Copenhagen! I grew up in a small town, and in my senior year of high school we had an exchange student from Copenhagen. She was a generous and friendly girl who described in detail her “little country.” Her name was Yetta, and we corresponded for a few years and then lost track of one another. She has been on my mind the last few days, and now I wish I could have been able to find her. George pointed out I probably could have used Facebook.
I’m not a Facebooker, and seldom think of using it. George lives on Facebook, so I have no need. He’s always showing me things and reading it out loud. Between Facebook and his girlfriend, Siri, his world is full. But I’m regretting I didn’t try to find her. She’d be an old woman like me now, but I bet she still has that broad smile and positive attitude that I remember. And blonde hair – not out of a bottle.
Wow, there are a LOT of blonde, attractive people here. As Ellie and I walked down the street, I remarked that there were so many pretty girls; she replied “And boys!” Very athletic looking, but gosh, with the snow in the winter and the glorious sun in the summer, the residents have to be very active.
Everyone rides bikes; there are two bikes for every person in Cophenhagen. More bikes than cars! They are very proud of being a “green” country and leaving a small carbon imprint on the world. Their goal is to be totally green by 2025, which includes I think, not having cars in the city.
This sounds like a noble ambition, and I’m not putting it down, but there is a whole other dimension to that many bicycles. There are bikes EVERYWHERE, and it also means dodging those two-wheeled suckers everywhere you go. I thought it was crazy driving in Rome, but all of the bikes are worse. And nobody wears a helmet. I wonder what the concussion rate per person is here? And I made reservations to go on a bike ride!
There was a Hop On Hop Off bus service right outside the cruise ship. We love those suckers. You buy a ticket and you can drive around a city, listening to an earphone audio guide. They have designated stops, where you can hop off. See the sights and then hop back on the next bus. When time is limited, it is a good way to get an overview. We generally take the tour and then decide where to hop off. Which is what we did.
There was a boat canal tour where we hopped off, and on the spur of the moment decided to see the city from a water perspective.
I didn’t realize how many canals there are in the cities of Scandinavia. My experience was from visiting Venice, where canal boats are an anomaly as local travel in Italy. But around here, the history of water travel is still immersed in the local culture. In Copenhagen, many apartment complexes and homes are connected to the canals, with docks for boats and kayaks are everywhere. There were people everywhere kayaking and sailing on the canoes. Steps from apartment complexes lead straight to the water docks.
It is such a different view from the canals. Sights you wouldn’t notice from a street take on a different appreciation.
It was lunch time by the time we had finished the bus and boat tours of the day. Time to find some nice local cuisine and also try to figure out where to connect with our bike ride. I had ordered a map of Copenhagen from Amazon to get ahead of the game. I read all the reviews and got this handy-dandy little fold out map. We were right in the middle of some local landmarks, and do you think I could figure out what direction to go? The streets are all jumbled from historical development and it was very difficult for my diminishing brain cells. We had the Hop On Hop Around Lost map, and it had marked their route in such bold, wide marks that they covered up the street names.
Lack of food, lack of sleep (don’t jog at midnight – it keeps you awake), and lack of basic patience were taking their toll. The bitchy genes were showing…. We decided to find a nice restaurant and regroup. With the beautiful weather, there was a lot of outside dining. Think about their long winters – you would want to sit in the sun every minute possible. Spotting a restaurant with a ton of people, we decided their food must be good.
Oh. My. Goodness. What a great choice. And the nice waitress pointed us in the direction we needed to go to find the bike ride. Almost everyone speaks some English, so it is a non-lingual tourist’s dream location.
Sitting in the sun, basking in the beauty of a city square, what could be more perfect? Well, add in a local musician, playing the clarinet. Ellie, who plays the bass clarinet in a high school national award winning orchestra, was in heaven. Although she thought he would have better wind if he had sat more upright…. He was very good and played song after song.
George is definitely a curmudgeon, and he is also one of the most generous humans I have ever known. He has always had a soft spot for starving musician types, so he gave Ellie the equivalent of $10 to put in the guy’s clarinet case (conveniently open for donations). His donations were very slim, and he gratefully kept nodding thanks as he played one song after another. He had some background music playing, so it sounded like a small band. When we left, Ellie gave him another $10 and I thought he might try to get us to follow him like the Pied Piper.
What amazing food. They had a breakfast brunch that offered a variety, which Ellie and I opted to choose. George saw some mini-hamburgers going by and decided to try them.
We had thought we should eat a light meal before the bike ride – ha! I would have easily given up the bike ride to have the opportunity to enjoy a meal like this. There are priorities in life!
Staggering away from the table, we headed towards the bike ride destination spot. I had used TripAdvisor’s company Viator to make the reservations. I have hired private guides in Rome using Viator and have never been disappointed. The site had led me to believe that we would be going to a biking tour shop location, where helmets, etc. would be available. After seeing the craziness of all the bikes on the road, we had all agreed we wanted helmets.
Feeling okay with my map skills now, we wandered slowly across the city. The street we followed was lined with famous designer shops. Ferragamo shoes, Coach purses – you name it. Ellie was dying to peruse them all, and I felt badly that we had to keep moving to get to the bike ride.
We eventually reached our destination and looked around in puzzlement. The address was a side street near a main bus/subway transit location. There was a nondescript gray building with a few steps leading up to a small door with a number 9 posted beside it. No signs for a business. There were multitudes of bikes parked on the main street. Thousands, actually. Commuters parked to giant racks, like we have cars in a parking lot. Bikes parked on the side streets everywhere, so we couldn’t tell if those were privately owned or rental bikes for our ride.
