Denmark. It wasn’t on our list of places to visit, but that was before we met Britt, Morten, Seigne, Sebastian and Sigurd on a river boat on the Mekong. Some people you meet you never see again. Others linger for a while and a few become friends. We have been so lucky to meet three families on this trip that fall into the last category. We knew as soon as we said goodbye to Britt and Morten back in Luang Prabang that if we got the chance we would pay a visit to Danish shores.
The budget airline gods must have thought this a good idea because it’s cheap as rotten haggis to fly from Edinburgh to Copenhagen. We also figured a trip to Denmark would set us up nicely for a southern migration through Germany into Switzerland and the French Alps later on.
We arrived into Copenhagen late at night because of delays and milled about nervously at the airport hoping we were in the right spot for our Uber driver to pick us up. We were, or he was, or both, so we jumped in the car with a very friendly Danish fellow and were on our way. Our Airbnb was very Scandinavian with a funky loft that had Emma and I dreaming up grand renovations for our place. These may or may not come to fruition – who knows. Life is a splendid but unknowable thing.
The first thing you notice about Copenhagen, even as the hour approaches midnight, are the bikes. They’re everywhere. Everywhere. The Danish ride everywhere and the whole place is set up so they can do so. Bike lanes sit between the road and footpath almost everywhere you go. Need to travel further afield? No worries, the trains all have carriages dedicated to bikes.
Biking is serious business, so much so it is said that the only way to upset a Dane is to get in the way of his or her bike. Our Airbnb host wouldn’t let his son ride to school until he was twelve despite all this bike friendliness. In some parts of town there is some really serious commuting going on.
Not that we found this to be a problem. So many people ride bikes that the traffic never really builds up, a matter affirmed by our Uber driver, and what’s more the road rage battle which seems to exist between drivers and bikers in Australia is totally absent. Yep, we liked Denmark from the start.
I liked it even better when we visited the Royal Palace, by bike, a couple of days later. The big fluffy hat wearing guards here bear a striking resemblance to those at Buckingham palace, except here they’ll actually talk to you. I liked that. It’s altogether less pretentious and a whole lot friendlier. I asked if the Queen was home while Amy and I posed next to the guard for a photo.
‘No she’s gone sailing’ replied the guard.
‘Just for the day’, I asked?
‘All summer’, the guard replied.
I guess she likes sailing and isn’t too worried about any Scottish style plots to remove her from the throne. Those Scots sure did like murdering their monarch for several hundreds of years there. I forgot to write about that last time, but all you really need to know is that if you sat on the throne of Scotland there was a good chance you’d be dead within a year, two at the most. Britt did tell me that the Danish Queen’s husband is a bit upset the she won’t make him king. He’s a Frenchman and apparently the populace doesn’t approve of the idea. Maybe she had better not stay out on the water too long.
If it’s good enough for the Queen, it’s good enough for us. So we went sailing too. We caught one of those sleek looking European canal boats for a tour of Copenhagen. It was a very touristy thing to do but really worthwhile, walking that far is hard work. Along the way we came across a most remarkable, unremarkable thing. The Little Mermaid. She is one of the most visited spots in all Copenhagen. Seen by millions of people every year.
It’s a statue of a mermaid on a rock, about a metre high, from the story by Denmark’s favourite son, Hans Christian Anderson. The people come in multiple bus and boatloads at a time and for the life of me I can’t see why. I mean, it’s nice’n’all, but… am I missing something? Still, ‘when in Rome…’ so the saying goes so we visited too.
Having seen Copenhagen, mermaid and all, we jumped on a train to Odense where Britt met us at the railway station. It was a little surreal to find a friend we’d met half a world away waiting for us another half a world away. By that evening we were feeling well and truly at home. I felt like part of the furniture so deeply was I nestled on the couch with Morten, drinking beer, eating peanuts and watching the European Championship. I don’t normally go in for football but, ‘when in Rome…’. Gooooo Iceland! Nobody expected Iceland to make the quarter finals, but they deposed the English in a European Championship upset. This being at one with the couch went on for three nights straight.
It wasn’t all beer and peanuts though. Britt and Morten’s hedge needed trimming, so I helped trim it although they may have been better off leaving me out of it. I sliced the extension cord for the third time in my illustrious hedge trimming career. ‘Ah, Morten. We’ve got a problem…’.
My error was rewarded only with Danish delicacies including ultra-fresh strawberries, cream and sugar and chocolate wafers on a bread roll. You have no idea how good that is. I think I put on 2 kilos in a week, despite the bike riding, hedge trimming and the occasional run. Britt did also make Emma and I try the salted Danish liquorice – piratos. The equivalent of an Australian offering vegemite to someone of any other nationality. Entertaining to watch, hard to swallow!
Between the football, the eating and the gardening we also learnt a bit about the Vikings at a nearby Viking museum, played a round of mini-golf out at Kertiminde (say Kerdiminnay…I think), cycled around Odense, visited Hans Christian Anderson’s house and took a drive to the west coast and back where the horizon was a blaze of colour with kite-surfers.
We also took a day on our own to visit Legoland, Lego being a Danish invention after all. To say Legoland was a hit with the younger members of the family would be a gross understatement. Oliver looked over at Emma and I on one ride and stated in a very matter of fact way, ‘well this is actually quite fun’, before grinning and turning his attention back to the action.
Just shy of ten fun filled hours passed before we turned tail and headed for home. Ten hours during which we were picked up and thrown around by more devices than my usually robust constitution could take. I felt a little off colour for a fair portion of the afternoon and thanked the Lego creators for the slow boat through Mini-land to recover my equilibrium. Slower than walking pace, it was still plenty quick by days’ end.
More enjoyable though than all of that was whiling away the hours in Danish suburbia with Danish friends. The kids played games in the backyard and did crafts, happily passing up opportunities to visit more castles. It was the most normal we have all felt for 6 months and seven days felt like it was over before it had begun.
It was with some sadness that we packed up and bid Britt, Morten, Seigne, Sebastian and Sigurd goodbye. We hope we planted enough seeds to entice them down under someday soon.