After farewelling Phillippe at Copenhagen central, I trundled out into the cloudy grey skies of denmark’s capital, well accustomed now to the restricted access of the sun’s rays. I had just left the south of Sweden, with it’s beautiful archipelagos and taken the miserable grey winter weather to Copenhagen with me. I hadn’t had a glimpse of sun in almost 2 weeks and was feeling like a little, bent, malnourished flower. I was craving some Vitamin D! With light rain pattering down, I walked past tivoli gardens (theme park in the middle of copenhagen) to my hostel, longing for a long hot shower, a fresh pair of socks and a daytime nap.
Leaving for an evening walk, refreshed after a shower, wind blowing my beard up my nose like a striking cobra, I gambled along past Kastellet (a pentagonal 17th century fortress) to get to the water up near Langelinie, where the famous little mermaid is perched on her rock, and the Gefion fountain and St albans is right around the corner. The fountain unfortunately was not running, the little mermaid was surrounded by punters and the wind was shaping my beard into a fiercely curious chin moustache. Nothing was going my way tonight, and I was feeling grumpy. How to turn luck in my favour I wondered… Pølse. John, at his Pølse deli outside copenhagen central creates a proper pølse with the works, and along with a chocolate milk (it’s a Danish thing) and a friendly chat about the area. When in doubt, turn to a local. They know things you don’t. Like the Sydhaven walls.
The Sydhaven walls. The wall of fame. Copenhagen wall of fame. A street artists dream. Urban legends. The last art of the free dreamers. Call it what you want – plastered on the walls of abandoned factories to the south of copenhagen, every inch of leftover wall is covered in colorful murals, which run along the old rails on the water, creating an urban haven for lovers of street ideals and international perceptions. People from around the world have left their marks on the walls, outrageous colours mixed in with more suttle presentations of the reserved. It’s an inspirational place, a step off the beaten path, but we’ll worth the walk along the water or if you’re just plain lazy, a metro ride away.
Looking at the newly constructed apartments metering in on the last place of remaining urban art, you could tell the walls weren’t going to be present for much longer. After chatting to local artist ‘moestheone’, he informed me that the walls were now in their last year of colourful use. Piling rigs had already started digging inside the arty compound and the floor slabs had been pulled up. It was strange looking at the construction taking place like it was the enemy of something beautiful. This was a trade which i’d be working for 5 years, and it was destroying something so artistic and pure that it twanged my heartstrings a little.
Heading to the north I made tracks to Christiania, a free ‘anarchist’ commune which has survived attempt after attempt of shutdowns, political fueled movements of government agencies and government demands, to remain it’s own free town inside Copenhagen. It has quite a colourful history since it’s introduction to Copenhagen in 1971, which you can read about in various websites and forums, probably just ask a local about it. It’s a groovy, expressive little treasure, graffiti and street art characterise the area, signposted with no photography policy. As much as I like to break rules, I felt like this was one I could follow. Besides, escaping from the camera lens is an important and refreshing lesson for a traveller. I’m always surprised by what my mind photographs.
I guess you could say that Christania is a living art gallery. Sculptures made from all kinds of materials, from rusty steel to feathers form up renditions of some unknown characters around the ex military barracks. Locals were cleaning out their concrete skate park and skate house, solo musicians were spread throughout the village, playing weathered guitar strings on dancing fingers. A few people stood around oil drums warming their hands over the orange fires. Christania’s tiny ‘green light’ district (pusher street) was lined with ‘shops’, the Christainite version of Amsterdams ‘red light’ district, a various topic of debate with the Danish government. In the centre were ultra colourful shops and restaurants selling various foods, and of course, the almighty falafel. It is a small land of interesting architecture, without architects. Houses and halls have been put together in remarkable ways, re-use of old materials seem to have been very effective, a tiny essence of what a salvage house, or ‘off the grid living’ may look like. A must see place for a different outlook.
