When I set off on this trip I had a few places on my list that were must sees. Darjeeling was one, Burma another, Patagonia and finally, Scandinavia.
I had in my mind a vision of small colourful wooden houses, lots of big pine trees, beautiful combinations of water and land, awesome design and lots of cured/salted/pickled/marinated fish and dill. All of that it turns out is true and obviously a bit simplistic. I've already discovered more than that of course. I also think, and I'm digressing here, that I clearly have a thing for places of extreme weather. I really like the idea of tough winters, they seem to shape places and people in ways I find interesting. Long winters also make for glorious, if short, summers and I hope to take advantage of this one.
I arrived in Copenhagen to a fantastic welcome from Camilla who I had last seen in Pyin oo Lwin, Burma. Camilla had volunteered to show me around her home town back then and I took her up on her offer because we all know the best way to discover a place is through the eyes of a local. The first thing you notice in Danemark, unsurprisingly, is how well everything is designed and, less inspiring, the cost. Holy mackerel are things expensive, and this is the cheapest country in Scandinavia.
After the initial price shock had past, we took the wonderful public transport to the apartment a friend had kindly lent us for the week. Guess what we did then? We did as the locals do and got ourselves some bicycles. Copenhagen is as bike friendly as the New York Times likes to remind its readers of every three months or so. This may just be me, but I feel like the Gray Lady takes every chance it gets to tell us all that the Danes are better at, well, basically everything. The somewhat unfortunate truth is this may actually be true. Their bike lanes are wide and ubiquitous, their city is elegant and manageable, the people are kind and direct (which I like), everyone speaks more or less perfect English, they are all absurdly good looking, pay high taxes happily, and are socialist to boot. This is catnip to the Times.
Camilla lead me around on our big, unmissable orange bikes for a tour of the city which culminated in a smorbord (rye bread with all sorts of Nordic goodies piled on top), chocolate, and a beer on the dock at Nyhaven. In another sign of their possible superiority, the Danish have what looks like the only socially responsible and well behaved street drinking culture in the world. We hit up every single design museum in town, enjoyed the public good of free cinema in a park, and drank a lot of tasty Danish microbrews (400 or so in this tiny country) while checking out the good-looking Danish men.
I enjoyed Copenhagen enormously, though I can't help thinking about how long and dreary the winters must be. It amazes me that people bike year round, through the cold, snow, and bitter Baltic wind. I'm curious enough about the differences in lifestyle to consider coming back and visit in the winter.
Next stop Stockholm.