Now, why would anyone in their right mind go to Scandinavia for a “lads’ weekend”? When any occasion is prefixed with “lads'”, it is transformed into a vision of a scabby darkened room where a bunch of boisterous blokes pissed on whatever third-rate warm swill that happens to be for sale in that darkened room leer at a series of women who gyrate implausibly and disinterestedly disrobe on an elevated surface, and try to relieve the blokes of as much of the local currency as they can in exchange for peering at various bits of their anatomy for an extremely limited and impersonal time – and the blokes will generally proffer disproportionately large wodges of currency, as fundamentally we like looking at women without clothes on and though the supply curve is pretty well inelastic the effects of immediacy and alcohol ensure a high marginal rate of substitution of spendable notes for wiggling booty. This is all well and good, but if this is the case it then seems foolish to go out of your way to a country where beer has a reputation reputation of being very expensive, and at a time when the exchange rate of the country of origin is knackered.
Be that as it may, housemate James & I were joined by his other mates James and Dancing Dave for a brief weekend sojourn to the Danish capital, Copenhagen (København to the locals).
Copenhagen is on the islandy bit of Denmark, that isn’t connected by land to Germany. Throughout history it has served as an important port town, and though occupied by Axis forces throughout much of WW2 it seemed to escape heavy Allied bombing, so the cityscape remains an old and beautiful panorama.
First order of business was to find our prestigious lodgings, organised by the ever resourceful and alert Mr Amner. A terrifying taxiride and several laps of the block later from our fairly inept cab driver, and we found ourselves checked in to what could only be described as an armoured corridor. We dropped our gear & headed out past the bizarre warning mural in the stairwell to find a bite for dinner – this ended up not being the intriguing and enticing “Cafe Puk”, but the burger joint next to the hostel, where James 2 got stabbed in the hand by an overzealous waitress, and where we got our first taste of the ludicrous beer prices.
I wasn’t going to spend the entire post narrating what we did, but I feel it’s important to the direction the trip was to take. And it’s also important to note that one of the first things I stated was that I’d rather not go into Irish pubs: it’s not that I don’t like them, it’s just that it seems silly to go all that way only to surround yourself with fake atmosphere, and moreso since I’d spent the prior 2 days in Dublin for work. So, we went for a wander up Copenhagen’s pedestrianised shopping street, past what looked like a student bar (main clue being in the name: Studenterhuset), and into… an irish pub! We continued our nomadic booze cruise via 2 more irish pubs – all suitably bedecked in Halloween decorations – and past a fountain in one of the squares where we watched a fully clothed girl sent for an involuntary dip by her friends. If we’d had our wits about us we’d have learned some new Danish words at that point, I’m pretty sure.
The foldup beds in the hostel really demand their own paragraph – the aforementioned “armoured corridor” turned out to be 4 foldup bunks, accessed by sliding out a near-invisible silver pin and secured in the horizontal position by frobnicating a further silver pin. Or at least that was the theory, as only one of the 4 bunks came equipped with this critical second pin. James 2 confidently demonstrated how stable the bunks were without the locking pin, and with the most subtle of shifts in weight distribution discovered that you could in fact instantly flip the bunk back into the vertical position – giving you a perfect sized hole to plummet through to the ground below. I shit you not – illusionists have “disappearing man” rigs that dispatch a body with less speed than that thing! James 1 immediately elected to move his mattress to the floor, influenced by the 6 foot drop from the top bunk and the confluence of metal and wires punctuating the downward path he’d take.
Saturday was largely a day of sightseeing – we met up with former Adelaidean & International Scout par excellence, Nicko, who’s been a resident of Copenhagen for the past year or so and was delighted to show us a few of the notables of his home. We had breakfast at this weird all-you-can-eat place which didn’t seem to be working along any theme in particular, other than “here are a bunch of big serving dishes for you to pick from”. Also “all-you-can-eat” was further parameterised by “within-1-hour”. Quite popular though, it seemed.
