Sister's Journal

Date: 31.July.1999
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Position: 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 to me.

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


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