Feeling Lucky: Hiking the Tunnel Canyon Trail in the Cibola National Forest in NM

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

Tunnel Canyon Trail, Cibola National Forest, New Mexico,
photo Denise Ames

I am lucky! Different people have different ways in which they feel lucky. I am lucky in many ways, my beautiful grandchildren come immediately to mind, but today I feel lucky in a different way. There are miles and miles of nature trails within a short drive of my house in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That is lucky.

Luring me from my comfortable hikes along the bosque (forest) paths along the Rio Grande in the middle of Albuquerque, is the Tunnel Canyon Trail. Located in the Cibola National Forest east of the Sandia Mountains that form the eastern border of my city, the trail is rated as moderate with some elevation gain. My old knees don’t like a lot of up and down hiking, so I try to avoid it if possible.

View from the Tunnel Canyon Trail, photo Denise Ames

The Cibola (pronounced SEE-bo-lah) National Forest is a 1,633,783 acre United States National Forest that lies mostly in New Mexico. The name Cibola is thought to be the original Zuni Indian name for their pueblos or tribal lands. The name was later interpreted by the Spanish to mean “buffalo.” The forest is disjointed with lands spread across central and northern New Mexico, west Texas and even into Oklahoma. 

My partner, Jim, and I arrived mid-morning and easily found a parking spot. Just emerging from the trailhead was a bedraggled-looking young man who was just finishing a 700-mile hike from Arizona to New Mexico. His final leg was a hike up to Sandia Peak, about another ascent of 20 miles. The crest of the Sandia Mountains stands at 10,679′, so he had a way to go. I admired his stamina and determination; Jim and I were thinking a 4-mile round trip would be just enough.

Tunnel Canyon Trail, NM, photo Denise Ames

The Tunnel Canyon Trail makes up only a slice of the enormous Cibola National Forest, but it represents nature’s beauty at its best—New Mexico style. We immediately loved the trail. The elevation gains were noticeable, but certainly within our ability level. We laugh when a trail description says it is for beginners, we classify ourselves as enders not beginners. We have reached our peak of strength and athletic abilities, now we are on a downhill trend. We work hard to stem the steep decline, but it is inevitable, the decline does come.

But today we are not worried about the decline of our physical abilities, the air is clear and fresh and the sun casts its warming rays our way. A slight breeze rustles through the pines telling us they enjoy our trek through their forest. They also tell us that physical decline is part of nature, it happens. They point to their old trees that are beginning to bend from the wind or crack from the constant shifting of the sandy soil. No need to fret and worry, change is part of nature and we, too, are part of nature.

The road from Tunnel Canyon Trail, photo Denise Ames

We indeed feel part of nature as we make our way to a spectacular overlook of the forest valley below. Reaching in every direction the forest looks endless. We decide that this is a good place to turn back and enjoy the same trail again, but from a different angle.

We safely arrive back at our car and drive the short distance back to Albuquerque. Feeling lucky all over again that we had another wonderful few hours beholding nature’s beauty.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Dr. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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The Gran Quivira: A Spanish Mission and Pueblo in New Mexico

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

Aerial map of Gran Quivira Mission and Pueblo ruins, New Mexico

It was a dry, hot, spring day in New Mexico, thankfully without the wind, as I pulled into the parking lot of the Gran Quivira, the largest of the three Salinas Missions (see earlier posts). Encompassing about 600 acres, it is situated in a remote area of New Mexico about 90 miles south of Albuquerque. The aerial map shows the extent of the structures, stretching across the arid and forlorn landscape.

I wondered if I would see any visitors venturing out to this remote site. But I was happy to see that there were about a dozen vehicles in the parking lot, ready to brave the elements to see what the past had to offer them. The glass-enclosed visitor center was closed, due to COVID, but the site was open and ready for sightseers.

Gran Quivira

Although I remember visiting the site over 25 years ago, when my mother and I traipsed through every imaginable archaeological site that existed in New Mexico, I didn’t remember how large it was. This was a formidable pueblo and mission.

Remains of pit houses, photo Denise Ames

Gran Quivira’s history began in about 800 CE (common era). A sedentary native population lived in pit houses that were dug into the earth for protection from the elements. Archeological evidence indicates that by 1300 CE, the area overlooking the southern Estancia Basin was inhabited by Tompiro-speaking peoples who built the culturally distinct pueblo masonry architecture.

From about 1000 AD to the 1600s, three villages at the site served as major regional centers of trade with Indians from the Plains, the Pacific Coast, and the Great Basin. The Puebloan people were both producers and middlemen between the Rio Grande villages and plains tribes to the east. They traded maize, pinon nuts, beans, squash, salt, and cotton goods for dried buffalo meat, hides, flints, and shells.

