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.