The RT had an opportunity to visit Copenhagen, Denmark recently to visit his Little Baby Girl, while she was studying abroad. As is the case in most of his travels, the RT made some noteworthy observations which will help other visitors to Copenhagen.
When the RT first touched down in Copenhagen (called København or “koobinhown” by the locals), he was stunned to find out that it wasn’t the world center for snuff or “smokeless tobacco”. In fact, he only saw one empty snuff box on the sidewalk the whole time in København … and it wasn’t Copenhagen … or Skoal (remember what Walt Garrison of the late ‘70s Dallas Cowboys said: “just a pinch between your cheek and gum …”) … or Happy Days. Things were starting out on the wrong foot. Something was, indeed, rotten in the state of Denmark, in addition to the seaweed on the beach.
After meeting up with Daughter RT, it became apparent the she had spent the past six weeks in intensive ultra-marathon walker training, rather than actually studying abroad. She almost succeeded in walking her Daddy to death over the succeeding week, but the RT somehow managed to survive. And what lovely calf muscles we have now. Tak!
The General Populace
You, no doubt, have seen the print ads for Ralph Lauren Polo. You know, the ones with the strikingly beautiful/handsome people with piercing blue eyes, stylish blond hair, striking features and a certain disaffected gaze. As it turns out, all those people are from Denmark. Many folks on the street look as if they just stepped away from a Polo photo shoot (or maybe a fragrance ad, except that none of them were in black and white). After all, nothing says Ralph Lauren’s America like Danish-looking people.
The death rate in Denmark must be abnormally high, because people seem to wear black all the time in order to attend the funerals. Black shirts, black pants, black sweaters, black overcoats … black everything. A stroll down the sidewalk feels like a funeral procession.
Except for the hair. One sees all colors: blonde, black, red, orange, pink, blue, aqua, mauve, cornflower, burnt umber, seafoam green … no, wait. Those last few were from the RT’s Crayola box when he was a kid.
Danes are generally nice people, though they don’t make eye contact and don’t say “excuse me” when they bump into you, step in front of you or shove past you. Apparently, there’s no Danish equivalent to “excuse me”, so they just don’t bother. I guess they didn’t have a Mama like the RT’s who bopped them on the head anytime they bumped into somebody and didn’t say “mine dybeste undskyldninger for at støde ind i dig” (that’s what Google Translate came up with when the RT gave it “my deepest apologies for bumping into you”).
Tattoos and Piercings
It seems that Danish sailors brought home the practice of tattooing from Polynesia many years ago. And then took it to a new level. The RT thought there were a lot of tattooed people in the good ol’ US of A. While that is, indeed, true, there is a MUCH higher percentage of them in København.
Coupled with piercings of every conceivable body part, this makes these folks look like Danish sailors that got caught up in the ship’s tackle box and had to claw their way out.
The local folk in København apparently dig graffiti, as it appears everywhere, including Amager East, where the RT stayed. This initially set the RT back, wondering if he had landed in gang territory. However, the area was otherwise nice. Apparently, graffiti is simply a form of expression for Københavnites. Nothing says “Velkommen” like spray paint.
In Denmark, the people speak Danish, a language not unlike English, except the Danes have done something cute, bordering on adorable. Over time, they’ve come up with a completely different word for everything! It’s not only adorable, it’s also quite fashionable. It sounds remotely like Deutsch, spoken with a mouth full of Life Savers.
They use “ring diacritics” in written Danish (that’s when you have something like extra Cheerios lying around and sprinkle them on top of other letters so you can claim they have a different sound). In addition, they apparently make a lot of mistakes when printing signs and ads, because they have to go back and cross out a lot of their regular “o”s. Then when a complete sentence is finally arrived at, they randomly omit certain letters when speaking, just to keep the tourists guessing.
Københavnites love their bicycles. Really. No, REALLY. There are bicycles EVERYWHERE. And they move FAST. And they WILL run over you. On several occasions, the RT was almost flattened by a speeding bicyclist. So, watch out. Or you could become a statistic.