Gran Quivira, photo Denise Ames

San Buenaventura de Las Humanas, the largest of Gran Quivera villages, grew into a bustling community of 3,000 inhabitants with multiple pueblos and kivas. Living in a land with scarce water, these early peoples subsisted from hunting, gathering, and agricultural activities, and trade relationships.

I looked for a nearby stream that would provide water for the residents but there was none that I could locate. In fact, the village cleverly managed to derive their water from catch basins and cisterns located on the site.

Grand Kiva at Gran Quivira, New Mexico, photo Denise Ames

The pueblo people practiced an animistic religion in which dances and other rituals were intended to take the people’s prayers to the gods in hope of ensuring sufficient rain, good harvests and hunting, and universal harmony. Many of the rituals and prayers were performed in sacred kivas. These underground, circular structures were the heart of native religious beliefs and culture.

The Spanish missions were charged with converting the Puebloan people to Catholicism. This was not an easy task. Although kivas were allowed to remain at many of the missions, eventually, this conflict between the two religious beliefs led the Franciscan friars to destroy the kivas. Ultimately, attempts to suppress the Pueblo peoples’ ancient religious beliefs failed.

Gran Quivira ruins, photo Denise Ames

Recurring epidemics decimated the population, which had little resistance to European diseases. Along with deadly disease, in September 1670, the Apache raided Las Humanas and destroyed the mission and pueblo, leaving 11 dead and taking 30 inhabitants as captives. By 1672, the once thriving community of 10,000 inhabitants was reduced to 500 people. By 1678, the Spanish and Pueblo peoples had completely abandoned the Salinas Valley.

Mission church, Gran Quivira, New Mexico, photo Denise Ames

As I drove out of the historic site and into the barren lands of New Mexico, I reflected upon my experience walking through the site. For one, I was amazed at their resourcefulness in securing enough water to supply all their needs.

I was also struck by the fact that the cultural beliefs of a people are hard to change. A lesson for those who are eager to “reeducate” a group of people. Often, we hold on to our beliefs even though they may be against our best interests; they are part of us and deeply entrenched. Today, cultural and religious beliefs of many native people in New Mexico continue their traditional ways, even amidst our modern society. A true testament to the endurance of tradition. 

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Dr. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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The Impermanence of Quarai: A Story of a Salinas Mission and Pueblo

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

Quarai Mission, New Mexico, photo Denise Ames

The Quarai mission ruins sat stoically under a brilliant, New Mexico-blue sky in early spring. Unlike the Abo ruins, about 10 miles away, Quarai had a softer feel. Perhaps it was because of the just-budding cottonwood trees lining a nearby stream bed that lent the space a more mystical atmosphere. Whatever the reason, I enjoyed the ambience.

There wasn’t as much excavation at Quarai, as the Abo site or the larger Gran Quivera complex that I would visit next. Nonetheless, it was fascinating to read a bit of the history about the relationship of the Catholic missionaries and the native Pueblo people.

Towering wall of the Quarai Mission, New Mexico, photo Denise Ames

Soon after Spain had conquered and colonized Mexico, tales of great wealth to the North drew explorers to New Mexico. In 1598 a party led by Juan de Onate came to New Mexico to plant a permeant colony. Onate does not have a good reputation in New Mexico, and deservedly so. The Acoma people (a pueblo people) killed 15 of Onate’s men during a raid, including his favorite nephew. In retaliation, Onate killed an estimated 800-1,000 Acoma. The Acoma still remember and tell this story.

Quarai Mission, New Mexico, photo Denise Ames

Onate called salt, which was abundant in the Salinas area, one of the four riches of New Mexico, but the other riches, especially minerals, were elusive. Agriculture too proved difficult in the harsh climate. Although Spain concluded that New Mexico would never be profitable, the Pope had charged the Spanish Crown with Christianizing the indigenous people. Therefore, the Spanish sent Franciscan missionaries with that task. Hence, the three missions in the area.

To defray some of the high costs of setting up the missions, the Salinas Puebloan people were saddled with heavy tribute payments to be paid to Spanish political officials and also the Franciscans placed demands on the pueblos to support the missions. But the pueblos considered some changes brought by the Franciscans to be beneficial. Wheat and wheat bread, fruit trees, and grapes were introduced. Also, cattle, goats, and sheep became a fixed part of the economy. Metal was also introduced.

Quarai Mission, perimeter path, photo Denise Ames

In the end cultural conflict and natural disaster devastated Salinas pueblos. The Apaches to the west were formerly trading partners but in the 1600s they raided the pueblos for food. The Apaches also sought revenge for Spanish slave raids on their people in which Pueblo Indians had participated. Interestingly and sadly, slavery was part of native people’s society before Europeans introduced African slaves to the Western hemisphere.  

