Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen (spelled Kopenhavn locally) is Denmark’s capital and largest city. It is situated on the straight between the European mainland and Sweden and historically was important because of this. Whoever controlled the straight controlled the trade on the Baltic Sea. Islands were built to ensure that cannonfire could be placed accurately on any ships that tried to circumvent the tolls on shipping. Now the islands are used for raves. Welcome to Europe.

In America, we all imagine Scandinavians (Denmark is a Scandinavian country) as being tall, thin, blond-haired, blue-eyed, beautiful creatures. But this is simply not the case – as with any stereotype it is simply not accurate. Fully fifteen percent of the Danes have dark hair. As long as you count “dirty blond” as dark.

The Danes ride bikes everywhere and at all hours. You can’t find a street or sidewalk in Copenhagen without a bike path beside it. This undoubtedly helps to keep them fit. You’ll see young and old riding around here on all varieties of bikes. From old rusty clunkers to last week’s sporty racer. The majority fall into the category of something that looks like it’s designed to be a reliable and sturdy daily ride. Kind of like an old Toyota or Ford. To be driven daily, with the natural patina that comes from pedaling around a city.

There are even rental bikes in special bike stands around the city. You deposit 20Kr (roughly $4 US) and you rent the bike. When you return it you get your mony back. I imagine that this was because there was such a large problem with people stealing the bikes to get at all of the 20Kr pieces. Haha, the clever Danes know how to protect their transportation! Likewise they adorn their bicicles with locks. It must be daunting for a thief to see a bicicle propped on its kickstand, lock firmly dangling from the handlebars or sitting around the frame in an unobtrusive way. It says “Look out! I could have locked this if I’d wanted!” Danish thieves have not figured out how to circumvent this protection yet, but I’m sure some day they will.

Asking a Dane if he or she speaks English is like asking if the sky is up. They speak impecable English with a British accent. In fact, sometimes it’s hard to tell if you’re speaking to a Brit who speaks Danish or a Dane who speaks English. The beauty of this situation comes when you realize that nearly no signage is in English. So in effect you have to meet someone every time you are required to read a sign. What a wonderful system! It’s a great way to become conversant with the locals.

In the stores, the Mannequins are frequently nude or nearly nude. In one window, the female mannequins were covered with plastic wrap. It was a clothing store. I went in and asked if I could have a job custom fitting the dresses but they said I couldn’t. In one window, two womenequins were wearing what looked to be towels made out of sheer material. And it is very cold in the windows of the store. So much so that even the plastic models show it – if you know what I mean. Many of the real women on the street have taken to imitating the models, going braless. Like I said, it’s a great society.

There’s a little part of Copenhagen called Christiania that claims to have separated from Denmark legally and established its own country. There are walls around with gates declaring that you’re leaving the EU. Good riddance! Christiania does use the Danish currency and speak Danish. But it more closely resembles a third-world hippie commune. And all of its inhabitants seem to be third-world versions of Danes. It’s an odd place that reminds me of many of the small impoverished towns in the Carribean. Dirt streets, broken glass and other discarded items used as decoration, and nobody seems to have anything better to do than to stand around on the streets and talk or wander. There is currently a movement within the government to shut the community down, but they’re not hurting anyone and they’re very much tucked away in their own little world so I say let them be. It’s not as if the place is dangerous and in fact it seems to be a very popular place to go for parents walking their children in strollers.

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Posted on July 11, 2008, in Europe and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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