Monday January 9th, 2017 – Copenhagen, Denmark
A new year, a new country and a city that was on my list of “would be nice for a long weekend”, Copenhagen. As it is I’m here for work for three days, flying back on Thursday, but work has never stopped me being curious about my surroundings, and so, as an antidote to the sleepiness occasioned by having had an 03:50 alarm call this morning to make sure I made it to Heathrow for my 06:40 flight, I went for a brisk walk around the nearest bits of the city.
It was dark by the time I’d finished up for the day, but that wasn’t going to stop me. It was also cold, at around 2°C, but as it was -10°C last Friday I’m not complaining. There’s some vestigial snow on the ground, loitering around in the corners where it must have piled up like a disconsolate teenager, but again the paths are pretty clear so no problems getting around. I just wish I’d packed a hat… My ears are freezing now I’m back in my room and wondering if I can reasonably go for dinner at 6pm tonight because an early night is on the cards.
For now it’s just going to be first impressions after a day in the office and an hour or so walking round the city.
- There are lots of interesting buildings, ranging from the medieval to the modern, with lots of buildings of the 16th/17th Century mercantile house type, dozens of elegant spires, and it’s all relatively low level and lovely, until you hit the very modern where they now seem to be building tall just because they can.
- As with many a European country, the language appears to be in some trouble, possibly the worst case of everything being written in English that I’ve encountered, even including Belgium where I suspect it’s done because, in a country where three languages are spoken and some of the linguistic groups are actively antagonistic to at least one of the other linguistic groups it’s actually safer. Of course for me, as a German speaker, I’m in a similar position to that which occurs when I’m in the Netherlands, where I find I can understand the language when I have the opportunity to read it because it’s close enough to both German and English that I have the necessary toolkit to break into the syllables before me. However, most of the notices, adverts, even road signs, seem to be in English… this worries me because it suggests that in around a century or two the whole damn world will be speaking English (or possibly Chinese but that’s another debate) and then the world of language will be much poorer.
- Cyclists! I thought the Netherlands was dangerous, but at least there they tend to stay on the actual cycle tracks. Here they don’t care. Don’t think that just because you’re walking along a pedestrian path, clearly marked with a little walking man symbol, and there’s a cycle track alongside it clearly marked with a symbol of a person on a bicycle you’ll be safe from being laminated to the Tarmac by a nutter on a massive old bicycle with a trailer attached, because you won’t. They’ll come up behind you with no lights on and no bell, and voila, you’re history. It’s a bit unnerving is all I’m saying!
- Underpasses seem to exist in abundance. I’ve encountered several of them walking from the office to Christiansborg Palace and back to the hotel. Without fail they serve to avoid the risk of being run over crossing the main roads of Copenhagen, while also increasing the possibility of being flattened by a cyclist with no lights on, because these underpasses are very poorly lit if they are lit at all, and Copenhagen’s cyclist don’t do lights.
- Cycle rails on the steps. This is pretty much a corollary of 3 and 4, as there are cyclists everywhere, and none of them possess lights (why yes, it is starting to bother me)! They need help to get down the stairs leading to the underpass so there’s a rail down one side that you can slot your bike wheels into and wheel it down the steps. Very clever indeed, and not something I’ve seen anywhere else.
- Building work is also everywhere. I’m beginning to think this is some odd effect I now have on any town I visit. I doubt there’s anything to be done about it…
- There’s a pub in the office. Seriously. On the third floor is a fully kitted out bar, with beer pumps, wine, bottled beers and ciders, and a pool table. I don’t know if it’s just the company I’m working for or if it’s common to Danish companies. I like their style. And it’s free of charge, which makes it even more mind-bending.
- Two separate taxi ranks at the airport, one for Swedish taxis to take you to Sweden, and one for Danish taxis…