Bad Highs And Goodbyes

By Jane Mountain | August 27, 2013

5957 km so far.

Saying goodbye is hard to do, especially when it’s saying goodbye to friends who you have not seen for years and are not sure when you’ll see again. Especially when they’ve made you feel warm, welcomed, and part of the family. Especially when they’ve plied you with good food and good booze and lots of laughter.

Yup, a home like Sara and Markus have is hard to leave.

But leave we did. With the bare minimum of fuss we got ourselves and our bikes onto a Copenhagen-bound train. Getting on the train today was the polar opposite of Saturday. People moved to make room for our bikes. Other people moved to let us sit down. When ladies with prams got on the train, even more people moved around to make sure there was room for everyone. Of course, there were about a tenth of the number of people on the train today, so it was easier to display courtesy without jeopardising one’s own comfort.

A side note: Despite the lovely bridge between Malmö and Copenhagen, it isn’t possible to ride your bike between the two, as the bridge builders neglected to include a bike lane. We don’t know if this is for safety or revenue, but either way it seems ludicrous. Two of the world’s most bike friendly cities lie on either side, but you must use a train or a ferry to get across.

Posh Pitstop

Having had enough of the centre of Copenhagen last weekend, we decided to ride a loop around the neighbourhoods that surround the centre. At Sara’s suggestion, we started in Nørreport, which is also the home of the one coffee roaster Stephen wanted to try: Coffee Collective.

coffee bags at coffee collective copenhagen

Beans, at Coffee Collective, Copenhagen.

Coffee Collective is inside a fancy market in Nørreport, which sells fine foods, coffees, chocolates, soaps, and other artisinal items. It’s like a very upscale Granville Island or a Covent Garden with things you actually want to buy. It was hard to resist spending a small fortune on expensive chocolates and soaps, but I made do with some tasty pizza and a cinnamon roll, instead.

Stephen and I shared these treats while he drank his coffee. He declared it the best coffee he’s had (maybe) of all the roasters we’ve visited in the north, but he refrained from buying more beans, since we could start our own coffee shop from the beans already in our panniers.

I was tempted to stick around this market all day, sampling different items from all the different food stalls, but there were many more sights to see.

Tourist Trail

After first lunch, as we were calling it, we headed northeast around the city.

Before we even left Nørreport, I had to stop and take a picture of all these bikes.

cyclist and bike rack in copenhagen

Too many bikes in Copenhagen?

We then made a little detour to visit these yellow row houses.

bicycle and yellow wall denmark

My ride parked outside a yellow house, Copenhagen.

Then we made our way to The Little Mermaid statue, via the Copenhagen Citadel.

church near the citadel copenhagen

Church outside the citadel, Copenhagen.

The Little Mermaid herself was surrounded by scores of people all trying to get a glimpse. It’s a cute statue, but it’s no Mona Lisa, which is the last artwork we visited with this size of crowd. We had to laugh at the frenzy of it all.

crowds in front of the little mermaid copenhagen

Can’t see the mermaid for the tourists, Copenhagen.

We escaped the crowds for a few minutes, only to rediscover them in Nyhaven, the next stop on our mini-tour.

Nyhaven is the place you picture when you picture Copenhagen, with rows of colourful houses lining two sides of a canal. Everyone and their sister was out enjoying a coffee or a spot of lunch in the sidewalk cafes. We could barely find space to push our bikes along. It’s a pretty place, and I’d like to come back in December when no one is around.

colorful houses copenhagen

The colours of Nyhaven, Copenhagen.

We were pretty impressed with how easy it was to get around the city by bike on the (amazingly busy) network of bike lanes. Every time we stopped at a traffic light, at least five or six other bikes would stop with us. Bikes were passing us all the time, since we are slowpokes when we’re trying to look around.

Bikes at a traffic light, Copenhagen.

Bikes at a traffic light, Copenhagen.

Is there such thing as too many bikes on the road? Maybe, but I don’t think Copenhagen has quite reached that state yet. Still, it’s more like driving a car here, since you have to keep your eyes and ears open so as not to run into other cyclists. You have to signal, and watch behind you, and pass, just like you would in a car.

The Outsiders

Our final big tourist stop for the day was the famous Christiania. This is the self-goverened pocket of territory in the city, which has persisted since 1971, despite various efforts to shut it down through the years.

I was expecting Christiania to be like a permanent Glastonbury or Burning Man, with all sorts of creative types gathering to practice their art, live their passions, and share that with others. I had pictured small, humble, but well-kept homes, lots of artisanal foods, and, of course, a little drug culture.

Sadly, at least from what we experienced, Christiania is pretty much just a place to go buy weed and then get incredibly baked. It was filled with boys and immature men (with the odd woman here and there for balance) in various states of buying, smoking, or coming down from pot. So many people all rubbing their eyes!

The centre of freetown is just a small row of tumbledown shacks and buildings in disrepair, many of which have been grafitti’d, not particularly artfully. Guys were hanging out in front of each shop and stall, with their joints, hashish, baggies, and plants on display. There are also giant “No Photos” signs everywhere, since buying and selling drugs is illegal in Denmark, not that anyone really polices that in Christiania.

gates of christiania copenhagen

The entrance to Christiania, Copenhagen.

People funnelled up and down the dusty, unpaved corridor between the pot shops. Most were looky-loos like us, just here for the day to check things out. Others had obviously gone native. Still more looked like they had come for the day and just never left. The most interesting groups were the high-school tour groups, who were being taken around by their teachers to soak up a piece of living history.

I found it mildly interesting to visit, but having no interest in pot, I won’t hurry back.

We did end up finding a little avenue of adorable houses, all built in an eclectic mix of styles, which was pretty cool.

One of the interesting houses, Christiania.

One of the interesting houses, Christiania.

Our ride out of the city was circuitous at first, but we finally left the main streets behind and, with a little help from a local cyclist acting as our guide, got on the Copenhagen-Berlin bike route. It’s our understanding that the next week of riding should be the easiest we’ve done in five months, with dedicated bike trails the entire way, and lots of easy access to campgrounds, groceries, and showers. It’s like we on holiday.

Bring it on.  

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  1. Comment by stone

    stone September 6, 2013 at 12:10 am

    Christiana sounds just like Burning Man, the majority of people go to get wasted.

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane September 6, 2013 at 1:41 am

      I probably have a romanticised view of Burning Man since I’ve never been. Also, I’ve never been because I don’t want to be stuck in the desert with thousands of wasted people for a week…

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