My Adventures Touring Europe in 1982 (4) Denmark
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Sunday, June 27
The sky had turned overcast again, and it was raining as our bus pulled up to one of many tall brick buildings. Our ride to Copenhagen had been through similar intense green fields, though some of the fields were of yellow flowers so crowded together, you couldn’t see the stems and leaves. It seems summers in Northern Europe are cool and rainy, like winters in California. This explains why the greenery is so intense.
Copenhagen, like Amsterdam, is mostly tall brick buildings. However, the streets are made of asphalt, and there is less craziness; only cars drove on the streets, no trolleys and few bicycles. It has a grungy look to it, but it is quite clean.
Johannes stepped off the bus. As we sat and waited, an incredibly statuesque man emerged from a shop across the street. He was so tall, he reached the awning; his height must have been about 7 feet. While we oohed and aahed over him, another man and 2 women, all about the same stature, joined him. We gawked shamelessly. I knew Vikings were supposed to be unusually large, but I hadn’t expected this!
They talked amongst themselves in Danish, and then it appeared a small argument broke out. One of the giant men approached our bus, and we said, “Oh, no!” A woman followed him, and another man came after her and grabbed her by her hair. We all laughed silently. The group went back across the street and walked around the corner, out of sight. We heaved a huge sigh of relief.
Johannes got back on the bus, and we told him about the giants. “Oh yeah, there are a few here,” he said. “But most Danish people are regular size, so don’t worry.
“This is our hotel,” he went on. “Remember how we toured the Red Light District in Amsterdam? Well, in case you haven’t guessed, this is the Red Light District, in Copenhagen. However, it’s perfectly safe, so you don’t have to worry about anything. Let’s check in.”
The hotel was five stories high, and it had no elevator. I was rooming with Gayla and Chiara, and it turned out our room was on the 4th floor! I discovered hauling my suitcases up so many flights was not so bad, though; you just rested between flights. Chiara didn’t have a problem either, but Gayla complained big time.
Our room was rather old-looking, but very clean. It was shaped like a hexagon, and an old-fashioned radiator stood in one corner. After settling in, we gathered our laundry and took it to a nearby Laundromat, after exchanging some of our money in the main lobby downstairs for Danish Krones (the coins were silver colored, and had a hole in the center! They could be used as jewelry!). One load of wash cost 6 krones, which added up to about one dollar US. Donna was gabbing a mile a minute, as usual. “What do you guys think of this red light district?” she asked everyone. We all admitted we had nothing to say about it. “Some guy pinched my rear on the way here,” she told us.
“That’s strange,” I answered her. “I’ve heard that’s only supposed to happen in Italy.”
After my load was done, I went to the dryers, and discovered it cost $2 US to dry a load! In the US, it normally costs 50 cents! Since I only had a couple pairs of jeans and shirts plus some underwear, I decided to take them back to the hotel and dry them over the radiator. So I walked back to the hotel alone, thinking since it was only around the corner, it would be easy to find. Apparently, I turned the wrong corner, because I got lost. I couldn’t believe it – getting lost after travelling such a short distance!
A streetwalker saw my puzzled look, and approached me. “Where are you heading for?” she asked, in perfect English spoken in a Danish accent. I gave her the name of my hotel, and she directed me to walk the other direction. After thanking her, I did, and soon found my hotel. I was shocked that a streetwalker would actually speak to me; my understanding is, they only talk to people who can pay them money, which means only men. There’s also the embarrassment of being judged by women, which is why they don’t speak to them. I know prostitution is legal in most of Europe, but still!
I hung my wet clothes over the radiator, and took a short nap. That evening we went to dinner, which turned out to be a smorgasbord which had mostly American foods, but included caviar! They also had pickled herring in sour cream, which is one of my favorites. “What’s this stuff?” sneered Robin. I explained it to her, and encouraged her to try it; she declined.
After dinner, we went to Tivoli Gardens, which is an amusement park. I went on the giant Viking ship, which looked like an oversized swing, but after getting motion sickness, decided too late that it was more than I’d bargained for; I dealt with it by facing backwards every time it swung forward. After going on a bunch of much tamer rides, I went to a booth to buy a snack, and wound up sitting with a group of locals, which consisted of a man with his son and his son’s date. The son was about my age, and his date was drop-dead gorgeous; she resembled Britt Ecklund in her youth. The man saw how I was looking at them, and removed a plastic bracelet from her arm and handed it to me! I was startled, but the couple simply smiled their OK.
The man bought me a beer, and we all talked about Denmark and the USA. I told them about my European tour so far.
