The aim of travel is to broaden your mind. With my levels of incompetence here and here, travel when attached to holidays usually involves unconscionable amounts of sitting, waiting to sort out my messes so my arse tends to broaden as my mind atrophies.
A few years ago, disillusioned with the inevitable summer heat we experience here in England, we opted to cross Scandinavia by earth bound transport and chose as our stopping off point Denmark. Ok, we flew there but after that it was trains or boats or Shank’s Pony (that’s an old expression my dad used when he meant walking – who was Shank or Shanks, I wonder. Well, I clearly don’t wonder much because frankly I can’t even be bothered to open another tab and google him/her/it. The Archaeologist will know and put it in the comments – he really is an excellent resource).
Anyway, Denmark. What did I know about Denmark? Mermaids? Casual approach to sex? Bacon? Not sure if all these are linked somehow – David Cameron might know (here if you’ve not caught up with the ‘alleged’ exploits of our apple-cheeked PM).
I was looking forward to decent bacon. Makes a change for the usual crap served on the continent which they laughingly call breakfast. I mean there’s nothing to it. Continuefast would be a better name for the sparse droppings you get. Hard boiled eggs (please, these are like stomach IEDs); dusty cereal in which a raisin performs the function of a five pence coin in a Christmas pudding with everyone praying they are the one to find it; or cheese. For pity’s sake you can’t eat cheese for breakfast – that’s like sharing underpants, it’s just gross. So the civilised Nords had to do something better, didn’t they? I mean it’s bad enough relying on their immaculate English to get by without having to resort to one’s own nation’s breakfast to find a suitable level of sustenance to start the day.
The flight was fine – on time and I didn’t share my own bit of personal space with anyone else hanging over the sides of the armrest. I don’t ask for much but spending an hour or so at ‘Guess Your Neighbours BMI’ is not my idea of a good start to a holiday.
That’s when the first small hiccough occurred. The hotel hadn’t heard of us. There are knowing looks between the long married and there’s THE LOOK and this particular LOOK spoke of many similar trials and some seriously hard to shift emotional scar tissue. ‘It must be a mistake.’ If she can do the LOOK I can do the VOICE – a commanding timbre that has shaken many a incompetent minion to the core of his/her being. Despite the fact that all this did was reinforce the stereotype of another British holidaying knobend, the delightfully fragrant receptionist kept smiling and allocated us a small cupboard until our room – now found but booked, or so they said, from the following day – could be made available. As a quiet female voice put it ‘I thought they were an hour ahead, not a day?’
To defer the moment when we actually saw the reality of our temporary home, we left our bags and went for a wander. Our hotel was close to the Tivoli Gardens so we thought we’d have a dander. In my journal I describe it thus
‘like a full scale toy, part paste boulevards making Paris’ seem pokey by comparison’
What on earth did I mean? I remember the place was full of other tourists and a lot seemed to be British, which was disappointing. But this brings back no memories whatsoever. Anyway the next entry describes the harbour which was:
‘… full of small fish based restaurants. We are seated at one sweet little place, the sun is still high even at 7.30pm – what do you expect, I suppose…’
Leaving aside the eccentric grammar this does remind me that we enjoyed the extended sunshine and the fact it was mostly sunny when we were there. The lifestyle was essentially al fresco and relaxed as this suggests. We wandered off to find the mermaid. She was small, much smaller than I anticipated but quite stunning for all that.
All told we spent three nights in Copenhagen. One morning we set off by bus to find Louisiana an out of town, modern art facility with a significant collections of culture. Bit of a liquorish all sorts really but some notable pieces in a wondrous setting, south of Seeland overlooking the placid sea. We saw ancient American carvings, weird pictures from Warhol, lumpen pieces of steroidal sculpture from Henry Moore and a somewhat smug display about green energy and how buildings can be designed for a future without oil – which in truth seemed more a way for major architectural practices to advertise their wares.
Back in Copenhagen the rain fell – apologetically but without embarrassment. We ate in Christiania – a kind of artist retreat modelled that would have been better if it hadn’t been quite so self regarding. I climbed a curving tower at Our Saviour’s Church – the stairs are on the outside – and admired a mizzly panorama that many more worthy and certainly more devout than I have enjoyed – while in the distance the huge Oresund Bridge told of a modern world beckoning.
Our final day, before an early train across the said bridge, took us to the Botanic Gardens and then the Copenhagen City Museum. I was just getting to grips with the 19th Century transfer of powers from an absolute monarchy to a democracy when I was unceremoniously shown out. Apologies but no embarrassment: Denmark in a nutshell.
I wrote a poem on the train as we left Denmark for Stockholm.
Some cities are blond.
Berlin is bottled, rather faux.
Barcelona has its Gaudi streaks
And Paris its ice-cold indifference.
A froth of insouciant openness
A light haired Scandanavianism.
Mad punks and mer-people.
They have three bikes for every person
And yet they’re just so sane;
Calm reflective, dreaming spires of a people
Attitudes piercing the sky.
Even when the porn is free
There’s not a boob in sight.
Careful, self-controlling, orderly;
It should be repressive
But it isn’t:
Because you just don’t.
Because you just shouldn’t.
Because you don’t need to.
I’ve had fun
Because I just could.