Being a tourist in my own city (and in Copenhagen, too)

Last weekend I got a visit by the illustrious Tommy Flanagan, a fellow PLU alum who’s currently  teaching English in Germany on a Fulbright.

Me and Tommy. This is my "ecstatic" face (not really)
Me and Tommy

It was fun having a visitor, as well as seeing one of my close friends from college again. Tommy and I were neighbors for all 4 years of our undergrad studies in a dorm. We were also both German majors and occasionally had classes or attended intercultural events together.

#THROWBACKTHURSDAY: Junior Sam Woffard (center left) and sophomore Alison Haywood (center right) teach students “Ein Prosit," a well-known German drinking song during Around the World on November 16th, 2011. Around the World was an event allowing students to learn about cultures of different countries. Photo by Igor Strupinsky.
#THROWBACKTHURSDAY: Junior Sam Woffard (center left) and sophomore Alison Haywood (center right) teach students “Ein Prosit,” a well-known German drinking song during Around the World in November 2011. Fellow German-wing comrades Tommy Flanagan (left) and Eric Ottenbacher (right) lend moral support. Photo by Igor Strupinsky.

Mostly what I remember, though, are the late-night conversations about world problems, our university, our friends, and most of all, all the things we were stressed out about, from the plight of the Roma people to the environment to job/scholarship applications to personal finances to impending assignment deadlines. There was much hysterical laughter, swearing, and sometimes screaming.

So needless to say, when I found him waiting for me at the Hovedbanegården (main train station), I was stoked to see him again!

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The trouble was, once he was there, trying to figure out what to do together. When I moved to Aarhus, I was so set on settling into a routine and stuff, I never took the time to do anything “touristy” in the city.

Well, we fared well enough. I used some student discount tickets to get us in to Aros, a modern art museum downtown.

Aros, as viewed from outside. You can see the top exhibit, "Your Rainbow Panorama," from all over in the downtown area.
Aros, as viewed from outside. You can see the top exhibit, “Your Rainbow Panorama,” from all over in the downtown area.

When we got there, the ticket lady was like, “We close in one hour. You’re not going to be able to see the entire museum in that time.” And we were like, CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!!!

We started at the top and worked our way down.

The coolest exhibit was definitely the fog room – not sure what it’s called. It’s a room filled completely with smoke and with different colored lights in different areas. The smoke makes it so the lights can’t “mix” so there is a really clearly defined border between colors. You can’t see more than a meter in front of you, sometimes less, so it’s very freaky to walk around in. I took this video by standing in one place and slowly turning in a circle. I can’t figure out how to embed videos on here, but you should be able to view it if you click the link.

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=977025865657504&l=7556098434850922191

Afterwards, we biked through the Godsbanen, which I’ll write more about next week (I know, I keep promising to make a post about it, but I’m getting an official tour of the place on Monday so I figured I should wait until then so I don’t accidentally misinform you.) We found a little teeter-totter and played on it for like 10 minutes, laughing hysterically.

Then we went ‘home’ and made a lovely dinner of garlic mashed potatoes with hollandaise sauce, peas and carrots, and peach crisp for dessert. We had a bunch of peach crisp left over and were too stuffed to eat it, so we shared it with other people in our dorm. Lots of people didn’t know what it was. Ha, ha.

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Then we had a very typical Aarhus student Friday night experience. We decided to go out drinking at a Friday bar. But my friends left without us because we were taking too long washing up and trying to book bus tickets to Copenhagen and stuff, so we had to call a bunch of people and try to figure out where the party was. It was all very complicated. We eventually found the friends who had left without us waiting on a bridge for a different friend to call them back and tell them where the group was, and we finally made it to the Medicine Bar, which is not actually a medicine bar but the Friday bar for the medicine students.

It was a crazy party. At least two dozen people from my program were there, and they were all drunk. We hung out for several hours, dancing, talking, etc. At one point I got kissed by a drunken partygoer who was apparently dressed up as a vampire, judging by the fake blood dripping down her chin. It was pretty gross but slightly hilarious. I took a selfie for posterity’s sake before washing the blood off.

