Friday, June 15, 2012

Copin' hagen, Denmark: the City of Bikes (6/11/2012)

10:45, 13/6/2012.  I am sitting on a train from Malmö, Sweden to Stockholm as I write this. 

    Uwe and I got up at 5:00, ate a quick breakfast, and drove to the train station, where I caught a train to Hamburg and then to Copenhagen.  (For an hour of the ride, the train parked on a ferry, which took us to the eastern island of Denmark where Copenhagen is located.  Kinda cool!)  My plan was to arrive in Copenhagen in time to drop off my things at the hostel and make it to the main square in time for a free tour at 1:00pm.  It would be a close call, but I had planned it carefully to work.  Everything was going on schedule until I arrived in Copenhagen: I discovered that the train station that Google Maps said was five blocks from my hostel was not the Central Station, but another one two stops away.  By the time I figured out which train to take and got to the hostel, it was 12:55.  I would be five or ten minutes late, but the tours often stay in the square for the first few minutes, and I thought I could figure out their first destination on the walking route and catch up to them.  After searching and searching, I walked into a Tourist Information center at 1:25 and asked if they had any ideas where to look next.  They had no idea.  I gave up, very angry that I had failed.  Fortunately, though, the resources in the Info Center included brochures and maps with a self-guided walking route.  I sat and planned out my day for a while and then started off, exploring the city center and snapping pictures of iconic buildings.  I would not get the same historical knowledge I obtained on the free tours, but I could research it later.
    I have to admit, it was quite a lonely day.  After having been with friends for several days, I felt sad as I wandered around without company.  If I had made the free tour, I wouldn’t have had this problem.  But it was still a fine day: Copenhagen is a beautiful city, and I was thrilled to see bikes absolutely everywhere.  I said recently that Berlin was covered in bikes: it doesn’t come close to Copenhagen.  There were bikes sitting around on every street, propped against walls and locked to racks fifty feet long; and there were designated bike lanes on both sides of literally every major street and many other streets.  Most entertaining to me was seeing the dense packs of well-dressed Danes on their way home from work, whizzing past cars when the lights turned green.
    I walked past Tivoli Gardens (a famed amusement park and outdoor music festival venue), past the City Hall, and up a pedestrian shopping street (ströma?), passing statues, churches, and the old Stock Exchange.  Eventually found a beautiful wide harbor, removed from the hustle and bustle, where I saw a big theatre and the Opera House (two magnificent modern buildings.)  Then I walked up Nyshavn, a quaint narrow harbor lined with ritzy sailboats, and cobblestone streets populated with outdoor cafés on each side.  I also visited the iconic Marble Church, a cylindrical domed building with ornate designs inside.  I walked back to the enormous Generator Hostel (more like a hotel than a hostel) around 6:00, hoping to find companions for dinner.
    As I was settling into my room, two twenty-somethings from Toronto came into the room.  I invited them to dinner, but they had already eaten, so I went down to the social lounge to try to find someone.  The lounge was a massive room, as long as Luther’s cafeteria (although narrower), upholstered with trendy low couches and high tables, flatscreen TVs, a bar, and a breakfast buffet line.  I sat at one of the high tables to use my laptop, looking around for someone to invite to dinner.  When I got the wi-fi code at the bar, I struck up conversation with a girl who was getting a pitcher of beer to watch the EuroCup soccer tournament with her friends.  “Something calls for a Carlsberg!” I said, hoping to find someone to talk to.  We bantered for a minute, found out where each other lived (she and her friends were from California), and then left.  Failure.  But I would try with someone else!  Later, a 32-year-old Taiwanese man came and sat next to me to watch soccer and drink his beer.  Y (his name, pronounced “ee”) and I maintained an awkward conversation about his video game research convention (I couldn’t understand his English much of the time), and then he clumsily knocked his beer glass, spilling three quarters of it onto my pants in front of the entire lounge.  (Luckily it missed my computer.)  Slightly embarrassed, I nonchalantly asked the bartenders for some towels.  After Y and I cleaned up, I we went and got dinner (and no, I did not change pants.) 
    We walked around searching for authentic Danish food, but ended up settling on a cheap pizza joint instead.  Inside, we met another guy staying at our hostel.  This guy would talk about nothing but prices: at mention of any country in Europe that any of us had visited, he would interrupt to say how cheap or expensive it was.  And, of course, he made the point to mention at least three times that this pizza joint was the cheapest food option in the neighborhood. 
    After an awkward dinner and a beer, Y and I walked back to the hostel.  When I got to my room, I met two new guests, a guy and a girl about my age from Quebec.  I laid on my bed chatting with all four Canadians for a while, when the sixth and final guest joined us-- another Canadian, this time from Calgary.  Although I was the oddball of the bunch, I was happy to be with other North Americans.  We went to the social lounge and hung out for a while, and then went to bed.

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