When I crept out of the apartment at 3:30 in the morning, the residential streets around me were dark and silent in the night rain. Beyond the squat military-looking apartment complexes I could see only a black void smelling faintly of the sea. I returned the rental car and walked the few blocks to the airport in the cold since the shuttle seemed to be taking quite a long time. The freezing wind and blustery rain reminded me that the temperament of Iceland’s weather can change at a moment’s notice.
Getting through security was a breeze compared to the USA. When traveling through the EU, you don’t need to deal with border crossing stuff so I had plenty of time to kill once I was inside. Next time I really can give myself an hour’s notice to get to the airport. I had failed to notice when I first arrived at KEF airport that they have a giant mural dedicated to the comic book character Silver Sable! My sister and I used to read the comics when we were kids. Technically, Storm from X-Men was always my favorite character. Is Silver Sable Icelandic? More research is needed to confirm.
I slept the whole plane ride to Copenhagen. I awoke to a new language with new symbols for letters. I followed my same routine of getting cash (although EVERYWHERE in Europe takes cards), getting a SIM card, and then headed to the apartment. It took a while to get the Lebara SIM card set up while I was in the airport and still had wifi access, but after that I followed my host Amanda’s instructions and hopped on the M2 Vanløse to Nørreport Station. On the train, I started to see “alternative” looking people like an older man with a cut-off sleeved denim vest and a Volbeat patch on his back. Walking up the stairs to the bus stop for 5C toward Husum Torv, I saw a man with black gauges in his ears and pink and blue hair that looked like straw candy walking onto the train on the opposite platform with a woman. Compared to Iceland, the contrast in diversity of people was very apparent. There seems to be a very large (possibly Turkish?) population here, and as the packed bus drew closer to Nørrebrohallen, 2200 kultur, I saw many food markets, hajib stores, and halal restaurants along with the bicycle shops, Fjallraven Kranken, and cell phone stores.
I had difficulty finding the street where the apartment is because all the street names are marked very small signs on the side of the corner buildings as if not to intrude on the majesty of the Danish architecture. The directions said to look for a red door around the corner from Kiosk Rosa. I did not see this Kiosk Rosa, but after walking back and forth, I finally found the red door. The door had the signs of many hands pushing knobs and banging bicycles against it while fumbling for their keys over the years. I saw the silver button labeled “1tv” and pushed it. The door buzzed allowing me to push through.
The floor creaked as I walked up the old stairs admiring the plaster finish on the walls. Amanda opened the door to greet me on the second floor. She wore a confident smile and a yellow dress. We shook hands politely and she showed me around the apartment. My room has the character of a dwelling fit for a writer escaping to Copenhagen to compose their great novel in the late 1800s, yet with the white walls and furnishings necessary for the modern age. I love the Marconi bulb hanging over my mini table in the room. The bathroom is a trip because it is both a toilet and a shower area all in one with no separate area to bathe. You close the lid of the toilet, take your shower, and be sure to wipe down the wet walls with the blue sham and dry with the white (grey) wall/floor towel. I rather like it. It’s like the bathroom is constantly being cleaned.
After I got settled, I went to the market across the street to buy groceries for lunch/breakfast. The next task was to rent a bicycle since that is the most efficient way to get around the city. In fact, there are bicycle lanes on every street separated by a divider from the cars! They have their own stoplights and most people actually stop at lights like cars do. The part that really astounds me is how lax the riders are about locking up their bicycle. It seems hardly anyone does it! People literally just park it wherever and it is not a big deal. That would never happen in the Bay Area because it would immediately get stolen.
I ended up renting a bike from a shop a block or two from the apartment. The owner wanted me to leave my ID for the rental, which I was very skeptical of. In the end, he simply took a picture of it and I paid him 200 krone for the two days. Later I realized I might have gotten ripped off because though I got a lock, I did not get lights and there was a sign that said “Lejandir 50” outside, which I believe “lej” means “rent.” So was it supposed to be 50 kr a day? I probably got overcharged because of the ID debacle, which apparently is more common than I thought. So it goes…
After getting settled, I went for a ride on the new-used black beach cruiser with gold leaf. The apartment sits right next to a square where skateboarders hang out. There are big red circle swings that multiple people can sit in like what they used to have in the playground at Golden Gate Park when I was a kid. You can see this “square” (which turned out to be called Superkilen Park) from the roof terrace of the apartment complex. The cute patio overlooks the neighborhood from the roof and if I knew parkour this would be the perfect city for it.
