Archive for September, 2010


Fallen City, Living Death

If you’ve got a steady place to stay, Copenhagen is actually not that expensive, provided that you at least possess elementary cooking skills and aren’t afraid to explore the city for some hidden sites. But if you can’t find a place to settle down in, Copenhagen will bring the hammer down.

Because this is my last day with a roof over my head, I’ve completely abandoned my school projects and my research in favor of frantically refreshing housing portals to get in on a deal, any deal. Yesterday it seemed for a moment that I had struck gold when I managed to reach a guy selling a dorm room for just 3000 DKK a month. We set up a meeting and thirty minutes later I was on my way to the future city of West Amager.

And what a strange city it was.

Until yesterday I had only heard rumors of the new ultra-modern district, a metropolis in the making. Because I was feeling sick, I left my bike behind and opted to travel by metro. As soon as the train exited the tunnel and dashed into the new city, the adjective “modern” got a whole new and a twisted meaning.

West Amager as a whole is truly an alien landscape. Its buildings, monumental in scale, relatively few in numbers and scattered what seems like miles apart, ooze modernity and their angular design, combined with the lack of visible human activity result in a vista of Lovecraftian desolation. “Look, but don’t touch” is the impression you get when walking amidst these cyclopean megaliths, treading your path carefully as if trying not to awaken something old and sinister sleeping beneath the massive monuments.

I finally made it to the dorm and I could hardly believe I could get a room here for such a cheap price. In silent awe I stood before the towering monolith and took out my phone. To my surprise, the guy who was supposed to show me the room didn’t pick up my call and instead I heard the all too familiar voicemail notification. I kept trying to reach him but when you’re looking for housing, voicemail can only mean one thing – you’ve been cut off.

This would’ve been rather allright if I’d been in a more familiar part of the city, but the alien megapolis is not a good place for receiving bad news. There were no doorhandles to be found, or people around to help me find my way around. Or rather, there were people, but they all seemed very ghost-like, in a sense that you could not believe seeing them as they just didn’t belong there. Because I was feeling increasingly ill I finally stopped calling the guy after several attempts and made my way to the metro station, all the while battling eerily howling surges of cool wind.

I wasn’t happy when I boarded the train to take me back to human civilization. I was feeling feverish and cold and I think, while living in an alien city would’ve been something I would have gotten used to, a fruitless endeavor to the same place leaves a whole different impression. An impression of hostility of the barren cityscape, and a sense of a dystopian parallelity, so close to the safety of the populated center.

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Tea Or Die

Our new neighbour Hakim treated us to a simple, yet delicious recipe for tea today. For “Moroccan tea” as he referred to it, you only need some black Chinese tea, sugar or honey and mint.

What you do is you drop a teaspoonful of black tea into a pot of water, add sugar as to your taste, and let it boil until the tea crumbs open up. Then you pour the tea into a glass and drop what I can only describe as “a generous bunch” of mint into the mix and leave it still for five minutes.

We’re planning on having another tea night next weekend, as I’ll be receiving a shipment of Estonian chocolate shorty and I figured this would make for a nice evening with our short-term flatmates.

Also, I’m thinking of going out tea-hunting myself in the coming days, seems as I can no longer contain my urge for Moroccan tea. Apparently, finding the right kind of mint is crucial, but Hakim said you can find that in one of the Arab shops on Amagerbrogade for only 10 DKK for a, uh… “bunch”. And seems as shopping for herbs is not particularly complicated in Copenhagen, I don’t expect it to take long for my hunt to yield.

"GIVE ME TEA OR GIVE ME DEATH!"

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Ride (Like) The Wind

My bike has three gear settings – “easy”, “hard” and “broken”. The “easy” setting is far too slow, and the “hard” one becomes “Lance Armstrong” with rough weather. This is why I hate headwind, with a passion.

