Jeg tera lit Dansk (I speak a little Danish)

After 27 hours in the air, coming from almost the exact opposite side of the world, I touched down in my ancestral homeland of Denmark. Coming from warm early Autumn NZ, it was like landing in a snow-globe: picturesque, but very cold. At the train station I got to test my halting Danish, successfully buying a ticket from the airport to downtown Copenhagen. It’s fun to make an effort, but never fear: almost everybody speaks English. On the first day, from my central city hotel, I took a self guided walking tour of Copenhagen. There is a lot to see within (modest) walking distance of the central city, and Copenhagen has been designed around walking and cycling access to everything. If frozen lakes and parks and statues aren’t your thing, there are also plenty of warm smoky spielhallen (gambling rooms), cafes, art galleries, fashion shops, and museums within the central city precinct. There are also plenty of train and hop-on-hop-off tour bus options. One of the most striking features of Copenhagen is the number of bicycles. Almost 50% of the weekday and commuter traffic in Copenhagen is bikes. The generous cycles lanes are generally located on the inside of the parked car line, so they are very safe. I wasn’t game to chance my arm (and legs) cycling on the wrong side of the road in the ice in a new town, however, but in a single day walking I was able to take in the Art Gallery, the Geology Museum, the Palace, various castles and their grounds, Frederickskirke, the picturesque (if frozen) botanical gardens and culminating in the iconic little mermaid. The little mermaid is situated on the waterfront a short walk from the docks which were the departure point for many emigrants of the past century and a half. My grandfather was one such emigrant, a sailor who left his home town of Copenhagen at 14 and sailed the world on the merchant trade routes for many years before settling and raising a family in the south of New Zealand. As I stood on the rocks near dusk, looking out over the same final view my grandfather must have had when he first left this place, I felt I had found the most appropriate place in town to scatter the bag of his ashes that I had brought along for the journey. From the little mermaid it was a pleasant walk back through several more wintery public parks to the central city, for a warm schwarma and some of the locally brewed pilsener (“Probably the best shwarma and pilsener in the world!”).

B Jorgensen

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