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Riders On The Storm

The cool thing about Copenhagen is that there’s always something happening. On Thursday I was having coffee with a couple of friends at the old Amager campus canteen when we learned that the Nordisk Cafe in one of the buildings is hosting a Julefrokost, a hyggeling Christmas gathering with glogg and gingerbread. Eager to get in on the Danish celebrations, we made our way to the cafe.

 

It turned out to be a great call, as the cafe oozed coziness. Before long we had already made a new friend and were engaged in a fun, yet viciously competitive paper star folding contest. Unable to follow the instructions I instead made a paper worm. “Man you’re stupid!” Thomas said, clearly underestimating the genius of my creation. But to everyone’s dismay, I won second place with something that was not a star by any definition. As a prize I got a book (in Danish, of course) about the Balkans. Interesting stuff.

 

In other news, Copenhagen currently looks like this:

 

While I don’t hate snow, it is making cycling more perilous and I suspect it won’t be long before I crash my green beauty. Thankfully I’ll be going to Spain in a few days time for a quick vacation in Seville. The round trip will cost me 1700 DKK, which is reasonable. If you’re willing to do the trip with multiple bookings, you could do it cheaper still.

 

I reckon the warmer climate of southern Spain and the chance to stay with a good friend will do me good. Hopefully I’ll also be able to sift through the chaotic fieldwork material I have thus far gathered for my thesis. I will have seven days there and seems as my rapidly diminishing funds have eliminated the possibility of a road-trip to Gibraltar, I’ll have more time to focus on my work.

 

Today’s gonna be busy too as I have to pay a visit to my department and see what’s the soonest I can return to Estonia, seems as staying in Copenhagen after the New Year’s is financially not feasible. I will also have to pay a visit to my old arc nemesis, the State Department soon, as I am required to notify them when I leave Copenhagen – in person, as is customary here. Last but not least, I have to ride all the way to the Amager campus to look for my lost leather gloves. The ones I have now will in no way keep my hands from turning into icicles if I expect to carry up cycling in the cold season.

 

If there’s one thing that I can feel good about, it’s the fact that even with the current winds and temperatures I’m still staying true to my bike, while so many have sought the refuge of the Metro system. Bike power!

 

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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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Week 46. Dear diary – I think it has been three weeks since my last lecture. It is difficult to tell for sure, seems as time itself has seized to exist. I have barricaded myself in my room, the Call of Beer howling at my door. So far I’ve managed to resist the accursed siren’s demonic howls by concentrating on my work. That, and the first season of the X-Files.


Free weeks are always confusing. One was allright, and we had tons of fun exploring the night life of Copenhagen. The second was a bit of a stretch, as my wallet is currently hissing at me from the corner of my room. Fortunately, and against all odds, I managed to briefly up my productivity last week and have gotten quite a bit of work done on my research. This is the most persistent I’ve been since that time I posted a 15-second record in Minesweeper.

 

I managed to wrap the second free week up with with a fun (and free) Sunday S-train ride, and did so without a drop of alcohol. Well, unless you consider the bottle of Vermuth, but honestly, it’s not exactly the hardest drink around.

Pussy.

 

The S-train trip itself is on it’s way to becoming a tradition. Every first Sunday of every month, the S-train service is for free and after all the fun we had in Farum on Culture Night, we came up with a plan to visit all the end stations of the trains. When on the first trip we only stole one shopping cart, then on the second one we increased our loot by a hundred per cent (i.e. We got two shopping carts) as well as managed to trespass into the Koge cargo terminal. It was exactly as exciting as it sounds.

 

Koge itself was far prettier than Farum, with the exception of this one statue. Within ten minutes of us arriving at the Koge station, we found a sculpture that looked like something Satan might cook up after a week long drug-fuelled bender. It also looked like an abominable giraffe raping an angel bear, surrounded by stone phalli. In fact, it was an abominable giraffe raping an angel bear. Surrounded by stone phalli.

There is no god.

 

The deep existential horror aside, Koge was a rather lovely little town. On our way back the surviving members of our expedition (the statue claimed five lives) we decided to stop at Jersey and go for a walk on the seashore. It was nice.

Like this, but with less douchebags.

 

The last weekend however is largely to blame for me having ignored this blog for such a long time. My brother was visiting Copenhagen and of course I had no choice but to introduce to him the local night life. I remember the Moose bar, and then little else. I also remember the Culture Box, but that may have been another weekend. Or another month. Eh.

