It has been an eventful couple of days- after flying down from Germany to Spain in order to dislocate my shoulder in a more Mediterranean surrounding, I promptly flew back up to Denmark on Friday for a rather spontaneous visit to Copenhagen. Not only should that disqualify my lifestyle from being the least bit environmentally responsible, it also contradicts all prior opinions I have held about Denmark. “You hate Denmark”, I hear my friends say. “You think it is small and pointless, like Andorra or the Catalan language. You have no tolerance whatsoever!”.
It’s true, my only experience of ever going to Denmark was back in 2005 when we visited the rather depressing Blåvand, but my opinion has been subject to change. I have accepted that drawing conclusions about Denmark after visiting Blåvand is like judging Germany by Hanover. Also, my ever expanding fascination with Iceland has slowly started to include the rest of the Nordic countries, which I have started to picture as small, efficient, and intelligent. A kind of parallel society where everyone is blond, speaks perfect English and somehow contributes to an unrivaled welfare state that will take care of just about anything; from teaching the 3-year old’s foreign languages to gracefully handing out jobs at design agencies to the unemployed. So in a sense, my short trip to Copenhagen was nothing but a reality check on what had become an idea of ridiculous proportions.
So what’s the verdict? I got off the metro that took me from the teak-floored airport to the city and the first thing I noticed was the fact that it was serenely quiet. Mind you, I was coming straight from Spain, but it still did not exactly feel like the busy capital city I had imagined. All the buildings are colorful, and I am sure that every Danish person gets to run a fashion-design shop out for their basement for a short period of their lives. (I think this makes Anneken exceedingly happy). It also makes for a really interesting city: A lot smaller than I had thought, Copenhagen nevertheless manages to squeeze one hip store into every direction you look. But in a rather comforting style. At the nicely designed “wokshop” where we got a takeout menu, I was able to stroke the ceiling with my head. Some cafés fit about 4 people, others are just really empty. When there’s none of the roughly 100.000 Americans around, that is. The language then reinforces the fact that these are normal people- it consists of nothing but ø and å sounds, for a lack of better explanation. The brisk spring air and overall atmosphere somehow reminded me of Dublin. Unfortunately, the amounts of money they ask for just about everything does too- when you pay €5.50 for a coffee, the only thing that gives you comfort is that you probably somehow contributed to the welfare state that now uses your money to build a smoothie bar into a kindergarten.
I was on the verge of confirming all my stereotypes when we visited Christiania. It is a part of the city taken over by squatters that proclaimed their own “freetown”, and somehow the rules don’t apply there. Not only does that mean that coffee costs half as much as everywhere else, it also means that you can witness caring parents smoke joints next to their rather alternatively-raised children. With the Netherlands as our background, Anneken and I sort of just shrugged our shoulders and walked about, enjoying the sun, the extremely colorful buildings and the run-down environment. It was like leaving Copenhagen altogether- unfortunately, they are too alternative to allow photography, so I am going to leave this to your imagination.
When I came, I knew nothing about the city. I had not even looked anything up, so I was going in with no expectations- it proved to be a good concept. Despite the beautiful sunshine, I was constantly freezing from the lack of Spanish climate. We thus went from one place to the other and caught up. My favorite: A café where you can also do your laundry AND buy second hand books. In many ways, that place summarized the Copenhagen experience. It is an extremely versatile place.