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half a day alone in Copenhagen

Wednesday 28th August.

Mauve grey ocean.

Swirls of early mist cling to the roots of the still sleepy trees.

Neck muscles tested by the wind curling fast around the driver’s helmet as you battle to keep your chin down and your head attached to your body.

A quick stop at a petrol station for a hot coffee.

The 10 mile Oresund Bridge, delivering you into Denmark with a sturdy and unabashed welcome.

It’s a good way to wake up.  Just saying.  In case you ever get the chance.

It’s just a few stops on the Metro from where he works in Orestad, to Kongens Nytorv.  Although it seems like longer when a poor incontinent (both ways) homeless man sits behind you with his scraggy white beard.  The smell lingers when he shuffles off the train and a subtle glance back to the seat behind reveals the reason why.  Not the most endearing velkommen to Copenhagen but beggars can’t be choosers.  Either of us. (The irony of this choice of expression here doesn’t escape me.  Sure he didn’t choose to be this way either.  How lost do you have to be?).

I take the stairs two at a time, keen to get out onto Stroget (the walking street).  We looked last night and if I follow this down I’ll get to Nyhavn (New Harbour).  A sign confirms the choice of direction.  I need a map.  And I need to pee.


It’s a pretty little 17th Century waterfront, with houses painted from the same palette used in that little Venetian Island of Burano.  It’s so quiet.  Just the whir of a bicycle wheel and a warning call from it’s rider.  None of the cute looking little cafe’s open yet.  Writing over a coffee and criossant might have to wait until Copenhagen shakes off it’s sleepyhead: 8am but in denial. I spy an Irish pub with an open door and the freckled red haired girl (fits) directs me down into the dark wooded bathroom.

“Maps are there.”  Oh yeah.  Cool.  I feel better: have to have a map.  It’s an essential somehow.  Maybe it’s my visual brain?  Orientation is everything.  If you don’t have a solid idea of where you are in the world, how can you navigate to anywhere?

I have until about 2pm so scan over the and plump for a route along the canal to the Christiaborg Palace.  Which basically looks interesting because it’s an semi-circle of an island (“Castle Island”) but has eight bridges so is hardly an island at the same time.

My original route is thrown off kilter by a bunch of casually jean-dressed workmen, doing some sort of building work.   There’s a half finished bridge and a lot of sand.  Must be something to do with that.  (Later I learn from the boat tour guide that they had a Sand Sculpture Festival here, but bizarrely you can only see the signs from this from the water.  Guess it makes for a better photo that way). I take Holbergsgade instead.

Canal Tours Copenhagen.  Might be an idea.  DKK 75.  I have no idea how much that is.  Should find out really but don’t want to switch on my mobile’s roaming.  It would probably cost me as much.

3 minutes until the next boat leaves. Always good to explored a water-logged city on a boat.  I get out my card.  Should have been paid today.


We set off and float past the Palace and Holmens Church, ducking under the low bridges (the tri-lingual guide actually has to crouch).


There’s a plethora of spindly topped towers here.  One was even designed by a Danish King (they love to get involved) and combines the tails of three dragons representing the Nordic nations he presided over at the time.


An 85 year old hops on and sits on the bench behind me (“It’s my birthday today.  I have my brother’s family but prefer to spend the day on my own.  I always come to Copenhagen.”)  I wonder about the rest of his back story as we take in the National Bank, The Old Stock Exchange, the Opera House with it’s crystal chandeliers.  The bug eye of the Opera house is right across the water from the Palace so it can be “seen and admired by the Royals”.


Ironic, really, when their own aqua-marine dome and golden-ribbed roofed Palace is prettier.  Perhaps this is the real logic.  ‘Let our people see how beautiful we are.  But we won’t make is so obvious.  We’ll pretend we’re looking at them.’ ??


Later we pass Hans Christian Anderson’s Mermaid statue.  You usually only ever see if from the back.  It’s a regular issue I learn from my Swedish host. Funny then that, later, when we head to Louisiana’s Summer 2013 exhibition, there’s a photo of the Mermaid from the back, but she’s gazing into a mirror.  We finally get to see her from the front (“I’ve never seen her this way” he tells me and explains).  It’s entitled “A country in love with itself”.  Which I can’t help but think might be a comment on the Opera/Palace conundrum.


Still with me?


