Saturday, June 18, 2011

DK - Copenhagen

June 18                 Saturday                             Denmark                             Copenhagen                     

Sleeping in is nice.  My train didn’t depart until 12:30-ish and I was a short walk from the train station, so I took full opportunity of my hotel room my staying in until 11:50 – ten minutes before the latest checkout time.  Soon enough I was on board the train and on my way westward.

The train ride was pretty nonchalant, with my brain attuned to my Lonely Planet guide and my laptop most of the trip.  So while I admittedly wasn’t paying much attention out the windows, it was just past Lund when I happened to spot my first wind turbines; the first sign that I’m finally reaching the lands of windmills.  It was just past Malmö, passing over the bridge, when I spotted a whole legion of wind turbines out on the water.

It was also on this bridge when I mused about the simplicity of it all.  Here there have been centuries of hostility between Danes and Swedes, with countless lives lost crossing between the two lands & so much blood shed exchanging the territories back and forth.  And here I’m on a train full of Danes, Swedes, and assorted other folk making the crossing without the least bit of ill-intent.  Ahh, what would their ancestors think…

But who knows; I don’t view history is consisting of bouts of war; rather, I see history is full of occasional outbreaks of peace.  There have been periods of peace far longer than what Europe is currently experiencing; and even longer between Danes and Swedes… who’s to say we’re not just in another lull?  The loss of power from the monarchies has likely brought down much of the politicking common to so many past wars; but who’s to say the gang mentality of democracy is much better?

I first unloaded my gear at my nearby hotel, the Cab Inn.  It’s so-named as in “cabin”; as in a boat… and wow: the rooms are tiny – definitely not worth the money unless you dearly desire privacy.  My first  task was to head right back outside and do laundry.  I hadn’t done laundry since Reykjavik and at the moment: proper sanitation would be a good thing.  So began my quest for laundry.  I was first directed out to some place further north, but another person at reception offered a place just near the train station… along the legendary Istedgade.

First I wanted to load up on cash and chow.  Alas, my chow required a PIN.  The bank in the train station also required a PIN, parting from Sweden’s need for only my passport.  I tried another bit o’ food and once again required a PIN.  So this could be problematic.  But voila: a credit card payphone not requiring a PIN!  Five minutes later (well maybe ten since it took me five minutes to figure out the phone) I had a new PIN… tested it out at 7-Eleven then then the ATM and wooooo I was a rich man!

So Istedgade, running just west from the train station, would be Copenhagen’s red light district.  Apparently it was quite the street back in the day… but it’s certainly taken on an odd take since then.  But I’ll save that for later: by day it was just a bit of an uncomfortably journey which prompted me to fit my camera into my backpack on the way back.

My search for the “elmegade” was complicated in that I’d assumed that word was Danish for “laundry”; not immediately heeding that the word was actually the name of the street I’d first been given.  But my search for the nearer one continued.  A shopkeeper directed me westward from where my hotel’s reception had marked.  Then a guy at the Turkish Airlines desk directed me back eastward, exactly to where reception had notated.  None of these seemed to be working.  I stopped in at a kebab shop and the clerk just seemed confused, despite speaking English… I think this was because I still hadn’t figured out that “elmegade” doesn’t mean “laundry”.  Fortunately, one of the customers – who looked a lot like a dude from Improv back in DC – directly me precisely to the right spot, located on Skydebanegade.  It had closed 45 minutes ago.

I was on a search for laundry; I needed to do laundry; dagnabit I was going to get it done… off to Elmegade.  This was when I realized it was a street.  Fortunately, a bus took me straight there and I’d arrived at the bus stop just in time to catch it up there.  I broke a 1000 DKK bill on a bottle of soda… that’s like $200.  With change in hand and a couple helpers in the laundry: I was soon on a roll with getting some clean clothes.

I slowly meandered back, nabbing dinner at RizRaz to complement my not-too-distant hotdog from 7-Eleven.  Let me say that RizRaz has AMAZING falafel.  Seriously… when I bit into it, it was like a tasty tasty delightful happiness of tastiness.  The rest of the food was quite tasty, too.  My return stroll took me by Tivoli, a 19th century amusement park that is still kind of awesome… except for its noted lack of entrances.  I really wish they’d open one up on the east… ahh well.  I made my way into Tivoli as darkness set in, arriving just in time to catch a water & light show fifteen minutes before closing.

Following up such a classical outing: I next went back to the red light district to see what it was like at night.  It was… interesting.  It feels dangerous and uncomfortable for the first few blocks but becomes nicer & gentrified about 10 blocks or so in (which isn’t far).  It included a mix of sex shops, strip clubs, and both cheap & nice restaurants.  I was amused at how many families were looking in the sex shop windows… including one father with 3 young children who seemed particularly intrigued by the wares in a gay sex shop’s window.  But I also loved the two families posing their small children on two lions on each side of the blackened door to a strip club, replete with large images of topless women all over its frontage.  It was an entertaining experience, but I’d explored it with my point & shoot backup rather than be so promiscuous with a large SLR.  Speaking of promiscuous: I was propositioned about a dozen times; and not a looker among them!  Overall the surge of bar-goers helped make the area feel safer at night than by day… there certainly aren’t too many areas that can claim such a credit.

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