After snapping some pictures of the main mission structure, I decided to enjoy the springtime air and hike around the perimeter of the main area. Well-marked trails wove through the dense cottonwood forest. When summertime rolled around and all the trees and bushes leafed out, the paths would be nearly impassable. Birds chirped to show their pleasure that spring was here and the next generation of their species was around the corner.

Stream by Salinas Pueblo Mission, photo Denise Ames

It was too cool for a picnic, but under a canopy of cottonwoods an ideal spot welcomed visitors to sit and reflect. As I sat in the shade of the towering cottonwoods, I wondered what they would have seen over 300 years ago. Would they have witnessed native children skipping to the creek to fetch water? Or would they see women pummeling their garments with stones in the creek bed as they performed their spring washing ritual. Or did they take in a scene of pueblo men venturing out in a hunting party to snag a deer to augment their daily intake of squash, seeds, and tubers.  

The missions had large gardens themselves and corrals of animals that were new to the Western hemisphere—goats, sheep, cattle, and horses. I imagine the missionaries would not have been able to completely rely on native people to tend the plants and animals alone, but they would need to do these chores as well.

Quarai Mission, New Mexico, photo Denise Ames

Despite the permanent looking stone and adobe mission structures, this way of life did not last many years. Recurring epidemics decimated native populations, which had little resistance to introduced diseases from Europe. Along with Spanish misrule and recurring drought, the Salinas and pueblos and missions were abandoned in the 1670s and the surviving Indians went to live with cultural relatives in other pueblos.

The scenario is another reminder of the impermanence of life and of human societies. History is strewn with societies and civilizations that grow and decline. We are more a part of nature and her cycles of birth, life, and death than we realize.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Dr. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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Abó Pueblo Mission National Monument: A Testament to the Past

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

Abó Mission, New Mexico, photo Denise Ames

My first stop on a visit to the three Salinas Pueblo Mission ruins was the San Gregorio de Abó Mission. Located just west of the town of Mountainair, New Mexico, it straddles 370 acres of land. The pueblo (village) was built and settled in the 1300s, while the Spanish commenced building the mission in 1581. I turned off the main road and took a winding road through a scrub-brush New Mexican landscape. I wondered how native people could survive in such an inhospitable environment.

When I crossed over a dry creek bed, I realized that hundreds of years ago this must have been a flourishing place with ample water to supply their immediate needs and water their crops. Perhaps, not as inhospitable as I imagined.

Abo Mission, photo Denise Ames

The imposing “bones” of sizable mission church greeted me as I entered the parking lot of the Abó National Monument. Along with the eerily-quiet ruins, the visitors center was locked up and there were no other visitors besides myself. It felt a bit unnerving. I shook off the foreboding feeling and got out of my car.

Since there was not another living soul around, I tried to reset my mind to imagine what it would have been like to be a native Abó woman living in the pueblo, and also what the everyday life of the missionaries might have been. The pueblos were in existence hundreds of years before the Spanish arrived.  

Rooms attached to the church, Abo Mission, photo Denise Ames

I started my tour at the mission. Excavations and rebuilding were successful in giving me a sense of the function of the structure. Of course, the most space was allocated to the nave (center part of the structure) with towering red sandstone walls and an altar at one end. Plenty of doors and windows meant the adjoining structures could be accessed from the main church.

Along with living quarters for the missionaries, some of the adjoining structures housed animals, grains, and other food items. The inhabitants ate wild plants, raised turkeys, and hunted rabbits, deer, antelope, and bison. Also, the Spanish introduced sheep, goats, cattle, and horses to the native people.   

Dry creek bed, Abo Mission, photo Denise Ames

There was a looping trail in back of the mission that led to a dry creek bed. I had fun exploring the creek bed. I could imagine children frolicking in the warm summer months in the cool creek waters. Differences in elevation in the creek bed meant there were probably waterfalls and deep troughs would have served as an ideal swimming hole. I could visualize youngsters diving off the rocky platforms into a pool of crystal-clear water.

Abó mothers were probably happy to see their children occupied as they toiled at their daily tasks. Women were usually the ones who stitched the typical garments men wore everyday—breech cloths—a long rectangular piece of tanned deerskin, cloth, or animal fur. It is worn between the legs and tucked over a belt, so that the flaps fall down in front and behind. They also crafted bison robes, antelope and deer hides, and decorative blankets of cotton and yucca fiber. Turquoise and shell jewelry, obtained by trade, brightened rituals.