Sun. Glorious orangey, golden sunshine visited the afternoon while crossing Knippelsbro (a bridge connecting Christainshavn to Copenhagen city). It was that feeling you get when you finish a hard days work of sweat, look into the fridge and there is a cold beer singing out to you in an angelic voice with a halo and a delicious golden taste washing the dust down. I drank that beautiful sunset in. 2 weeks without a glimpse of sun can play with your head when, especially you’re used to it every day of the year. I felt like getting naked and jumping into the water in celebration, but knew that the general populace was not going to be impressed with my male shrinkage, nor with my hairy bollocks singing a tune to the wind. So i chose to celebrate in another manner – Ugandan street food. ROLEX! Which is “rolled eggs” wrapped in a tasty chapati, a kind of flat bread, which has salad inside and an arse tingling chilli sauce in there too. The guys from ‘Ugood’ know how to serve some magic and a friendlier, happy bunch then the angels too.
Nyhavn surprisingly was less empty with far less selfie stick stingers then I expected, when I got there around 5pm in the remaining sunlight. Renowned as a touristic spot I was happily left to totter around without feeling claustrophobic on the 17th century waterfront, which was once home to old mate Hans Christian Anderson. The colourful nostalgic facades are reminiscent of the Bryggen waterfront in Bergen (refer to my Going North blog). Boats bob gently on the canal in the middle of Nyhavn, and with the picturesque houses on either side, sets a sentimental mood. You can’t miss the place with a rather large red Nyhavn 17, glowing on the wall on the north side of the strip, and the boats lined up on both sides of the canal.
Shortly after, I met up with Hanna, the little swedish treasure from Malmö for some inspiring Ethiopian tucker. With her came my expensive headphones which in true Dutchie style, I’d conveniently happened to leave at the crib of the revolution in Malmö (refer to my Sweden blog). Seven types of tasty, spicy, ethiopian tsebhi (like a curry) were dunked onto my Injera bread, which is like a soft, sort of spongy bread. A gut busting, food shovelling fiesta later, I lay back into my chair, sporting a baby in my tummy and sighing to the heavens. Gods. The peculiar tastes that were so new to me had opened up another world of cuisine to be explored. Was an adventure to East Africa in the mix? For the love of food, anything is possible…
A great night of deliciousness was complimented by some cat wee tasting beer in a live blues bar in town, which served cheap whiskies, and a stage where it was free to get up and belt out some blues tunes. You know those smoky old bars, that are sort of half dinghy, beaten up and well worn, but wrapped in character? Timber floors, smokers all over the joint, musicians scattered in the crowd, old timers and young busters singing and dancing together. A rusty old establishment covered in a rich history of musical vibes and talent. Footbangers bashed their feet to the music in the dark corners, while positively joyous blues fans bounced their bodies to the beat in front of the low stage.
Copenhagen itself is definitely the friendliest city of the north that I’ve visited, it’s a very open and social place, where drinking and Pólse eating puts Denmark high up in the rankings. Bicycles are boss here, some bicycle lanes are bigger then the motor roads themselves. The bicycles tolerate cars and not the other way around, aggressive bell tones and hand gestures explain enough of who owns the road. The danes are the most happy bunch I’ve come across, and with that also comes the typical scandanavian honesty. It seems like they are always going somewhere, or doing something, and with the torrential amount of good food and great bars around the place I was doing the same.The city itself has a good mix of churches, bells tolling refreshingly on the hour throughout the city as I walked about to find the next Pølsevagn.
Pølsevagn (hotdog carts) can be found all over the city, and every Pølse I ate was cheap, tasty and memory yanking. Big, small, long, short, smoked, wrapped in bacon, covered in mustard, tomato sauce, pickles, onions or not, they were my go to if I had missed the lunch specials around around. (FYI the lunch all you can eat buffet styles go from around 59DK, $12 AUD). Served in a roll, out of a roll, in a cardboard tray with sauces dumped next to mashed potatoes, a bread roll or a side of kale, everyone from golden oldies to kids can be found at a Pølsevagn smashing down a hot pølse. Perfect gut warmer in the winter too, with plenty of vegan options available.
As usual, when you’re moving at speed, 3 days is just barely enough to get a taste of a country, let alone a city. It’s like having the tiniest sip of 25 yr old single malt (or whatever your love is) and then missing out on the whole glass of the stuff. You leave with mixed emotions and your head starts arguing with your heart – should I stay or should I go? As nice as Copenhagen was to me, I was aching to just stop somewhere and put my feet up, relax for a week and do nothing but be a bum, catch up on blogs, wash my entire clothing entourage and start cooking food again. Man, I was craving a stove, food and a little regularity for a while. I found it all and more in Köln.