An Inaccurate Guide to European Manhole Covers: Copenhagen

Today’s manhole cover comes from the capital of Denmark and one the world’s happiest cities. Why is Copenhagen one of the happiest cities in the world? According to the Danes it is because they have low expectations and therefore their expectations are usually met. This is why I am generally happy with myself. Okay, let’s take a peek at  how Copenhagen keeps people from falling into the sewers.


I will start with the items that I am certain about, which should not take long, and then I will venture off into conjecture. Item #1: Someone should probably learn how to spell Copenhagen. I know there isn’t spell check on manhole covers, but come on “København.” That isn’t even close. If you are going to write words in English at least learn how to spell. The only other thing I can really say about this manhole cover is that the city might have been established in 1857, at least that is what I think “Ke afløb” means. It could also mean that the city was underwater for 150 years because the rest of the manhole cover looks like some kind of hippie Atlantis thing is going on.

Let the guessing begin: There are three buildings portrayed on the manhole cover and none of them are going to meet the building codes in modern day Copenhagen. The walls are not straight, the windows are off-center, and there are fish swimming on the walls. Is the city underwater? Well, then explain the rain, it can’t rain underwater. Are the fish swimming in the air? Or are these just paintings on the side of buildings? Whoever designed this cover must have been spending too much time in Freetown Christiania smoking left-handed cigarettes.

If I were to look at the cover with a symbolic eye I would say that the three buildings represent the three nations (Denmark, Sweden, Norway) that took turns bossing each other around in the olden days. The center building must be Denmark because it has the largest fish and the largest flowers. The one on the left must be Norway because the country is a little fatter than Sweden. The building on the right has to be Sweden because the fish looks drunk. (There is an interesting triangle of drunkenness in the three countries. Ride a ferry between the nations and you will find that the boats are really just floating liquor stores designed to sell beer and alcohol duty-free.)

Five of the six flowers on the buildings appear to be poppies. This must have something to do with the opium trade. I’m not sure what it has to do with the opium trade, but there could be no other explanation. The one different flower appears to be in the Denmark tower and it looks a little like a royal flower, or it could be a thistle. Maybe there are lots of thistles in Denmark because they don’t want to use weed killer because they are so environmentally friendly.

In the water below the three towers are little fish that look like the American cheese snack crackers we call Goldfish. They could also be those snack fish known in the United States as Swedish fish, I am certain they don’t call them Swedish fish in Sweden though, they are probably called Red Chewy Fish Candy. In Denmark they probably call them Drunken Fish. (Side note, I knew a child who ate a lot of these Swedish fish and then threw up. I asked him if he was practicing ‘catch and release.’ The child did not think it was a good joke. I still think it is a pretty good one.) The little fish look like they are having fun, so they must be Danish fish without very high expectations. They aren’t smiling, but they are jumping in the water and it doesn’t get much better than that for a fish. I imagine a fish’s life is a bit boring: the weather never changes, you can’t take a nap, wi-fi connections underwater are pretty spotty, and everything pretty much tastes the same.

Okay, your brain is probably pretty tired by now, learning new things can wear you out, so eat some Swedish fish and take a nap.

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6 thoughts on “An Inaccurate Guide to European Manhole Covers: Copenhagen

  1. In elementary school music class we had to sing a song about Copenhagen. Now that song is stuck in my head, only I’m singing it about København, which is troublesome because I don’t know how to pronounce it. Thanks for that.


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