Abo Mission, photo Denise Ames

As I finished my trail loop and arrived back at the parking lot, a vehicle pulled up breaking my spell of imagining myself hundreds of years ago in this environ. It was an interesting experience and I was eager to explore the other two mission ruins: Quarai and Gran Quivera.

As I got back in my car, I took a final glance at the towering mission church and the less imposing adobe and brick houses flanking its perimeter. The juxtaposition of the different structures was a testament to the two different ways of life and how they were able to negotiate—peacefully and violently—those differences.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Dr. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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Salinas Valley Pueblos in New Mexico: A Testament to the Past

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

Spring was just around the corner when I embarked on a stimulating venture. About 25 miles south of Albuquerque, New Mexico, my hometown, were located ruins of three separate Indian pueblos and also the remains of 17th century Franciscan mission churches. These three ruins—Abo, Quarai, and Gran Quivira—are collectively called Salinas Pueblo Missions.

Map of the Salinas Valley pueblos and missions in New Mexico

When driving to the sites, I am always struck by the harshness of the environment. How could any settlement provide for a robust population in such a barren expanse? Climate change over the last several hundred years, has rendered a hospitable environment to a hostile one.

I had visited the ruins in the past but I wanted to see them again with “new eyes” and a fresh perspective. Spring was the perfect time to do this as the trees were about to bud and the air had a crisp, spring feel to it. I first visited Abo, and a week later took in Quarai, then drove 25 miles further south to visit the impressive expanse of Gran Quivira.

I would like to share with you my impressions of the missions and pueblos and also some historical information about their interaction. Although each site is different, the three sites share the cultural clash between indigenous people and missionary efforts to spread their religion and the nascent modern way of life. Whenever there is contact between two or more diametrically different ways of life, there is bound to be conflict and tensions, but also sharing.

Abo Mission ruins, New Mexico, photo Denise Ames

As a world historian, interaction is a major theme in our long human past. Interaction is not always black and white, it takes on shades of gray as both negative and beneficial aspects are usually present. As I would find out this would also be the case with interaction between the Pueblo people and Spanish missionaries.  

The three pueblos had roots that would go as far back as 7,000 years ago. They, in turn, built upon the traditions of nomadic Indians who may have arrived in the area around 15,000 years ago (date is hotly contested). Pueblo in Spanish means village or town, and also refers to the indigenous people who live in these villages in present-day Southwestern US.

Quarai Mission ruins, New Mexico, photo Denise Ames

Two ancient southwestern cultural traditions, the Ancestral Puebloans—often called Anasazi—and Mogollon, overlapped in the Salinas Valley. The intermingling of these traditions resulted in the Abo, Gran Quivira, and Quarai societies, the ruins of which I was visiting.

By the late 1100s the Anasazi tradition from the Colorado Plateau, influenced the contiguous stone-and-adobe homes of the Salinas Valley people who were later encountered by the Spanish. Over the next 100 years the Salinas Valley became a major trade center and one of the most populous parts of the Pueblo world, with perhaps 10,000 or more inhabitants in the 1600s.

Gran Quivira Mission ruins, New Mexico, photo Denise Ames

By 1300 the Anasazi (Ancestral Puebloan) culture was dominant, although the Salinas area always lagged behind the Anasazi heartland to the north in cultural developments. For example, the astonishing Chaco Canyon was a dazzling display of superb architectural, cultural, and scientific achievements.

The series will continue on Thursday, August 29.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel. Dr. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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Copenhagen, Denmark: Not a Progressive Dream Country, Some Final Thoughts

By Dr. Denise R. Ames

Copenhagen, Denmark, photo Denise Ames

My Baltic Sea cruise had ended and now my three days in Copenhagen was drawing to a close. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the city and had many fond memories of the people and sites. This blog is about a few final thoughts I would like to share with you on Denmark.

I can understand why many progressive Democrats in America, such as Bernie Sanders, have put forth the idea that American society should adopt many of the Danish values and policies for our country. The Danes are very conscientious, respect the environment, emphasize education, and collective in their policies. A Democratic Socialist dream country. But after just three days in Copenhagen and a bit of research when I got home, I could understand why implementing Danish style political/social policies would be a disaster in the US. It is like comparing apples and oranges. Here is why I came to this conclusion.

Danish schoolchildren, photo Denise Ames

First, Denmark is a very homogenous country. Although the number of immigrants, especially refugees from Syria, has increased, it primarily is a white country, more so outside Copenhagen than in the city. Homogenous groups tend to trust each other more; hence, they are more apt to trust policies that help the collective. The US is just the opposite. Although we “celebrate diversity” as a good thing, one of the downsides is that we are less apt to trust each other. Can’t have it both ways.

