We traveled from Oslo to Copenhagen on an overnight ferry. The boat was one of those 11 floor numbers with hot tubs, bars, dinner buffets, and thousands of people trying to find a good deal in the Duty Free store. I prepaid for a dinner buffet thinking that it would be a good way to spend some time while onboard. I was about half right. It was a feeding frenzy. Imagine trying to get next to the stage of a Pearl Jam concert with a full plate of food, it was like that. I did get my money’s worth, which should be the subtitle of my tour. When I asked the waiter what drinks were free he said it best, “Nothing is free.” Wiser words have never been spoken by a multilingual waiter.
This is my third trip to Copenhagen (aka the city I have been lost in the most), and my list of places to visit has not diminished. There is a vibe to this city that can only be compared to a very old version of Portland, Oregon.
We walked through the spine of the city looking for lunch and ended up at my favorite food area near Norport. There is a permanent marketplace with lots of fresh food choices and outdoor seating. The sun appeared, we ate Danish open faced sandwiches, and relaxed.
After lunch we walked to the waterfront, I was really curious about what it would be like down there since the last time I was here the plans for revitalizing the area were expansive. I was surprised, not by what had happened, but by how little had been done in three years. It looks like they added about 100 feet of work to the walkway and built three quarters of a bridge (and three quarters of a bridge won’t really get you too far). After my initial disappointment, it made sense. What I like best about Copenhagen is it’s relaxed attitude about life and I suppose you don’t get a Danish level of relaxed if you are driven to complete a huge building project in one year. The lack of progress on Seattle’s waterfront is nightly news back home…but here in Copenhagen I’d bet there isn’t too much angst about the bridge to nowhere.
We climbed to the top of the Round Tower. Walked the streets and eventually checked into our hotel. It was laundry day, so I did my load of clothes, hung them up around my room and then took a little nap.
We looked for dinner for about 30 minutes before deciding to eat hot dogs and it was the best decision of the night because there was a little concert area set up for the Copenhagen Jazz Festival. We sat down with our dogs, got a couple beverages, and then watched the show. The featured jazz performers were on their break while we got situated and then a bit of magic happened. Some guy got up, started belting out a couple tunes on his clarinet, and I turned to my wife and said, “Is that guy part of the group?” She couldn’t tell either. Here’s the problem with my jazz ear, I can’t tell good jazz from bad jazz. What I could tell was that this guy was really into it. He was blasting out some notes, some squeaks, and he moved around like he knew what he was doing so I assumed he was pretty good. When he stopped the crowd applauded loudly, which just goes to show that I’m not alone in understanding good and bad jazz. Then reality hit. He picked up a bag and started hitting up the people who were clapping for him. Some people gave him money and then the most Danish thing happened. The guy who ran the beer kiosk confronted the musician and told him to stop. (I assume all this through the body language because my Danish is limited to: Hello, I’m American and don’t speak your language.) Anyway, the musician stopped begging for a minute and as soon as the beer guy turned around, the musician/beggar went back to work on the crowd. The beer guy came over again and the process was repeated. I couldn’t help but think that this was the Danish attitude in a nutshell: There was a level of respect for the individual, but in the end, the guy was going to do what he was going to do. Nobody raised a voice, nobody called the cops, nobody got upset. When it was all said and done, the begging musician took his earnings to the beer stand and bought a big beer. (I’m thinking about buying cowbell and putting this strategy to work today. Wait for the musicians to break, start banging a cowbell, collect money, buy beer…).