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Published: December 21st 2018
It was early afternoon as our flight approached Copenhagen. We had left Rome behind a few hours earlier, and with it some sweltering weather, or so we thought. Apparently most of Europe was experiencing a heatwave, and Denmark was no exception. My brother Shawn had been to Copenhagen just last year, while my last visit was four years ago. Not too shabby considering the previous time before that had been about seventeen years. I've always loved visiting Copenhagen, and I really think this could be one of my favourite cities on this planet (from those that I've visited). I was excited to see how this visit would unfold. We touched down and then quickly exited the airport. We then took the train towards the central train station. Ronny, our uncle, has been living in Denmark twenty some-odd years. I guess that's a good reason to keep coming back here. We both had a pretty good idea of how to get to Ronny's place, although Shawn's memories were a little fresher. We quickly reached the front door of his apartment building , about a ten minute walk westward. We spotted him outside, standing by his bicycle and lighting a cigarette. A few
hugs later and we were heading up the six stories worth of steps to his beautiful place. When Ronny had moved here many years ago, this part of Copenhagen was a blue collar meat packing district. Now the area has completely gentrified and is an up and coming area that many locals want to be part of. Just getting into the front door of his apartment means navigating a terrace bar where patrons are drinking and smoking!
After dumping out stuff, petting his cats and eating a little snack, we all decided to go for a walk. We strolled past the train station and Tivoli, the famous and one of the oldest amusement parks in the world, and continued through some central squares while walking cobblestone streets towards the waterway. We made sure to stop and have a traditional Danish hotdog at one of the stands. We then walked into the neighborhood of Christianhavn, from which the Freetown of Christiania can be accessed. Christiania can be described as a commune of about 1000 residents that claims to be outside of the jurisdiction one the Danish government. Christiania sits on what was once an abandoned army barracks until 1971, when
residents from surrounding neighborhoods began moving in. They set up a collective commune, intent on creating a self-sustaining community and embracing elements of the hippie and squatter movements and anarchism. Within the community, one can find much green space, interesting architecture from resident homes, large graffiti murals, as well as many bars and iconic "pusher street" where stalls are set up and people sell various items as well as Marijuana. The community is against the sale and use of hard drugs.
Ronny took us around and brought us towards his friend Monica's house, although she didn't happen to be home. We then got some beers and sat in a park near the water. We spent maybe 45 minutes there and then left Christiania and walked back out towards the city center. There we got some iconic views of the canal. From there we walked back to Ronnie's apartment as the sun began to set. Soon after Cassio gave Ronny a call, telling him he was just next door at "War Pigs", a craft Brewery and restaurant specializing in several types of meat, often splattered down on a tray next to your brew. Both Ronny and Shawn knew the place
well. We went down and met up with Cassio and a Spanish friend. A third guy was staying with the Spanish guy back in Spain, taking Spanish lessons in a school there for a few weeks. Cassio was originally from Brazil and was in a relationship with Ronny for several years. Shawn and I knew him well and visited him often when in Denmark. He was recovering from a cervical injury and had recently had surgery. The surgeons had operated anterior part of his neck so he had a large bandage in place. We all ordered some strong beer and enjoyed the night.
The next day after breakfast, we all walked over to Cassio's nearby apartment and borrowed one of his bikes. Ronny would be working for the next few days, doing a long haul flight over the the US. Shawn and I would have Ronny and one of Cassio's bikes to use while he was away. We decided to go for one last walk around the town. Ronny brought us towards Fredriksburg and we stopped by a shop owned by one of his friends name Leif. We then walked to one of the center squares and Ronny got
us some pizza from a small shop he knew. We ate quickly as we walked because we then wanted to reach the city hall tower for a short tour that would bring us to the top of the tower for some panoramic views of the city. This is where Ronny would be leaving us, as he needed to head home to quickly change and then go to work. Shawn and I spent the next hour checking out the views and then walked all the way back to Christiania and spent some time exploring the commune. We got back to the apartment by late afternoon. Cassio was over to give one of Ronny's cats his medication (the cat suffers from epilepsy), so we spent some time with him and then relaxed for the rest of the evening.
