Tag Archive: cycling

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.





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!


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.




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?


Blowin’ In The Wind

You really learn to appreciate a heavy dose of coffee, a strong meal and anabolic steroids if you know you have a long bike ride ahead of you and raging outside your window is something that can only be categorized as a mild hurricane.

Copenhagen is windy as hell and over the past few days the weather has really turned from “pleasantly cool” to “frustratingly haily”.

The reason why I must take my green limousine out for a ride is that foolishly I failed to register for my courses in time. Usually at the Copenhagen Uni it suffices if you simply show up for the first lecture but in my case the registration deadline for anthropology courses was August 15th. This means that I must ride to the campus and see if there’s still any courses available.

Later tonight I’ll be meeting a few of my Erasmus friends for a free concert at the Copenhagen Tivoli. An Estonian girl, who actually has to travel from Malmö to Copenhagen just to take classes will also be joining us, seems as the solitary life in Sweden is starting to get to her.

As for the bike ride, I guess I must be off now. If there is any upside to taking such a trip on a day like this, then it must be the buns of steel I am sure to attain. Buns of steel, and a will to survive stronger than that of a wounded buffalo surrounded by baby alligators.