22 June 2012

I’m writing this on the train from Copenhagen (Denmark) to Goteborg (Sweden).  The sea between the two countries is crossed by a bridge, and you can see both countries at once.  It is a grey day here, and has already drizzled once, but I’m on board a train till about 4pm today, so I’m not concerned. 

After talking to the passengers next to me I now understand that there are some problems with the carriages, which explains why the place is a confusing mess of people at the moment.  Bags everywhere!  And people sitting in the wrong seats and having to play musical chairs when the seat's ticket holder boards. 

But what a change from the Reunification Express in Vietnam!  Everything is clean, so clean!!  I am loving being able to drink the water here, and not worry about the food, and I haven’t smelled stale urine since I arrived!  The streets are not full of mud, rubbish and food, and the footpaths are footpaths, not shop extension/toilet/dining room/dump. 

The tradeoff to this seems to be a grumpy reception from all the customer service people I have met so far.  Although I am sure that my perception is influenced by the extreme friendliness of the Vietnamese customer service people.  But really, right now I would feel better for seeing a few more smiles.

The hostel I was staying at in Copenhagen was located in an area that was probably as strong a contrast to Vietnam as possible.  It was in Armager (pronounced Amar – I didn’t figure out the rules in Danish for dropping seemingly random numbers of letters off the ends of words, though I did discover y is pronounced ‘u’, which makes a lot more sense of words like Nyhavn), and I originally thought it was an area still under construction.  Turns out the hostel is about 4 months older than I am.  There is a mall, a conference centre, and a metro line in the area, and then behind the hostel a reserve (read big field of grass to which I am totally allergic).  There are also what appear to be apartment blocks, but hardly a soul about.  Though my judgement may still be clouded by my experience of Vietnam.  The distances between places of interest (supermarket, mall, metro etc) are just that little bit too big on foot to make the place feel human in scale, and there are long stretches of nothing much but fences to walk past.  

However, the day I hired a bike it all made sense.  The place is built to bicycle scale.  On a bike it is quite compact and accessible, and suddenly doesn’t seem so deserted.

The Bella Centre conference facilities viewed from near the hostel.

View of apartments from the metro stop near the hostel.


Taking bikes on the Metro is obviously a popular choice!

At the hostel we were serenaded all day by some raucous black birds that I didn't recognise.  At first I wondered if they were crows, but now I think they may be something else.  See what you think.


As I write this, a couple of re-enactors have boarded the train.  The belt knife and the linen handcraft tipped me off first.  The girl is wearing a deep green woollen kirtle, and the guy a spiffy combination of black T-shirt and slashed puffy pants.  From a brief glance I feel quite good about the standard of our kit, though it’s obvious the first thing I’m going to have to do is make a woollen dress - my light linen layers just won't be enough for the weather here. 


The flight from Saigon to Copenhagen (Via Bangkok and Frankfurt) took over 13 hours.  I managed to sleep a good portion of the longest leg, but was still exhausted when I arrived in Copenhagen.  The combination of sleep deprivation, jetlag, and the sore throat that had appeared on the last day in Saigon combined their powers to force me to bed for the first day with a head cold and a fever.  Fortunately the fever wore off after a day and I was able to take a short journey into town.  

Overall, this trip to Copenhagen has been a write off, and I will have to come back again to do it justice.  However I did get to do a canal tour by boat, and take a train to Roskilde to the Viking Ship Museum… which unfortunately closed an hour earlier than the guidebook had said, so I only got the briefest of looks.  Both central Copenhagen and Roskilde are beautiful, full of bikes, cobbles, and lovely old brick buildings.  Definitely worth coming back to.
(I was amused to see that in many places where a pram crossing or a ramp had needed to be retrofitted that this had been achieved by a blob of AC smooshed in to place.)

Nyhavn Canal.

The streets of Copenhagen.

An entry in a sandcastle competition.

Tourists crowding around the Little Mermaid.

Two of the Viking ships in the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde.
A partially built replica of a Viking ship.

Another announcement from the train conductor explains the crowded situation – apparently they had to lose the front car because the toilets weren’t working, and they couldn’t get a replacement car, so we are all in one car for another two hours.  There are people standing in the aisles.  I’m very glad I took the advice of the guy at the ticket booth and booked a seat in advance (an extra 30 kroner).  I’m just hoping he was right that it wasn’t necessary for the next train from Goteborg to Oslo...


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