Interestingly, most of the bicycles in København are of the style that Mama RT had when the RT was a child. Single speed, balloon tires, fenders, wide seat, etc. The kind that Papa RT cranked out of Mac’s Bike Shop in East Texas in the ‘50s. Thankfully, there are few hills, so the ol’ single speed bike does the trick.
The currency in Denmark is the Danish Krone (which makes the RT want to sing a song by The Knack: “M-M-M-My Ka-rona”). And the RT saw many Danes spending their krone on Corona (they do love to drink).
The krone is worth less than the good ol’ US dollar, and quite a lot so. It takes about six krone to equal one US dollar. That means when you go buy a hamburger for 79, DKK (don’t forget the comma; it means the same as a decimal point; and a decimal point means the same as a comma; can a fella get a ring diacritic over here?), don’t worry – you’re not about to drop 79 Simoleans. You are actually only handing over about 12 tamales.
On his last European trip, the RT got pretty good at spending Euros, because they were worth slightly more than good ol’ ‘Merican petrodollars. So, when something cost 10€, you knew you were spending about 11 smackeroos. But with these krones, it was a hard conversion. Dividing by six in his head on the fly ain’t the RT’s strong suit.
So, the RT came up with this easy trick. First, move the decimal place (or the comma in this case) one place to the left. So, your 79, DKK becomes 7,9 something-or-other. Then add a little over half as much, and you get 12 or 13. And that’s about how many clams it’ll set you back.
See how easy that is? Or maybe Google will come up with some glasses that automatically convert DKK to USD. Until then, the RT is doing it his way. Or maybe you can just divide by six.
Canals and Boats
There are many canals in København, which leads to many bridges, as well. And like any good city with canals, there are boats that ply them constantly. And like any place where boats interact with bridges, there are spans these boats must pass through.
To make the absolute greatest use of the available spans, the designers made the boats approximately 30 Ångstroms narrower and 20 Å shorter than the available span at high tide (did you notice how the RT snuck in a letter with a ring diacritic there?).
This makes for some interesting “interactions” between the boats and the bridges. Just remember to keep your head down, and your arms and legs inside the boat at all times. Or another statistic could be in the making.
As is his custom, the RT arrived right at the peak of summer festival season. On this trip, it was the Mega-Crane, Gaping Hole, Trenching Implement and Sewer Pipe festival. Everywhere was singing and dancing around the heavy equipment and random chasms in the street. It was hard to fight the urge to join in. No visit to any city is complete without a view under the streets and sidewalks.
On the side streets, there were regular exhibitions of large delivery trucks backing up. Every morning. Outside the RT’s window. For real. Beep, beep, beep.
Now, there is a special place in central København called Free Christiana. It seems that right after Jimi finished playing The Star-Spangled Banner and set fire to his Telecaster back at Yasgur’s Farm, all the hippies who were watching picked up, moved to København and took over part of one of the islands in the city center. They declared it Free Christiana and kept doing all the things they did out at Woodstock – free love, free dope, free STDs – you name it. And because they smelled so stinkin’ bad, the authorities decided just to leave them be. And they’re still there!
Of course, most of the original bunch are now in their 80s, but they had lots of kids and taught them to act the same way. Lots of rainbows, dilapidated trailers, peace signs – it’s all there. So, if you’re in the mood to relive the ‘60s, come on down to Free Christiana; they’ll leave the lava lamp on for you.
It’s a good thing that the RT was in København during the summer, because had the strait between Denmark and Sweden frozen over, and had the RT seen a Swede attempting to cross over on foot, he would have been obligated to hit said Swede with a stick, per Danish law. Not that the RT has anything against Swedes, mind you, but he would have felt obliged to support his Danish hosts.
Suffice it to say that Danes and Swedes aren’t very close, though their fates have been linked for centuries.
København is renowned for its, er, rather “unique” architecture and style. In East Texas, we would just say that it’s kinda weird. There’ll be a beautiful old castle and right next to it will be a funky, boxy structure called “modern architecture”. The RT will take the castle any day.
