I love speaking to the locals when travelling abroad. It’s very difficult to get a feel for a place in such a short time, but I’ve realised that doing things that they may do on a daily basis, is the best way. Who goes to bloody museums, but tourists? So, I went to the swimming pool a couple of times in Copenhagen, well, actually in Frederiksberg, which is a separate town with it’s own mayor, a town within a town.
The swimming lanes were very strangely arranged. Four lanes, two for men and two for women supposedly, and of the two that I could use, one was huge (in width) and the other very narrow. It turns out that the huge one is for the breaststroke and the narrow one for the crawl. I haven’t been to many pools in my life, but this strikes me as particularly stupid. I can imagine someone in a high position, who knows nothing about swimming, say maybe the son of the mayor of Frederiksberg who could also be the owner of the pool, thinking that it’s a good idea with a touch of brilliance, instead of the usual slow/medium/fast lanes separation, to go by width. Ridiculous and annoying, both in the narrow one, where I kept bumping into that floating separator, and the huge one, where all the very slow pensioners were and where people were overtaking each other all the time, thus defeating the purpose of having a large arm span to do your breaststroke in. I think I understand now what it was all about. The idiot who had the idea, couldn’t do the crawl and was spiteful towards people who can do it…
The steam room was great though, and so was the free shampoo/shower gel. And I spoke to one local, the pool attendant, who hails from Yorkshire, just outside Leeds. Funny accent…
The other great place to meet the locals is on public transport. On the way back from the pool, on the Thursday, I wanted to get back to the hotel quickly (it was a half hour walk) so decided to catch the bus for the first time in Copenhagen. There was an old lady at the stop. So sweet. I think I frightened her in the beginning (and in the end) but we ended up chatting a bit. She told me she was sorry she couldn’t speak more, because she’s ill and she made a motion with her hand over her scarf. So I said, “a cold?”, and she smiled and said, “no, much more serious than that”. I felt like a twat.
She told me that she likes to go out every day, even though it’s difficult for her. She asked me where I was from and when I said Greece, she looked at me and asked if I have brown eyes. I said no and she told me that she has brown eyes. She patted the edges of her white hair and said with a cheeky smile “I used to be a brunette, I’m Spanish” and broke out into a big smile. Oh, I said, do you speak Spanish? No, not at all, my ancestors came here 200 years or so ago and I don’t even know which part of Spain I’m from.
I sat just behind her on the bus, but she didn’t notice this and when I went to get off, I said, “goodbye”. She literally jumped out of her seat. It scared the shit out of her. I laughed and said sorry. She laughed as well. Old ladies are great.
I left my swimming gear hangin’ in the hotel room and took the train to Malmo. On the train I almost jumped out of the seat myself, startled. I had forgotten my passport. I hadn’t even thought about it. Here I was about to enter a different country and I had no form of identification. I hadn’t planned this day trip properly. I texted a friend of a friend from Crete, a Greek lady married to a Swede living near Malmo to see if they could give me some advice about where to go and what to see there. She never got back to me. I later found out that they were in Chania, Crete at the time. Luckily I arrived in Malmo and didn’t need an ID.
The first thing that struck me in Sweden was that the drivers were a bit “ruder”. Not so gentle and polite as in Denmark. And so were the cyclists. Oh, Copenhagen, how I miss thou… with your gentle tree lined avenues and well-behaved organised systems… The language to my untrained ears sounded slightly different. Whereas I was hearing French-sounding noises in Danish, I could hear Italian-sounding noises in Swedish. But that’s just because I don’t understand either, and am probably insulting all Danes and Swedes and French and Italians. Fuck’em.
Malmo’s a nice place. The weather was great. But I had stupidly forgotten to think about …currency. I really hadn’t thought this day trip out properly. You’re going to a different country, spiro. I didn’t have any currency, I didn’t know the exchange rate, I didn’t even know if they have the euro or something else in Sweden. So I went to the first cash point I found and decided to take the 2nd lowest option, which was 500 Kronor. And I ended up with more money than I needed, coz once I left the cash point I saw that an average meal is around 100 Kronor (~ £9). So, I went to the bookshop (which was great, though the staff were a bit snobbish) and bought myself a crime novel in English by a Swedish author, set in Göteborg and Copenhagen. So it all ties in nicely. Sweet.
The weather was great and I went to a nice big park, with lakes and sat in the sun a bit and then walked towards the twisted torso building. I just googled it and found this link, on Concrete Monthly – News from the cement and concrete industries. The sad thing is that they definitely get more hits than this blog does. Pfff… I also found out that Calatrava was the architect, the same one who designed the Olympic stadium in Athens for 2004. And so now I just remembered the comments that the Dalai Lama made about the Olympics in China having to go ahead and … respect the torch… and a whole load of bollocks. But I’m getting all worked up again…
The view of the bridge that links Denmark and Sweden is great from that area near the torso and there were alot of people sunbathing, taking photos, walking around. Very civilized and nice. The area looked a bit boring. A lot of construction work going on, what looked like apartments and offices. The building is fun. I liked it. Then I walked back into town and had a great steak meal. Sat in the sun in some central square, got hooked on the book, the steak was good and the vegetables and chips that came with it even better.
On the final day in Copenhagen, I was flying at 4 pm, so had a full morning to wander into parts I hadn’t been to before. I ended up in the National Gallery which I loved. Some modern stuff, not so good, alot of sculpture, some of it great, and some more classical stuff. I liked the depiction of Danish life from around 50-100 years ago. Some of the few religious paintings were interesting as well. The facial characterisitics of some of the saints and shit, were Nordic.
I’m thinking of registering the following term: cynomody, for cynical comedy. But after a week in gentle Denmark, I’m just not feeling cynical enough anymore. And next week I’ll be in Brazil where I’ll be samba-ing to a whole different tune.