Coping in Copenhagen
by tasneemjd

My friend and I had just taken advantage of Iceland Air's European-city-plus-three-days-in-Iceland deal by visiting Reykjavik (see related story below). We went over all of the cities that we had already visited (not an easy task as we were both well-traveled) and finally chose Copenhagen, Denmark as our European terminus.

Day Four: Two and a half hours from the Reykjavik airport, we reached the Copenhagen Airport, the most anglophobic international airport I have ever seen. There were no signs in any language other than Danish, no easy-to-follow brochures or guides, and no complete maps or instructions that made it clear how to use the train and the new underground Metro system. Even pictures would have been nice. It was also quite strange that there was no customs line to go through, nor customs agent to whom I could have delivered the speech: Hello, Dread my lord, Your leave and favour to return to (Iceland); From whence though willingly I came to Denmark [Hamlet, Act I, Scene 2ish].

My friend and I went to the DBS train ticket office and asked the agent for two tickets to Kongens Nytorv. The agent handed us a little slip of a receipt that only had a price and time stamp on it and assured us that it would cover all the modes of transportation we needed to take to get to where we wanted to go. We found the track at which our train was supposed to arrive. When a train eased into the station, we approached the conductor to confirm the destination of the train and the validity of our ticket:
"Can we use this ticket for this train to get to Kongens Nytorv?"
(shrugs his shoulders) "I am not sure. Go ask that man."

We looked way down the track to see ticket-checker standing near the train. By the time we reached him, the doors had closed and the train pulled out. Turns out we could have taken that train. No matter. There was another one coming in 20 minutes. So we waited. And waited. And suddenly the screen that we had our eyes glued to changed. A Danish woman came up to my friend and asked what was going on. My friend explained that she didn't speak Danish and so the woman repeated her question in English. They looked up at the screen and then:
"Well, I think the train is delayed and is coming on another track," said my friend.
"What?" asked the woman.
"Doesn't spor mean track?"
"And does forsinket mean delayed?"
"And does ndre mean changed?"
"Well, then, doesn't that mean that the train is delayed and the track has changed?"

While my friend conducted an impromptu lesson in teaching the Danes Danish, some young gypsy woman tried to enlist my help in carrying her luggage onto the next train. She had one little rollaway and one mammoth-sized, hardback suitcase. She indicated that I should lug the gargantuan monstrosity even though I had two bags of my own. I suggested she take the larger of the two and I'd help her with the smaller. After I helped the woman onto her train (with nary a "tak" in return) and my friend helped the Danette translate the announcements, we ran from Spor 2 to Spor 1 only to find out that our train had disappeared completely from the screen. Apparently, it was canceled and the next train was going to arrive on Spor 2. Back over the bridge, fuming and hungry and tired, we finally boarded a train that looked right, transferred to a driver-less subway car swarming with some unruly Danish children, and finally arrived at Kongens Nytorv, the biggest city square in Copenhagen.

We were too disgruntled to appreciate the beauty of the old buildings' architecture and the dainty lights brightening up the evening, so we trudged ahead and found our new lodgings at Olsen Residence. We were shown to our spacious, cheery room by some dude who may or may not have worked there. We tossed our stuff down and headed out in search of a meal because we had not eaten since that morning. We found a lovely Italian/Mexican restaurant, Mamma Rosa, with an attentive waiter and good food. Bellies full, we took an enjoyable walk along Strget, 'the world's longest pedestrian mall' and then settled in to our room with its high ceilings, tall windows, lemon-colored walls, and soft beds.

Day Five: Brk! BYrk! Brk!
The local newspaper gave an explanation for the train debacle we experienced in a report that reviewed the latest problems the system had been facing. In response to the delays, canceled trains, and erratic scheduling, the locals have dubbed the system, "the blunderground." Knowing that the inconvenience and confusion we had encountered at the train station was not the norm somehow made us feel better.

We tried to find Rolf, the proprietor of Olsen Residence, to pay him for the room but neither he nor anyone else could be found. After breakfast at a little Quick-Stop caf, we strolled down Strrget which is actually made up of five streets, all of which are packed with stores, restaurants, and tourist shops and dotted here and there with lovely fountains and squares. We checked our e-mail for free at the Use-It information center and loaded ourselves with maps, schedules, and tours. We reached the Tivoli amusement park and garden before too long (new exchange rate is one American step = seven Danish steps) and turned around to walk along the serene canals. We sighed over the cloudy weather, examined our various maps and train schedules, and considered our options.
"I bet it's sunny in Sweden."
"OK, let's go there!"

We marched through the drizzly rain from Kongens Nytorv to the Central Train Station near the Tivoli, bought our train tickets ($20 per person round-trip), and headed off to Malm, Sweden. The train sped over the resund bridge (Fun Fact: Connecting Denmark and Sweden, this is the world's longest single cable-stayed main span bridge carrying both road and railway traffic!) and 35 minutes later, we were in sunny Sweden. We picked up some maps and brochures from the train station (taking note that the visitor's card had a duck featured prominently on it). We wandered around the town engaging in our usual comparison shopping of postcards, bank exchange rates, and Swedish licorice and fish. Lunch provided by our very own Swedish chef consisted of cheeseburgers, fries, and cokes. We browsed around a huge H&M store, bought every flavor of Lkerol licorice, and took the scenic tour through the Gamla begravnings platsen cemetery and the Slottstrgnrden garden. We sat at the banks of a little pond where several ducks were paddling around to greet the visitors - see, the visitor's cards don't lie! We briefly looked at Malmhus Slott (a 16th-century castle that looked like a plain, brick warehouse) and then headed back to the train station (which looked like a 16th-century castle).