Rows of bikes in Copenhagen, photo Denise Ames

Second, I was surprised to find that there is a great deal of conformity in Denmark. The “odd” person is often pressured into accepting established norms of behavior by neighbors, co-workers, family members, and others. In the US, we tend to want to express our unique identity and resent those who pressure us to conform to social norms and behaviors. In Copenhagen, conformity was evidenced in their bicycle riding. I was surprised to see them all comply with the laws, and conform to bicycle etiquette so uniformly.

Third, the Danes have an elaborate authority structure that belies their seeming freedom. One that I witnessed was the popularity of their queen and her family. They seemed to respect the tradition and want to continue it. From my readings, this respect is felt throughout Denmark. Americans have a quite robust anti-authority streak.

Guarding the royal palace, Copenhagen, photo Denise Ames

Fourth, one of the attributes I hear from the progressive camp about Denmark is that all education is free and universal. College is completely paid for by the state. However, they fail to say that the standards for entry into the university are very rigorous. Many do not qualify. There are no private colleges to go to if an individual does not qualify. Although technical and other forms of education are available, it is your test scores that mainly determine where your educational dreams will be channeled. Along with many programs to assist underserved populations and promising individuals, we have an assortment of educational opportunities open to us. Loans are available. Our test scores are not necessarily our destiny.

Fifth, Denmark and the other Scandinavian countries have a long history (thousands of years) of collective cooperation. Because of their harsh climate, cooperation was a necessity for survival. This tradition has continued to the present generation. On the other hand, the US, with a much shorter history, is based on individualism. Most of the settlers and recent immigrants drawn to this country from around the world were (are) individualistic in spirit. This sense of individualism has continued. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to change this individualistic spirit to a collectivist one merely by passing legislation.

Going against the grain in Syria, photo Denise Ames

For those who continue to regard Denmark as the perfect country for progressive values, the country has recently attempted to send refugees from Syria back to their country of origin, determining that it is now safe to do so. This has met with fierce resistance by refugees who do not want to return Syria. Progressives would be aghast at this action.

Even though I do not regard Denmark as a progressive dream country, I still found on my short visit that it has many admirable qualities. It is an open and welcoming country. Their citizens seem humble and are eager to accommodate visitors. They value education, learning, and family. Their emphasis on providing “wholesome” family experiences was expressed everywhere—from the Little Mermaid statue to the fun center at Tivoli Gardens. Denmark is even home to the Lego Company. Also, their emphasis on the environment was reassuring to me that they think about the future and want it to as promising for their children as possible. 

Indeed, there is a lot for Americans to learn from the Danes, but copying their government is not one of them.

This wraps up my series of blog on the countries I visited during my Baltic Sea cruise. Please join me by reading my next several blogs about my home state of New Mexico (almost like a foreign country).

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Dr. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out our offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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Tivoli Gardens: Copenhagen’s Entertainment Central

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

It was the end of my last day in Denmark. I hated to leave, it seemed as though there was so much more to see and things to learn. I had one last burst of energy and I needed to expend it somewhere. How about Tivoli Gardens!

Entrance to Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, Denmark

The amusement park and pleasure garden were located just a few blocks from my hotel, so I decided to meander through it. I had no interest in riding the roller coaster and twirling around on the swirling cups ride, but I thought it would be a fun excursion to end the day and I could also get a final glimpse of family fun Copenhagen style.

I made my way to the park entrance and was shocked to see about a $40 entrance fee. Ouch. Then I did something without rational thought that I have never done before, I snuck in! What possessed me to break the law so blatantly still surprises me. I guess, I just rationalized my behavior by telling myself I just wanted to walk through and observe people carrying out their ordinary lives. It would not harm anyone. Lame excuse I know, but I rationalized it away.

Tivoli Gardens, photo Denise Ames

I carried out my dastardly deed so easily that I thought for a moment that maybe I was cut out for a life of crime and deception. The thought passed though as I felt guilty every moment as I crossed into the park, checking behind me to see if anyone noticed. No one did. After my guilt subsided a bit, I started to enjoy the park.

Tivoli opened on August 15, 1843 and is the third-oldest operating amusement park in the world. It had an old world feel to it. I relaxed even more as I enjoyed the flowering and colorful gardens and delighted in witnessing families picnicking in grassy knolls or riding on the many carnival-type rides.

The park is best known for its wooden roller coaster, Rutschebanen, or as some people call it, Bjergbanen (The Mountain Coaster), built in 1914. It is one of the world’s oldest wooden roller coasters that is still operating today. The park also sports a vintage merry-go-round.