A scenic highpoint was the area known as Nyhavn (the new harbour), and had it not been so chilly we’d probably have strolled around here a bit more snapping photos and looking at the stuff… but as it was gonad-perishingly cold outside we elected to recline indoors with a cleansing ale. Here we were also reminded of the Touristic Price Axiom – i.e. if you’re going to insist on buying beer in the most popular tourist part of a city, you can expect to pay through the nose for it.
Fortunately Nicko’s better half Tine arrived, and for whatever reason we ceased lurking about in a pub and did some more sightseeing – along to the Royal Palace, then to Frederiks Kirke, and out to The Little Mermaid.
Like Brussels’ main tourist attraction, The Little Mermaid is possibly a bit of a shock if you were expecting anything amazing. Why you would be disappointed, however, is beyond me – because as the name suggests, it is a small statue of a mermaid (based upon a ballerina, performing in a ballet based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale). The locals are fiercely proud of her though, and there is much controversy surrounding the City’s decision to loan the statue to Shanghai during their Expo in 2010.
We were far more impressed by the nearby statue/fountain of the goddess Gefjun, who legendarily plowed the plot of land that was then thrown into the sea to form the island (Zealand) which Copenhagen sits upon. And from our perspective, one of those oxen definitely had a gush on.
For a bit of a change of pace, Dancing Dave, Jameses 1 & 2 and I popped along to the Bodies exhibition – yet another case of “Nice one Jason, why would you go and see something on display in the place you live, when you could travel to another country and see it there?”. I was suprised to learn later that it wasn’t connected with Dr Gunther von Haagens’ exhibitions, though it does use the same plastination technique to preserve the bodies.
Dinner was another noteworthy fixture of the trip – Nicko & Tine took us to a restaurant that had horse saddles to sit on in the bar, a button on the floor that swung the kitchen door open so the waiters could scurry in & out (we didn’t push this, but it was captivating), and an amazing satisfying feast of chips, rice & stew that left us all happy and full.
It would be silly, as an Adeladean, not to mention the ice-cream – down at Glenelg Beach the must-have item on any successful date itinerary is a trip to one of the Danish ice-cream places, Andersen’s or Royal Copenhagen (I notice that the Americans have moved in down there now too with Baskin Robbins… it’s no Gelare though). Why the hell did I start talking about ice-cream? It’s just made me go off googling to find out what ever happened to Norgen-Vaaz, and then wonder if there wasn’t a connection there with Haagen Dazs? ANYWAY, the point was that despite it being about minus one thousand degrees, Tine and I felt it appropriate to try some Danish ice-cream. Although in Denmark they just call it ice-cream.
Sunday we were prematurely jolted out of bed by the hostel fire alarm – clearly backpackers take fire alarms just as seriously as office workers do, because the display of bleary-eyed people outside ranged from some still nightie-clad girls who had run down in the manner one is supposed to, to some clever people who decided their best emergency strategy was to pack their suitcases before leaving the building, and the obligatory handful of folks still pissed from the night before.
Nicko arrived some time later in his little buzzbox and picked us up to head out of town for a look at the town of Helsingor, and Kronborg Castle. Helsingor is more widely known to English speaking crowds by the name “Elsinore”, as it was this castle that was referred to in Hamlet as being the setting for the play. What else the castle has to offer historically I’m not 100% sure, as we elected not to buy audioguides, and spent the next couple of hours wandering around looking at stuff & nodding (not overly forthright with descriptive plaques, I’m afraid). Though the castle didn’t possess much of its former grandeur following the fire of 1629, you could imagine it to be quite an impressive place. We also toured the casemates – a series of catacombs beneath the castle, and home to the great statue of Holger Danske, who according to legend will come to life and protect Denmark in times of danger. I couldn’t help but wonder if this applied to economic turmoil as well – doubtful, as it didn’t seem to apply to any of the Swedish invasions or World War 2.
Being as it was lunchtime and we were right near the ferry port, our next logical step seemed to be to ride across the water to Sweden, to Helsingborg, and grab a Lebanese lunch!
There’s not really much else to say, other than that it was great to see Nicko & meet Tine, and to apologise to anyone who’s read this far expecting to hear about Scandinavian strippers, because as you can see – there were none! Well, not where we were, anyway. The rest of my photoset for this trip can be found here, on Flickr.