Saturday, 25 August 2007

We are in Copenhagen, Denmark, staying at the Copenhagen International B&B, right in the city center. We have two rooms here, two clean, crisp rooms with simple furniture and wood floors and windows that open onto the street below. It is a great retreat and plenty of room to spread out. For breakfast we’re served wonderful warm bread with butter and jam, along with a soft boiled egg, salami, and sliced cucumber. Phillip, the owner, was kind enough to show us how to crack our hard boiled eggs, lifting the top neatly off. Ever since I read Bread and Jam for Francis when I was little, I always wondered how to eat one of those eggs in the funny little dishes.

We arrived by ferry from Oslo on Friday morning, the easiest arrival we’ve experience on our trip. A cab took us right to the B&B, and after dropping off our luggage we set out to explore. After a quick trip up the narrow, cobbled streets of The Latin Quarter (the area we are staying), the purchase of a funky hat at an outdoor market for Alayna to wear in cold weather (early birthday present), and pizza for lunch (not just any pizza, but pizza twice-baked and folded over with its crunchy crust and gooey center, I had potato and garlic on mine), we headed to Tivoli Gardens. This is an amusement park, a very old one with beautiful landscaping, pretty shaded paths to wander along, and temperatures in the 60’s and low 70’s so we weren’t sweaty messes. Something I’ve always associated with amusement parks in Texas!

The first ride we did was a roller coaster. I noticed when I sat in the car with Benji and Nate that it rocked on the track. Weird. Then a teenager hopped on a little bouncy seat in the front, turned around to make sure everyone was sitting down (but didn’t check the bars to make sure they were secure, that was up to us!), and then we were off. She held onto some sort of stick and rode part of the time standing up and facing backwards, then she’d turn around and sit for a while. She knew when to duck for the low bridges, I guess she’s done it about a million times already this summer. It looked kind of like a she was riding a bucking bronco, it actually looked pretty fun.

We rode again and asked the young man who took us that time what he was doing. He proudly proclaimed that this was one of the few roller coasters of its kind in the world, one that uses a human to brake and only gravity to go up and down the hills. The roller coast is the third oldest in the world, built in 1914, and his job was to brake on the turns so we didn’t derail. I’m glad I didn’t know all that before I first hopped on, or I would have hopped right back off! After spending the day at Tivoli, we headed out for dinner and back to the B&B for bed.

As we walked out of our hotel this morning, we noticed a man driving a bike, with a woman sitting in a little seat attached to the front. On the back of the bike was a hand-lettered sign, and a bunch of cans attached with string that clanked along behind. We figured they had just gotten married. Not ten minutes later, we went by the City Hall and saw another couple coming down the steps, newly married. Everyone threw rice at them, which the pigeons happily pounced on as soon as the crowd dispersed. This afternoon we saw yet another newly married couple, posing next to an old car near a church. Three brides and grooms in a day, there must be some sort of luck associated with that!

There are many bikes in this city. Phillip, the owner of our B&B, advised us not to get bikes, because the people here are very “professional”, and if you don’t know the rules you could get hurt. A cab driver told us that whenever there is a bike accident involving a car, it is the car’s fault, no matter what.  Clay said he’s going to have to remember that when he gets the rental car in a few days!

We explored more of the city today, visiting an old Victorian toilet that you had to pay two Kroner (about 30 cents) to use. You couldn’t lock it from inside the stall, you had to have the lady come and lock it for you with her key, and then to get out you had to knock until she came and unlocked it. I decided to take my chances and left it unlocked. What a weird job that would be. The bathroom lady, who collects Kroner and locks and unlocks doors.

For lunch, we ate hot dogs from a stand. They give you the hot dog separate from the bun, which doesn’t have a slit in it, it’s just an oval-shaped piece of bread, and then it’s all on a little plate with ketchup and mustard squirted on the plate. The other way they served it was a big, long hot dog with cheese in it, shoved into a bun like a sock, the dog didn’t come out the other side. It made for easy carry-and-go food. We came across a temporary exhibit in a public square that consisted of large, clear balls with influential innovations inside each one. I really wanted one of the personal portable windmills that you can use to power up your cell phone or laptop, but they weren’t for sale, just display, and wouldn’t fit very well in a rolling duffel. Wouldn’t it be fun to wear a windmill on your back?

We made our way to the canals, where we took a boat tour to see the city. Benji promptly took a nap, Nate went into a comatose stare, and Alayna tried to avoid the smoke that kept blowing our way from the obnoxious passengers beside us, who were drinking beer, coke, and something out of a small bottle wrapped in brown paper, all at the same time. Some very different “faces in the street”. Seeing the city from the canals gave us a whole new perspective. There were tall, colorful buildings that were built back in the 1700’s, now expensive apartments, and one area that was lined on both sides with houseboats that people live in year round. It was strange, gliding so close by somebody’s laundry on the line, their cup of coffee still sitting on a little table, able to smell the houseplants they’ve been tending. There are so many different ways to live in this world, that would be a very interesting one!

We visited a church with a huge dome, we got homemade soft serve ice cream dipped in chocolate and served on a fresh made waffle cone, we saw a man so drunk he couldn’t walk and ran into a pole. There were definitely some interesting faces in the street today, and while we probably wouldn’t choose to expose our kids to all of them (like the six-and-a-half foot man dressed as a woman that Clay and Alayna encountered), they give us a lot to talk about.

We rode the subway to get back home. The subways here have no drivers, they are all electric, and if you get up front you get a great view. It’s all glass, and you see the tunnel in front of you as you zoom fast, it’s like being in a space ship or something. We came back to the B&B for some down time, then headed out for dinner at a Mediterranean buffet, yum! Our tummies are full, our teeth are brushed, the curtains are drawn and it’s time for bed.


Monday, 27 August 2007

There is only one more thing to note from our time in Copenhagen, the kids each acquired a new and beloved souvenir. The boys each got wooden daggers from the National Museum, that already have nicks all over them from the many battles that have been waged. Alayna fell in love with the moist towelette she was given after the ribs she had for dinner last night. She saw something in that wipe that none of us could understand (“it’s so soft!”) and begged to be allowed to keep it. I made a deal. She had to get the stink of lemon scent out of it, and she had to write a five paragraph persuasive essay on why she should be allowed to keep “Raggedy Ann”. She agreed!