The autumn weather in Copenhagen is unpredictable. Usually, just before going out I take a peek out the window and if the sun is shining and the trees still standing then it means I’m good to go. But when I step out the door a mere two minutes later, everything will have changed and, as I have less patience than an air traffic controller, I set off despite the horrible conditions. And the horrible conditions usually manifest themselves in headwind.

Because on “easy” gear you move at the pace of a retarded child, I have no option but to LiveStrong. Trodding the same path every day means that I have no desire in just cruising and enjoying the scenery. Or as countless stags have told countless hookers at the Hanoi Hilton penthouse: “Lady, I’m not here for the fucking view”.

The Danes themselves seem rather accustomed, and even smug about the whole thing. Some day as we were sitting at an 8 o’clock lecture at the uni, one of us confronted the professor over the undelivered promise of good weather for the morning classes, to which he replied, with a broad smile: “I know what I promised. But I ordered the bad weather, to keep you awake.”

“Doesn’t it make you feel so alive?” he further inquired.

The inquiry was met with a resounding “No.

I can see the offshore wind turbines from my window. I think the fifth windmill is broken. Maybe I should call someone?

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We should’ve guessed that our trip to Christiania was going to be different that day when, as we were walking alongside the river, ten riot vans rushed past us, sirens wailing and all.

I, along with a few peers, had just walked out of a fascinating lecture on Scandinavian mythology. Before that I didn’t know that macho one-liners were already used in the Icelandic Sagas, a thousand years before Schwarzennegger was even born. Because phrases like “this spear looks good in my skull” were far too much to handle even for the biggest action fans of us, we opted to have a few beers down at the uni’s cafeteria. Enter “M”.

“M” is an Estonian girl I had met by chance on Facebook a week earlier. She lives in Malmö. For those of you who are geographically challenged – Malmö is in Sweden. This is why she’s not particularly happy about having to commute to Copenhagen for her classes. So it came to be that we, tired as we were of Copenhagen’s routine and cleanliness, decided to head for Christiania for some coffee, refuge and some more beer.

We sort of figured, judging by the route the police column was taking, that their destination was Freetown Christiania. It made sense, seems as Christiania is a tad bit too free for the authorities’ liking. Of course, Denmark is by far a more liberal country than Estonia, but even here some laws still exist.

When we finally turned a corner on the dodgy alley right next to Christiania, we indeed saw that, aside from its regular inhabitants, the place was swarming with the boys in blue. As we were simply shopping for coffee, we proceeded undeterred straight to Nemoland, only to be chased away by the very-Danish prices. Christiania may be a hippie town, but capitalism still reigns supreme.

After some wandering around the many colourful bends of the self-proclaimed autonomous republic, we eventually settled at “Woodstock” for some much-needed warmth. Warm it was indeed, especially the barman. Or he may just have been very, very drunk.

M was chatting away when I suddenly noticed the crowds getting more restless outside. Earlier, as we were walking along Pusher street, we’d been told by a street vendor that there was indeed a police raid in progress, and that someone had been arrested. Despite the high-profile police presence, things were still quite calm as the vendor handed us our “Christiania” eco-brews.

But now, there was definitely something going down and little did we know that we were about to witness something Christiania hadn’t seen in a long while.

We hurried out of the bar to get closer to the street the cops had cordoned off. Some bystander was just telling us how someone had been nicked and that the police were about to leave, when I noticed the crowds get progressively louder. And then I saw why.

Instead of turning around and driving out into the Kingdom of Denmark, a large wire shield covered riot van started inching forward, further into Pusher street. The crowd was having none of that, and had already blocked the street with a heavy bench. Seeing that they were not going to disperse so easily, the police climbed out of their van and started clearing the way, grenade launchers strapped to their vests. And as we all know from Chekhov’s work – you don’t put a gun on the stage unless it’s gonna go “bang”.

I don’t know who threw the first rock, but pretty soon the riot van was being bombarded with various projectiles. After a short while (that is, after being hit in the leg with a bottle) I decided to comply with the cops and we joined the anxious crowds, the action suits close behind on our tail. Curiosity, however, got the best of me and, after M’s initial reluctance, we stuck around to see the events unfold, just a short distance away from where the van was.

