know who Tintin is than I’m ashamed of you.

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That is all for today. Do you want to come and see Jäääär with me sometime?

Usability Issue 5 (No Question)

My first day in Helsinki it took me over 45 minutes to get to my hostel. Not because it was far away, but because of extrodinarily bad signage. So this is less of a question and more of a usability what-not-to-do show and tell. (I had WAY too much stuff with me, poorly packed, and had been awake for about 36 hours. And it was hot. So hot that after eventually finding my hostel, I changed into a short skirt and tank top to go out to dinner. And I was finally comfortable.)

So this is the story of what not to do when creating signage for your youth hostel. Keep in mind that I did have a Google Map and it did not help one ounce. Or gram.


This is the sidewalk I was walking on. I had taken the bus they told me to get on and gotten off at the stop they told me to. The bus driver had given me vague directions and I had my map. So I was walking. The left side of the sidewalk (red) is the bike path. The gray part is for pedestrians.


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When I got to this point., I thought to myself, weird. There is a road going off into the soccer fields. I never once thought to myself, I bet that’s where the hostel is. Note, no signs. I should have turned right instead of going straight.


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If I had turned right I would have gone down the road or ended up in this quasi-parking lot at the top of a staircase. I should have gone down those stairs. (Still no signs.)


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Then after walking along the soccer fields, I would have come to a giant flight of stairs. I should have gone up that.


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At the top of the giant flight of stairs, I would have found my first sign that a hostel actually existed, a small sign that said Hostel Stadion <- 100 yds. At this point I was standing on a paved walk/bikeway next to a parking lot. But I would then have turned left and powered on (as the tiny sign said).

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Journeying on, there may have been one more small sign, as one would walk along this empty path. There would also, undoubtedly be bikers to dodge, with a huge pack on.

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Then, you make an unexpected right, down a man-made path in the grass, to another trail, across some rocks, and through a small break in the fence. It is very official. BUT there is an official Hosteling International Sign here, so it must be legit! Relief!

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As you turn right from the hole in the fence, you will see this. You may or may not be able to see the HOSTEL STADION sign. You are in the right place.

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If you come another way, good luck to you, fine sirs and madams. Hopefully you brought lots of rations and your bag is light. And hope they don’t give your bed away…

Suomenlinna Island

On my first full day in Finland, I took the ferry to Suomenlinna Island. It is about a 15 minute ferry ride from central Helsinki and the ride is covered by a public transit pass.

Suomenlinna Island is an old fort, back from the days when the Swedish controlled Finland. Building was started in 1748. The fort was to protect Helsinki from invasion by sea. When the Russians took control of Finland, they too enjoyed the power of the fort. During the Finnish Civil War, the fort served as a prison camp. Currently the island has about 900 civilian residents. Suomi is the Finnish word for Finland and Linna means lion, so the fort was named Finnish Lion. But in Swedish it is Sveaborg. It is now a popular site for picnics and afternoons out. it is also a UNESCO Heritage Site.

I’ve included my favorite pictures from my afternoon below.

The ferry on the way to the Island.

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As the ferry approaches the Island, the church is easily spotted.

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The churches in Finland (all two that I visited) were much simpler than most other European churches. This is probably because they are Protestant, not Catholic, but it was very interesting to see the simple interiors.

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Outside the church is also relatively simple. Just right for a small island church.

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I’m unsure if Open Prison means that anyone can be imprisoned or if it means something else. I’m rooting for the something else.

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A private home on the Island. Covered with ivy and glorious flowering windowboxes. After I took this, the man came out of the house and started tending the flowers.

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The Island is actually six Islands. Here you can see two of them.

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While the parts of the Island you first walk through are not fort-like, as you get deeper into the island, you see more and more evidence of the fort. It starts about the same place as you cross the first bridge.

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The walls are really impressive. This one is about 6 feet deep and there were lots (comparatively speaking) of windows. I assume they were for shooting.

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The fortress I am in the above picture. I think the walking tunnel was about 30 feet deep.

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A private beach and private boats.

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A public beach. Bathers were running around on the rocks and jumping into the sea.

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Then the cannons appeared. Not to hit the bathers… GIANT CANNON.

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How the cannons are positioned. At tourists.

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There were also all these little berms which I assume were hideouts.

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And then two hangliders appeared. Hanglider 1…

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and his buddy Hanglider 2.

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As I walked back to the ferry, I noticed a rock wall with fireweed growing out of it. Fireweed is my favorite flower and almost impossible to find in the lower 48. It made me smile.

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I enjoyed my couple of hours on Suomenlinna and I would highly recommend the museum and video of the history of the fort. Perhaps next time I’ll even consider staying at the Youth Hostel on the Island.

Usability Question 4

How do you open this hostel door? This is the door.


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This is the “key” which is the only hostel key I had to pay a deposit for.

