Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Once Upon a Time in Copenhagen

This past weekend was a little something that we like to call a "puente" here in Spain. It is a glorious thing, a thing we love in any culture and school, and one that we in the English language refer to as a "long weekend." "Puente" literally translates as "bridge," so what we are saying on these weekends of 3-4 days is that we are going to make, or have, a bridge. I only teach Mondays through Thursdays, so I always have a three-day weekend, but to get a Monday off and have a four-day, wow, what a time!! (And so awesome for all the people who usually have to work Fridays but got to enjoy the extra-long-for-them holiday!) These are the perfect chances to hop on a plane a hit up another country, and this time I decided to make my bridge in.....

Copenhagen, Denmark!!

Copenhagen had been on my Hit-List since I studied abroad in Bilbao over three years ago. I think the draw initially came from hearing stories from people who had gone, as well as from the Dane that was in our study abroad group first semester. Stories I was told, and videos I was shown, during my days as The Party Girl, about how crazy and wild the parties there are. Especially since it is one of the world capitals, and the most progressive, innovative, and happy cities, it just made sense to hit it up at some point. 

Luckily for me, one of my friends from home has been studying there this semester, and when I saw that I could get a round-trip, direct flight from Malaga to Copenhagen for 135, I knew I was going to be there for the puente. Of course, when you see a ticket price like that, you should not think about the fact you will need to pay rent, and instead think about the fact that rent can wait a few more days, but that low price cannot, and will not. But me being the highly responsible young lady that I am, I waited because the money was to pay my rent, and a few days later when I actually booked the flight, it was 165. Not a bad price in reality, but you know, we all like to save some euros when we can. 

Before this trip, I hadn't been in a new country since Semana Santa (Easter week) the end of March, when I was in Berlin (Germany) and the Czech Republic, and I was itching to get out of the Spanish borders and see what another part of the world lives and looks like. I wasn't so excited about the cold weather I was sure to face, but figured that if I could survive 10 days in Germany and CZ with HIGHS of -7*C, I could handle whatever CPH was going to throw my way.  

I finished work at 21h on Thursday night, met my friend at the metro stop in the town I work in, and then he drove me to Malaga to the airport. It's about a two and a half hour drive from Sevilla, and he did me such a solid by taking me. There were no buses or trains that I could catch from Sevilla to Malaga between the hours I could have caught something, so I was going to try and bribe people on blablacar to wait for me a bit longer, try and hitch hike it to the airport, or probably an even scarier a car and learn how to drive a stick shift at night, alone, on the freeways, on the way to the airport. LOL. Needless to say, my friend is amazing and likely saved the lives of some cars.

So I made it to the airport at about midnight, and then had to sleep/wait/stretch until 5:00 so I could get my boarding pass from the desk. Since it was an international flight technically (CPH isn't part of the EU), I couldn't just walk through with my printed boarding pass. I killed the time with a little yoga, and a few deep-but-crummy hours of sleep in a giant window sill that was lined all the way with sleeping bags, luggage, and other people doing exactly the same as I was. And then, I went in, had some breakfast, and before I knew it, was boarding the plane. 

The flight was only three and a half hours long, and I'm pretty sure I slept for most of it. After watching the sunrise on one side of the plane and snapping some pictures, I wrapped my scarf around my head, and drifted off into a heavy sleep. Luckily the entire three-seat row next to the one I was in was completely empty, so the second the fasten seat belt light went off, I jumped across the aisle to claim victory on what would be my bed for the next few hours. (I actually was so serious and competitive about it that I had started to transfer my things over to the row while we were still taking off. I was not about to lose this chance to anyone! RAWR!)

 I love that this was the message on the seat in front of mine on the plane -- first good sign of the good trip to come :)
A woman looking out her window at the sunrise. On one side of the plane, the skies were lighting up with the first signs of the day's sun, and on the other, it was still completely black outside, with just the lights from the cities below to show signs of life. Quite a parallel beauty.

When I arrived in Copenhagen, my friend was waiting for me at the airport (quite a remarkable thing, because any of you that know this particular friend might expect that something wild and unexpected would happen the night before, leaving him unable to meet up with me and take me to his place), and we went to his place to drop my stuff off. By the time I got there, I was so wiped out. I hadn't been getting much sleep for the weeks leading into the trip, and I hadn't had a proper night's sleep leading into the trip. I had roughly two, three-hour naps, one in the airport on a marble window sill, the other on the plane. So as you can imagine, I was going into the trip with a mind that was all floppy, all over the place.

