Category: General


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.

 

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Liminality

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.

 

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Dan-före-dan-före-dopparedan!

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.

 

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Bingo?

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.

 

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5 Things To Avoid In Copenhagen

 

Recently I decided to take a look at the Copenhagen guide book I brought with me from Tallinn. And while it seems to have been thoroughly composed, it is still as tourist-y as the French Riviera. Among various other things, the book lists 10 things to avoid in Copenhagen. I decided to elaborate on some of these guidelines, and debunk others.

 

 

1. Careless walking

 

The Danes will never cross a street on a red light,” the guidebook says. And to a certain extent this holds true. When I find myself facing a red light at a pedestrian crossing on a street that looks like it’s been abandoned since the dark ages, I find it stupid to just stand around and wait for the light to turn green. Having little to no regard for rules, red lights rarely stop me.

 

In those cases, the Danes occasionally look at me in horror, as if I had just run over a small child. Which I indeed may have done. Hey, come on – it’s not like I ever look where I’m going.

 

Crossing a bike lane however, is another story. Which brings us to…

 

2. Jumping in front of a bicycle

 

To a sane person this tip seems rather obvious, but the fact of the matter is that the easiest way to anger Danes is to cut them off while they’re on their bikes. They will, and I repeat, will unleash their sleeping beasts within. Even drivers are not safe from the fury of a wounded cyclist. My bike was once hit by a car, and the latter quickly fled the scene, presumably leaving a trail of urine behind.

 

My bike, after a car jumped in front of it.

The driver probably still lives in a constant fear of me showing up at his door one cold and windy night, wielding a battleaxe in one hand and a big bag of vengeance in the other. If you are the driver and you happen to be reading this: I WILL EAT YOUR BABIES!

 

3. Buying drugs

 

Christiania’s drug business used to be tempting for younger travellers,” the guidebook states. “Today however, public sale of narcotics has been banished from the streets of Copenhagen,” it further lies with the tenacity of a politician.

 

As Anyone who’s spent some time in Copenhagen knows, the Christiania drug business is alive and well. While indeed you cannot purchase any hard drugs there, hash and marijuana are still widely and readily available. So yeah, mr. Guidebook, why don’t you light-en up, uh-huh-huh. Ah-ahah-haha-ha. Ahem.

 

4. Saying nice things about the Swedes

 

 

This is the least pornographic image result I got for googling “Swede”.

 

As if the guidebook hasn’t discredited itself enough, it further suggests that the Swedes and the Danes are still locked in an epic life and death struggle. Certainly, in the past Denmark’s relationship with Sweden has been a complex one. Or as complex as endless fighting can be. Today things have calmed down a little. I for instance am sharing a flat with a Dane and a Swede and I am happy to report that neither has killed the other. Yet.

 

In fact, pretending to be Swedish has even gotten me a free bus ride in Copenhagen. Granted, it only worked because I boarded the bus along with these three Swedish girls and because they actually spoke Swedish. If you don’t speak Swedish then for the love of god, do not pretend to be one. The Danes will know.

 

In any case, the bus driver initially ordered us off the bus as we didn’t have tickets, but upon hearing that we (or, uh, they) were from Stockholm, his face brightened and he kindly let us in, merrily wishing us a good night. Which doesn’t sound like something a mortal enemy would do. Unless, you know, he was planning on luring us into a trap. In any case, I’m glad I didn’t find out.

 

5. Toasting without making eye-contact

 

I don’t think I’ve ever discussed this with Danes, partly because we have the same custom in Estonia (thus having a common ground) and partly because the Danes don’t want to be friends with me.

 

This look will get you friends (or a restraining order).

 

Estonians most likely will confront you if you avert your gaze while toasting (and might, in extreme cases, put a curse on you). The only time this matter came up in Copenhagen was when I toasted with this Faroese sailor at Moose. He expressed his joy at our shared values of staring at each other while drinking. Or maybe islanders are just lonely.

 

Geography agrees.

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Loppemarked Lowdown

Christiania bikes are a curious sight. They’re technologically innovative, or at least as innovative as attaching a wheelbarrow to a bicycle can be. They’re practical. They are so Copenhagen. And I hate them.

 

This is the face of thy enemy.

Today I was stuck behind a big behemoth of a Christiania bike for a good three minutes, unable to overtake it because of the narrow cycling path the roadworks had left me with. With my soul rapidly growing black with fury, I found myself thinking if I should not retrofit my own bicycle with something to counter the nuisance of Christiania bikes. Like, say, rocket launchers or flamethrowers. Or sharks.

 

Dare to dream.

I know that on some level this disdain for the Christiania bikes is not justified. After all, I can’t blame people for riding these things if practical needs compel them to do so. Furthermore, I am but a guest in this country and should thus not criticize that which I do not understand.

 

I don’t know what the Danes think of Christiania bikes, but my impression is that their hate towards them is somewhat milder. Danes are some of the most patient people I’ve met. For someone who comes from Estonia, one of the most impatient countries on Earth, learning patience is a tough challenge. Take, for instance, grocery stores. If someone started going through their coin purse at the register in front of a long queue in Tallinn, they would be promptly murdered to death and then murdered some more.

 

The expressions on the Danes’ faces as you’re fumbling with your change are those of admirable restraint. They will patiently and without a single frown wait as you attempt to pay for fifty kroners worth of beer in fifty öre coins. In Tallinn however, people will flat out gun you down if you so much as think about coins as an acceptable means of payment. Personally, I can’t wait to see what happens in Estonia when the country finally switches over to the euro in January. My bet is on mass-murder of biblical proportions. And I dread to think what would happen to the first poor soul who brings his or her Christiania bike to Tallinn.

 

In any case, while trailing an agonizingly slow Christiania bike in the freezing winds was not a good start for the day, I managed to turn the tide by doing some comfort-shopping at the Loppemarked later on.

 

Loppemarked is a monthly (?) flea market inside an old warehouse type of a building on Enghavevej where various vendors gather to sell mostly second hand clothes for a relatively cheap price. The entrance is free of charge and refreshments (yes, including beer) are sold at the venue.

 

Due to the aforementioned hangover, I arrived at the flea market rather late but fortunately there were plenty of interesting items left. I ended up spending 105 kr. on a green retro jacket, a grey hoodie to go with the said jacket and something I can only describe as a the most perfect techno wind jacket to spice up my weekly rave nights.

 

I rave as I cry - alone.

 

It was pointed out to me later that the jacket is actually meant for girls, but so it happens to be that I quite like wearing women’s clothes. There’s no shame in that. No shame whatsoever.

 

DON'T JUDGE ME!!!

 

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