"Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen..."
"I'm Hans Christian Andersen,
I've many a tale to tell..."
And I DO have many a tale to tell, but first, I'll admit that even whilst in my last year as a professor, teaching in London, a heavenly way to bid adieu to academe, I was beginning to feel...a tad blue...for some reason I can't put my finger on. Well, I could, but that would be a blog in itself, and I'm not sure it would be all that interesting to anyone but Dottore Gianni alone. I was even doubtful of taking this trip. I'd already cut it short, primarily because of lack of funds, partly because of my first attack of iritis since leaving the U.S., nearly three months ago (!) now, and for those complicated reasons I mentioned above.
In fact the only reason I held onto the Copenhagen portion of the journey was that it was the first port of call and that the hotel bill was no longer able to be refunded. I would much rather have kept Stockholm, as I was to dine with the delightful alum Maria Sylwan (who was also planning to take me to the Ice Bar, which would have been if nothing else unique), or Oslo, as the equally wonderful alum Grethe Boe promised to be my tour guide. But the hotels in those two cities could still be cancelled, and cancel them I did, one day before embarking.on my journey yesterday.
The horizon began to brighten as soon as I arrived at Gatwick and was helped with my check-in by the excellent staff of Norwegian Air, a company I highly recommend. When we were airborne, only a few minutes behind schedule, the horizon brightened literally! It was a beautiful day to fly, as we crossed over an area more water than land, islands on which I could see roads, but knew that only ferries could get the residents from one to another terra fairly firma of this ruggedly beautiful land so near the arctic. As we closed in on Denmark we flew over fields laid out in neat rectangles, beautiful shades of earth colors. I read recently that one authority wrote: "Denmark is as flat as a pancake." S/he was right! Proof perfect from the air, but on a bright, sunny day, at least, quite a lovely sight.
Passport control at the airport was short, simple, and sweet, it took maybe five minutes to grab my checked luggage, and then I had to catch a train into the center of the city. That was easy too, with one exception that put me in a brief panic. I was determined to buy my Copenhagen Card yesterday (free transport, free entrance to all sorts of museums etc), even though I did not plan to activate it until this morning. The train ticket itself cost a pittance, but the 72-hour Copenhagen card cost close to 500 Kroner. I gave the fellow at the ticket desk my credit card, but he told me that if I did not have a pin for it I would have to pay cash. Now, it turns out there IS a pin for my credit card, but who uses it back in the U.S.? Nt me, obviously! In London pins are in wide use, but at a restaurant for example the waiter will take the card and make it work anyway. It so happened that I had exactly exactly 500 Kroner in my pocket, the amount I'd received in exchange for £60 back in London. Not thinking at all of consequences I paid cash, leaving myself a 5 Kroner coin, which is worth just about a plug nickel. I boarded the train immediately and it left immediately -- what a smooth, efficient service it is! And then realized that I didn't even know if my cash card would work in an ATM -- cash machine over here. I asked the fellow from whom I bought the ticket where the closest ATM was and he looked at me as if I were slightly crazy...maybe more than slightly!
I became worried as well (you may notice that I worry a lot! I seem to search out things to worry about!) that I would not recognize the correct stop. I was about to ask one the only two men in the passage with me if he would help me with the stop, when HE asked ME in a language I didn't quite identify at first if I knew what stop the Central Station was. I replied that I didn't understand, but he spoke English, so we communicated, only to find that neither of us knew, nor did the fellow countryman he was with. Just as I began to note that they were Italian, there was an announcement in Danish, then English: "Central Station is the next stop." We looked at each other and laughed with relief.
|Copenhagen's Central Station at twilight|
After a bit of difficulty with geography I found my hotel, The Hotel du Nord, which is only two short blocks from the station. The very friendly person at the desk told me that she didn't need the pin for me to pay the 2200 Kroner for the four nights with my credit card as it had already been approved -- that was a great relief. I then settled into my room.
I didn't mention, and I didn't know until two or three days ago, that my hotel is "right in the heart of the red-light district! Sure enough I found (though I was hardly looking for) the following
For some silly reason I could only think of a parody of a well-known song:
"I have never walked,
on this street before;
and I never thought I'd see
such signs, and many more,
All at once do I
Watch with wary eye,
Knowing they're on the street
where I live."
Lerner and Loewe, eat your hearts out!
I went in search of dinner, and even though I saw a sign for a Vietnamese Bistro on the street where I (temporarily) live, it was right next to Maxim's, so I rushed away, and on other streets found many, and as usual was torn between several places. The ones featuring Danish cuisine were packed, so I went for the sort of cuisine that when in doubt Dottore Gianni always goes for -- ITALIANO! And at the restaurant called Frascati's I was not disappointed.
I also had time for a quick stroll to Tivoli Gardens, all decked out for Halloween:
Even after the walk I was too stuffed to do anything but to pore over the booklet that came with my Copenhagen Card for free things to do on Friday -- now it IS Friday but I'm too exhausted to write more, so that will come, soon I hope, in the next post.