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Den Lille Havfrue

On a subconcious level I probably knew that eagerly taking pictures of the United States embassy would not be a good idea, but I simply couldn’t miss on the photo-op. “Hey, HEY!” yelled the guard as he ran towards us.


That night I wasn’t there to gather intelligence on strategic US objects and the guard too must’ve realized that I don’t look like much of a terrorist, so he let us go – not before making me show him the last pictures in my phone, of course. For the past few days I’ve noticed a phone-repair van parked outside my house, but I’m sure that has nothing whatsoever to do with the embassy incident. The Danes, after all, like to take their time when working on something.


On the night in question, as I said, we were not up for trouble. The idea instead was to go and see the Little Mermaid. This was actually my second visit to the Mermaid in three days, as on the first visit the statue had seemed rather unremarkable. The second trip confirmed that the Little Mermaid indeed was nothing too special.

For the record, I was into the Little Mermaid way before she sold out.


Still, I guess you can’t just live in Copenhagen and not once visit the Little Mermaid.


Sunday was more exciting though as we once again took advantage of the free monthly S-train rides and headed to Frederikssund.

Also, apparently the S-trains run on Windows.

Because it was a nice sunny day, we thought it’d be good to go to the seaside. And Frederikssund is on the seaside. Sort of. What we saw could well have been the sea, but it looked more like a long lake. The map said it was a fjord, but I took that with a grain of salt.


The highlight of the day were the swans – the ninjas of the animal kingdom. They had occupied the better part of the Frederikssund harbor, hoping to lure in unsuspecting humans. We could tell by the hissing noises they made that they craved for human blood. Swans are much like the raptors from Jurassic Park. As we were merrily posing for pictures on the waterfront, we failed to notice the swans very slowly, but surely surrounding us. Fortunately we scattered before they could move in for the kill.

Swans pictured here in attack formation.


After taking some obligatory Erasmus group pictures and after taking a few, as it turned out, wholly uninspiring hilltops we headed back to Copenhagen for some much needed coffee. Somehow the three Greek guys visiting their friend in Denmark never made it on the train. I have yet to learn of their fate, but I suspect the swans have again claimed some innocent lives.






A couple of days ago, Estonia took on the Euro as its legal tender. It’s a change, and a pretty big one at that. And changes, especially the big ones, have a habit of bringing with them anxieties and confusion.


I only have seven days left in Copenhagen before I have to go back to Tallinn. And it’s a scary change. It’s also a relatively big change. I say relatively, because as big as the change will be, it will only affect me. Certainly, going back to Tallinn is going to involve plenty of merry reunions with people I haven’t seen in a long time. And certainly, they will be excited to hear about all the unbelievable and the crazy things that have happened in Copenhagen. At least initially so. As time passes, people will eventually and inevitably grow tired of my stories of how wonderful life was in Denmark. These stories will lose significance as change becomes naturalized. The trouble is, for someone returning from Copenhagen, the changes will be painfully obvious for quite some time.


Four years ago I had the immense “honor” of serving in the loving and giving family of the Estonian navy. And by “loving” I mean the kind of love an alcoholic might show their children, and by “giving” I mean ten euros per month (minus taxes). When I finally got out of the navy, I obviously wanted to talk about nothing but the navy. It’s understandable. People always share with others their recent experiences. But if you’ve just spent 11 months in a military organization, it leaves you with little common ground between you and your friends.


It’s a similar story with the Erasmus experience. All the good and the bad that has transpired in Copenhagen will form the core of my recent life experience, and it will be the source of many of my stories for some time to come. The trouble is, while I was living in Copenhagen, everybody else was more or less engaged in their daily Estonian routines. All the events that have fundamentally changed me as a person during the exchange are something that people outside that sphere will not be able to comprehend nor relate to. And while the exchange might leave you with plenty of new friends, your stories will be alien in your “home” context. The joys of overcoming a blizzard on your bicycle, all the dirty deeds committed at the Moose bar and all other points of reference will not translate easily, because experience is inherently connected to sharing. And sharing, the word has it, is caring. If you haven’t shared, then you can’t really care.


