Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Copenhagen trip thoughts.

Don’t go to Copenhagen in winter outside of Christmas. In common with other northern European cities, it can be very grey and damp.

There is a lot of Danish blood in the English. While walking through Copenhagen we both kept seeing face types that looked familiar from home in people who appeared to be local.

Danish women and girls probably have the best hair of any on the planet, if you like hair long, thick, honey-coloured and glossy.

The Danes can have impeccably good taste in colours, furnishings and design, central Copenhagen making much of ‘nice’ London look either pretentious or tacky. However get outside the wealthy bits of the city and – language aside – one could be driving through Crystal Palace , Croydon or some other suburbs of London that are less salubrious.

Denmark has taken a fair number of refugees.

Food is expensive. Not Iceland-expensive, where pricing beggars belief, but generally around 2 to 3 times the cost in the UK. Pizza and pasta was around 180DKK each, which is approaching £25, take-away burgers 125DKK, a main course in a restaurant around Tivoli 325DKK+, filled rolls and sandwiches around 40-50DKK. Present rate when changing money being around 7.6 Danish Kroner to the pound sterling. Brexit certainly has a bit to do with it, but the last time I was in Scandinavia, working for a week in Stockholm in 2009, exchange rates weren’t so great and I don’t recall food being a lot more than at home.

They love their bicycles, which are even more ‘extreme’ in their roadsterishness than Dutch bikes. They also cycle like they own the place, and woe betide anyone who gets in the way, even when cycling through pedestrianised areas. Chris stepped in front of a bike and was hit in an area that banned cycling, but she was given the most evil look by the rider, and he flipped the bird at me after he was a safe distance away. 2 older women explained to us that he was wrong, so it wasn’t just us thinking he should not be there.

Copenhagen is a small city, but even small cities need a lot of walking.

The Danes don’t know how to flow around each other in crowds or in groups on pavements. An example: a group of 4 local people are walking down a pavement toward a foreign couple, and the locals are spread across the entire width of the pavement. The foreign couple move into single file to make space, but the group of 4 locals remain across the entire pavement and walk right up to the couple before bumping into them and awkwardly stepping aside. This scene was played out repeatedly, and we observed them getting in each others way too in heavy crowds. There appears to be no cultural instinct about making space for others – no social lubrication in the city.

The little mermaid is a small bronze statue that is inexplicably popular with large crowds of people. Symbol of the city, sure, but if you see it, you’ll wonder why. If I were there on a photographic trip then I’d try to visit around dawn in order to avoid the crowds and catch better light.

Talking of light, the sun never got very high in the sky, with sunrise around 8.40am and sunset around 3.30pm. When the skies clear then the light is beautiful. IF they clear.

Copenhagen is flat enough to make a Dutchman long for a hill, and Oxford seems positively mountainous in comparison. ;-)

There are a LOT of quite old buildings in the city, that seem in remarkably good condition. I wonder if, because it’s so close to the sea, that the temperatures seldom drop to really brutal levels, thus damp stone and brick doesn’t freeze and crumble like it does in other cities that suffer a more continental climate.

There used to be a lot more old buildings, many of which burnt to the ground. Primary cause seems to have been poorly cleaned chimney pipes resulting in chimney fires, plus buildings designed with voids that conduct the flames to other parts while preventing extinction. See also the section on Danish design and execution.

Danish money is odd, with smaller denominations of 1, 2 and 5 Kronor having a hole in the centre and being shiny silver. 10 and 20 Kronor coins are small and brassy.

We were short-changed in the Vesuvio Italian restaurant on our first night, and didn’t notice until after the waiter had gone, after which point arguing becomes difficult. The point about coins as mentioned above is significant, because it would have been obvious to him that he was giving us 4 large silvery 5 Kronor coins instead of 4 smaller brassy 10 Kronor coins. Rather than argue, being tired from travelling we left without any further tip, considering the 20 Kronor we were cheated of to be tip enough. That and we promised ourselves not to eat there again.

We didn’t eat anything that tasted bad anywhere, although we were naturally selective about what we did eat. The pressed rye breads were wonderful, making good sandwiches. Chris wasn’t too keen on the soups, but food was more of a challenge because of cost than taste. That’s not to say there weren’t some odd things available, but they weren’t the ONLY things available. Final meal in the airport was ‘Sicilian meatballs and pasta’ which was aeroplane food bought landside, but not actually horrible.

Dinner 2 evenings running was fish & chips from a place in Tivoli at 62 Kronor each. It was convenient, cost-effective, tasted OK and didn’t take lots of traipsing round to find a place that we could agree on to eat in.

The Danes like their phones. Like many other races.

Clever, tasteful design doesn’t always make for comfort. Like seats in airport lounges that look good, but turn out to be rather firm, possibly in order to discourage camping out while waiting. Like – allegedly – room 606 in the Radisson Blu hotel, famous for its design and additional cost, but not so much comfort or convenience.

Good design can be let down by poor execution. We visited the design museum near Amalienborg, where many of the marble floor tiles were loose and some cracked. They also had the very worst public loos – stinking and partially functioning, with a narrow, angled and awkward doorway – we found anywhere.

Our hotel – the Ascot on Studienstaede – had the same pine cone style light shades in the dining room that I’d seen in the design museum. Here the clean greys and whites, careful lighting and gentle music made breakfast feel positively relaxing and almost therapeutic. Whilst the room we had was quite tiny, it was adequate, and we were reasonably comfy there.

The Copenhagen card is a useful accessory, giving access transport and museums, Tivoli etc for a single payment. It is not cheap at 89 euros per person for 72 hours, but more than covered it’s up-front cost (entry to Tivoli was 99 Kronor, and it was nice to be able to walk in any time we wanted).

Public transport seemed plentiful, but a little tricky at first for a novice. Their metro-building program is a good idea too, but has really made a mess of a lot of otherwise picturesque parts of the city. We used the train to travel from the airport to city centre, and that was mildly stressful because such a journey is a leap into the unknown.

Our last morning we used busses for the first and only time to travel to a market area (the plan was to walk, but it was raining/sleeting, and we did not wish to travel in wet clothes) and then to the airport.  It was a source of stress because bus stops weren’t always where the maps suggested or where we expected them to be, busses of the same number could have different destinations and with the pressure of needing to be at the airport in time I was well outside my comfort zone. As Chris said, I don’t like to not be in control.

Does it pass the ‘would I live there?’ test. Yes, it probably does, although one would need a decent income to be comfortable, winters would be long and dismal/summers cool and the language could be a challenge to learn (it made more sense to me than it did Chris – she thought she would go mad with frustration at it). It feels like a country half-way between Sweden and Germany, but where almost everyone speaks excellent English (though often with an American accent).

Would I go back? Possibly, but the world is a large place, and I'd rather go to Stockholm next time we visit Scandinavia.

We had a good trip. :-)

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