Back in Copenhagen, we walked up and down the length of the main street looking for a place to eat and finally decided upon a shwarma dive. A creepy street performer sat next to us and threw his woven bag down on the seat next to me. I could have sworn he had some sort of pick-pocketing monkey stashed away in there and so we quickly finished up our meal and headed over to Caf Europa which overlooked the Storkespringvandet Fountain, a popular meeting place during the day and apparently a handy urinal at night. After warming ourselves up with some pricey caffeine, we trekked back up to the Tivoli to watch the much-touted fireworks display. By midnight, when we realized there was not going to be a display of any kind, we returned to our room and called it a night.

Day Six: Hillerd
We began our day with a walk to Christianhaven across the inner harbor. We dodged the fleet of early morning commuters on bikes and cars, crossed the bridge, and found our way to the "free city" of Christiania - a little patch of alternative lifestyle clinging fiercely to the 1970s. We looked at the rickety, wooden sign and the ramshackle structures at the entrance, snapped a picture, and ran away before any hippies from Pusherstreet could get us hepped up on goofballs.

We strolled over and along the canals until we found a wonderful coffee shop: Baresso near the Stork Fountain. Across from the "see and be seen" Caf Europa, we were happily ensconced in Baresso with our daily special of croissants and caf au lait, seeing people walk through the square but not being seen. We did some window-shopping around Mango and Ecco and Zara and made our way to the Central Train Station. We asked for two round-trip tickets to Hillerd, a little town 30km north of Copenhagen. The agent gave us one yellow-colored, three-zone card, told us to clip it five times to get to Hillerd and another five times to return and that it would cover both of us. My friend and I found our Spor and spent the next 25 minutes on the train wracking our brains trying to figure out how five clips on a three-zoned card could be evenly divided by two people. We were relieved that no ticket-checker came by to boot us off the train and when we arrived, we followed the signs to the gorgeous, elaborate Fredicksborg Slot.

It turned out to be a bright, beautiful day and the sky was so blue, the clouds so white, and the grass so green and inviting that we lay down near the artificial lake amongst the ducks (roughly 50 to 60) and just sunbathed for a while. The sun shined brightly on the castle's towers and spires as we walked through the courtyard and admired the intricate archways and sparkling fountain. The castle grounds gave way to a lavish garden where we watched school children fishing off a tiny wooden dock in some shallow creeks with the sun glinting off of their white hair. Did I mention that the sun was out that day? Fredicksborg Slot was absolutely picturesque and charming and we had a wonderful time there. After lunch at a nearby brasserie, we returned to Copenhagen.

Upon our arrival, my friend and I took a break from walking by perching up on the Stork Fountain like two lazy slugs watching all the people walk by and commenting on most of them: hair, shoes, attitude, manner of walk . . . nothing escaped our critical observations and snarky comments. We spoke with a local resident about the seemingly incomprehensible zone systems for the train tickets and finally understood how it worked. We had a great dinner at the Thai restaurant Wokshop where we shared various dishes of assorted noodles and some very pleasant elderberry juice. We followed our meal with a walk back to Christianhaven to lounge around at Luftkastellet, a small man-made beach bar on the banks of the Inderhaven (inner harbor) with a fantastic view of Copenhagen. After night fell and a single firework went off over the water, we decided to head back to our place with every intention of returning the next day and just sitting on the beach in the sun all day long. (cue the dramatic cliff-hanger music).

Day Seven: Helsingr
We began the day by exploring the side streets of Strget and walking through the royal gardens of the city center alongside the guards (wardrobe presumably provided by the "The Wizard of Oz") at Rosenborg Slot. Creatures of habit, we had breakfast at Baresso and walked to the train station to go to Helsingr (making this our third afternoon NOT spent in Copenhagen). Smug with our understanding of how the ticket system worked, we boarded our train with no hassles, no delays, and no gypsies. Under an hour later, we reached the northern-most part of Zealand (supposedly - perhaps sarcastically - known as the "Danish Riviera") and walked to Kronberg Slot, also famously known as Hamlet's Elsinore Castle.

It was an appropriately gray and gloomy day as dark, threatening clouds (cumulonimbus, I believe) gathered above the castle. Although Kronberg Slot was not as imposing and grand as Fredricksborg Slot, we still had fun reciting some Shakespeare and, like the ber-nerds we are, posing with a homemade origami skull that my friend made on the train. Realizing that the "Alas, poor Yorrick" speech was made at a graveyard rather than the castle's courtyard, we paid our homage to Hamlet by acting mad. We strolled along the slice of the resund Strait that links the North Sea and the Baltic Sea and then returned to the train station just as the rain began to fall.

By the time we reached Copenhagen, it was raining steadily. We dodged bicyclists, sharp umbrellas, and deceptively deep puddles and opted for a nap before dinner. As luck would have it, we finally ran into Rolf, our host, and paid him for the room. He was laid-back, friendly, and very trusting because apparently he tells his guests that before they leave, they should just leave the money and the key on the bed. I spoke to some of the other guests and they had the same experience we did: no Rolf at check-in time, no sign of anyone during the stay, but happy with the clean, comfortable rooms in the prime location for low prices.

We slogged through the downpour (my stupid umbrella was a little busticated and kept allowing the rain to dribble down my neck) to be rewarded with our new favorite restaurant: Sushitarian. It was close by, the waitress was very friendly, and the food was absolutely delicious. We had coffee at Mojo's across the street where we spent the better part of the night until they started to clean up around us and close. Back in our room, we packed, chatted, and finally got to sleep . . . perchance to dream . . . about ducks.