We were standing there in puzzlement, and I was double-checking the reservation, when an anxious man came walking up. He had also signed up for the ride and was worried he had been scammed. We were 30 minutes early (Ellie could have shopped a bit), so we decided to sit on the steps of number 9 and see what happened. At this point, Ellie and I were sort of hoping there wouldn’t be a bike ride; we wanted to shop! George was really tired from the walk, and I was worried with the head that the ride would be too hard for him. An old lady with groceries came up and motioned for us to get off the steps. I asked her about a biking tour company. She looked puzzled and said this was a private residence and didn’t know anything else. Oh great. We stood around and 25 minutes later, there were 16 of us wondering what the heck was going on. Somebody called the reservation number and was told we were in the right spot and a guide would be coming directly.
Approximately 10 minutes later, a lady in a dress came walking up and said she was our guide. In a dress? She showed us a pile of bikes buried in the multitudes and said to grab a bike and adjust the seat to fit ourselves. Forget a helmet, that obviously wasn’t going to happen. Ellie and George got bikes with gears and handbrakes, and somehow I ended up with the poor little bike that nobody ever wanted. No gears, no brakes and a seat that was permanently sloped forward, with no hopes of adjustment. But I was better off than the guide, who had chosen a bike that didn’t work at all. She finally borrowed a bike from a lady and said she would be right back. Their office didn’t answer the phone and was 2.5 miles away. She rode like a native demon to pick up a bike that worked and had someone follow with the other bike. This ride was shaping up to be an adventure.
We finally took off following our guide. I don’t pretend to be an expert cyclist, but I do have a very nice bike at home. It is a Cannondale road bike, 21 gears and brakes that work. It is like riding a speeding cloud and I marvel at it every time it is ridden. This was heavy cruiser, so it took more effort. The brand was Donkey Republic, and I thought it was a hidden joke meaning “The tourist who rides this is a jackass.” The forward sloping seat was driving me nuts. I kept sliding off. Finally, I figured out if I shifted far enough back to hang my butt bones over the edge of the seat, my bones sort of hooked over the back and held me on. This did mean, however, that my flappy butt cheeks hung over and flapped with every cobblestone in the old streets of Copenhagen. I should have pinned a Fitbit to my hind end – I would have earned extra “steps” from the hind end action.
This didn’t help the lack of brakes, however. There was one handbrake that didn’t work at all, but if you threw total impact backwards with the pedals, it did sort of slow down. Unless you tried to take off; any small backwards movement halted the bike and tossed the back end of the bike into the air. Which unlocked my butt bones off the seat and the whole process had to start again. I ended up using my feet as the most reliable way to avoid crashing into the busses that abruptly turned in front of us.
I’m sure it was a nice bike ride to see local sites, but I spent most of it trying not to crash into fellow riders and avoid being hit by locals hurling by on their bikes. Add in the car and bus traffic, and it was truly an adventure. Ellie’s bike worked better, but she had troubles, as well. She was cruising along with the group when her bike suddenly toppled over and spilled her to the ground, scraping her elbow. I asked her what happened and she had no idea. Riding one minute, sprawled on the ground the next.
George pedaled slowly along, holding up the rear of the group. Which also meant he didn’t make the green lights and was often far behind waiting for the lights to change. I was stressed he would get lost, and kept craning my neck around to see where he was. I wasn’t very steady because of my precarious butt location, and would wobble violently when I turned my head. The leader was pretty observant, however, and would pull over and wait until the group got back together, so we didn’t lose him. George is always a cautious rider, and did manage to safely navigate it all.
The leader told me later that there were supposed to be two guides per group, but they had a number of employees off on vacation. Doesn’t it seem like they should have extra employees during the height of tourist season – as this is their big business time of the year? She was very nice and kind, but she should have had some help! And some better bikes! She also didn’t know any history, other than what was on her training sheet. At one point a member of the group asked her a question and she looked blankly at him and said “I have no idea, that wasn’t on my sheet!”
Between the bike ride and our walking, George barely made it to the end of the ride. He just couldn’t take one more step. Fortunately, we were at major transit center and were able to take a cab back to the ship. The nice leader offered to let us take the bikes and lock them up at the cruise location and she would pick them up there. How trusting and nice! But that involved traversing the city again, and none of us wanted to try it, and George was too tired. His legs were really swollen.
George was so happy to be in a taxi. He always likes to talk to cab drivers for some reason. Even if they don’t speak English. Our guy, Jon, spoke very limited English. George started telling him how he wanted a cab designed like a Star Trek ship that he could say “Beam me up Scotty” and would be transported to the cruise ship. He asked Jon if that was going to happen in Copenhagen, and Jon just smiled and laughed a bit nervously. George carried on the entire way, so joyful that he was off that damned bike and not walking any longer. He tipped the guy so much money that Jon kept nodding his thanks with big smiles and waved hugely when he drove away. Have to love those tired tourists, even if they never stop talking.
As you can imagine, we all took naps when we got back to the ship. A quiet dinner and George and I relaxed. Ellie took off his Conrad, our young friend from England and had a great time running all over the trip with some teens from Spain and England. Tomorrow is another day at sea. We rest up for a two day visit to Stockholm. Vikings are next!