They say….the expert “they”….that the Danes are the happiest people in the world, and after the last two days I have no reason to doubt.
You may recall we got off to a rocky start hotel-wise on Wednesday which perhaps coloured my view. Also, the trip from the airport didn’t do justice
to the sheer gorgeousness of modern Danish architecture. There are more stunning buildings crammed into this tiny country than one could possibly take in. So, Heather, not to worry, I very much liked Denmark.
Thursday I went to work and it was one of the best foreign visits I’ve done. I spent the day with six knowledgeable, smart, frank and funny Danish men who also demonstrated Danish handsomeness in half a dozen variations.
It was a good day.
A colleague suggested a boat tour when the work day was finished, so off I went. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect and I got a good view of some of the more remarkable buildings, including the new opera house, which is built on the water and has concert halls seven storeys below sea level. Gulp.
Copenhagen is in the midst of a building boom….new construction everywhere, including a massive extension of the subway.
The open air flat bottomed tour boat took us through tony residential neighbourhoods where children were swimming in the canals not far from the boat. The whole city was having a wonderful time.
Once again ashore, I set off to find dinner. Copenhagen is, as I might have mentioned before, breathtakingly expensive. And for a country with more than a passing familiarity with fish, they sure do love their meat. The majority of restaurants specialized in steak, burgers and tartare. I finally found a tiny French cafe that served a very nice dinner at a price that didn’t require the severing of any limbs.
I’m intrigued by the Danes and their bicycles. They ride them everywhere, bike lanes are as important as roads for cars….and THEY NEVER LOCK THEM UP! I don’t think of myself as having criminal tendencies, and maybe it wouldn’t be criminal to have hopped on one. Maybe they intend to share and I was doing my legs a disservice by not making use of any of the thousands of bikes made readily available to me?
Yesterday, I walked over to the Freetown of Christiania, the abandoned military base appropriated by squatting anarchist hippies in 1971, in order to create a society representing all of the values of hippies in the 70’s. One of their goals was to be economically self sufficient, and their main economic activity was (and is) drug selling. It’s illegal in Denmark, so, as you enter Christiania, the signs say “Have fun. No pictures. Don’t run (it causes panic).”
The community reminded me of a more developed Ward’s Island (in Toronto), lots of tangled plants and interesting art, and most of the population aging and wondering why they can’t attract young people to their collective, non-consumer vision. Not even the access to all those drugs seem to be a big enticement to live there.
I ate some amazing organic blueberry cake, drank black currant juice and listened to Eric Clapton while I watched some of the residents stack firewood. There’s a warehouse full of construction materials and used appliances and garden equipment…I bought a new trowel (the Danes make good garden tools.)
In the afternoon I got on a train to Helsingör, about an hour away, to meet my cousin Karin, who lives across the way in Southwest Sweden, She had suggested Helsingör, which was the halfway point for the two of us, and it’s a very cute little town. It’s a ferry point for access to Sweden, and once I arrived I found myself helping a refugee family find the boat. They had been travelling for three weeks, and if they could just get on that boat, they would be at their final destination.
The most impressive site in Helsingör can be seen when you step out of the station. Helsingör in English is Elsinore, and looming imposingly is the home of the Greatest Dane of all, Hamlet. Elsinore castle has some other real name, but it is the castle Shakespeare used for Hamlet’s home. The whole town is gearing up for the 400th anniversary of Hamlet.
It’s been 8 years since I’ve seen Karin and we had such a good visit. We caught up on the news of relatives, shared bits of the familial puzzle (whose kids are which, who’s married to whom….) and marveled about how lucky we are that as family, we always have something to say to each other regardless of time and distance.
I almost didn’t make it. I found the train, feeling a tremendous accomplishment, chose an excellent seat and texted Karin that all was well. Then the train started to move….8 minutes early. The next text to Karin said “l’m on the wrong train and I don’t know where I’m going!!!” Needless to say, a minimum of humans are required to run the Danish trains. Fortunately the next stop was at a Copenhagen suburb, so I got off, read a bunch of signs, found a train for Helsingör, and resumed the journey, quickly texting Karin who for about ten minutes had no idea where I was.
It was about 9 when I got back to Copenhagen, and now, Saturday morning, I’m at the airport…..and they are calling my flight!
See you soon!