Lemon Water in Copenhagen

I’m getting my money’s worth out of this cafe in Copenhagen where I just paid the frightful sum of $6.86 USD for a cup of tea. Granted, it’s more than a glass than a cup, and granted, this is normal for Copenhagen, but I’ve still been parked here for well over and hour and just discovered that they have a pitcher full of lemon water, the contents of which I plan to empty into my stomach over the next hour more.

Copenhagen is, well, like pretty much any other town in northern Europe. It’s apparently the “cool kid” of Scandinavian capitals (according to Lonely Planet), and I’ve sort of seen that with its Christiania neighborhood, a hippy neighborhood on an island with no cars, only pedestrian and bike paths, where men sell hashish at little stands at night and where people from Greenland gather to, according to my friend Linda, “drink all day.” You feel like you’ve traveled back in time a century or two being there. It’s ideal. And last night, after we walked through Christiania we went to a sort of Danish dive bar, and that’s where the real fun began. Have you ever heard Danish? It SORT OF sounds like English. Emphasis on the “sort of.” And also on the “like.” And also on the “English.” And also on the “sounds.” It sounds like the kind of English a group of Americans from Virginia might speak if they’d been marooned on a fishing boat in the North Sea for 20-100 years. We sat in a smoke filled room with a bunch of old men who apparently were there for some kind of billiards tournament and then to eat potato salad (I saw potatoes and fish and nothing else), and I had the pleasure of listening to a group of seasoned bargoers bantering in Danish at close proximity. I was delighted. They would look at me when saying the punch lines, and of course I would throw my head back with laughter even though I didn’t understand a thing. And then I would grab my beer and shake my head as if to say, “Oh Magnus, he’s such a character,” while inside I was thinking, I have no idea what’s going on right now. To be fair, some things I DID understand, just because they sounded very similar to German, and I’ve lately developed an affinity for this Teutonic tongue. For example one of the guys said something to me, and then said to Linda, “He didn’t understand,” in Danish, but I DID understand, because the sentence “He didn’t understand” in Danish is similar to “He didn’t understand” in German. But he didn’t understand that I understood.


After the bar we went to eat “Danish street food,” which was not on a street but rather a dock and certainly not street-like in price. I paid almost 16 dollars for a smattering of meat with Moroccan bread, and that was on the CHEAP side. I don’t even want to know what the “expensive side” looks like in Denmark. I imagine an expensive dining experience looks something like this: You sit down, you drink some wine, you have a bit of rye bread with cream cheese and a piece of dead fish on top, and then the bill comes and you have a heart attack and they cart away your lifeless body. I imagine most restaurants, like the famed two star Michelin-rated Noma restaurant, have a cart in the back for this very purpose.

Anyway. Denmark. Copenhagen. This is actually the “Kingdom of Denmark,” which I didn’t realize included such far-flung locales as the Faroe Islands. There actually is a ferry to the Faroe Islands that leaves every Saturday and which I’ve been eyeing lustily over the last few days, but I probably won’t go, especially since I’ve just bought a ticket for Berlin.

I don’t particularly like Berlin, but I’ve found myself there a fair amount over the last few years. The one thing I do like about Berlin is its relative cheapness, and also the ease with which one can be anonymous. Nothing sounds better to me right now than getting a cheap yet comfortable hotel room and walking many miles around the many parks that Berlin boasts, talking to no one, getting coffee from time to time, scribbling in my notebook, getting another coffee, still talking to no one, and then, just when I’ve finally had enough solitude, getting another coffee, but this time with someone, or better yet getting breakfast in a place called Cafe Bilderbuch, a place I wrote about in Roads in Kingdoms even though they changed the title to make it atrocious (they love atrocious titles), and also they edited the article more than they usually do, but they did leave the only good line, which was about the bread having seeds big enough to “choke a ferret.” Which is completely true. The bread in Germany is delicious. And tomorrow I’ll have some. But first I’m going to focus on Denmark.  And drink a little more lemon water. And maybe empty my pocketbook for another tea.