Besides the rides, Tivoli also serves as a venue for various performing arts and as an active part of the cultural scene in Copenhagen. It hosts a network of a theatre, band stands, restaurants and cafés, and flower gardens. Something for everyone.

During the warmer summer months, Tivoli also features a live music series dubbed Fredagsrock (Friday Rock), which in the past has featured Roxette, the Smashing Pumpkins, Sting, the Beach Boys, Kanye West, and also popular Danish acts. (I think you would be impressed to learn that I have a broken Beach Boys drum stick that was tossed to me during one of their concerts way back in the late 1960s) During the Copenhagen Jazz Festival, Tivoli Gardens is one of the many Copenhagen localities that serve as venues for concerts.

Gardens at Tivoli Gardens, photo Denise Ames

With 4.6 million visitors in 2017, Tivoli is the second-most popular seasonal theme park in the world after Europa-Park. I hope, at least, those visitors paid for their admission.

After about one hour of ambling through the park and gardens, I was ready to go back to my hotel. It was a delight to see the different people and the gardens were especially spectacular. I could see why Tivoli draws throngs of visitors. It seems like an very appropriate Copenhagen landmark.

At the airport the next day, I happily stuffed what was left of my foreign currency (probably about $10 or so) into a box targeted for various Danish charities. It helped relieve some of my guilt for sneaking into the timeless Tivoli Gardens.  

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Dr. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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Copenhagen, Denmark: Where the Bicycle is King and Queen of the Road

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

My tour of Copenhagen, Denmark continued amidst bright blue skies and balmy temperatures. It was ideal. I had already gone on an informative walking tour, complete with a stop at the royal palace, and a stroll through the eclectic Christina neighborhood. Next up was a walk on my own through old Copenhagen.

Men working, Copenhagen, Denmark, photo Denise Ames

I particularly enjoyed the street scene. There were street repairs and remodeling of buildings going on everywhere, and the streets bustled with a colorful display of activity. I have found that you can tell a lot about the culture of a country by seeing their workers in action. Are the workers engaged, focused on their work, and looking confident or do they have a hangover-from-the-night before look on their faces and despondency in their body language? I would classify the Danish workers as looking confident, energetic, and focused on their work. A good sign. They didn’t mind at all getting their photos snapped.

Street scene Copenhagen, photo Denise Ames

I strolled through neighborhoods, tiny sanctuaries tucked away in gardens as a refuge from the busy streets and endless bicycle traffic. I stumbled through construction sites to enter public building undergoing a facelift. Many of the businesses catered to tourists and English was everywhere. Since I don’t know one word in the Danish language, it was a plus.

One thing that you can’t miss when you traverse old Copenhagen is the number of people riding bicycles as their primary mode of transportation. It was astonishing. Bicycles were everywhere! Rows of bicycle racks provided a safe place to lock up, and they were on every street corner.

Copenhagen bicycles, photo Denise Ames

The Danish bicycle riders were very courteous. They diligently obeyed all traffic regulations. I never saw anyone dart in between cars or slide through a traffic light. But when the light turned green, the hoard of bicyclers waiting patiently for the light to change, surged forward en masse like a wave of penguins trying to waddle their way to the sea. It was a fascinating event to see.

All these bicyclists have earned Copenhagen a reputation as one of the most—possibly the most—bicycle-friendly city in the world. In fact, almost as many people commute by bicycle in greater Copenhagen as do those who cycle to work in the entire United States.

There are more than 250 miles of bike lanes in Copenhagen, according to the Danish Foreign Ministry, and some 600 miles of bike paths in the greater Copenhagen area. About 62% of the population commute by bicycle to their work or study places each day. And this means rain or shine. There are 675,000 bicycles and just 120,000 cars in Copenhagen, meaning bikes outnumber cars by more than five-to-one. Even the Danish postal service delivers virtually all mail in Copenhagen by bicycle.

Postal delivery

Cycling is generally perceived as a healthier, more environmentally friendly, cheaper, and often quicker way to get around town than by public transport or car. I couldn’t find figures on how much is saved by using bicycles instead of building and operating public transportation, but I imagine it would be substantial. Also, saving for individuals on car purchases, maintenance, and fuel would be considerable as well.

I was surprised to see that it wasn’t just the young and fit that were bicycling in busy areas but seniors as well. I couldn’t imagine myself bicycling in this jostling, speedy environment but if I had been doing it for many years, perhaps I would have adapted. I wasn’t going to try my luck at it though, walking was suiting me just fine.