I biked around past another skate park where a cameraman was shooting a skater with a very professional looking camera. I also passed a gazebo that had red and white stripes like a candy cane. It could have been a set piece from the Candy Land board game. Eventually I came back to the park to write until it was time to head to Fredericksburg to meet up with another female sound engineer, Malle, that I had met through a coworker. When I told my coworker about my trip, he suggested that I get in touch with her to hang out. She was a member of the global female audio engineer group that I was also a part of and we had talked a bit online leading up to the trip. We made plans to meet at Café Dryehaven then go to her friend’s concert.
I got a bit turned around trying to navigate to the café, but it didn’t matter because I loved riding through the different neighborhoods gazing at the buildings with ironwork and neatly set windows. I passed by cute shops like a vintage store called McVintage or a bar called “All You Need Is Love…And Tubers.” People sat drinking beer at picnic tables on a divider in the middle of the road and bicycles lay scattered about in squadrons. The café stood on the other side of that. It had old chandeliers, taxidermy animals, and free copies of Vice magazine. I ordered a flat white and sat outside on a folding metal table flipping through a Danish music magazine. One of the pages showcased the winner of a local DIY music photography contest: a sweaty concert where the frontman leaned into a crowd of hands lifting up a man with black gauges and blue and pink hair like straw candy…I blinked twice. I couldn’t believe it. It was the man from the metro station. The world grows ever smaller.
Malle was running a few minutes late, but when we met we instantly got along fabulously. A tiny, charismatic woman, she had endless stories to tell. We went straight to her friend’s concert since it was starting soon. The concert took place on a little pop-up stage on a cobble-stoned street with the most road-weathered d&b Q system I had ever seen. Her friends’ band TJ & The Reason To Live was actually quite good. Louie would have called it “music to do heroine to,” but I am a sucker for shoe-gaze rock. In the audience I observed the people around me as painters inspect the figures they are about to draw. I saw a girl with streaming red hair and an Agalloch patch and a man with mutton chops wearing a Front Line Assembly hoodie who I could have sworn I’d seen before as one of their techs. Malle introduced me to her friend who worked as the floor manager at one of the local venues. She told me upon my inquiry that all the venues in Copenhagen are independently owned. I had asked if they had big corporate promoters like we have in the States. She mentioned that some of the big festivals were getting bought out such corporate entities, which especially hurts the smaller indie-owned festivals in the countryside because they can’t compete.
Malle took me to eat a Danish “delicacy” which was a pork burger with cabbage and pickles with a side of Chocio chocolate milk. I was so hungry that I gobbled it up. We ended up sitting outside that fast food joint talking for hours and hours. Have you ever sat down and just listened to someone as they unveil their story to you? I don’t know if it is because some people are born storytellers, or that I am completely fascinated by each world that we all live in yet can’t fully share with each other, but I love to hear people tell me about their lives. I sit there and imagine every character like I am reading a book, but the preciousness of it being someone else’s reality adds another dimension to it, like peeking into the door to another world.
We ended up at a rock bar called Simplet V and I could only have one beer because everyone was smoking inside and I wasn’t sure how my Airbnb host would feel about me reeking of smoke when I came home. I wasn’t sure of her policy on coming home late so I decided to head home and call it a night. Danes sure know how to party: while biking back at 1 in the morning there were buses of people blasting techno with men leaning drunkenly out the side window. Malle had said that it was a trend in Denmark. Part of me really wanted to stay up and rage, but I wanted to get up early the next day and make the most of my time. I got lost again on the way home, but fortunately a man with rainbow space leggings pointed me in the direction of Norrebruten. Ah Copenhagen…