Add this to my list of "strangest things to happen to me since arriving in Denmark."
Add this to my list of “strangest things to happen to me since arriving in Denmark.”

Eventually it was time to move on, and again, my friends got tired of waiting for Tommy and me (I was trying to convince some German guy I’d met to ride on the back of my bicycle and come with us) and we lost them again. We drove in to town, the German guy ditched me, and suddenly Tommy and I were very drunk and very lost downtown trying to figure out where the heck people were. I gave up on the original friends and called Thomas, who answered the phone with “Whyeee are you speaking English with me?” and gave us very useful directions to find him – “Follow the canal and then turn left.” We eventually, miraculously, found him playing foosball at a sports bar, but he was hanging with his bronies and sort of ignored us, so after a bit we went home. I was kicking myself for not trying harder to find the original friends, who had apparently made it to a really cool bar near the museum. Then the chain came off of Tommy’s borrowed bicycle and we had to push our bikes home and went to bed rather drunk and frustrated by the night’s events. In other words, a typical Friday night.

The plan was to wake up in the morning at 8am and catch a bus by 10:15, somehow finding an opportunity to print out our e-tickets along the way. I miraculously managed to get out of bed and shower mostly on-time, and Tommy made us a lovely French toast breakfast. But it was 9:45, I realized I didn’t know where the bus station was and we had no way of printing our tickets. So we wound up going to the train station and buying tickets from a machine for quite a lot of money, then took a 10:30 train to Copenhagen.

Winner winner chicken dinner! These fools are smiling because they caught a train to Copenhagen despite hangovers and 5 hours of sleep.
Winner winner chicken dinner! These fools are smiling because they caught a train to Copenhagen despite hangovers and 5 hours of sleep.

When we got there, we realized we had neither map nor Wi-Fi with which to orient ourselves and find our hostel. After trying unsuccessfully to connect to McDonalds, Starbucks and 7-11 wifi, I finally gave in and purchased credit for my phone so I could use the data. Google Maps was a lifesaver.

Leave train station. Realize we have no idea where we are. Enter train station. Seek map.
Exit train station. Realize we have no idea where we are. Enter train station. Seek map.

We had a lovely walk along the water to find out hostel, located in the very international neighborhood of Norrebro.

Our hostel, Sleep in Heaven, turned out to be tucked at the end of a side street in a somewhat not-central yet still charming neighborhood. It had a very nice bar/cafe and hangout area with lots of couches and Fat Boys in the lounge. It was pretty quiet when we arrived at 3pm, but when we got back a little after midnight, there were people all over.

After relaxing and freshening up from the journey (and the hangover), we went downtown.

The big amusement park, Tivoli, was all decorated for Halloween.

We had coffee at the Hard Rock with some German acquaintances of Tommy’s who happened to be in town.10291094_979862435373847_8802931746787430987_n

We walked down the “longest pedestrian street in Europe.” To me it looked like any other tourist/shopping street.

We went out for a nice dinner at an Indian restaurant. This was our one “splurge,” food-wise – the rest of the time we were eating kebabs and falafel or bread and fruit from the grocery store.

We met up with the nice Danish girl I’d met on the train to Germany a few weeks prior. That was pretty cool – with Germans, you don’t just *meet people* on the train. But this girl, Julia, had given me her contact information and told me to hit her up when we were in Copenhagen, and we did and it worked out! She invited us for ‘cheap’ beers at the Student House downtown – cheap by Copenhagen standards. The beers were about 40kr ($8), which is the same price you’d pay at a nice bar in Aarhus. Denmark is expensive in general, but big cities disproportionately so!

We had a really great conversation about Denmark and America and our respective cultural values. Julia was really well-informed and interesting. She is studying in Copenhagen to become a urologist, so she knew a lot about the Danish health care system. It was very “hyggelidt” (cozy)!

The next morning, we walked downtown and visited the Vor Frelsers Kirke, or Church of Our Savior. I like taking pictures in churches.

Then we climbed up the steeple. I would highly recommend this for anyone who likes seeing cities from above. I would NOT recommend this for anyone with acrophobia, agorophobia or claustrophobia – the stairs get quite narrow near the top, then dwindle into nothing.

