And bam zam, already I’m on the road again!
It is hard to believe that it has been two years since last I came to Europe as the prelude to my trip to Burning Man in 2012: the year after my sister Erika died at the festival. That trip had been a sister trip – part of the ritual of remembering and honoring Erika. My other sister, Skye, and I went to Paris and the Riviera together.
This trip, coincidentally enough, started on the two-year anniversary – nearly to the day – of my last one.
Skye couldn’t join, but I’ve got a bodacious menu of friends to visit in various cities and countries and here is a general map, though of course I won’t be doing everything by car! Planes trains and automobiles! First stop: visiting my amazing friend Nora Ziegenhagen in her adopted home of Copenhagen.
To wit, I packed my things, cleaned my apartment for a subletter, and grabbed a cab to JFK, though I’m normally a subway gal. I just had too much stuff to carry: my guitar, backpack, small backpack, and a tent I was bringing over for a coworker of Nora’s. I travel light, but I can’t take a voyage without an instrument to play.
I got a cheap flight on Norwegian Airlines – and I mean cheap! The plane seemed to be a Portuguese model from the 70s (or whenever smoking on planes was kosher). It was the first time in years I saw those tiny old screens in the backs of the seats – channels playing the same movie or show on repeat. I watched the same episode of How I met Your Mother twice and some random Jack Black/Steve Martin movie about birding, starting with the second half and eventually catching the beginning.
At least there was free wine with dinner. And a vegetarian meal. Small blessings.
The flight was direct and arrived in Copenhagen the next morning. After a quick stop at Duty Free (for booze, of course), I got my bags and eventually got on the metro. It was hot in the airport and a beautiful sunny day outside. The metro is above ground in Copenhagen, at least most of where I was taking it, and I got off right at Christianhavn Kanal – a quick walk to Nora’s street.
I collected the keys from a French-style corner cafe called Cafe Wilder and made it at last to Nora’s haven of an apartment, on a lovely little street between two canals.
Nora soon arrived, graciously taking the afternoon off to hang out with me, and the two of us toured the neighborhood together, stopping at a local bakery for pastries and taking a dip in the refreshing water just a block from Nora’s place. . .
. . . and then continuing to Christiania.
Christiania is an independent state which operates virtually without interference from the Danish government, just a few blocks behind Nora’s apartment. It is one of the major attractions of Copenhagen, permeated by a funky, gutter hippy vibe. Be-dredlocked people sell jewelry and clothes I recognize from Goa in India. The most unusual part of Christiania is Pusher Street – where photos are forbidden – as is running, because it creates a panic.
Pusher Street, as you might surmise, is where the weed is. Weed and hash. And I’m not sure what else. So called “spacecakes.”
The various dealer podiums are partially concealed with military-style camo-netting to conceal the “pushers” – many also wear hoodies and sometimes kerchiefs or masks and sunglasses. I guess the Danish government is cool, but not that cool.
Danes and tourists alike seem to partake and enjoy smoking not only in Christiania, but throughout the city, which is a contrast to other European cities I’ve been to (Amsterdam aside, obviously).
We passed by restaurants and juicebars, baked goods and cafes. There is even a concert venue there called Nemoland. Everywhere people are hanging out, smoking, shirts off (men only) to soak up the glorious summer rays. Danes – some of them anyway – get extremely tan. This, at least, is a city of sun worshipers.
We walked by some of the self-made houses near the lake behind the more touristy area. It quickly turns into a natural park. There is a bridge and swans swim there with their fuzzy grey babies (called cygnets, dontcha know).
That evening we took a bottle of rose to Nyhavn – pronounced Nu-hauwn – Danish for New Harbor. This was to be my first of many bike excursions in Copenhagen. Biking is the thing to do here. By far the best way to get around and bike lanes abound.
We rode over the large harbor canal and up the other side to the picturesque street, on another canal. Cafes line the cobbled streets and the sun set pink on the buildings as Nora and I sat by the canal and dined on the pizzas we’d ordered from a nearby purveyor, sipping our rose as street musicians played.
After dinner we had Irish coffees in one of the sidewalk cafes and listened to more of the performances before heading back to her street to call it a night.
