Denmark

July 20th — July 23rd

After having chased summer for the past month, Denmark was a breath of fresh air. It was warm out, the streets were quiet. An estival mood had settled in. Life slowed down, people had fled the metropolis, or perhaps just stayed indoors to escape the heat.

Copenhagen is a relatively small municipality considering it's a capital of approximately 600 000. However, this means Copenhagen is a human-sized metropolis. We didn't use public transportation once ; we simply walked wherever we went. The fact that we were able to do this spoke volumes about the litany of bike riders all across town. The town must be a playground they can zip through on a whim.

The very bike-centric culture of Copenhagen is fascinating on several counts. First of all, it necessitates a new etiquette between pedestrians and bike riders. As a pedestrian, you are used to watching out for cars, but here, you also need to take a look over your shoulder because bikers go fast. In fact I'd be curious to see how many biker-on-pedestrian incidents per capita Copenhagen counts vs others in the world. Sidewalks are divided with bikers in mind. Bikes are hardly ever locked with chains. The only lock bikes have is a small metal circle on the hind wheel to keep it from moving. This is presumably because bikes are so common, but also because there is no fear that your bike will be picked apart for some easy cash.

Copenhagen was also noteworthy as the first country in Europe to host a noticeable amount of immigrants. Iceland, Scotland and Norway didn't really give that impression.

Despite its size, Copenhagen exudes the prestige of most European capitals, with countless churches, monuments, palaces, libraries, gardens and parks.

The most distinctive area of Copenhagen has to be Christiana. We stepped into Christiana without realizing what it was. Upon entering the burg, we instantly got a vibe of disrepair, the streets and buildings were disheveled and downtrodden, unremarkable graffiti and fliers littered the walls, overgrown grass and trees sprawled in every direction, shops and hovels straight out of port Saint John’s, South Africa, were the norm. Commerces looked dirtier, people smoked pot left and right (which I don't mind at all but contrasted sharply with the rest of Copenhagen) and generally looked like they were from a 60s hippy commune. It was fun and refreshing for an afternoon, but I don’t think I would forego the organization and cleanliness of Copenhagen for much longer than that.

After having strolled through Christiana for a while, it dawned on Anaïs: “wait, isn't this some anarchist state in the middle of Copenhagen? I think I heard about this!”  Sure enough, Christiana has a tradition of managing itself a bit like a sovereign city state (neighborhood state?) within Copenhagen. When exiting Christiana, a gate reads “entering Europe”. Among other odd quirks of Christiana, their main square has “no running”, and “no photography” signs. So presumably, what happens in Christiana stays in Christiana, and don't run around or we might think you're doing something illegal. The precinct has had an intriguing history as a result of managing itself as a separate entity, including troubles with hard drugs and a conflictual relationship with law enforcement. Throughout all of this, their ideals were put to the test in singular ways.

In total, we only spent a handful of days in Copenhagen, but the capital left a good impression on us, especially when the snow has melted, summer has kicked in and the city is relaxing.