||55 degrees 42 minutes
North, 12 degrees, 36.5 minutes East
Copenhagen is cool
In the mid 60s I sailed as a merchant seaman
in the Danish merchant marine it's a long story). I worked for
three different Danish shipping companies, the last of which was
the Maersk company. At the time Maersk was the largest family
owned shipping company in the world. All Maersk ships
were sky blue color with the name of the ship on the side. The
smoke stack was blue with black stripes around the top and bottom
and a white 7 pointed star (one point for each workday of the
week). I worked on Chastine Maersk and, perhaps to her chagrin,
middle named my daughter Chastine when she was born. Maersk has
grown and expanded shipping operations to include containers and
a small airline. You see Maersk containers regularly on the highways
in the US now.
Believe it or not, none of the ships I worked
on sailed to Denmark. In fact, the first time I visited Denmark
was October, 1998 when Andy and I stopped there on our way to
review the status of the construction of Sister. So this is only
the second time in my life that I've been here but, at risk of
sounding melodramatic, it feels strangely familiar and comfortable
Copenhagen is alive. Tourists and locals
combine to fill the streets and create a distinctly party-like
atmosphere. The old harbor, Nyhavn (which actually means new harbor
in Danish) area is particularly partyous. A favorite pastime is
taking an X pack (X = 6 or 12 or 24 as thirst dictates) of Tuborg or Carlsberg to Nyhavn to sit and drink beer and watch
people. It's pretty cheap entertainment and it is indeed entertaining.
Add some pretty talented street musicians to the mix and it becomes
even more entertaining.
Copenhagen is a city of bicycles. First,
the city is flat, flat, flat. Second, a car in the city can be
expensive, impractical and unparkable. Third, the city has established
bike lanes on virtually every thoroughfare. A typical street has
sidewalks on either side, a step down to a bike lane on either side then another step down to the street itself. The city
is thick with bikes. For the uninitiated (those who haven't been
nearly run down by a bike) there is a tendency to step off a crowded
sidewalk and walk in the bike lane. DON'T DO THAT! Stay on the
sidewalk. When crossing make sure you check for bike traffic as
well as car traffic. Keep your ears tuned to
bicycle bell frequency. The bicycle bell, not very loud and quite unalarming, can mean impending destruction. Heed it's toll lest
you end up in a pile of spokes, handlebars, arms and legs.
Copenhagen feels safe. We didn't sense the
sort of aggressive, if not threatening, attitude that we've sensed
in so many large cities. We let the kids go for a couple of evenings
on their own. Of course they tested. The first night they didn't
show up at midnight. I waited some then walked back into town
to find them as they just headed off for the boat ... at nearly
one AM. I was pretty pissed but they were appropriately apologetic
and suffered no consequences other that my searing verbal rebuke.
Copenhagen is tolerant. Christiana is a
community on the south side of the city. In the early 70s war
and military and ??? protestors "occupied" this area
for so long that the city just gave it to them. To walk into Christiana
now is to walk back into the late sixties. The one dirt "street" is lined on either side with small wooden structures where one
can buy hash and marijuana in virtually any quantity or form.
You can get kilos of marijuana or just pick up a quick joint "for
the road". You can get pipe size chunks of hash or pockets
full. One thing you can't get is pictures. No pictures allowed. You see, this incredibly open activity is
not quite legal and the vendors are a little paranoid about getting
their pictures taken. The police actually "raid" Christiana
occasionally just to keep up appearances but, as we were told,
the raids are pretty perfunctory and apparently the vendors get a reasonable amount of advance notice.
Ryan and I walked through once (Camellia and Andy were doing something
less interesting). The air was hazy with that unique musky smell. Thirty minutes in that atmosphere must be equivalent to smoking
a joint. That being the case, after brief exposure to the Christiana
"culture" Ryan and I exited stage left.
Copenhagen is much more but I've written
enough and you've certainly read enough and, as the sage once
said, "enough is enough".
Chuck, Andy, Camellia and Ryan in Copenhagen