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This system is so difficult that they have a demo door and key at the check-in desk so that they can demonstrate. Once it took me 2 minutes to open the door. I was a little ashamed.

Usability Question 3

This is a dryer. What does the 5 mean? Hint: It came on after the dryer had been running for an hour.


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How I travel (Part 4)

I like small towns. I also like cities, but as I am not a huge fan of being a tourist, often big cities wear me out. They also can make me feel guilty. They also wear out my feet, cost a lot, and many other things. But most people don’t go to small towns. This is a) because they are hard to get to and b) there is not a lot to do there for tourists.

However, because I’m a little crazy, I tend to go to a lot of small towns. I think that the smallest town I’ve ever stayed in was Brackenheim-Botenheim, Germany (pop. unknown) in 2004. It is the location of this picture and the longest time it ever took me to pay a hotel bill. (And by me, I mean my mom. For the record it was about 6 months. But it got paid.)

Spring Break

It may or may not be the case that I end up in small towns going to concerts. This trip, I went to Meldorf, Germany (pop. 8,000) and Lüneburg, Germany (pop. 72,000) for concerts as well as a suburb of Hamburg. To be fair, Lüneburg is a substantial town, but it is a tourist town for Germans, not really anyone else. The main museums in town are only in German and other than cycling, there’s not much to do. Other than eat ice cream.

This is my post to convince you that small towns are cool. I will also refer you to this ancient post if you have forgotten how cool small Swiss towns are.


In Lüneburg, you can park your motorcycle in the middle of a field/forest.


There are also cool buildings. Like the water tower. I think I could have climbed it, but I spent too much time not knowing how to check into my hotel, so I failed.


Yet another cool building. This was across the street from my hotel and looked oddly zebra-esque. Apparently Lüneburg is known for salt mines, but this also led to unstable soil and so a lot of the buildings aren’t exactly straight. This one is more than some…


Luckily, even in small towns, the restaurants are on facebook!


I have no clue what rubber duckies have to do with optometry or eyeglasses, but obviously they are a critical marketing point. And is it just me or does the guy on the left look a little like Carl Kasell?


I thought this was a cool windowsill, so I took a picture. Then the dude poked his head out and said something to me in German. It wasn’t angry though, so apparently he was happy I took a picture of his birds and clog.


Church towers are very important, even in smaller towns. Lüneburg was somewhat confusing to navigate because it had not one, but three cathedrals!


Here is the cathedral I went to a concert in. It is the cathedral J.S. Bach grew up as a choir boy in. It is pink inside.


More churches!



Because I was worried about how to occupy my time in Meldorf after the Ag Musuem, so I preemptively rented a bike. The rental store was very nice. They charged only 6 euros for a whole day and took care to explain to me (with consultations with folks who spoke better English than others) that if my bike was stole I had to pay for it and that’s what I was signing. Here I am on my bike ride.


Apparently you can keep donkeys in your yard in Meldorf. (I was sneakily taking this picture because the dude had just come to move the donkeys.)


Also, if you bike down the right street, you will find a windmill. I think there was a restaurant in the windmill. It was very random.


Also, every town should be required to have buildings with sayings on them in Latin. And another building with Latin characters on it (e.g. Ovid, Aristotle).


The Dom (Cathedral) is in the middle of the town square and is surrounded by parking lots, cafe tables, and very strange street patterns. I never understood why the cars could drive in the pedestrian area, but apparently they can. And then they end up entering the parking lot and hopefully no one dies in the process.


The Meldorf Dom and the location of the evening concert.


Inside of the Dom. Very pretty and with phenomenal acoustics.



This is a town of about 3 people. I was there for the workshop that brought me to Europe in the first place. We all stayed at Spiedel BrauManufaktur which had a hotel, restaurant, and conference rooms.

I love that this was the view from our balcony. (This patio is where we ate lunch every day. The open windows on the second floor of the yellow building are from the room where we met every day.)


The only open shop in town that we could find claimed to have a lot of items. They did not, however, have the pervasive European Ice Cream bar. There was another shop just down the road, but it was suspiciously always closed. The church is in the distance and the city hall (for all five of the villages of Hohenstein) is on the right.


The front of the brewery/hotel/restaurant/conference center. I love the painted buildings.


So, in summary, small towns are good! You should go to one.


Helsinki Football Fields

Eleven pm. July 23rd. Helsinki overlooking a soccer pitch. The skies are artificially dark due to weather. Moments after I took this, the street lights came on. I love the north.

Usability Question 2

What is the red button for? I never figured it out. It seemed to be popular in Finland, but not in Denmark, Sweden, or Germany. Sometimes the button was green, sometimes it was on the back of the faucet.