Reverse culture shock is something that most Erasmus students will have to cope with. Interestingly, I had no trouble whatsoever with integrating into the Copenhagen way of life. A mere 72 hours after my arrival, I was already happily cycling through the city’s streets with a bag of meatballs and a six pack of “Danish Pride” in my basket. The future was wide open and I was eager to jump into the exciting life of an Erasmus student.


And what a wild ride it has been.


It has been said that the first casualty of war is innocence. The first casualties of an exchange experience are responsibility, sense of decency and caution. Most Erasmus students will likely agree that studying is not their primary concern. The primary concern for exchange students is making friends (and making out).


But as a friend of mine put it best, the Erasmus life is not real life. You live inside a bubble – and the bubble is awesome. There is an inherent tragedy here. Leaving Copenhagen will be a nightmare, and once you leave, it will be for good. Of course, you can try to return to Copenhagen but you might find out that the real Denmark is an unforgiving place and the Danish society, not unlike the Estonian one, is not always welcoming to newcomers. The diverse international community you once enjoyed might elude you altogether. For me the primary motivation for going to Copenhagen was the alienation from the fiercely nationalistic and aggressively territorial Estonian mainstream culture. This is why the warm embrace of the Copenhagen international community was a huge relief for me – and the closest thing I’ve had to “home”.


But I guess it’s not all that bad. I’ve chosen my social circle well, or rather, my social circle has chosen me, and that circle will be my safety net. It’s a very, very mischievous social circle, but the idea that all problems can be solved with pub-crawling, beer and Jäger-Absinthe shots is exactly what makes it such a neat circle to belong in.


Also, I still have a week left in Copenhagen and I suspect, if previous adventures are anything to go by, this week will be very naughty indeed and I will make damn sure that I go out in a blaze of glory.




Acopenhagenlypse Now

I was mortified to find dinosaurs in the apartment after the New Years party. So far I have located and dispatched three of them, but I suspect at least one is still at large. Hiding, waiting. I fear for my life, and my sanity.


We had been at the Radhuspladsen the night before, watching the fireworks display. The haphazard event included no city sponsored displays and instead the local Danes were allowed to shoot dangerous projectiles in the air without much concern for their safety, nor for anybody elses. Not long after arriving at the square it became painfully obvious as to why many onlookers had brought industrial-grade safety goggles with them. The drunken Danes were running loose, firing their immense arsenals at random, trying to out-do each other’s kill streaks. I saw no fire trucks, but the police were observing the madness from a safe distance, because why busy yourself with precautions when you can simply deal with the consequences.


Aside from the dinosaurs, I also found two large helium filled balloons in the living room, tied around the neck of a dismembered mannequin.


Also, for whatever reason, they had tried to shave him.


By now I have cleaned up most of the mess but a large number of dirty dishes still await my attention.


I love it how people, when they’re drunk, always make an attempt at cleaning up the place just before crashing their faces into the floor. It’s the same story in every country. You wake up to find, typically, a stack of plates carefully balanced on top of a wine glass positioned as close to the edge of the table as humanly possible. If I didn’t have faith in the kindness of drunken visitors, I would suspect someone had set up an elaborate trap. Also, I found a pink plastic spider floating in a glass of water:




Despite having spent the better part of the morning on picking up mandarin peels turned into makeshift ashtrays (again – why?), I still couldn’t help but smile when I saw the strings from the crackers carefully wrapped around the biscuits and the half-full cans hidden underneath the chairs. For all these baffling deeds must’ve been committed in a state of utter euphoria. Or madness. Yeah, my money’s on madness.





This is how you make glogg – take two packs of glogg, and one pack of glogg mix. Have a beer for encouragement. Throw all of the above in a pot and max out the heat. Have another beer. Forget about the glogg and enjoy life.


