Copenhagen, Denmark – Day 1-2
I woke up on the other side of Sweden approaching Malmo, where I was to switch to another train that would take me into Denmark. Easy breezy [insert rest of the tagline here, heh]. And by 7:30am I was in Copenhagen! First order of business: buy tomorrow’s train ticket to Vejle. First obstacle: the ticket machines won’t take my credit card! I tried everything under the sun to get it to work, but to no avail. I had trouble buying tickets online with my credit card as well, so I’m thinking Scandinavia just doesn’t like American credit cards. Seriously, who in god’s name doesn’t accept visa?! Beyond absurd. I later learned, while buying the ticket at the counter, that they only take credit cards that have a pin. Uhh, aka a debit card? Way to go, Denmark. So after completely butchering the pronunciation of Vejle (it sounds like the Spanish word ‘baile’), fumbling around with my American credit card, and dragging all my luggage twice around the train station looking for an ATM, I was able to purchase the ticket with cash. Welcome to Copenhagen!
Naturally, I went the wrong way looking for the hostel. And when I did find it, it was far too early to check in. Normally I’d be a bit hesitant to leave my valuables (i.e. camera gear) unattended and outside of a locker, but my camera bag is super safe. Not only does the bag itself lock, but it also has a cable cord attached to it that you can lock around something unmovable. So I wrapped the cord through both suitcases and around the shelving unit and locked it all up. The luggage room itself is locked and near enough to reception that I felt safe enough leaving everything there.
I then proceeded to walk my ass off, almost literally. I walked and saw so much that I could have felt like I ‘saw’ Copenhagen in a day. I walked so much that everything below the waist hurt by the end of the day, butt included. The weather was pretty cruddy, mostly cloudy and windy per Scandinavian usual, but the rain never lasted too long at least.
I started off with my first real Danish pasty – and yes, they do it right. Coffee, however, is another story. I found Danish coffee to be weak and not so good overall. Their regular filtered coffee is bad, and you can barely taste the coffee in espresso drinks unless you get a double shot. I’m holding out for mainland Europe in hopes of redemption here.
And oh, everyone wears scarves here. Very smart, since it’s so damn windy all the time. I ended up buying a beautiful Finish scarf at a market because I was so cold, and it helped immensely. In general, people are quite stylish in Copenhagen. They traipse around in heeled boots and dark jackets that they can pull off so well, yet would likely make me look absurd if i attempted such a look.
And bikes!! My lord, everyone bikes here and it’s glorious. There are bike lanes on every street. During rush hour, you’ll see a big mass of bikes waiting at stoplights right next to the line of cars. It’s pretty intense. Copenhagen even has bikes chained up around the city that you can rent on a whim for 20kr by inserting a coin and simply unlocking it. Sadly I didn’t get a chance to bike here
I walked down Stroget, the main shopping strip which runs all through the main part of town, several times each day I was in the city. It’s kind of hard not to. You start seeing the same stores over and over again. I was eyeing pea coats in several stores, but they’d end up being twice as much as they’d be for me in the US so I abstained. Even items from Urban Outfitters would have cost me more than they would in the US. Damn the horrible US economy and the exchange rate!! It got to be so depressing after awhile. A simple cup of coffee should not cost $6, I’m sorry. That is just straight-up robbery.
I started noticing that Danish teenagers like to hang out in stores. They just sort of stand around, singing or dancing along to the music that’s playing, perhaps checking themselves out in mirrors or trying on accessories. I don’t really get it, but it’s amusing nonetheless.
Stroget eventually led to a square that was home to a daily international market, where I bought my Finish scarf. Just beyond this point is Nyhavn, a street along the canal flanked by colorful buildings and boats. It was one of my favorite parts of the city purely due to its aesthetic appeal. I reckon this is the area sailors used to live in, back in the day.
Beyond Nyhavn, I walked past the royal residence, aka 4 fancy buildings in a square manned by guards. I also stumbled upon a church that mimicked St. Peters Cathedral with its big dome (though to say it paled in comparison would be a gross understatement).
I finally made it to the place where the famous Little Mermaid statue would have been, had it not been shipped to China til the fall. Which sounds absurd, by the way, yet is true. So instead, I walked around the entire perimeter of Kastellet, a 5-point wall built in the 1600′s to keep out the enemies.
While walking back toward the city center, I happened upon a neighborhood called Nyboder, characterized by cobblestone streets lined with small yellow houses. I pretty much had a field day with my camera. I mean where the heck else are you gonna see something like this?! It’s just so cute. And as luck would have it, I stumbled upon a bar nearby called Black Swan that had good coffee, an Irish bartender, and free wifi. I couldn’t have written it better myself. This was the one place I found here (aside from the train station) that had free wifi, so I took advantage and came here both days.
At this point, I had made up my mind to cross the river and try to find Christiania. Never mind the fact that I had already done more than a day’s worth of walking by mid-afternoon and was nowhere near the neighborhood. I really didn’t know much about Christiania other than it considers itself to be separate from Copenhagen and is home to many alternative-minded, hippie types. To say the least, I soon learned as I witnessed a bunch of arrests being made at the village entrance. Apparently some punks had been throwing stones at people? Regardless, I did not feel comfortable in Christiania from the get go. I entered from another entrance down the road and immediately felt on edge. People were dressed in black, wearing hoods, hanging out around tables/stands set up all over the place where I’m prettttttty sure they were selling drugs. Signs everywhere said no photos. It was like I had entered the dark side. I forced myself to walk around for a minute and bolted out as soon as I couldn’t take it anywhere. I’m normally very open-minded and laid-back about things, but for some reason I felt like a cat with all its hair standing up. Very uncomfortable.
All afternoon it had alternated between sun, heavy clouds, and bursts of rain. I’ve never seen such fickle weather! It was beyond annoying having to keep opening and closing my umbrella and adjusting my layers. The one upside though was that I kept seeing rainbows all over the city. It was like chasing rainbows! The best part was seeing them over the canals in Christianshavn. I really liked this area for its tranquility and beautiful boat-lined canals.
Making my way back into the city across the river, I settled on dinner at the Viking Bar. I noticed that a lot of bars serve dinner as well here, which I like because it’s a chill place to go to eat when you don’t want a fancy dining experience. I figured the Viking stew (meat and potatoes) would be appropriate.
The next day was much more relaxed than the first day in Copenhagen. I had all day to hang out, so I mostly revisited the same areas and enjoyed them at leisure this time. The one thing i did do differently was start the day with a trek in the opposite direction to sample the ‘best coffee’ in Copenhagen at Ricco’s, in an international neighborhood that required a walk through the red light district. It turned out to be a cute little cafe where I very much would have enjoyed spending an hour or two sitting at a cozy table in the back room, sipping on the best coffee in the city. Turns out it was the barista’s 21st birthday (god I’m getting old), and she had a bunch of friends there with cake. They took up most of then space and were smoking, and the only way i could escape it was to go to the front of the cafe and sit by the window. Boo. So I had to rush to finish my drink so that I could stop breathing in that disgusting smoke inside. Ugh so gross!
The weather on the second day was pretty cruddy, so I spent a little more time indoors than I would have liked. I went shopping (i.e. gawking at the outrageous prices) and to a museum (the kunstmuseet) and mostly just killed time before my 8pm train. I knew that the Swiss boys were in Copenhagen as well today, but I had no way of contacting them and no idea when or where they’d be around. So after some Thai curry and a chocolate pastry, I boarded my train for nowheresville, Denmark, unsure of what to expect for the next 5 days.