I had planned to recap each day before bed, but day 2 (Thursday, May 4) wasn’t conducive to that plan. Our jet lag hasn’t been bad, but even though we try to go to bed at a regular time, we tend to both wake up around 3 or 4 in the morning and it takes an hour or two to get back to sleep. Then we sleep until 8 or 9 AM. I never sleep that late at home, so we’re already starting the day later than we’d planned. Not the worst thing on a vacation, but it throws everything off-kilter. The other reason is that my calves hurt. It turns out if you work a desk job and never exersize, the muscles of your calves shorten over time. Your body doesn’t like it when you suddenly start walking and standing for most of the day. By the time we got in, I was exhausted, and in pain, so I went straight to bed. Minor jet lag and calf issues aside, we are having a fantastic time. Copenhagen in general is such an easy city to get around, and everyone we’ve encountered speaks at least some English. (We seem to be surrounded by English speakers of every nationality, no matter where we go, so this must be a popular holiday destination, especially for Brits and other Commonwealth folks.)
One of the buses that goes everywhere touristy stops near us, so it’s an easy ride. This is the view from the bus stop. There are bike shops and bike rentals everywhere, but I think this one is very cute:
This morning we took the bus to Nyhavn, which is a neighborhood you’ve definitely seen in all the postcards. See:
The canal is lined with these very colorful buildings on both sides, and its a very touristy destination. Many of the restaurants on the canal do breakfast plates, and we chose one that advertised what we thought was a decent price. It had a very old-European vibe with white tablecloths and candles lit first thing in the morning. Our server split her time between us and setting up the sidewalk bar outside. Every restaurant had one, and because outdoor dining is such a big deal here, most of them put blankets out on their chairs. Like, duh — why hasn’t anyone in Madison thought of that?
After breakfast we walked up and down the canal a little more. We met a woman from Malaysia who asked me to hold her phone so she could shoot a video for her friends on Facebook. We talked a little and she said she’d been travelling alone for 10 months, everywhere from Iran to England, and she would love to keep travelling but she has to go home before she runs out of money, which gets me right in the feels. We talked a little about how nice Copenhagen is compared to American cities, and she was a little shocked — her impression of the US was that it is amazing, etc. This wasn’t the last time we talked about the US today, and I have some thoughts about these conversations which I will sum up at the end of this post. I wish I could tell you I took her picture, but alas, I am a dingus. She took a selfie with us and we wrote down our names, so hopefully she’ll tag us on Facebook. Here are the rest of our Nyhavn pictures for your edification:
After Nyhavn we walked to the Danish Design Museum, which seems to be in a very tony part of town. We passed lots of shops full of furniture we’d never be able to afford. I took a few pictures on the street, just to kind of give you a sense of what it’s like to walk around in this city. You’ve got your stately churches:
And your lovely old buildings:
And then, suddenly, BLAM! a building that looks like it was lifted out of some tiny Eastern European town and deposited randomly here:
Plus, if you don’t look down you miss cool stuff like this:
The Design Museum was fantastic. I took pictures of the first few exhibits we saw, but stopped as I got more tired. What I didn’t photograph was two whole sections, one on the history of fashion and one on Japanese influence on Danish design. I wish I had, but I imagine some of those images are available online. They would be well-worth checking out. Pictures by category (as opposed to by display):
It was early afternoon by the time we left the Design Museum. We walked around a little until we stumbled on Cafe Komplet, and had our first “real” smorrebrod lunch. The shop is owned by a married couple, husband cooks in the back, wife doing service. The cafe is in the basement of the building and cute as a button:
Her English was not as strong as most of the Danes we met, but it was still very good:
“You want light beer or dark beer? I bring.”
“Ok, you want smorrebrod? You start with herring and snaps (schnapps)” [It’s like 1 PM at this point, by the way]
The rest of the platter, including more Danish rye bread. To eat in order after the herring: fried whitefish (top right), chicken salad (top left), pork loin (middle left), fruit and cheese (bottom right). Plus mayonnaise (middle right). Also, I feel like the scale of these pictures makes this look like it wasn’t very much food. It was so much food.
Do you think our day was over yet?? Of course not! We also walked to one of the palaces, Christiansborg. Here is some stuff we saw along the way.
And here is a palace photo dump, because what can you say about a palace that hasn’t already been said:
Ok I lied. There was one very surprising part of the palace: in the Great Hall hang 17 modernist tapestries that look completely trippy within the surroundings. They were presented to the Queen for her 50th birthday in 1990, and they depict the history of Denmark. Here is my favorite, depicting Viking times:
(and how it looks in the room, for context,
Here’s my other favorite, which rather cheekily sets the royal couple as Adam and Eve:
The artist’s name is Bjorn Norgaard, and you should look him up.
Our final stop of the day was right in our very neighborhood, Vesterbro. This used to be a meatpacking district and was until fairly recently not the kind of place you’d want to be after dark. I can report it is now thoroughly gentrified which is great for us because we don’t live here. We got a few beers at a bar called Fermentoren and chatted up the bar tenders, one of whom was American and one who was Australian.
So I wanted to write about how foreigners view America, and how painful it is for me to think about my home right now. The woman from Malaysia thought America was incredible, and was shocked to hear us talk about how much more advanced public transportation is in Copenhagen, and how the city is so much cleaner and safer than an American city. Our Danish server at Cafe Komplet literally told us she thought Denmark needed someone like Trump to “shake things up.” I think it’s hard for people from other countries to grasp how cruel America can be. All you see is the wealth, but you don’t see that wealth being built on the backs of so many. You hear about immigrant success stories, but you don’t hear about how they’re basically on their own as soon as they get to the US. If you don’t speak English and/or don’t have a trade, better find Lutheran Social Services or you’ll be on the streets. When we got home from having a lovely time at the bar, we found out that the House of Representatives had just passed a bill gutting many of the protections I rely on in the Affordable Care Act, which just made the cruelty of our system hit me right in the gut.
The American at Fermantoren has lived in Denmark for four years and still struggles with basic Danish because everyone here speaks passable English, all public transportation is announced in Danish and English, all the museum signs are in Danish and English, etc. There’s even English-language newspapers. The Australian said you can bar tend three days a week and make enough to live in a good apartment with a roommate. I know I’ve only been here for two full days, but life seems so good here. I hope no one comes to shake it up too much.
Stray observations and surprises:
- We’ve discovered that we can cut through that brand new mall and avoid the wind tunnel effect that hits us as we’re walking to our bus stop.
- This is a very diverse city, which I love to see. I’m sure there are grumblings about “too many immigrants” or “too many refugees” but I hope the government doesn’t come down too hard on people from other countries and cultures.
- The public transportation really is so fucking easy to use.
- Add we spotted that really puts a pin in the day: