I rang my sister Pat today to wish her happy birthday. Pat isn’t her real name, but that’s what we call her because she was born on St Patrick’s Day. And why not? Our ancestry is mostly Irish Catholic. I also caught up with some of the family who moved from Dublin to Denmark after the potato famine. How else would you explain so many people out and about in Copenhagen celebrating St Patrick’s Day?
Yes, I am in Copenhagen for a couple of days to attend a conference. “What do you think of Copenhagen?”, a bloke in a shop asked me this afternoon. I had just told him I was spending a month in Stockholm and just two days here. “It’s more of a city than Stockholm”, I told him. “Stockholm is much more laid back and relaxed which I like very much. But I also really like Copenhagen. It’s terrific. It has more of a buzz”, I added. If I had to rate the two though, of course Stockholm wins.
Since arriving around lunchtime I’ve done a little bit of sight-seeing – taking a tour of the canals – and a bit of shopping. I’m getting a little sick of wearing the same clothes most days. The jacket I borrowed from Damien is getting a work out. And my jeans are due for a rest. But honestly, so far, they’ve been the perfect clothes for Stockholm most days. Here in Copenhagen, I need lighter clothing. So I bought a pair of jeans from H&M. How great is that store? A really nice pair of jeans for the Danish equivalent to $65. And best of all? The legs are the right length for my waist.
The canal tour was excellent. You travel around the old town, out into the harbour and into some of the new developments around town. One of the interesting things was to hear about how many of the major city projects, like the opera house, for example, were paid for by the private sector as a gift to the nation. You also get a brief visit to The Little Mermaid which was good, because I was told it was difficult to find. You also go past the Royal Palaces – they’re in town at the moment – and the guide pointed out a tower you can climb to the top of. Hopefully, if the weather improves I’ll do just that. It’s a little grey, to say the least, not the sunny conditions I’ve become accustomed to in Stockholm.
The tour guide did the commentary in three languages – Danish, English and German – and mananaged to make everyone feel welcome, it seemed. But oh my Lord, the Danish language! What kind of language is that? To my ear, it sounds like Swedish spoken with a Dutch accent. My ears are used to Swedish and German, but Danish has offered a whole new range of sounds to the ear. I guess it hasn’t helped that I haven’t prepared with the usual please, thankyou, hello and goodbye pleasantries which I normally like to do. But I’ve found the people to be quite friendly so far.
I went out for dinner and had the rather odd experience of being able to speak more in Chinese than I could in Danish. Just around the corner from where I am staying there is a Chinese noodle place where I was the only non-Chinese person staying. In some ways it’s just a “hole in the wall”. The food was good, and they seem to appreciate that I could say please and thankyou in Mandarin, but not in Danish.
I also went out tonight to check out some of the gay bars listed in the local guide. The first one was just around the corner called, “Gimmick”. It was very, very quiet. Just a couple of young guys sitting in the corner, an older bloke reading a magazine and then a bunch of women playing Wii.The second bar I went to “Cental Hjornet” was also rather quiet. I got the impression it was very much a “closed shop”, so I didn’t stay long.cThe third bar I went to was, “Can Can” was a little more friendly. Still only a handful of people, but I went there and found the barman and the people sitting at the bar to be very kind and friendly. And then finally, I went to another bar a little closer to where I am staying. In fact, it’s just around the corner. It’s called Jernbane Cafee, and in some ways it reminded me of those bars I found in Amsterdam a couple of years ago. Lots of crap on the walls. A bunch of old blokes playing schlager and everyone singing along. For a moment I thought, “This could be the world’s greatest bar”. There were quite a few bohemian characters in the bar, including my favourite, a woman I discovered was from Finland, who offered to singt “Besame Mucho” in Finnish, and who spent much of the evening drawing pictures of people she didn’t know and then getting them to buy her beers. Wow. What a great place!!
I’m staying in the hotel district, which also happens to be the red light district. I have a gay bar just 50 metres away. Only problem is, to get there I need to dodge all of the prostitutes. I’ve been approached three or four times today going to and from my accommodation. I guess it doesn’t help that I’m a 44 year old man walking around by himself. I guess I need to take the advice of a friend who mentioned a few years ago that I don’t act gay enough. I guess I need to flame it up a bit more.
And then tonight on the way home, it was three approaches in 30 metres. As I struggled to find my card on the way into the hotel, the bloke on the counter let me in, sensing my frustration. I found it quite distressing actually.
The other negative? They still allow smoking in bars in Copenhagen. Yes, really. Thus I’ve arrived home and my clothes stink of cigarette smoke for the first time in years.
Climate change needs to start with smoking in bars, I reckon!