It would have been wise to use the day when I arrived to go and see stuff, considering that while it was cold, it was actually sunny, and I had arrived early enough that we could have had a full day of exploring. But I really wanted to do little other than relax, so we ended up just hanging out at his place, catching up, and chilling with some of his study abroad friends. 

That night we went to a dinner hosted by the econ department (his subject of study), and had a grand 'ol time. We played countless games of Foosball, drank countless beers, and surprisingly didn't eat countless plates of food, in spite of the fact it was a buffet with delicious traditional Danish foods. After the dinner, we went to a warehouse-style club that is run entirely by students, and held on Friday nights. We danced, we drank, we flirted, we all had a good time. A big group of international 20-to-30-somethings, just loving life and the surrealism of life abroad. 

The next day, I was treated to a homemade Roman pasta lunch, in which all the ingredients (pasta, cheek bacon, and parmigiano) actually had been brought over from Rome. Straight up, I felt like I was living in the "Eat" section of Eat, Pray, Love (a book that I read, and decided to immediately start re-reading), and I couldn't have been enjoying it more. I really want to go get fat in Rome now. Through the conversation and cultural exploration, I actually was envisioning chapters from the book -- things that Elizabeth Gilbert says, describes, and the way she talks about the Roman people -- it was so ironic and exact, and I loved it! I hadn't expected to go to Rome in Copenhagen, but that is just part of the joy of traveling -- you never know which cultures you will find in which places!

Later that day, my friend and I went on a little stroll through Copenhagen. Granted it was about 15 or 16h by the time we got started, so the sun had completely gone down, but we still went for a little walk. We went to this amazing indoor/outdoor market and ate some food, tried some other food, and just generally let out mouths hang down at how amazing everything looked, smelled, tasted, and appeared. I'm telling you, the only money that I spent in Copenhagen was on beer and food. I couldn't stop buying things to bring back and to eat! The quality is so good there, thankfully, since the prices are pretty high, and it all just seems so insanely fresh and healthy. I could see myself passing plenty of time in Copenhagen just eating my way through the city. 

After we had spent ample time in the markets gaping at everything around us, we walked through the city center and by some important looking buildings. Since it is Christmas time, the lights were all up, and all on, giving the city a dreamy feel, and a sense that there was nothing inside the Copenhagen borders other than happiness and joy, and nothing outside them at all worth experiencing. The city center was a thing of wonder! It's your typical city center, designed for the people to come and spend money, but with the feeling of that place, it was like walking through a fairy tale land. I'm not sure if it's because the countries up north are so clean and organized and just have that general North Pole feeling, but I really didn't believe I was on earth anymore. It felt like I had stepped into a storybook. And considering the symbol of the city is a heart, I felt even more like I'd stepped off the planet and into some dream world.

 Lights in the city center <3 Magical

So here's the thing about me as a tourist... sometimes, I kind of suck at it. A lot. For example, in Berlin and in Copenhagen, I just kind of walked around, looked at things, saw things that looked interesting, and took pictures of them. I'm not sure if it's because of the cold weather that I don't care too much to go exploring around and find out what exactly I'm seeing, but instead remain content with just having seen it; or if it's because I have seen so many amazing things by now, that just to see and appreciate its beauty and wonder is enough for me. But I really don't know what I saw in Copenhagen, other than things, places, and people. Specifics, proper nouns, are, for the most part, not there. 

The rest of the trip consisted of more going out, eating, and drinking, and very little sightseeing. I didn't see Christiania, the hippie neighborhood, and likely the only thing I should have been sure to see there, but it's okay. We slept most of the day away on Sunday, and when we woke up at 15:30, it was evident the sun hadn't even bothered to come out that day. The rain was falling hard, and that was an excuse enough for us to not leave the flat. We spent more friendly hours with his friends, listening to good music, having dinner, and sharing stories and experiences.

