Denmark & Sweden

Just like Ecuador and Colombia, I put Sweden in the same blog post with Denmark because I was only there for a few hours, haha, and it is right near by (a train ride away!) But I am still went anyhow. Someday I will go and stay longer (just like every other country I’ve been to) because I have Swedish ancestry, I liked it, and it is one of the most progressive countries in many ways from what I understand. My grandmother had Swedish ancestry and I believe my great, great grandparents immigrated were from Sweden from my understanding. I have seen a picture of them but I don’t know much more about them.

I was lucky because in Denmark I got to stay with a girl I knew from high school. We reconnected during a happenstance meeting at Target (lol), hung out over dinner (which was funny as we also hung out over dinner the last time I saw her). At least that is how I remember it. Her brother and I also used to hang out and we sort of had a thing for eachother. This girl and I were never exactly good friends, but we sort of ran in the same circles and she had mentioned that she wished we had been better friends, which was super sweet. We kept in touch through emails off and on and I learned about her awesome and very interesting art career which she has managed to pursue all over Europe. She’s quite fascinating really, and like my friend S, someone whose life I hope to emulate: living in Europe, pursuing the arts, having an apartment in a nice area that I share with a partner). Someday.

I don’t remember exactly when/how she invited me, but through correspondence I learned that she was living in Copenhagen, Denmark and when I decided to visit Europe again I told her and she invited me to stay at her apartment with her husband. I was really grateful for this as accommodation in Europe is expensive and she helped me learn the ropes. She didn’t come to greet me at the airport which was a little disappointing, but then again I guess it wasn’t all her responsibility. It was a bit confusing to get to her place, but the Danes I learned are quite friendly, helpful people and a nice Danish man helped me find her place. Along the way we had quite an interesting conversation as I noticed that the neighborhood had a lot of Muslims. This was surprising to me as while I had heard about this, I hadn’t really witnessed it or knew to what extent it was occurring.

(Disclaimer/rant/ while I know that not all Muslims, just like everyone else, are bad, and I do know some great ones, Muslim culture is vastly different than that of the West and Scandinavian countries and this is causing a lot of strife in Europe. It is quite intimidating and even scary to be in a European country where there are so many Muslim immigrants, as it doesn’t even feel like a European country anymore. The culture changes frankly when there is a large influx of immigrants, and women’s rights, health and democracy are at risk of being destroyed. If you don’t believe this is true you need to do more research on what is happening in Europe. While I plan to visit many more Muslim countries, when you go there you must abide by their culture and their rules, but it seems that they don’t do this if/when they immigrate to a Western nation).

Anyhow, I made it to my friends house and along the way on the bus from the airport I got to see the unique and quaint architecture of Denmark, which I would find out is similar to that of Sweden. I guess this is a Scandinavian thing? Guess I’ll found out when I hopefully visit more of Sweden and Norway.

Denmark was the first European country I visited on my itinerary and I had never been before. It makes me sad that while I partially grew up in Europe there was so much of it that I never saw. I spent most of my time in the UK and visited France once. Sad.

But I really liked what I saw of Denmark, and that being Copenhagen. Like most of the other countries I have been to I hope to come again and see more of it. Copenhagen is a bicycle heavy city just like the cities in the Netherlands I visited (where I went next). I found this both novel and annoying as being near so many cyclists makes me nervous. I felt rather crowded and like I would get run-over or bump into one of them. But this is the most popular modes of transportation in Europe so if I ever want to live in one of these countries I’ll have to get used to it.

As far as transportation beyond bicycles I enjoyed taking the trams and busses. There was little to no hassle as far as I remember, and I managed to take the tram from the Copenhagen airport to Lund Sweden as per the advice of my friend. She had even written out a little guide that she had also given to her family when they came. I don’t remember if I used it but I followed a lot of the advice she gave me. We didn’t end up spending that much time together because she had work and things to do and I was exploring the city, but she did invite me to a very interesting and unique philosophy/art group on a rooftop where I watched a sort of experimental art video and participated in a group discussion on philosophy. Very European and sophisticated if I do say so. Something I would very much like to do more often. I met some very fascinating people, including one young man who reminded me of Vincent Van Gogh. He was even an artist and told me he suffered from Schizophrenia. We are now friends on Facebook. I also had a conversation with a guy whose name I can’t remember, but he was quite easy to talk to and personable. This seemed to be how some of the other Danes I met were.

One of the first days I was there I visited the cemetery where Hans Christian Anderson was buried. This was one of the main attractions I wanted to see and I was so glad I did. The cemetery was beautiful and amazing. I felt a presence there that I haven’t felt very often, almost as if the spirit of Hans Christian Anderson was still there. I have an affinity for him as like me, he was a writer who endured hardship and bullying because he was different. There are many more parallels to his story and mine, but I don’t want to go into all of them here. Seeing his grave was magical. Along the way I witnessed some type of protest which I believe had to do with LGBT issues but I wasn’t sure as of course I don’t read Danish. Interesting nonetheless.