And by Dortmund I mean Copenhagen

It’s snowing here on Bainbridge Island and I’m sitting on my parents’ couch wearing a heating pad, drinking a cup of Earl Grey, and doing Duolingo in Danish. So far I can say, “I am a boy.” I can also say, “I am a boy and you are a girl.”

But wait, you say, weren’t you going to Germany to chase the wunderkind that is Christian Pulisic, the 19 year old who plays for Borussia Dortmund and is currently captivating the retinas and cerebellums of soccer fans all over the world? Yes, that was the plan. But then I saw it would cost $282 dollar just to use miles with British Airways and said, “There’s no way I’m doing that.” So like a division 3 quarterback leading his team to victory against the Mount Union Purple Raiders I called an audible and decided to use cash and save my miles for when I really need them, like Christmas, or when I’m trapped in New Delhi begging on the streets because I started this trip with way too little money and moreover started in Scandinavia where buying a gas station hotdog costs $12.

The question then became, “Where can I go in Europe for the least amount of money that’s the coolest?” I could get to London for $235 on Norwegian Airlines (a steal), or Copenhagen for $301. And since I’ve never been to Denmark, and since I love Scandinavia, and since my favorite author in the world (Karl Ove Knausgaard) lives in Sweden, and since Sweden (Malmö) is just across the water from Copenhagen, and since Karl Ove Knausgaard lived in Malmö and talks about it in his books, and since he also lived in Stockholm and Book 2 of My Struggle takes place there almost entirely, and since I would rather hitchhike in Scandinavia than other places in Europe, and since Copenhagen is apparently “the cool kid” (according to Lonely Planet) of Scandinavian cities, and since I have a friend there with whom I can stay a couple nights, and since I’m 25% obsessed with the Danish concept of hyggeand since a legitimate goal of mine is to visit every country in the world and Denmark would be my 52nd or 53rd and I need to get cracking now if I’m actually going to do it, and since Copenhagen has direct flights to Kangerlussuak, Greenland, and since Greenland is one of my dream destinations even though I probably won’t go on there on this trip, and since I’d be flying on a 787 Dreamliner even though since I bought the cheap fare I don’t get meals and I don’t get to choose my seat and will probably be stuck in a middle seat between two water buffalo-like creatures who have a penchant for armrest aggression, and since, well, Copenhagen just seems cool, I bought the ticket.

This is not to say I won’t still go to Dortmund at some point, or that my interest in Christian Pulisic has waned. In fact, if anything, it’s stronger than ever. Last night I lay in bed for what felt like several hours, listening to a podcast all about Borussia Dortmund and “Der Klassiker,” the famed game against Bayern Munich tomorrow. And the weird thing was, I wasn’t even listening to the podcast to hear about Christian Pulisic. I was just listening to it because I’m a semi-legitimate Dortmund fan now and I’m excited about the game tomorrow. But also, one of the main reasons I wanted to be in Germany for an extended period of time was to study German intensively, not so much because I want to study German but because I want to study intensively, and I’ve missed the start date for the last programs before Christmas.

So that’s where things currently stand. I leave for Copenhagen on Monday at 1:35pm Seattle time and arrive on Tuesday sometime around noon. The weather in Copenhagen will not be glorious, but it won’t be wretched. It will be more or less how it is in Seattle right now, i.e. cold and gloomy. But from Copenhagen one has the ability to move in a variety of directions that speak of the exotic (at least for the American), like Gothenburg, Stockholm, Berlin, a ferry to Estonia, a ferry to Poland, etc etc. I don’t know what it is about the name “Gothenburg” that’s tremendously enticing. I probably won’t go there on this trip, but I might just wander around saying the word “Gothenburg.” I certainly will wander around Copenhagen trying to speak some Danish and trying to get at least a little taste of the hygge lifestyle. I can picture it now, me sitting in a cafe, a blanket draped around my shoulders, a crackling fire at my feet, a mug of hot chocolate in my hands, and me saying, in lilting but broken Danish, “I am a boy, and you are a girl.”