For some unfathomable reason I walked from Copenhagen station to the hostel. It was half past six in the morning. The streets were wet and quiet. There were piles of bicycles around central station and hardly any people to be seen, a few African women and some joggers. The sun lit the houses across the lakes in a nice introduction to the city. I had a slow breakfast at the hostel waiting for the day to warm up, and caused one fellow to have an existential crisis when I explained there are about 10 times more microbial cells in and on us than there are human cells. I also caused a few raised eyebrows when I said, “What brings you to, um, where am I?” I had to ask myself a few more times during the day.
No one seemed to have similar plans for the day as me so I was on my own. I was out the door and down the street before thinking of hiring a bike. It was all the bikes that reminded me. I suspect there were more bikes in Copenhagen than people. Entwining handle bars and rubbing tyres, they looked like they multiply overnight. A poster somewhere extolled people to share their spare. I wondered if the bikes parked at central were people’s city bikes, with their nice ones at home for weekend rides.
Turning out of the side street, I nearly walked into a camel being led along the road. Not what I was expecting and judging by the looks it was getting, not a frequent sight on the streets of whatever city I was in. Being on foot meant I saw other things I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Dead fish blown to one end of one of the lakes and a fenced kids off-leash area, the other extreme to the open square in Hanoi beside 6 lanes of traffic.
I liked the National Museum of Denmark. I finally got to see some old briefs in the Artic section of the ethnographic collection. They little fur numbers that might have been all that was worn when inside, but the display was light on information. The prehistoric elk skeleton was brought to life and sympathy by the explanation that it died in a lake as a result of a hunt that had injured it. The skeleton of the auroch, which I’d never heard of, was just weird because the high spines extending above its spine made it dinosaur like. That it was hunted to extinction about 400 years ago was a reminder that we’ve been doing that for a long time. The reason I’d gone to the museum though was because the displays include a bog body and remains in open coffins from barrows that are more than three thousand years old. But when I saw them, all I could think about was how they would have felt to have about being dug up and put on display.
Next I went looking for the Danish Architecture Centre and its exhibitions for something a bit different. Lesson 1 in Map Making 101: include a scale bar. Nearly all the tourist maps failed, including the one I was using in Copenhagen. I was wandering along when I finally realised that the bridge ahead was not the one I was expecting to see, that the water I’d been beside for the last half hour was a river not a canal, and the ferry services were going the opposite way to what I expected. Somewhere coming out of the museum I’d taken a wrong turn and was on the other side of the river to what I thought and, as a result, going the opposite way to what I had intended. I’d seen some interesting new buildings along the way which made it worthwhile. The gathering rain clouds encouraged me onto the ferry back to where I wanted to be. The rain arrived with me at the stop I needed and I sheltered for a few minutes under a grungy bridge where a fancy restaurant had set up an extreme hipster dining experience. Too cool for me.
At the architecture centre, the main exhibition was around three designs by a leading Danish architecture firm. A circular student accommodation building was recreated in perspex and covered in prints of photos taken from a drone of the actual building and some of its occupants. Lit from inside, this was a really cool display. Video monologues by one of the architects on the ideas behind another of their buildings, the Playhouse, made me want to check it out. Ideas about people flow and the role of architecture in facilitating social outcomes.
The tourist map said there was a bridge across to the Playhouse. When is a bridge not a bridge? One, when it’s open to let tall boats through, as I’d seen earlier in the day. Two, when it’s not open because the huge gap in its span is due to it not being finished yet, as turned out to be the case with this bridge. Never mind, an opportunity to check out the local streets and their architecture. The clouds got all dramatic before the sun came out again, along with another rainbow that no one else seemed to notice, to my private satisfaction. There was something about the light, the clean air and windows, the reflections in windows and from windows onto shady walls that I really liked and I happily wandered around taking photos trying to capture the sense of it.
For my second day in Copenhagen I caught the train out to the oldest still operating amusement park in the world, Dyrehavsbakken or Bakken for short. Amusement parks aren’t really my thing, but it had free entry, is in a beech forest, and I thought it’d be cool to check it out. The first obstacle to my getting there was the trains. I gathered that there was track work, but not what the alternative arrangements were. I caught the train that was running to the nearest common station to Bakken, hoping there’d be someone there I could ask, and if not, at least I’d get to see a bit out of the city. The announcements were clearer at that station and I’d got lucky again in that I was at the one right station to transfer to the train going my direction.
I immediately liked the atmosphere of Bakken, the joy and festiveness of it. Teenagers on summer break scanned passes and secured harnesses but didn’t try to rustle up business. I was particularly struck by one old timber rollercoaster that you could see the wheels and cables that pulled the cars up to the top. It reminded me of a long afternoon spent with cousins at Sea World on the Gold Coast when it was dead as because of Christmas and we’d gone round and round on this rattly old rollercoaster. Twenty times according to my brother, and it’s the sort of thing he’d know. I’d noticed that here at Bakken you didn’t need the expensive all day pass, you could by individual tickets for the rides. I circled around this rollercoaster a few times, till I told myself, just do it. And it was fantastic. Later I learnt another cool thing about that park, that all the rides, stalls, and restaurants etc are individually owned.
I rushed from the amusement park to the Hirschsprung art museum because I’d forgotten it closed at 4 and it had a collection of works from the Skagen painters who’d claimed the light was special in Skagen, a fishing village in the north of Denmark. I wanted to see if what they were talking about was the same sense I’d had the afternoon before, or if I’d just been in a good mood. I waved my student card and the fellow on the desk waved me past, there was only an hour till closing. I’m not sure I found the answer to my question, but they did have one large painting of a scene of lots of people around fishing boats coming in. Beside it were hung a serious of studies which clearly matched different groups in the final large scene. I liked seeing the evidence of the process. I also like how the painters’ location in a fishing village lead them to document the lives of everyday people.
I quickly swung by the botanical garden, but there was no time to linger, I had a train to catch.