Christmas for me was rather traditional this year. At first, we gathered at my place for some beer, glogg and some hyggelig holiday appreciation. Then we had dinner and after that everybody went home without incident. At least that’s what Christmas would’ve been like if any of the above was true.


In reality, the Erasmus delegation ended up visiting the Christmas dinner at Christiania’s Grey Hall. Every year the Christianites organize a free dinner on Christmas eve and everybody who wants to join the festivities is free to do so. Indeed, it looked like everybody had joined as the place was rather crowded. We didn’t mind though, as the line moved quickly and it took us only five minutes to get a “homeless meal” – potatoes, meat and a salad-like creature. It tasted like Christmas and tears.


In all seriousness though, the food was nice and surely appreciated by all the hungry students. The atmosphere was that of joy and the Grey Hall itself had been decorated to look like a scene from Hitchcock’s “Birds”:

Move slowly. Move very slowly.


Of course, it wouldn’t have been a true Christiania Christmas without the thick and omnipresent smell of weed. Pretty soon we started losing members of our party to the few open drug stalls and after just an hour and a half we decided to retreat to the comfort of the Norrebro apartment, for we were sure nothing irresponsible could happen there.


Thirty minutes into our arrival, the music was booming and the beer was flowing. The Christmas dinner quickly turned into a rave and soon enough the apartment smelled like Christiania. That is, it smelled like duck, glogg and weed. For obvious reasons, Santa never came.


Christmas is all about spending some quality time with your friends. Or family, if you really insist. But technically the ways of spending that time and the quality thereof has never been specified, so I’m forced to assume partying till dawn and watching “Die Hard” with a hangover is a lovely way to celebrate the holiday.


A lot of other things have transpired since I last updated this blog but going into the details of these things would take too long. Most notably perhaps, I finished all my essays and passed the Danish culture course. At a pompous ceremony not unlike the 1st of September at Hogwarts, we were all given certificates for succeeding in attending 80% of all the lectures and excursions, making this the most easily attainable accolade ever.


“12 POINTS FOR... ah nevermind, everybody fails.”



P.S. Today is New Years Eve. I hope I will not be hit by rockets. It is a very, very real concern.





Bike Hawk Down

My friends with bikes, it would seem, are being taken down faster than Hueys in Vietnam.


On Saturday, I crashed a Danish girl’s bike and took a handlebar to the chest. I guess I had this one coming though, seems as I was giving her a lift on the bike – an act that, while chivalrous, will get you a fine from the police. A roommate of mine had just been hit by a car door a week earlier, leaving her with a mild concussion and another friend had a similar accident a few days later. He received three stitches as an unwanted bonus.


Two other girls I know have also been involved in accidents, one managing to rack up a staggering three crashes. Luckily none of my friends have been hurt badly. Except for the concussion girl – I suspect she won’t be with us for long.


Personally I will think twice the next time a damsel in distress asks me for a ride, the pain in my chest reminding me of what the rules are there for and why it’s especially perilous to ignore the rules with the current snowy conditions.


Still, cycling in Copenhagen, I feel, is not dangerous. All one has to do is follow the very reasonable safety guidelines. One – snowy bike lanes are no places for going Indy 500. Snow might slow you down a little but you’ll reach your destination with your head still on your shoulders. Secondly, while Danes generally respect the bike lanes, the rules alone will not protect you from a drunken pedestrian or a neglectful cabbie. Eyes should be on the road at all times, especially on a Friday night.


The resent mishaps aside, the last two weekends have been fun. Many people are leaving Copenhagen for good this weekend and we’ve been making sure that everybody leaves this city with only the best memories. Entertainment is all the more important if you consider that many students are still trying to wrap up the semester’s duties.


For me, today is the last day of studying as I hope to complete my essay on informal practices in postsocialist countries tonight. While I still have to work on my personal research project, at least I will not have to concern myself with deadlines anymore. Tomorrow I have to head to the CSS to print the paper, as well as to receive an exam form to be submitted with the said paper. It’s red tape as usual, but I think I will actually be enjoying the ride to the campus. I’ll be heading back to Tallinn on January 10th, and the good cycling times will be over then.