Copenhagen, Denmark, photo Denise Ames

My traveling companion, Susan, and I decided to end our day with a tasty dinner at one of the charming street-side restaurants in old Copenhagen. Since the weather was still sunny and warm, we sat outside and watched the tourists stroll by. This relaxation gave me time to reflect on my brief encounter with Danish bicycle culture. 

I was trying to process why the Danes were so committed to bicycle transportation. I could only imagine reasons why. They are a prosperous country and have time and resources to address the environmental challenges we are all facing. Perhaps their commitment to non-polluting forms of transportation is one way they can contribute to alleviating environmental concerns. If my hunch is right, they are to be admired for their dedication.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Dr. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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A Copenhagen Treasure: Christiana, a Colorful Bohemian Neighborhood

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

My Baltic Sea cruise ended in Copenhagen, Denmark. Now, I had three days to explore this fascinating city.

Christiana neighborhood, Copenhagen, Denmark

My travel companion, Susan, and I thoroughly enjoyed the city tour (see previous blog) and a visit to the monarch’s palaces. We were slowly figuring out how to navigate the city center of Copenhagen. It seemed a maze of narrow streets and intriguing alleyways, all going in a different direction. At least we had a big clock tower as a beacon in the labyrinth to guide us back to our hotel. So, we were keen on venturing out.

Next on our list of places to tour was the Christiana neighborhood within the city limits of Copenhagen. First, we needed a bit of background so we could fully appreciate this unique part of the city.

For much of the 20th century Christianshavn was a working-class neighborhood, but Christiana, a small borough in the Christianshavn neighborhood, grew into a bohemian paradise during the turbulent 1970s. It is now a fashionable, diverse, and lively part of the city with its own distinctive personality. Businesspeople, students, artists, hippies and traditional families with children live side by side.

Christiana neighborhood, phot Denise Ames

We decided to explore just Christiana, the most interesting and eclectic borough. Christian is an intentional community and commune of about 850 to 1,000 residents, covering 7.7 hectares (19 acres). Even though it is small in size, it packs a lot of cultural punch.

The area of Christiania was formerly a military base and after the military moved out the area was only haphazardly guarded. There was periodic trespassing by homeless people who gradually took over the empty buildings as squatters. On September 4, 1971, inhabitants of the surrounding neighborhood broke down the fence to take over parts of the unused area as a playground for their children.

Christiana neighborhood, photo Denise Ames

On September 26, 1971, Christiania was self-declared as open and free. The idealistic mission of Christiania was to be a self-governing society whereby each and every individual holds themselves responsible over the wellbeing of the entire community. As a result, many young people flooded into the area.

The hippie and squatter movement, along with the philosophy of collectivism and anarchism contributed to the spirit of Christiania.

Backway to Christiana, photo Denise Ames

Christiania has been a source of controversy ever since its creation from a military compound to a squatted alternative settlement in 1971. Although hard drugs are forbidden, cannabis is allowed. Hence, a lively drug trade in cannabis has often sparked violence, including murder and shootings. Although some people in Copenhagen see Christiania as a scourge, others see it as a source of positive alternative and communal lifestyles. 

Susan and I entered Christiania through a maze of paths, sidewalks, steps, and parks along the river. Our navigation of the city was not fully functioning as of yet. But we made it. It was fun to come in the “back” way, it seemed as though we were entering a forbidden land.

Christiana neighborhood, photo Denise Ames

But it was hardly a forbidden land, Christiania is the fourth most frequented tourist destination in Copenhagen. In fact, many buildings were dedicated to the tourist trade, selling tie-dyed t-shirts, drug paraphernalia, incense, and anything else associated with the 60s and 70s hippie culture.  Since Susan and I lived through the hippie days, we weren’t as taken as others in purchasing what was commonplace over 50 years ago.

I did enjoy wandering through the streets and taking in the graffiti splashed across buildings and colorful art work adorning everything from benches to tractors. It seemed important to residents to make a visual statement on anything that had a paintable surface.

Christiana neighborhood, photo Denise Ames

Christiania really was a great place to open up one’s senses. It was visually stimulating, we could hear rock music blasted from speakers, and the aroma of cannabis freely floated through the air. Since Susan and I wanted to keep our senses alert to get back to our hotel, we declined any temptation to partake in a “toke.”

Speaking of drugs, I was surprised to see so many reminders—either on murals, walls, or informational displays— that hard drugs were illegal and to be viewed with caution. Whether addicted druggies were deterred by these well-meaning messages is hard to say.

After strolling through Christiania for several hours we were getting hungry and ready to find a restaurant to sit down and relax our weary feet. Since we were not eager to listen to full-volume renditions of the Grateful Dead (those days had passed) we decided to look for a quieter dining venue.