The next day we got the bikes and decided to cycle around town. It was another sunny and hot day. We cycled south, through many fields and then turned east towards Amager. There we found some beaches and decided to go for a dip in the frigid Baltic sea. Nearby we found a large wooden structure full of areas to jump into the
water. Plenty of people we there, attempting to alleviate themselves from the extreme heat. Back on the bikes we headed north until we reached the Little Mermaid, an iconic bronze sculpture based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. From there we headed back towards the apartment, stopping for some hotdogs along the way. We had a few hours to relax until it was time to head out again. The true inspiration for this quick trip to Europe had been that the timeless and iconic heavy metal band, Iron Maiden, would be playing live at Copenhagen's Royal Arena. Maiden is one of our favourite bands ever, and I've seen them multiple times, including taking a road trip to Toronto the previous summer. One of the greatest joys of traveling in my opinion is being able to visit a far off place to see a favourite band playing. I had purchased tickets months earlier, even before we had confirmed that we'd be able to get to Denmark to see them, but I had faith that somehow it would work out. We walked over the the central train station and caught a train heading south towards the Orestad station. We stopped by
and ate at Burger King before the show and then walked over to the arena to see countless metal heads eagerly awaiting the spectacle. Our seats were pretty high up, but it didn't matter! For the next two hours we enjoyed Maiden as they played through some new material as well as plenty of classics. This definitely wasn't a Montreal crowd of fans though. The fans here were pretty respectful and quiet for the most part. After the show we all piled into the metro and then headed back towards downtown. We only got as far as the next station though. The train simply stopped. We started hearing announcements overhead but couldn't understand what was being said. Our Danish is apparently really lousy. Finally I noticed some of the passengers were getting off. I asked someone what was happening and they just answered that the train had some sort of malfunction but that there wasn't much other information. Shawn and I got off and then began to just walk. We figured it might be a while before the train moved and we ended up making the right call. For the next hour we walked north, having a pretty good idea
about our general direction. It was late by the time we reached the apartment and quickly went to sleep.
On our last full day in Copenhagen, we went to the nearby grocery store and then made some breakfast. And then we decided to cycle to Christiania and then all around it. After that we went to the main square and sat at one of the many communal tables. We ordered some beers, then more beers, and more after that. Different people joined our table, and we chatted about all sorts of things. We had some joints as well. Some random guy was drunkenly telling us something about wolf babies as he rolled a massive bat. The weather was perfect. We came down a little bit and then cycled back home, as safely as possible. Christiania was one of those unique places that I will always want to come back to. In the evening Cassio gave us a call and we joined him at War Pigs for some pints and meat.
It was our final day and we packed our stuff to head off to the airport. Ronny was back from work and got home a little before we
had to leave. He decided to change and accompany us back to the airport. We said our goodbye's but everyone knew we'd hopefully be back sooner than later. Then we headed to a nice airport lounge, courtesy of Shawn's credit card, and had some food and drink. We were listed as standby for the flight to Toronto, as usual, but the flight was wide open and we had no issue securing tickets. In fact Shawn managed to upgrade us to first class! I've never had the privilege of experiencing this until now, but I guess there are some great perks of having a brother who is a flight attendant. Each seat had a large entertainment screen, the seat reclined all the way into a bed, and we had unlimited alcohol and full course meals with china dishes. I felt a little uncomfortable at times! I watched a few movies and the eight hour flight went by very quickly.
Upon arriving in Toronto, reality hit. Shawn was heading home to Calgary, and his flights were wide open. I, on the other hand, had to get home to Montreal a notoriously difficult thing to do when flying standby at the best
of times! Never mind that it was Montreal's Grand Prix weekend, the busiest weekend of the year, attracting tourists from pretty much everywhere. And there was a G20 summit happening nearby as well. There were about 60 plus people already waiting on standby and my priority level was practically non existent. Shawn wished me luck and headed home. After a few hours I realized I was probably not getting out of this airport anytime soon...or was I? I was texting my girlfriend who decided to check standby loads to nearby Ottawa and we realized that I'd have a better shot from there. Within an hour I was on my way to Ottawa. Once we landed, I quickly made my way out of the sleepy airport and found a bus station. My goal was to try to get a Greyhound bus back to Montreal but the last bus was leaving in less than an hour and was quite a distance from the airport. The friendly bus driver gave me instructions and even let me on pro-bono, as I had no Canadian currency on me. He told me to get off and then I found another bus stop that he had mentioned.
That second bus was very late. Finally it came and that driver let me know where to get off and what direction to head to. I had to blocks to go and ran full speed. I made it to the terminal with only a minute to spare. Somehow I would be making it back to Montreal late that night! Flying standby is the way to go despite these impromptu adventures.
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