At 11pm, when Tivoli Gardens closed, I met with Chris and 3 female tour members at the gate. Chris suggested going to a nearby nightclub. I felt tired, but decided to push myself anyway, so I went. A band was playing pop music, and even though their music was only so-so, the dance floor was crowded. A local man named Bjorn asked me to dance. It turned out he was an artist; his drawings and paintings were featured all over town. He had been through most of Europe, though he’d never visited the US. He was fluent in 4 languages; besides Danish and English, he spoke Spanish and Dutch. He owned 2 homes, one in Copenhagen, the other in Sweden.
He bought me a whole bunch of beers. Eventually I had to go to the bathroom, so I excused myself. However, once in the bathroom, every time I tried to enter a stall, an elderly woman kept blocking me. She kept saying something that sounded like “wunkroan, wunkroan.”
Donna came in, and saw my predicament. “You have to pay to use the bathroom here,” she explained to me. “It costs one krone.”
“Oh,” I answered, embarrassed. Apologizing to the woman, I gave her a coin, then she allowed me to enter a stall.
Once back out on the floor, I danced with Bjorn. He tried to get me to go home with him, but I declined. Around 3:30am, the 3 women told me they were going back to the hotel. Chris had disappeared; he’d found a local woman to spend the night with (Chris wound up being the tour womanizer, which is really strange, considering his mother was on the tour!). Bjorn joined us walking back to the hotel; when we reached there, the sky was just beginning to get light! Bjorn gave me an ultimate good-night kiss at the door to the hotel, right in front of 3 envious on-lookers.
This tiny but mighty country comes as such a surprise! I LOVE Denmark, I really do!
Monday, June 28
This morning, the rain came in torrents. We were supposed to tour Copenhagen by bicycle, but the weather made this impossible, so we saw the city by bus. I took a lot of pictures from the window, though at times the rain lightened up enough for us to get out. I got a great shot of myself keeping step with a Parliament guard! He was very nice; he told me he could talk all he wanted to, as long as he didn’t lose step.
Tour of Copenhagen
Tour of Carlsberg Brewery
After the tour of the city, we visited Carlsberg Brewery. At the entrance to the facility were two giant stone elephants with swastikas emblazoned on them. “The swastika is actually an ancient symbol of life,” the brewery tour guide explained to us. “It is only in recent history that the Nazis have desecrated it.”
The facility was so large, unlike California wineries, it consisted of taking a tour cart to view it all. “We’re going on a booze cruise!” exclaimed Bruce, when we saw the group of carts, and we all laughed.
I was totally fascinated by the brewery, especially since I had tasted Carlsberg beer before coming to Europe. It was unfortunate that my Canon AE-1 camera limited me to taking only one indoor picture of the facility. The tour guide took a liking to me, and gave me a Carlsberg elephant pin.
At the end of the tour, we were taken to a room with two long tables, the centers of which ran a line of varieties of beers. “Please drink all of it,” Johannes told us. “If you leave any, they will give less to the next tour group.” Of course, we needed no prompting! I managed to drink two, before both lines disappeared.
That evening, we were scheduled to see a circus. However, this was my one chance to see Sweden, so I bypassed it and hopped a boat there. My experience there is described in my next hub; here's the link:
Tuesday, June 29
Today, we’re slated to leave Denmark and head for Berlin. My clothes still weren’t dry, so I had to put them on damp since they were the only clean ones I had. Shoot – what did Danish people do before clothes dryers were invented?
I HATE to leave! I can't believe how friendly the guys are! I just HAVE to come back; maybe I should move here!
Apparently, a lot of others felt the same way because we wound up getting a late start. To make matters worse, we got lost (apparently, I’m not the only one here with a poor sense of direction). Lakis the bus driver was speeding along the city streets when all of a sudden, he slammed on the brakes. We wondered what was going on, when we heard shouting outside the front of the bus. Johannes was attempting to placate an irate local.
“Do you know what the speed limit is here? This isn’t an autobaun! I call the police!” yelled the man. Apparently, he had cut in front of the bus, forcing Lakis to slam on the brakes to avoid crashing into him!
“It’s Ok,” Johannes said calmly. “We’re just trying to make the boat to Germany.”
“Never have I seen such terrible driving! I call the police!” ranted and raved the man.
“It’s Ok, it’s OK,” soothed Johannes.
Eventually the matter was settled, and we made it to the dock, missing the boat by 10 minutes. This meant waiting nearly 2 hours for the next one, so we sat eating lunch and chilling.
During World War II, when Denmark was taken over by Nazis, they successfully smuggled nearly 100% of their Jews out of their reach. This book is about a 14 year old Danish boy who took part in their rescue.
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© 2013 Yoleen Lucas