Everybody is a type, but does everybody have a type? I’m the type of guy who wishes he could be one of those slim, grey, well-groomed older men. But I like food too much, so I’m one of those wok-bellied, slightly scruffy older men. As to whether I have a type, I’d have always said, not really. Or if I did, I prefer small women with brown hair. But how far would I travel to find out if I do, in fact, have a type?
That’s how far I walked in Copenhagen between Tuesday morning, when we arrived, and Saturday night, when we left. So just under 17km per day, including the day we hired bikes at the hotel and cycled (in addition to the walking) at least 20 kilometres. This is what you do when you visit a city like this: a lot of walking, a lot of wandering.
The main purpose of the visit was to see Chloé in her natural habitat. While my OH has been around seven times since Chloé moved there, this was my first visit. Why did I wait so long? Pandemic, mainly. Whereas my OH had a robust (and very French) attitude to travel restrictions, I was generally put off by all the admin. Also, I’ve grown increasingly anxious about travel in general, so I don’t need much of an excuse.
We flew Ryanair, no extras, which meant a small bag squeezed under the seat in front. Chloé reported Baltic weather the week before we went and advised that I dress warm, so my packing consisted of four sets of underwear and four long-sleeved thermal vests. In addition, I wore a cashmere sweater that has always been too warm for work and a fleece and a jacket. I also bought some “Nordic” jeans from Rohan, lol.
Inevitably, the late October warm-wave meant that I spent most of the time feeling too hot. I left the sweater for Chloé and wore two layers most of the time, carrying a hat in my bag for the cooler evenings. But, oh, that first day, before we could check into the hotel, the day I was wearing ALL the layers! I was so hot.
The cost of the trip was calculated so that the travel and accommodation wouldn’t come to more than our normal channel tunnel crossing and motorway journey to France. Not including food, of course. So the hotel choice was a cheap and cheerful 2-star called Saga Hotel near the Central train station. It was clean and modern, the way I like it. We paid for a room with a shower/toilet, though most of the rooms in that hotel are ones that share a bathroom. It was poky, but fine for what we needed, and every day began with the same ten minute walk up to the Rådhus square.
Eating out in Copenhagen can be expensive. We ate a lot of sandwiches etc from the 7-11, but we also ate a couple of times at Jagger Burger, and once at Chloé’s flat near Sydhavn. Our plans to eat there a second time on the day we left were baulked because it turned out the S-train (currently?) only runs Monday to Friday. This meant a long walk or more junk food. Oh well.
I’m not a great one for visiting attractions. My main object was to see my daughter, and I didn’t much care what activities, if any, that involved. We went to see an interesting Matisse Exhibit, and dropped in on the Little Mermaid etc. But inevitably, my main interest was in the city itself, its infrastructure. Because let’s not pretend that we need to be particularly different to the Danes. A smallish northern European country, outside the Eurozone? A Germanic language? They are recognisably like us, and yet, and yet, don’t seem to be as irrational in their anti-humanism, in their enslavement to corporate interests.
You know what’s coming. I’m sure capitalism is as shit in Denmark as it is anywhere else. And I’m sure employers can be as awful and exploitative. But Danes seem to care more about work-life balance. And their capital city is designed around people, not cars. Sure, there are cars, and lots of single-occupancy vehicles. But the bikes! And the pedestrian zones! If you stop to think about why Oxford Street and, say, Regent Street aren’t completely pedestrianised in 2022, your head might explode.
I would really like to see an experiment in which every person in Copenhagen who owned a bicycle went to fetch it from wherever it is being kept and stood next to it. My question is, are there more bicycles than people?
Pedestrians have priority. Then bikes. Then cars. And the cycle lanes are mostly segregated and mostly respected. Which means, you don’t see quite so many cars and delivery vans parked on cycle lanes as you do in this country. But you do see some. And there are still too many vans making deliveries that could instead be made by some of the ubiquitous cargo bikes. That aside, Copenhagen is a cycling paradise, bikes everywhere, and the kind of people riding them who would never in a million years ride a bike in the UK.
That’s what strikes you. Everybody is a type, after all, and there are as many recognisable types in Copenhagen as there are anywhere. But in Copenhagen, they all ride bikes, all the time, in all weathers. Floppy haired men in smart suits. Sporty men and women in lycra. Very tall willowy blonde women in long coats. Hipsters. Hippies. Young mums and dads. Middle aged mums and dads. Older people, all genders. Ebikes, old bikes, cargo bikes, trikes, sit-up-and-beg bikes, fat bikes, sporty hybrids, racing bikes, in all the colours of the rainbow.
Anyway, I loved it. What a fantastic city to live and work in. And, it turns out, I do have a type. I love Danish women.