Overall, it was a really nice trip and I liked Copenhagen. I feel like I have a disconnect from it, considering I didn't really do too much other than live the life of a student who is studying abroad, but I did like it, and have good things to say about it. Here's a little wrap-up of my opinions and thoughts on the city:
  • As lovely as it is, I could never live there. Call me crazy, but I actually NEED more hours of sun than they can offer. I cannot handle going days, weeks, or months without seeing the sun. Of the four days I was there, two of them were sunless. That is too much for me. Also too much for me is the fact that the moon is out in full glow starting at about 15:30-16:00. I get sad when the nights start to begin around 18h, how could I possibly handle them starting two hours earlier!? So, as dreamlike as the place is, if it's not between late April and early November, you will not see me living there.
  • I am pretty sure there is a factory somewhere where they make their people. It does not seem natural to me, the life there. It seems like everyone is so nice and pleasant, but also, like they are maybe a little too tied up. Almost like they all fit into this mold, and then blow their minds out on the weekends to release everything they store up and keep in during the week. I'm not sure about it. I just know that I kept looking around me, and had a desire to scream, just to throw a little something different into the mix. I need to return and spend more time there so I can get to know the culture better, but from the outside, and coming from the south of Spain, life there seems a little too systematic. All the Danes I interacted with were incredibly nice and left me thinking, "wow, they were such a great person," so I really don't like thinking or writing these things, but I must be honest if I am to be a writer. And it's not really the people that I'm speaking of, but their culture. And I think that's just how it is in most countries over here that aren't Spain, France, Portugal, and Italy. The culture is a little more closed, most likely because of the weather. Really lovely, all of it, but there was something inside me while I was there that felt a little controlled, staged, and strange.
  • The city is kind of a mix of Berlin and Amsterdam. The architecture is very much like that in Berlin, with the green rooftops on the major buildings, and the brickwork everywhere; and there are lots of bridges, that give it an Amsterdam sense. My German roommate last night actually was saying that if he had to picture a smaller version of Berlin, by the sea, he'd assume it would be Copenhagen. (Very accurate I'd say, as I have been to both cities.) I loved the city, and no without a doubt I will return when I am a little bit older. 
  • AMAZING FOOD! And quality of everything in general. I essentially went to Copenhagen with two goals (aside from seeing my friend): to eat a hot dog from a street seller, and to eat as many pastries as I could. And while I definitely could have eaten way more pastries than I did, I did eat a hot dog from a street vendor in the city center (per the rec of someone I know), and it was delicious. I actually kind of regret not having a second right after. It was better than the ones in Chico. Without a doubt.
If you are planning on going to Copenhagen, I suggest that you rent a bike while you are there. Biking there is insanely easy to do. They have bike lanes that function like car lanes, and the city is designed for it. It's entirely up to you what time of year you want to go there, of course, but look into the average weather conditions during the time you plan to go (as you should do with any place you plan to travel). I am really pleased with the time of year I went. It was a real treat to be there during Christmas time to see the lights and have a slightly white Christmas experience. But I think that going during the summer would just be incredible, especially since they have the sea there! If you go and maximize the available sun hours during the fall/winter, then you can have successful, full days, and see the entire city. It's a small city, and everything you would likely go to see is in a concentrated area. The public transport runs like clockwork and at all hours, so you can easily hop around the city and move between neighborhoods. (Can you say AWESOME that the metro there runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!?!)

All-in-all, Copenhagen lived up to my expectations, and I know I will return one day in the future to really explore the city. I must say thank you to all the lovely people I met there, and to the city itself for being so innovative. It's the most modern and high-tech place I've ever been so far in my travels, and I was constantly in a state of being blown away by this or by that. Really an efficient and dreamy place. I would be happy to return!

 I don't even know what was under those pickles, but man was that a good hot dog!
 I feel like this picture is a pretty good way to depict Copenhagen on the weekends in the winter. LOL
View from my friend's flat of a really cool park they built

Up next for me is CALIFORNIA!!!! I leave a week from Saturday to go home for two weeks for the holidays, and I really couldn't be more excited! It will have been less than a year since I was there, and it only feels like a few months have actually passed since I left, but sure enough, it's almost Christmas, and it's almost time for me to return for a brief bit of time! I can't wait to see my grandma, sister, and all my friends and other family members! 

I hope you're all riding around on the magical waves of joy and love that we can seem to sense between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and that you don't let the holiday stress get you down or keep you from focusing on the most important element of it all -- LOVE!

Blessings, Love & Light, Sweet Darlings <3

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