Christiana neighborhood, photo Denise Ames

We exited through the quaint and welcoming entrance to Christiania. I took a final look back at the hodgepodge of stores, houses, warehouses, and improvised buildings that made up this unusual neighborhood. I gazed at the throngs of tourists and the apparent locals in their worn sandals and colorful garb, some had a look of purpose and dedication etched onto their youthful faces.

From what I could tell, I could imagine that the people who called this place home were committed to making it a place of alternative ways of living that that were more human-centered to the modern atmosphere of impersonal Copenhagen. Whether their visions were idealistic fantasies of a utopian future or realistic alternatives to the stresses of modern life was not clear to me as I made by way through the archway that simply read: Christiania.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Dr. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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The Merits of a Monarchy: The Denmark Example

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

My Baltic Sea cruise ended in Copenhagen, Denmark. Now, I had three days to explore this fascinating city.

My travel companion, Susan, and I decided a city tour would be a good introduction to Copenhagen, and would also help us get our bearings. We met up with our charming tour guide and our little group set out for a morning of adventure.

Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark

After a delightful walking tour our knowledgeable guide saved the best for last, the destination everyone was waiting for: Amalienborg, the winter home of Denmark’s monarch and other nobility, and the Christiansborg Palace, the site of official monarchical functions. Yes, Denmark has a monarchy and it is very popular among the citizenry.

The first palace, Sophie Amalienborg, was built on the site of the present day palace and completed in 1673. However, the palace burned to the ground in 1689. The second phase was planned by Frederick IV, king of Denmark and Norway, at the beginning of his reign in 1699.

One of the four town mansions, Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark, photo Denise Ames

Construction took place during the 18th century but fires and additions have altered its original looks. The construction plan showcased four palaces surrounding a plaza, each a town mansion for a chosen noble family. Their exteriors are identical, but interiors are different.

We also saw the Christiansborg Palace, which is the site of official state functions, such as banquets, state dinners, public audiences, meetings, royal christenings, lyings-in-state, and other ceremonies. Our guide timed it just right so we could see a changing of the guard. Also, the Royal Stables, which provide the ceremonial transport by horse-drawn carriage for the royal family, is located here.

Changing of the guard, Copenhagen, Denmark, photo Denise Ames

When we think of a royal family we usually think of the British royal family, complete with intrigue, glamour, scandal, and riches. According to our guide, the Danish monarchy is quite different.

The current monarch is Queen Margrethe II (born 1940), who has been Denmark’s reigning monarch since 1972. Her son Crown Prince Frederik (born 1968) will be the next one to succeed to the throne. The oldest of his four children, Prince Christian (born 2005), will continue the line into the future. 

Frederick’s Church, behind royal palace, photo Denise Ames

Queen Margrethe II is the first female monarch of Denmark since Queen Margrethe I (1376-1412). But more female monarchs are likely in the future, after a 2009 referendum in which Danes decided girls should be on equal footing when it comes to the line of succession. The oldest child in each monarch’s family will now be the presumptive next monarch, whether that child is a boy or a girl.

The Danish royal family enjoys remarkably high approval ratings in Denmark, ranging between 82% and 92%. Our guide said that the Danish monarchy doesn’t spend a lot of time on pomp or circumstance. The children of the Royal Family attend ordinary public schools, and the adult members of the family are often seen shopping, dining, or riding their bicycles in public just like any other Dane. Perhaps these ordinary features add to their popularity.

Actually, the Danish monarch has a limited role in the government under the Danish constitution, which is mostly ceremonial.

Danish royal family

I found it interesting that the Danish people show such love and respect for their monarchy. As an American, I am rather skeptical of the continuation of monarchs in so many countries around the world. I find it a relic of the past that should be jettisoned, mainly because of expense. But there is more to the enduring popularity of monarchs that I and many other Americans overlook.

I have found that humans are born with behaviors that predispose us to respect hierarchical structures, such as a monarchy. Although most monarchs have been neutered of their official political power, their ceremonial functions have proven to be quite enduring. As humans, we seem to like the allure, pomp, ceremony, intrigue, and ritual these monarchs provide for us.

Queen Margrethe II, Denmark

The Danish monarch provides a link to the past that unites all Danish people together despite their geographic or cultural differences. The everyday events of the royal family are a handy and common topic of conversation among ordinary Danes. As Americans escalate their cultural divide into two ferociously contending groups, it is reassuring to see that the Danish people have been able to ameliorate this problem.

One of the ways the Danes are able to find unity together as a nation is through their common love and respect for their monarch and the noble family. Perhaps the economic costs are worth the intangible social unity the monarchy provides. It has triggered me to reconsider my anti-monarchical views.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Dr. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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