Now, being quite new to the whole riot scene, I failed to follow the first rule of unruly mobs, which is – when you see people run, you run with them. It wasn’t until I saw a group of policemen in riot gear dash past me and the white contrails of teargas fill the air that I figured the people must be running for a reason. To be truthful, we didn’t really go on the move until we discovered just exactly why teargas is such an effective means for dispersing crowds.

We finally stopped at a riverbank, harbored safely between the many small improvised dwellings that litter Christiania. M was still trying to convince me how, in dire situations, instincts always come before curiosity, but I reckon she must’ve been secretly happy about this little adventure, seems as the likelihood of getting into a riot, as well as the likelihood of anything else interesting happening is far lower in Malmö. Our discussion was cut short though as the teargas caught up with us and we had to escape it’s invisible grip once more.

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We re-entered Christiania just fifteen minutes later, after having been forced across a small bridge to the other side of the river. We stood there, bewildered as we were and questioning our own sanity, because the place looked as if nothing had happened. There was not a trace of the cops and the people were going about their daily business of singing, drinking and general merrymaking. We joined that merrymaking and reclaimed our table at “Woodstock”, the gas now having given way to an all too familiar thick sweet smell.

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Food, Inc.

Since I still haven’t got a stove, I went looking for cheap options for “insta-food” today. I ended up spending 86 DKK in total at the Amager Center, and my loot was as follows: three cups of one-minute noodles, two packs of insta-soup, two packs of turbo-noodles, one pack of mini meats (olive-feta filling) and a 200g pack of cheese-butter-thingy. Whether or not that was a good buy will be clear in a few days, depending on how much I’ll get out of them. In terms of nutrition, I’m gonna go ahead and guess that with that stuff you can feed anything between a circus-midget and an infantry battalion (given that the infantry battalion will not eat).

Optimism then, is not high. Luckily I have this picture of a stormtrooper I took the other day to cheer me up:

YEEEAAH!

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Rock The Campus

When you’re disconnected from the web you really miss out a lot on things happening around you. Although you do hear of the somewhat more important news such as, oh, a suicide bomber blowing himself up.

Just before my attempted trip to the Tivoli last Friday I saw a motorcycle cop escort what looked suspiciously like a SWAT van scream past me, followed by an unmarked black police car. I did think at the time that all this looked a bit out of the ordinary and indeed as it turned out later they were responding to the bomb attack. Or rather, attempted attack, because instead of spreading terror, the bomber stumbled upon a big bucket of FAIL.

I learned of the attack the next day when I attended the anthropology department’s Erasmus meeting. It must be said that the Erasmus parties are a great way to have cheap and proper fun in Copenhagen. Aside from the fantastic company of your fellow students you also get cheap drinks and snacks. By contrast, so far I haven’t found a club in the city that I’d like to visit again. However, this is subject to change as there’s still lots to discover. Also, the only pub we went to after the Erasmus meeting at the campus was the “Wall Street Pub”. Admittance was 20 DKK and the cheapest beer cost you 35 DKK, but the place was smoky and crowded, too loud to be enjoyed as a pub and too small to be enjoyed as a club.

As for the campus, I can’t help the impression that the uni has a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde thing going on. During daytime the CSS campus is a center for academic excellence, whereas during the night it transforms into an apartment block at gangbangers central. As we were walking away from the Erasmus party we noticed that we were not the only ghettoblastas in the house. In fact, given the booming music and noises of people throwing up I half-expected to run into a marauding gang of professors asking me for my lunch money and/or crack cocaine.

In other news, it is now clear that we can’t use our stove for cooking anymore, unless we physically set fire to it. Thus I will have to go on a scavenging trip today to see if they sell turbo noodles or insta-soups somewhere, as sandwiches and fruit will only get you so far. Unless you’re bananas for apples.

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