Four Days in Copenhagen

Since we last talked I’ve had a pleasant four days rambling around Copenhagen, having the sort of completely-work-free vacation I haven’t had, at least by myself, in several years.

Thursday morning I loaded up my iPod with an audio walking tour of the Copenhagen inner harbour from Copenhagen X narrated by Richard Swett, former U.S. ambassador to Denmark, and headed around the corner to the waterfront and toured away.  I started at the awe-inspiring Royal Library then caught the harbour bus up past the Opera House, and on to Kastellet, the fortifications at the north end of downtown. I highly recommend the walking tour: Swett does a good job, and there’s lots of interesting commentary packed in.

After a stop at Kafferiet, one of the city’s nicest coffee shops, and an old favourite of mine, I headed to the Danish Art and Design Museum around the corner where I spent a pleasant hour in the museum’s library browsing their collection of design and typography books.  After a quick lunch I walked downtown and, not yet completely full of museums, found the Post & Tele Museum, which turned out to be a rather uninspiring review of the history of mail and telephony with a slightly-more-interesting climate change exhibition (climate change being all the rage here).

Feeling finally museumed out and in need of place to rest up, I found my way to the Grand Teatret movie house where I accidentally ended up watching the French-language film Sommertid, forgetting that in Denmark the subtitles on a French-language film are in Danish (mirroring my experience from last year with The Band’s Visit… I should know better by now).  I was so exhausted from my hectic day that I believe I may have fallen asleep half-way through the movie and missed a large chunk of the plot; either that or in my confused Danish-French state, I missed enough of the point that the movie only half-registered with me.

After a quick supper, post-movie, at my favourite shawarma hut on Strøget — the main shopping street of the city — I headed over to Copenhagen JazzHouse where I joined a crowd evenly split between beardy intellectual old-school jazz fans and young hipster jazz fans for a Benny Golson concert.  Golson is an 80 year-old American tenor sax player who’s spent a life playing with a cross-section of anyone who’s been anyone in jazz; he’s an excellent player, was backed by a crack local trio, and his sets were sprinkled with stories of Coltrane and Gillespie. It was a thoroughly enjoyable night out.

Friday morning I rented a bicycle from my hotel (how-to video) and headed to Ricco’s coffee bar downtown on Studiestræde, the one Ricco’s I’d never visited.  As usual the coffee was strong and the atmosphere decidedly burlap-and-album rock.  After lolling about for a while I got back on the bike and headed up along “the lakes” to the flagship store of Normann — a retailer of high-end designery things — on Østerbrogade where I managed to secure exciting birthday gifts for Oliver.

Just before noon, with minutes to spare, I dashed back downtown to La Gallette, a crepe place just around the corner from Ricco’s, for a lunch with Christian Dalager, a reboot friend with many overlapping geek passions.  We shared a great meal of crepes with smoked salmon, crème fraîche and caviar and had a good opportunity to catch up.

After lunch I headed back out to Kastellet for another coffee at Kafferiet followed by a few hours of shooting practice for my bicycle rental video — most of the time spent getting used to being both host and camera-operator.  I ended up ditching all my footage, but I had enough practice to allow me to record the entire thing in one take later in the afternoon on my way back to my hotel.

Friday night I met up with my old friend Jonas and we headed up to my neighbourhood from last year in the north-west for a very nice Italian meal at Tribeca NV.  Jonas and I are forever meeting in train stations and going to dinner in interesting places — Oliver and I met him in London in the spring — and it’s always a pleasure to see him.

Saturday morning I started out early with a trip to Ricco’s again (are you starting to notice a trend?) and then caught the train out IKEA — a quick 20 minute ride followed by a short bus hop — both to feed my cultural anthropologist curiousity, to fill up on Swedish meatballs, and to shoot another bicycle-related video about the company’s program of letting out bikes for free to allow customers to get their purchases home.  My primary observation at IKEA was that 80% of women in the store were pregnant, suggesting that if you’re outfitting a nursery in Copenhagen you go to IKEA.

Early in the afternoon I caught the train over to Malmö to make an early appearance for Luisa’s birthday party.  After an unexpected delay and detour onto a city bus at the station just previous to my destination, I finally arrived and was immediately put to work chopping carrots and cucumbers and helping Olle pick up up ice from the Burger King.

The party itself got going after 8:00 p.m. and over the next few hours I got to meet a good cross-section of Luisa’s friends, all of whom gracefully accommodated my unilingual Englishness whenever I approached a conversation.  Along the way I learned a lot about opera singing, the languages of northern Europe, the practice of bi-national Swedish-Danish relationships and myriad other things.  Before I noticed it was 2:00 a.m. and I was bundled into a cab with the other Copenhagen-bound to head to the station for the train back home.  I was rescued from a Canadian-credit-card-incapable ticket machine by a kind philosopher in a red ball cap and on the ride home got a good opportunity to talk climate change with a friend of Luisa’s who’s organizing an multi-site artist response to the issue.

I rolled into the hotel just after 3:00 a.m. dead tired and, surprising given the collection of cocktails I’d mixed for myself, fell instantly to sleep.

This morning, my last day in Europe, I had breakfast at the Danish Design Centre, toured their own (disappointingly esoteric) climate change exhibition, and then headed back to Malmö for a final lunch and opportunity to hang out with Olle and Luisa.

In the late afternoon I came back to Copenhagen, had a quick supper a Wagmama, and came back to HQ to pack up the Danish operation in preparation for a long day of air travel tomorrow — I leave CPH on a 7:00 a.m. flight to Frankfurt and land in Charlottetown just after 5:00 p.m. local time.

This has been yet another week of amazing experiences in wonderful Copenhagen, catching up with friends, meeting new friends, enjoying the pleasures of northern Europe and filling my head with a new set of crazy ideas for autumn.