Highlight: Seeing all the cyclists and pedestrians roaming the streets. When we came out of the Central Copenhagen train station, the first thing I saw were hundreds of parked bikes. It really cheered me up.
Lowlight: The crankiness from the lack of sleep and the uncertainty about money and accommodation.
Fun Fact: Denmark has an 180% car registration tax. 180%! That means a new $30,000 car would cost an additional $54,00 to register, almost tripling the cost. Even more impressive is the tax has
Money spent: 1639 ISK + 485.5 DKK ($127 CAD)
Ben Frustration Index(BFI): 1 – sleep deprivation induced irritation.
Friday night is legendary for Icelandic binge drinking and bar hopping. We didn’t get to experience any of it, but we did see quite a few drunken revellers wandering the streets at 4 am as we trekked down to the bus depot. In fact, the streets were livelier then most other times we walked them. It was light out of course – I still can’t get over that – but it did make it easier to feel awake at 4 am.
Our flight to Copenhagen had us in by noon. We really didn’t have any plans for the next few days of the trip, so our first stop was a tourist info booth. The one in the airport wasn’t much help, so we decided to head to a resource centre with free internet mentioned in Ben’s Lonely Planet guide.
Now, so far our trip has been smooth and well planned. Iceland was a breeze, but the first few hours in Copenhagen were frustrating enough to remind me we were travelling in a foreign country. First, my credit card wouldn’t work to buy train tickets. Luckily I had some Danish currency, but I was worried that the card wouldn’t work throughout the country, which would be a problem since I only have a few hundred dollars in hard cash and no debit card. Then, when we got to Copenhagen we wandered around for a while trying to find the resource centre mentioned in Ben’s travel book. It didn’t exist any more, but our confused wandering and Ben’s ability to ask locals questions had a few kind souls helping us out in no time.
Our plans for the next 2 days hinged on a good place to watch the summer solstice festival. I thought it was tonight (Saturday night), but it turns out the Danish have their big party, Sankt Hans, on Monday night. After a frustrating few minutes of indecision, we eventually settled on staying in Copenhagen for 2 nights and then making our way to Oslo. We booked ourselves into the huge and massive new Dan Hostel (more of a hotel really). Once we were settled we set out to explore the city.
Copenhagen is amazing! There are bikes and pedestrians everywhere. I love it! The city is super friendly for self-propelled people, which is probably why there aren’t riots over the 180% car tax. Who needs a car? The network of separated bike lanes is extensive, there are huge pedestrian only areas, and public transit offers efficient and frequent service.
We spent most of the day wandering around the city centre and on the Strøget – the main drag of pedestrian only streets. Supposedly shop owners along the streets complained bitterly when cars were banned in the 1960s, but today it’s the hottest property in town. It was jam packed with locals and tourists shopping at high-end shops, eating at classy restaurants, and watching street entertainers.
We saw con men trying to entice people to play their Shell game. I’ve heard about the con, but never actually seen it done in person. When you watch it looks like it is easy and several people in the audience were betting and winning and sometimes losing, but it was easy to spot who the plants were. They were too animated and involved in the ruse. Anyway, it was fun to watch for a while.
The Strøget is a really interesting area. Most of it was too crowded and the shops were too expensive or tacky touristy, but every few blocks there were large public squares with foundations and open-air cafes. Also, if you wandered just off the Strøget you could find nice restaurants and funky little shops on less crowded streets.
At the east end of the Strøget was a 3-block stretch along a canal called Nyhavn. The canal itself was full of beautiful, old boats. The street along the canal is for pedestrians only, and most of the restaurants on that street have giant patios, which on a sunny Saturday afternoon were packed. But the best part of Nyhavn was the BYOB drinking. Instead of sitting at the nice tables on the restaurant patios, you could bring your own beer and sit on the edge of the canal drinking. In Copenhagen drinking in public is legal, and in Nyhavn it’s a celebrated tradition. The restaurants even sell beer “to go” in plastic cups. Instead of alcohol, we bought ice cream from the highly recommended shop and sat along the canal with the drinkers enjoying it and listening to the sound of an accordion coming from one of the old boats. What a great atmosphere.
After a dinner of Spanish tapas and beer, Ben and I hit up a pub to watch the Netherlands vs Russia EuroCup quarter-final soccer game. The pub was crazy. We sat on the 1st floor with all the Danish fans, while the Russians partied it up on the 2nd floor. I was hoping for a Dutchmen victory, but the Russians played well and deserved their win. Whenever there team scored you could hear and feel the Russian fans stomping on the floor.