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Also, I do not know the answer, just by the way…

How I travel (Part 3)

Sometimes, I am slightly more normal than others. (Albeit, rarely.) One of these times came on my evening in Copenhagen when I ventured to Tivoli, a 150+ year old amusement park. Now granted my reasoning for visiting was probably different than many people’s, but I enjoyed it greatly.

When I was little, I read a book called Lotte’s Locket. I read it about 10 times or so, but all I remember is that Lotte got lost in Copenhagen and she and her class went to Tivoli. So when I was going to Copenhagen, Tivoli was at the top of my list.

I went for about 3 hours, including part of the Friday Night Rock Concert and dinner. I will say that while the screaming people on rides is one thing, the atmosphere at Tivoli at night is something different altogether. The lights combined with the concert are very special.

Tivoli is an amusement park, but not like Six Flags or a place like that. You pay for admission and rides separately and it’s quite possible that you’ll only pay for one ride, not a ride pass.

First, Tivoli loves recycling. If you recycle your plastic drink cup, you get a small refund.Very cool.


There’s a lot of cool looking gates and stuff. This door makes me think the most of “Tivoli Garden” the way I thought of it in the past.


Then there’s the Arabic looking castle. With cool fountains and roses…of course.


And amidst the rides and the chaos, there is a row boat on a lake.


The lake also has fountains. The steeple you see in the background is from the City Hall. Copenhagen (like many European cities) is very good at preserving trees. Go Green!


This stretch of Tivoli made me think of Harry Potter and Diagon Alley. Anyone else see a resemblance? Anyone know if J.K. Rowling had been to Tivoli before writing the Harry Potter books?


The open space area in front of the stage lit up for the concert. The palace is lit up in the background.


Norwegian flags and a statue…and roses.


The City Hall and the lake. At night.


One of the craziest roller coasters, all lit up, with screaming people aboard.


I would go back to Tivoli in an instant. Preferably with some friends so that I have people to hang out with and go on rides with, Obviously I should go back to Copenhagen soon.

How I travel (Part 2)

One of my big foci for travel is food. I think I started planning my Copenhagen eating 2 months in advance. (For a 24 hour trip.) While I am often not willing to pay money for souvenirs or museums, I am almost always willing to pay money for good food.

Actually, amusingly, absolutely none of my plans panned out, but I was thrilled with my decisions. The only food I think I haven’t been happy with on this trip was the night when I got cheap Tex-Mex in Estonia. Lesson learned.


Grilled pineapple and chicken “quesadilla” with cheese sauce and yogurt-esque guacamole.

But to give you an idea of how I eat while traveling, I’ve decided to share my last 24 hours (relative to when I’m writing) of food with you. Figuratively. I’ve been super geeky and taken pictures of everything I’ve eaten, so this should be pretty easy.

Lunch at Kanal Caffeen:


Smoked Salmon Smørbrød on white bread. (With cucumber, dill, asparagus, tomato, lettuce, and lemon)


Some kind of lamb Smørbrød on rye bread. (with cress, aspic?, onion, tomato, cucumber, and lettuce).

This lunch made me want to only eat smoked salmon smørbrød for the rest of my life. It was pretty spectacular. Sadly the lamb came out second and that was ehh, in comparison. BUT WOW. SMOKED SALMON SMØRBRØD I HEART YOU.

Snack at La Glace:


Hot chocolate (literally) with whipped cream and a variation on sachertorte.

The chocolate was amazing. Actually better without the cream than with…AND it came with two glasses worth in the pitcher. Sadly, the cake was super boozy. Like the whipped cream was probably not cream but booze. Is it possible that you can create whipped cream out of 100% booze? But the cherries and chocolate in the cake made me happy. And it was purdy.

Dinner at Paafuglen:


Fanta and a cheesy, spicy, salty, red pepper bread with Lurpak butter.


Gazpacho with chopped onions and green peppers and cream cheese?


Tagliatelle with shrimp, red pepper, onions, peas, and dill.

I ordered the “Summer Menu” because I wanted the tagliatelle, but I was not really that excited about the gazpacho. That said, the whole dinner was fantastic. Fan-freaking-tastic. And I got vegetables which I’d been short on since/in Germany.

Breakfast and snack from Lagkagehuset (and 7-11):


        Poppyseed bun with almond fililng. (Christiana store) And Skim Milk. (7-11)


Traditional Danish. (Christiana store)


Greek yogurt with rhubarb compote, berries, and granola. (Airport store)

This place is my new favortest bakery ever. My computer tells me that favortest is not a word, but I know it is, because this place is my favortest. First off, I worried that at 8am on a Saturday morning, they might be busy. I waited, maybe 3 minutes to be served? Second of all, they make delicious goodies. Bread, sandwiches, pastries, yogurty-goodness. All delicious. If they opened a franchise in Minneapolis, I would buy from it all the time. i would probably go broke. Come to think of it, that is a very bad idea.