Back to the boat then and there’s the Royal Danish Playhouse (first ever play Hamlet: naturally), another Palace or two.  Back across the water towards Christianshaven.  There are lots of  industrial ship-building plants on this side I figure, as my adopted 85 year old enjoys pointing them out.  Was he involved in the shipping industry?  No answer.  It’s okay.  I’ve already noticed that they only answer the questions they want to here.  I imagine his career-history without his help.  We pass a tiny tow boat pulling a big square of building stuff.  Back on the shore line there’s the The Black Diamond made of Absolute Black Granite from Zimbabwe.


There are 2500 blocks carefully laid on the outside, each stone weighing 75kg.  And each piece was cut and polished in Italy.  Probably in Murano.  Well if they’re going to borrow paint from Burano, they might as well be consistent and borrow the glass skills of it’s neighbouring Murano.

Other than the birds, I don’t notice much wildlife.  It’s all about the buildings.


I like that in the midst of it the architectural mishmash, there are mechanical cranes sticking twos up at anyone who might dare to try and pigeon hole the gloriously eclectic skyline.


“Maybe see you at Tivoli then”. I say to my birthday friend. He’s back to the next stop to pick up his bike. Might have to flesh out a story for him one day.  Either good undercover serial killer. Or tragic love lost in Copenhagen.  Probably during the war?  There’s mileage in it.  Either way.

“They feed the fish at 1pm”. Worth a visit perhaps.


Tivoli is an old-world amusement park visited by tourists and school trips.  All I really want is a little cafe where I can sit and write. (It’s a theme: have you noticed?).  It doesn’t open until 11am.  The days always seems so much longer when you’re up at 6.30am in contrast to midday snoozing the rest of the week.  I saunter around the House of Amber (since 1933) and idly wonder about finding something orange with Jurassic leaf-life caught inside for my charm bracelet.  No beads though.  A travesty.

11.05 and I depart with DKK 95 (still no idea how much this is.  Oh for that Lonely Planet that I couldn’t squeeze into my Ryan Air Cabin-allowance-bag!).  Still won’t get lost in here: there’s a perimeter. A magical place for young minds to get metaphorically but not literally lost.


I wander past the peacock overseeing the proscenium stage (it’s tail wings on the curtain); a mini Taj-Mahal fronted by a fountain containing tubes of glass which every so often blow jelly-fish shaped air bubbles to their tops (surrounded by a million smaller hanger-one-bubbles); an Ali Baba wearing a striped tunic of green and stone (I’m not sure if it’s the character or the strands of water which have mesmerized the blonde haired little girl but she can’t tear herself away); old fashioned sweet shops  (apparently the boiled sweet originated from some Danish King who had a cold and needed something with herbs that didn’t taste like…well shit..basically.  So his physician added some fruity sweetness and “ta da” you have the modern throat lozenger and fore-runner to the boiled sweet. At least I think that was it.  In a nutshell. More or less.);  a hot air balloon car (Chitti Chitty Bang Bang’s long lost cousin?); a clack-clacking rollercoaster (complete with screaming teenagers) a coarsely painted Marilyn Munroe/Tarzan/Brides and Grooms with a hole cut out for any-old-face (do those things have a name?).

Finally I spy a quiet looking place on the water, with flowers creeping over trellis and a place to sit….and write.  Horah.

The waiter tells me that the kitchen opens at 12 but I can sit and have a drink before that and he’ll come and get me if I want food.  Ooo the brew their own beer here.  Rude not to.  It’ll be the Amber beer (brewed with honey to give a depth of golden taste).

“Erm, I don’t know what sizes there are”

“There’s just the one size: 500 ml.”  I turn and see the men and ladies over the other side drinking from bigger than pint glasses.  Why not?  I’m on holiday after all.  Might help with the writing.  DKK 59.  And a Morgan text ‘1 British Pounds = 8.65179254 Danish Kroner.  Well.  You might as well be precise.  £6.82.  I think.  Probably the most expensive beer I’ve ever had.  Still it’ll keep me going for a while.  All half a litre of the golden hop-ilicious nectar.

So that’s where I wrote my previous post.  Time ran away with me (this happens regularly.  Especially when I’m writing.  And drinking big glass tankards of beer with condensation running down the side.

