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Published: June 20th 2006
After Iceland and Sweden and the prospect of returning to the States before we felt ready, a few things were happening that created some regret when we arrived home. The primary example is that even before we reached Copenhagen we had largely stopped taking photographs. By then we felt the pictures were going to be woefully inadequate by comparison to the experience and I do believe that is true. However, what we forgot is that the photos serve as a connection for friends and family, a reminder (if somewhat pale) for us of our travels, and hopefully inspiration to fellow travelers. So we apologize for the lack of photos but suffice it to say if you don’t get it from the narrative, our time in Copenhagen was amazing.
Two things had happened in Sweden that I forgot to mention in that blog that had some bearing on our time in Denmark. The first was one night when Amy was feeling a bit sick we arrived back at the hotel early
(2200) and went to the garden area for a cup of hot chocolate before bed. The guy working that night it turned out was Danish and lived three
Amy and Chris
days a week in Copenhagen and four in Lund. He was an artist and we spent about an hour and a half in conversation, mostly gathering suggestions on what to see and do in Copenhagen with our limited time from a local. It was interesting to hear about the world, in particular the States, from an outside perspective and I hope we provided him with some new insight as well. The second had happened on our last night in Sweden at the &Bar. A student from Lund University who was at the bar offered to come into Copenhagen the next day after we arrived and show us around. Amy and Lilly had gotten all of the requisite contact numbers and honestly, we probably wouldn’t have done much planning even if we hadn’t thought we’d be spending quite a bit of our time in Denmark with a Dane. So when we arrived at the Copenhagen train station around noon, the first thing we did was to try and locate an information desk to figure out where our hotel was. We knew it was supposed to be fairly close to the station from when we looked at it online, but we never
did bother to get actual directions (go figure). We spent maybe an hour, give or take, trying to call the Lund students and find a tourist desk that was open. Eventually, we gave up on our phone cards and trying to decipher the Danish pay phones and were able to get directions to the hotel. It wasn’t far and we got in well before the 1500 check-in time. We left our bags in the lobby with all the other backpackers’ crap and took off for a canal tour of Copenhagen. The Dane at our hotel in Sweden had said it was a good way to see some of the city and figure out what we wanted to do while there. It wasn’t too expensive, though that was probably because it was still the off season and on a boat that had at least a hundred seats there were maybe eight other people in addition to the six of us. Going through the smaller canals surrounded by the city was fine, but when we hit the huge canals and open water it was damn cold. The wind was whipping in from the sea and we were frozen for a good part
of the trip. This isn’t to imply that the trip wasn’t worthwhile; it was, if a bit chilly. By the time we got back to the dock it was close to three o’clock so we walked back to the hotel and checked in. Nichole and Sonny were feeling under the weather and went to their room for some needed rest before their last night out. Amy, Lilly and I went to our room and busted out the food we still had from grocery shopping in Sweden and then decided to walk over to the National Museum and then the area known as Christiana in Copenhagen. We literally had less than a half hour to see the museum and saw a tiny portion of the exhibits. But what we saw was amazing. There were numerous pieces and surprisingly, very few of them were kept behind glass. A huge wooden crucifix from during the plague (late 1600’s) was hanging on the wall, massive gold filigree triptychs, Viking weapons, coins, and musical instruments. Most of the pieces had a simple sign asking that visitors not touch them and from the brief amount of time we were there and the museums reputation we knew
Crucifix from the Plague era
we had missed out on the larger part of the experience. But those pesky Danes wouldn’t keep the entire museum open so we could look around a bit more so we left for good times in Christiania.
This area of Copenhagen is extremely intriguing and I’ve heard it said that you would love or loathe it. It is, in a reductive explanation, an area of Copenhagen that is semi-independent and alternatively oriented. There is a prohibition on cars, an acceptance of drug use, and an atypical feeling throughout the community. Although the open hash vendors are no longer there, the smell of it is overwhelming in places and not difficult to obtain. The main drag, known as Pusher Street, has open market stalls with a variety of goods and services besides the requisite drug paraphernalia and Bob Marley gear. No photos are allowed on Pusher Street but you can find some good pictures online and at this blog from Christian. I’m glad we were able to see it since its future is in doubt with the current government of Copenhagen. There are amazing graffiti murals, buildings made from recycled material, loud music, cafes, and signs prohibiting weapons
Building w/4 dragons curling up toward the sky
and the use of hard drugs. There are about 800 full-time residents but it draws a pretty substantial number of backpackers for obvious reasons. There are a few sad people who seem to have gone and gotten lost in Christiania, but I honestly can’t fault them for it. Getting lost in a community that is dedicated to each individual striving for the betterment of his community seems at least as reasonable if not more so than losing yourself in the rat-race of consumerism. It wasn’t anymore depressing to see them living in a way they chose among other people who genuinely cared for them, as it is to see the destitute and homeless in an affluent country like the States who are often ignored for convenience sake. It wasn’t a place that I felt a deep connection to but I think we were all grateful for being able to experience something so outside of our normal point of view.
After Christiania we walked around the city a bit, making our way back to the general area of the hotel. There are amazing buildings and a grand sense of history throughout the city. And surprise, surprise, we weren’t able to
Cathedral with an outer spiral staircase of over 400 steps
do a few of things we’d have liked because it was Sunday and into early evening but generally it was quite an experience just walking around and taking in Copenhagen on our last night in Europe.
We found a nice place to eat and walked around the Tivoli Garden area. Tivoli is, I think, the oldest theme park in the world. Honestly, I have no idea if that’s true or I just fabricated it somewhere along the way to Copenhagen but, from the outside looking in, it was an interesting mix of old world carnival type atmosphere with some more modern rides and whatnot thrown in. We didn’t pay for admission and couldn’t convince the back gate attendant to let us in for free since we had less than an hour before the park closed. We also couldn’t talk the attendants at the Tivoli wax museum into letting us in for free since they’d be closing in 15 minutes.
That was pretty much it for Copenhagen. We got up early the next morning and got our stuff together. Lilly was flying out before us and left for the train about an hour before we did. We
Same cathedral with an outer spiral staircase of over 400 steps
ate as much of the remaining food as possible and then left for the train ride to the airport and our flight to Reykjavik and then Florida. The reverse culture shock was worse on the return home than the culture shock of being in a foreign land. Maybe because there isn't an expectation of it when you are returning to something you've basically spent the majority of life immersed in but it was a bit difficult readjusting.
I don’t know why I enjoyed Copenhagen so much having been there so briefly. Iceland and Sweden were incredible, but having the chance to spend more than 24 hours in those places I would hope anyone with an ounce of curiosity about the world would reach the same conclusion. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed it, even if the time we had was so limited. It felt like a true privilege to be somewhere outside our comfort zone, however briefly, and truly widen our worldview. To go somewhere, not to have an American experience in a foreign land, but to try as much as possible to get an idea about how other people see and live in the world.
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