Wednesday morning I roused myself eventually and went into the world to see what I would see. I strolled across the bridge and followed the road along a canal till I stumbled upon the Stork Fountain – a well-known landmark in the center of Copenhagen’s most touristic plaza.
I removed some Danish kroner from an ATM: 18 kroner to a dollar. Then I walked back till I saw what I was looking for – the boat tours – or in Danish: canalrundfart. Yes, lovely language.
The boats resemble the ones on the Seine in Paris and are good way to see the city, though not as good as a bike.
As we passed one area, the guide warned us that locals like to jump in as the boats pass to splash the tourists – good-naturedly, of course.
After the boat, I walked toward the Round Tower – not to see the tower, but to try one of the vegan Danish-style hotdogs sold from a cart below it (on Nora’s recommendation).
I made a quick trip to the Rosenborg Castle Gardens before Nora got off work and I met her at a nearby market.
We shopped for picnic items – cheeses and crackers and some of the fresh and beautiful fruits they had there in abundance. Then we sipped wine at one of the booths there and met up with one of Nora’s friends, Ellah. (I found a plum that looks like male genitalia – phallic fruit is the funniest!)
After our wine, we rode our bikes to the waterfront – a long pier a bit farther south from Nora’s place where oodles of young Danes were cooking and lounging and smoking and drinking and swimming in the evening sun. Nora and I had our picnic and sunbathed and drank some wine. When in Copenhagen. . .
The sun sets around 10 pm and the crowd thinned out. Nora and I walked the bikes up the grand canal and back toward her area.
On the way home we stopped to go to a little cafe bar on a boat on Christianshavn Canal. We got a yummy tiramisu and enjoyed the water view.
Thursday morning I went to climb the tower at The Church of Our Savior – one of Copenhagen’s most famous and striking spires in a city known for its unique spires. Also, a massive organ. (what she said)
The climb to the top was cramped with other people and quite steep. The final bit is a spiral staircase on the outside of the tower.
I met up with Nora in the evening at a place called Tolbolden – not far from the famed Little Mermaid sculpture and the royal residences. Nora’s friend Louisa met up with us for wine and a little snack and walk around the parks.
Friday Nora planned to be out of the office by one and we had an outing to Helsingor, where the castle known as the Hamlet Castle is located.
I slept in a bit and met up with Louisa for coffee by a lake near her neighborhood, Norreport. Swans are everywhere here!
We dallied for a glass of cava, once Nora joined us, and reclined in a nearby park before hitting the road for Helsingor – we took our bikes on the train! Adventures!
When we got to Helsingor, the sky was threatening and it quickly made good. Nora and I ducked into a French cafe to wait it out.
The weather cleared up quickly and we rode our bikes into the fort of the castle.
After the castle, we rode our bikes down the coast toward Copenhagen and stopped at a beach for an afternoon swim before getting on the train again and going back to town.
Saturday was another outing – we went to Sweden!
We left in the morning for a ferry to an island in Sweden (though it used to be part of Denmark) called Ven or Hven, known for Tycho Brahe, the famous astronomer of the middle ages. The island was home to his observatory, but today is also something of a time capsule – it is covered with farmland, fields of wheat and other grains, whispering in the breeze.
Nora and I rented a tandem bike and cruised around the (blessedly mostly flat) island, stopping for breakfast along the way and then continuing around the island to the beach on the south western side.
We continued on, making our way around more fields and farmhouses till we got to the north beach.
We left Ven that afternoon, after completing the circuit of the island and buying some beer for the boat ride back.
Nora and I had a front row seat for a massive thunder storm as we passed through it. We hid under and overhang and drank our beers and laughed as everyone else ran inside to hide from the downpour.
That evening we went out for a night on the town, only slightly hampered by the holidays which caused some places to be closed. In the end we went to Nora’s standby spot and weren’t disappointed. The bartender made us yummy drinks and charged us for half of what we ordered.
We danced and drank and finally rode our bikes home.
There were several more days to my stay, but this is all she wrote for now, since this blog is huge and overdue!
Love and miss!