To make the most of my last three weeks here, I’ll be heading out to see the Little Mermaid on Thursday. I’ll hopefully be joined by a small force of brave cyclist undeterred by the cold and the snow.


I really need to come up with a name to this ragtag bunch of riders, as we clearly deserve one. And a flag. We also deserve a flag.





You really haven’t lived until you’ve been to a Danish Julefrokost. On the weekend I was fortunate enough to attend one. Although I must say, this was the first time I actually got drunk before the dinner.


I’ve mentioned before that the Danes get incredibly excited about Christmas. Then again, who wouldn’t? Well, terrorists maybe, but a country that celebrates the start of the season with a Tuborg sponsored holiday has to rank quite high up on the list of “baddest countries ever“. Christmas in Denmark then has gotten me truly excited about the holiday for the first time since “socks” surpassed “toy dinosaurs” for me as the most commonly occurring present under the tree.


Unlike many other Erasmus students I will not be going home for Christmas as I’m trying to maximize the little time I have left here. Instead, I have decided to try something completely different this year.


No, not that completely different.


It turns out that Christiania will once again host a Christmas dinner for the homeless and the lonely and I am dead set on celebrating the holiday there for as we all know, should Santa drop by at Christiania, neither he or his beloved reindeer will be in a condition to leave before the New Year’s.


Santa or not, it's still a DUI.


I have no idea as to what the “celebrations” in Christiania are going to look like. When I mention this plan to the Danes they usually look at me as if I had falled on my head one time too many, before forcing their expression to a worried smile. Depending on how sad the Christiania Christmas dinners really are, my plan to spend the holiday there is either the greatest idea I’ve ever had, or the worst. According to official sources though, Christiania Christmas dinners rank somewhere between “Bambi” and “Keanu Reevesacting career” on the international sadness scale.


OK, maybe not that sad.


But Christmas isn’t only about eating (with) the homeless. It’s also about playing Bingo. Apparently. So it came to be that on Sunday we headed to Mellemrummet for a round or two of bingo. The problem? None of us really knew how to play the game.


Enthusiasm however, was high.


Mellemrummet itself is a cozy cafe on Ravnsborggade that also functions as a laundromat because hey, why not. While you’re waiting for your laundry you can have a cup of coffee while enjoying historical photos of graphic violence made fun with the clever use of a banana:


"Ha ha just kidding, I love commies. Here, take this banana."



Not long into the game I managed to get not one, but two winning tickets, only to have the host explain to me that I had cheated. Granted, I did so unwittingly, but ignorance never excuses a crime. The shampoo and the conditioner then, for which I had so valiantly fought, were promptly confiscated.


As our frustrations neared critical mass due to our inability to understand Danish instructions, I finally brought up the courage, walked to the bar and did something incredibly stupid – I asked the staff to explain me the rules of bingo.


Understandably, they thought I was mentally challenged and proceeded to explain me the rules. They did so slowly, in the simplest possible words and with no shortage of sarcasm – “cross out the numbers and yell “bingo!” when the card is full”. Utterly perplexed, I returned to the table only to discover I had in fact been the only one in my group who didn’t grasp the subtle art of playing bingo. Unwilling to accept that fact, I returned to the bar for the second time and again asked the staff to elaborate on the rules of the game. They did.


Now, at this point, you would think I had embarrassed myself enough for one day. And you’d be wrong. In a stubborn effort to destroy what little reputation I had left, I got up the third time and asked the other players to carefully explain to me the rules one more time. And again, they did, but not before handing me a mouth guard, some adult diapers and a lollipop. Accompanied by judgmental gazes I sat down and shut my mouth for good. Well… at least I should have. I won’t say how the day ended, but it included a heavy dose of horse tranquillizers and an overnight stay in a windowless room.