 

For what it’s worth, I got this awesome photo of a massive jellyfish out of the whole ordeal:

It's massive.

 

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Soulseeking

The Little Mermaid will be returning home later this month after a six-month vacation in China. I don’t know if she’s going to miss the place but her imminent return reminded me of my own stay in Denmark coming to an end, sooner than I would like.

 

In the Hans Christian Andersen story, the Little Mermaid traded in her fish tail for a pair of legs in the hope of seducing a human prince in order to gain an immortal soul. She fails miserably but through an interesting loophole in the Maritime Magic Legislation, she gets another shot at gaining a soul in the service of the air goddess. Or something. It’s a bit technical.

 

My own aspirations are somewhat less ambitious. For me an extended stay in Copenhagen will do just fine. The problem is that I too am running out of time. As a third year BA student I really ought to be thinking about graduating soon. To do that I really should return to Estonia as soon as possible, which is almost as tragic as the potential of disintegrating into foam was for the Little Mermaid. At the very least, both I and the Little Mermaid are struggling with terminality.

 

Currently I’m also looking for an excuse to stay for a little while longer and I think I have found a way.

 

On my first year I failed the “Introduction to Sociology” course in Tallinn. Because I did not wish take the same exam again, on the account of the professor having been a bit of a dick, I was caught in an unfortunate situation. In Tallinn, if you don’t pass an exam within a year of the courses completion you must pay in order to take it again at a later time. At least if you wish to take the course in Tallinn. I, however, am in Copenhagen.

 

I have sent an e-mail to my home university inquiring if I could escape this financial burden by taking a similar course at the Copenhagen University. If this worked, I could benefit from it not only financially, but also in terms of time – in Tallinn I would have to wait until autumn before I can enroll in the course again. Whether the course will be available at the Copenhagen University during the spring term however, is another question altogether. Still, it’s worth a shot.

 

Looking at the Little Mermaid affair, it seems now like I’m shoehorning the story to fit my own experience. Nevertheless, both the Little Mermaid and I were racing against the clock. My deadline for applying for extension is November 18th and if I want to stay in Copenhagen, I must find a way to do so without prolonging my studies beyond a reasonable time frame.

 

So, the Little Mermaid sort of succeeded in getting an extension. Or wait, no, she turned to air. If I don’t get an extension I will return to Tallinn. Which is almost equal to turning into foam. I mean air. Unlike staying in Copenhagen, which is equal to gaining immortality. Immortality for five months. Hmm.

 

Fairy tales are hard. Or maybe I should just re-take the semiotics course as well, seems as I have learned nothing.

 

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J-Day

The Danes love beer and the Danes love Christmas. And Tuborg really, really loves Christmas.

 

Last night Copenhagen was celebrating J-Dag, a day marking the beginning of the Christmas season. As anyone who’s ever watched television knows, this is what a Christmas season launch typically looks like, at least as the Coca-Cola Company would have us believe:

In reality, the trucks never came. THE TRUCKS. NEVER. CAME.

 

In Denmark, the celebration looks similar. Except that instead of Coke you have beer and instead of Santa, the trucks are full of hot chicks in elf costumes handing out free beer and Christmas hats. I swear I am not making this up:

 

It's what Jesus would've wanted.

We were waiting for the trucks (some may call it “ambushing”) at the Mexibar on Elmegade. Now, normally the Danes have a reputation for being rubbish at making cocktails, but Mexibar is a wonderful exception. “No homo,” said Thomas as he placed an order for a San Francisco and I too was OK with looking gay as I sipped on my delicious strawberry Daiquiri. But the real magic didn’t start until suddenly the bar erupted with cheers as the foxy Tuborg elves entered, handing out free beers left and right. Their job done, the girls retreated to the Christmas truck and amid wild displays of appreciation, drove off to grace other bars. We promptly gave chase and finally caught up with the Tuborg truck near the King’s Garden. After pursuing it on foot for a while (with a gross disregard for our personal safety) the truck surrendered and pulled over, and we finally got the pictures we were after.

 

All in all, if this is the Danish idea of a “warm-up”, I can’t wait to see what Christmas is going to be like. My money’s on strippers and Christmas trees made of beer.

 

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