Scandinavia, Day 2: København

Travel by Adam on 2009-02-19 05:31

The airport was busy with travelers going to and from their destinations, as all airports are. But the place was strangely quiet; people’s voices seemed hushed, like in a library. It seems the Danes are naturally soft-spoken.

The girl who sold me my train ticket into town was stunningly beautiful. Perfectly smooth milk-white skin, white-gold hair swept back from her delicate high cheekbones, glacier-blue eyes, slender figure. In the US, she’d be a model. In Denmark, she’s selling train tickets.

I quickly discovered why: all the Danes are beautiful. The men are tall, with rugged features and chiseled jaws. The women all look more or less like the ticket salesgirl described above. Men and women both are sveltely built and graceful in their movements.

Architecture is always a joy in European cities. The central train station is a good example of the city’s architectural style:

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The style is not as ornate (or ostentatious) as French architecture, and has more of a sense of solidarity compared to the rickety, drafty Victorians of San Francisco. Danish architecture has a lot in common with German architecture: for example, sharply peaked rooftops to minimize the weight of accumulated snow on a given square meter of roof. But even the German style has a kind of showy flare to it, which is its fairy-tale feel.

Danish architecture strikes me as to-the-point, never sacrificing function for form; but at the same time subtly beautiful, its aesthetics coming from faint details etched in the stone, or the contrast of colors, textures, and shapes that are part of its load-bearing structure, not frills added just for looks.

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The feel of the architecture seems to parallel the personal disposition of the Danes. Every transaction I engaged in with a native was executed with cool, detached competence. They never seem in a hurry, but at the same time, they never waste a single moment. In short, they value efficiency. That’s reflected in their behavior (speaking softly, moving fluidly), in their architecture, and perhaps elsewhere they I’ve yet to discover.

One small example that I took delight in was watching them board a train. Back home (and everyplace else I’ve been), everyone clusters around the doors to a train as it arrives. The exiting people end up in a nasty tangle with the people pushing in trying to enter. Here, everyone stands precisely far enough away from the door to allow a completely clear path for those exiting. They stand perfectly still until everyone on the train who is going to exit has done so; but once the last exiting person has cleared the path, they do not waste a single moment entering the train.

Snow lion

Jetlag kept me from seeing as much of the city as I would have liked, but I went out for a few hours at night. Food is extremely expensive - getting a decent meal for under $30 is a challenge. It was snowing lightly and cold enough that I had to put on almost all of my cold weather gear (underarmor + military thermals + fleece + outer shell). The Danes have an impressive level of tolerance for cold: while I was bundled up in all the layers just described, most of the folks I passed on the street were wearing nothing more than a good jacket and a scarf.

Some renderings of Mjolner (aka Thor’s Hammer) were on display in the window of a tattoo parlor:

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I debated a to whether to bring my Mjolner pendant or shirts with me, and decided against it. I feel a deep natural affinity with this symbol, but here in the US no one knows what it is, so I can make it what I want it to be. Here, it may have meaning to others, and not knowing the full extent of what it would mean for me to wear it, I chose to stay incognito.

Expenses: $134. $4 train ticket, $50 for meals, $80 for a hotel because all the hostels were booked. (Saga Hotel, found via hostels.com.)

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