I’m starting to decide that I might have un-diagnosed discaclulia (number dyslexia).  Time running away is one of the symptoms.  Really.  I looked it up.  There’s other things too: like not being able to do 6×9; counting on your fingers; not being able to remember dates: my blue diary of wonder keeps track of my life for me.  I have coping mechanisms.  Imagine that though.  A whole life.  A first class degree.  Back timing to the hour for the news on my radio show.  All with un-diagnosed discalculia. Which might not be true.  But if it is…frankly, makes me quite remarkable.  LOL. Along with a whole load of other discalculicxs (?!?!).

Anyway.  It was nice.  Wrote.  Got tipsy.   Made my way out of Tivoli’s gate two hours later to my two-wheeled chauffeur.  We head back to a (now much more awake) Nyhavn where I eat three types of pickled herring (surprisingly creamy and delicious on Rye Bread, washed down with Coca Cola).

Coffee and a shared slice of apple crumble cake at the red awning’d Cafe on the opposite side, then back to the bike and we head down the coast to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (Morgan came once on a school trip at the age of 12 and didn’t have a good enough excuse to come back until now).  My hips are aching from being stretched across the bike so it’s nice to stretch everything out and have a walk around the colourful, the clever and the bizarre, in the South, East and West Wings.

We see some Picasso and Rothko in real life.  Impressive  Some other stuff which looks like you might have done it as a kid.  Maybe that makes me ignorant.  But really.  Some of it I just don’t get: a weird film where a man puts his arm around his lady companion whilst she gets turned on by his ventriloquist doll’s singing (way too many production staff, wardrobe mistresses, camera grips in the credits for that one).  There’s a cool wind sculpture on the grassed hill next to the angular wooden and glass cafe, where we drink tea and eat another cake.  On the other wide a woman and her loudhailer are coaching her rowing protegees a little too loudly.  It crackles  against the serenity of the air.

Yoko Ono’s exhibition is surprising, crazy and brilliant in alternative moments.  I want to get myself a copy of ‘Grapefruit’: her little book on interactive art pieces.  There’s four of them hanging down on string and it’s one of the pieces you’re invited to interact with.  Possibly a limited edition only. 500 was the first print run.  A random flick through takes me to the page declaring that we are all water (the same) but in different containers.  Despite the truth of that we would all identify ourselves as “that one”, even when we – as containers – are gone.

She makes me laugh out loud more than a few times.  I share a smile-laugh with a man I’ve never met before, as we watch the video about the ‘Conceptual Installation’ she set up…which basically didn’t exist…this video was it.  The interviewer gets chatted up during the ‘art piece’.  The whole thing is hilarious.  All these confused people, not realising that they are the art.

There’s a sharp needle atop a plinth.  The thought of ramming your hand over it enters your brain for a nano-second.  Or maybe that’s just me (should I be worried?).  It’s entitled ‘Don’t even think about it’.  (So I don’t think it’s just me).

The tree of wishes is outside, adorned with white tags, each penned with a wish from a different person’s hand and mind.  ‘More love for the oceans’  he adds. I go for:  ‘…that this will continue..’ 28th August 2013.  There’s a echo of this concept in my memory from before.  Maybe more than one.  London?  Iceland?  Both?  The main collection is in Reykjavik we read.

We coast home on the ‘Aurora Helsingborg’ across pink topped waters, eating the onion sprinkled, tomato doused frankfurters expected of the crossing.  I’m pleased the boat has my name (so long as Italian words mean the same in Danish/Swedish waters?).

It’s been a good day.


(Yesterday was a lazy one.  We slept.  Ate burgers at Ebbas Fik , a 1950s style burger bar recommended by many a guide to Helsingborg.  Good burgers.  And they come in cardboard cars.  Amazing.  Watched Cimmy eat a burger.  Drank milkshakes, spacken’d ((polyfiller’d)) the unfinished walls of Morgan’s apartment, worked out the chords of the Lemonhead’s ‘Being Around’ and fell asleep with Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon whilst watching ‘Mud’.  A definite holiday day. Happy.)

2013-08-29 17.01.36

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Paula #

    : ) xx

    August 31, 2013
  2. Andy #

    Big broad smile reading this.
    Thanks Dawn, make sure you get home!

    August 31, 2013
  3. Michael #

    Feeling very at home. Tack sa mycket

    March 16, 2015

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