Another attraction I had been wanting to see since I heard about it was Freetown Christiania. Its hard to describe what it is because it’s not exactly what it used to be and I pretty much could tell that when I got there. It used to be some kind of independent hippie commune full of artists and squatters (from what I gathered), but now it has turned into sort of a gentrified tourist trap that includes a beer garden and lots of t-shirts bearing the name. I didn’t see much in the way of squatting and hippies and artists. I mean there were artists selling jewelry and things (one of whom happened to be Afghan and with whom I had a very interesting conversation with about Afghanistan and the UN; he told me they were a bad organization that he very much disliked and that wasn’t doing any good which I found eye-opening). But there were also lots of tourists and families with kids which I found odd.The place reeked of marijuana but I couldn’t find out how to buy any. There was a heavy rastafarian/Bob Marley vibe which while I always appreciate, is a little too stereotypical and mainstream in hippiedom and I’d rather see some other artists/cultures represented.

One of the most interesting things about Christiania was that there was no clear way how to get there- one person told me one way, another, well, another and on and on. I ended up finding my way there through what felt like a forest down an earthen stairway which eventually led me straight into a beer garden. I was really hoping to find a really unique cultural experience and meet lots of interesting people but it really seemed to have lost all the flavor it was renown for. I had wanted to go there the moment I read about it, being a huge non-conformist and hippie that I am, but the Christiania I saw was not that at all. Disappointing.

I think my Denmark trip lasted about three or four days, one of which as I mentioned before consisted of me taking a tram to Sweden. I only spent a few hours there but I loved it. I bought a sweater and checked out some of the nooks and crannies of Lundt. I tried speaking Swedish to someone but I don’t think they understood and they just responded to me in English, haha, which sort of made me sad as I had spoken the same phrases to another Swede I met before arriving in Denmark and he said my pronunciation was good.

Some other interesting experiences I had in Denmark were frequenting the 7-11’s that seemed to be on every corner. Yep! Good ‘ole 7-11. But these aren’t the trashy US 7-11’s where loiterers hang out and where they sell 2$ hotdogs- oh now. These 7-11’s were DANISH 7-11’s and they were classy and cool as hell. They sold a large variety of healthy beverages as well as what I refer to as “entertainment beverages”- unhealthy, just for the taste, etc. (ff you know me you know I always love to see all the unique things there is drink in each country I visit-every place seems to have their own interpretation of what a beverage is.) They also had paleo food and lots of chocolate and even toiletries from what I remember. They were clean and I managed to get directions from one of the people working in one of them.

In addition to the 7-11’s there were a LOT of candy stores- mostly owned by Muslims from what I could tell. I didn’t really get the candy store thing, but I suppose it is similar to that of the Asian nail salon phenomenon- they are businesses that don’t necessarily require a lot of technical knowledge, English skills (at least not from most of the workers) or training and they attract a lot of business. Also these types of places I bet are very easy to open up, more so than a law or medical practice and many immigrants I would think want a business that makes money but isn’t too difficult to maintain. I also think that given the nature of these businesses there isn’t a lot of oversight into them it seems (at least the candy stores) and illegal immigrants can find work in them if they know the owner or speak the owner’s language. This seemed to be the thing with all the convenience stores I visited in New York City. But enough on that.

If you’ll notice in the pics there is some Klimt art (the pictures aren’t that great, sorry), and these aligned the walls of what I remember being called the “Klimt Cafe”- a cafe named after and decorated with the art of Gustav Klimt and where I dined one evening This little place was quite a unique find in my opinion.

Included below among the pictures as well is that of a street where at the end is a giant glass building. I think it was some kind of shop. The architecture was rather interesting, but the reason that it stuck out to me was, no joke, I had a dream about a place that looked exactly like it. Its not the first time I have dreamt about a place and then seen it, but this is a rather rare occurrence and given that it happened in a foreign country I had never been before was rather fascinating. I only remember having it happen in the US. I am certain it will happen again, but who knows when and where. I just would like to know the meaning behind it. Maybe its just that little bit of ESP I have that I haven’t developed enough.

Jumping back to another subject I mentioned earlier- while hanging at my friend’s apartment we got into the subject of migrants and Muslims. I had always thought of my friend as being the progressive type, but she admitted that seeing a woman in a full-on burqa offended her. While I would like to don a Burqa for the experience of it and to see what it is like to hide in a sense in plain sight, I have found myself rather offended and taken back at the sight myself. I guess I am a hypocrite in a way, but it was good to know that I am not the only woman who understands that in one way a burqa is rather offensive and a blatant display of female oppression.

On a different note, getting out of Denmark was a bit stressful and dramatic. The tram that I had to take to Copenhagen airport broke down because of an issue with a door. I was already worried I was going to miss my flight to the Netherlands, so this happening was really frustrating. But everyone on the train exited onto the street, and on my way up in the elevator I managed to band together with two Norwegian girls who were also trying to get to the airport. There were super nice and paid for the cab! I made my flight but ran like a crazy woman all through the airport.

That sums up my Danish experience, now I am off to email my friend to see what she is up to and start my next blog about the Netherlands- my favorite country I visited on this trip.

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