Danes also have their own “modern” designs for furniture. Very curvy and hip. Definitely more comfortable than a stump.
There are many castles, or slots, in the København Region. Seems as though each king had to outdo the previous one. There’s Christiansborg, Kronberg, Rosenborg, Frederiksborg, Amalienborg, Sønderborg, Dingelborg, Hyperborg and Cyborg. OK, those last three were made up. But there are a LOT of castles.
Christiansborg Slot currently houses the Queen’s reception halls, the Prime Minister, Parliament and the Supreme Court. Its history reminds me somewhat of the famous Swamp Castle in Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail.
King: I built this kingdom up from nothing. When I started, all I had was swamp! Other kings said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show ’em! It sank into the swamp, so I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. I built a third one. It burned down, fell over, and then it sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up! And that’s what you’re going to get, lad – the strongest castle on these islands!
Christiansborg and its predecessors were destroyed by invaders, rebuilt, burned down, rebuilt, burned down again, then rebuilt. This one should stand for at least a few more weeks.
Kronberg Castle is the sweetest of them all in the RT’s book. That’s because it was the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Now, don’t be thinkin’ that the RT has gone all snooty on you and started reading Shakespeare. Nope, not at all. But the RT got to see Hamlet Live there and was actually able to understand it. The RT hopes that someone can track down Mrs. Griggs (his high school English teacher) and tell her that he finally gets it.
While you are in København, you’ll probably want to eat some food. The skinke is quite good, as is the kryllen. Or maybe try the fiske. Those are really just ham, chicken and fish, but the RT thought the names were cool. Personally, the RT dropped a lot of krone on is, kanelruller og kaffe. That’s ice cream, cinnamon rolls and coffee to you flatlanders.
Do go to Papirøen (“paper island”) when in København. It’s an old warehouse where paper was once stored. Today, it’s an old warehouse filled with street food vendors … and four million people. None of which can say “excuse me”.
And you’ll want to try a hot dog from one of the many street vendors. It ain’t your regular ol’ ‘Merican hot dog – the kind that leaves the water you boiled it in kinda red. These hot dogs have flavor! Instead of a regular hot dog bun, they cut a baguette in half, make a hole down the center, squirt it full of mayo, ketchup or mustard, and slide the hot dog into it. Pertty cool in the RT’s book.
Yes! Have some please! And smoke them everywhere! Especially while sitting next to the RT in a public place! And please blow smoke in his face! Tak!
Many young people in Denmark smoke cigarettes (as well as other herbs and spices). In an attempt to curb the smoking epidemic, the Danish Government requires not only warning labels on cigarette packages, but also warning PHOTOGRAPHS. These photographs of people coughing up blood, people with oozing chest wounds, people crying over caskets, people being zipped into body bags and people with missing toes (yes, toes) apparently have zero impact on Danish youth, but made the RT want to toss his cookies right there in the checkout line at Netto.
So, please smoke more cigarettes, yes! And please leave your empty packages on the ground as garbage for the RT to see and want to vomit.
The Danes have a special word for toilet: toileter. This is very handy to know when you need to go.
Like many European countries, the toileters in Denmark have two flush settings/sizes: “Mommy, I go pee-pee” and “Look, I make big doody!”
The RT trusts you’ll know which one to use and at what times. At least you won’t have to pay for the privilege.
The weather in København is quite delightful in summer. Highs in the 60s, lows in the 50s, low humidity, nice breezes, occasionally rain showers. In short, nothing like the summers in the South. The RT could get used to summers like that.
However, the sun never really goes away in Denmark. Oh, it goes below the horizon about 11pm, but the sky never gets fully dark, and then Brave Helios is staring at you again in the wee hours of the morning. This leads to sleep deprivation for little ol’ boys from East Texas. The RT finally had to go back home just to get some sleep.
While the RT has no desire to move to København, it’s definitely a nice place to visit. Except in the winter, when the sun never really comes up. That would be tough. You’d be wandering around in the cold and dark, bumping into people who can’t say “excuse me”.
All for now, The Rambling Texan