Our next stop was Christiania, Copenhagen’s most unique place.

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Freetown Christiania is a hippie neighborhood/sovereign state in the middle of Copenhagen. It’s known for art and weed. It started out as army barracks, but when they fell into disuse, the government took a long time deciding what t do with the land, so a bunch of students and squatters and hippies moved in and turned it in to a sort of communal society. The government thought it was just so cool, it let them stay. Danes have mixed feelings about it – some think it is quite a cool movement and are all activist about it, others are resentful that a bunch of stoners and hippies and artists get to squat in the middle of the biggest, most expensive city in Denmark for free and wish the government would stop with its little experiment.IMG_0370

Normally I love “hippie stuff” like this, but the area – particularly the main drag and “Pusher Street,” where marijuana is openly but illegally bought and sold, felt very touristy. An entire little plaza was covered in booths selling lighters, magnets, t-shirts, and anything you could possibly need to smoke marijuana. I was highly amused to see a very realistic phallic-shaped bong, but otherwise I was otherwise a little disappointed at how kitschy and touristy it all seemed. Christiania strikes me as one of those places that was probably a lot cooler 5 or 10 years ago.

They even had a photo-op where you could pose as a drug dealer. I'm not sure why anyone would want to do this. The three yellow circles on a red background are the flag of Christiania.
They even had a photo-op where you could pose as a drug dealer. I’m not sure why anyone would want to do this. The three yellow circles on a red background are the flag of Christiania.

Marijuana is illegal in Denmark, including Christiania, but I guess the community has decided to allow it. Hard drugs, however, are not tolerated, and there are strict no-photography rules where marijuana is being bought, sold and consumed. IMG_0374

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Tommy and I hung out in a little cafe snacking on coffee and croissants, when right at the next table over, a man pulled out a little scale and a baggy. Money and herb exchanged hands. I was dying to take a really artsy photo of the guy’s gnarled hands breaking up the bud on his little portable scale, but I would have probably been kicked out of Christiania if I’d done that, so this description will have to suffice.

Instead, I took a photo of an abandoned tricycle nearby.

This little kid was riding his tricycle in the cafe when he came to this ledge he couldn't get over. So rather than turn around or lift the tricycle up, he just got up and left it there. Haha.
This little kid was riding his tricycle in the cafe when he came to this ledge he couldn’t get over. So rather than turn around or lift the tricycle up, he just got up and left it there. Haha.

After we said good-bye to Christiania and re-entered the EU (ha, ha, ha), we did more Touristy Stuff.

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We went to a museum, which was free on Sundays.

We got coffee at the museum.

"Don't touch it yet! I'm going to take a picture."
“Don’t touch it yet! I’m going to take a picture.”

We walked down a side-street parallel to the main shopping drag that was full of tempting restaurants and cute street cafes, and bemoaned their prices and kept on walking.

Tommy looking at a map. He was our official navigator for the trip.
Tommy looking at a map. He was our official navigator for the trip.

We made it back to the train station, where Tommy found out his train had been cancelled, and screwed around trying to get tickets for a while before saying our final goodbyes.

Little birdies bathing in a puddle, just because.
Little birdies bathing in a puddle, just because.

All in all, it was an awesome, if expensive, weekend. The best part was definitely getting to see my old friend again, and making a new friend. I feel like I’ve only seen the most touristy of the tourist stuff in Copenhagen, so if I go again, I think I will try harder to contact people on Couchsurfing and get some “insider tips.” The city has like nine zones, and we were only in two of them, so I know there’s a lot we didn’t see, it’s just a matter of finding it. I do want to go dancing to some techno music in the Meat Packing District, and Tommy has sworn to cough up the 100kr entry to get in to Tivoli next time he is there. But overall, it’s really not a student-friendly city in terms of prices. While I do want to go back and check a few things off my Copenhagen bucket list (including getting a Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt for my dad, who collects them, for 300kr/$60), I don’t think it’s a city I’ll be spending any significant time in until I have a well-paying job.

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One thought on “Being a tourist in my own city (and in Copenhagen, too)

  1. Pingback: Copenhagen, as it’s meant to be seen | Following the Wanderlust

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