Scandinavia Pt2 – Copenhagen
So, I already posted about the Northern Lights, but didn’t actually write about the rest of our Scandinavia trip. Well, I guess I should!
We arrived in Copenhagen in business class on Gulf Air. Now, sadly Gulf Air have since stopped flying to Copenhagen, which is unfortunate for our Danish friends, since they had the best connection, so we were lucky to get these seats. And business class on this flight was what would be called first class on any other – the seats were fully reclining into beds, and the ‘blankets’ were warm, snuggly duvets. I was very happy! We landed at about 8am, and through the enormous windows in the Arrivals Hall, we were treated to an awesome blizzard. One with thick, furry snowflakes the size of marbles, beautifully lit up against a still black sky.
Once through Arrivals, we sorted tickets for the local transport. For about 12 Euros, we purchased tickets which covered the bus, tram and local rail throughout most areas of Copenhagen. And the airport staff were great. AS we were looking blankly at the ticket machine, some guy in uniform came up, asked us how he could help, and explained the best sort of ticket for us. If this were Liverpool John Lennon, the staff would simply look at you as if to ask “What the F do you think I am, an employee who wants to help you or something, la?” it was so pleasant! So, off to Copenhagen Central (or Kobenhavn H, if we’re going to be local) to dump our rucksacks. There we found the ticket office, and asked for a Eurail Ticket for Scandinavia. This was too much for the first lady, who immediately made us swap with the customer at the desk next to us, where we spoke to Jan. Now, Jan was amazing. he walked us through timetables, best tickets (since we’re non-resident, we got a really good price on the Eurail card) and booked the first egs of our journey for us. We had to go second class, as you can’t get discount First Class tickets, but for a booking fee of about 50 extra euro, he snagged us a sleeper car for the overnight leg from Stockholm to Boden, where we would have to change for the Narvik train. Anyway, more about that later.
Having found a cash machine, we dumped our rucksacks at left luggage and took the Metro to Christianshavn, the nearest stop to Christiania. But first, we went for a cold walk around the harbour fronts, wondering how the hell they managed to squeeze boats with a 6 foot beam between posts which were about 6 feet and two inches apart. And it was freezing. The Arctic wind was ripping right through my jeans. We took refuge in a coffee shop and ordered a hot chocolate which was only luke warm by the time it got to our table. Marc paid when I went to the loo, and when I came back, the waitress had disappeared into the freezing depths with our money. Whilst waiting for her to get change, we had time to calculate the value of the note we had just handed over. Turns out we were paying for the two hot chocolates with a 150 euro note. That really was our first indication of how expensive Scandinavia was going to be.
So, having looked at the map by now, we made it to Christiania with no more to do. Ever since learning about this free town through Weeds (that’s an American comedy series about a cool mum who deals soft drugs, for the uninitiated amongst you) I had wanted to see it for myself. It wasn’t anything like reality, of course! I think the show was probably filmed in NeuHavn, which is a misnoma, since it’s really the oldest harbour there. Although I imagine it was new when it was built! So, basically Christiania is a Hippy Camp, which is based on a disused military base. They live by their own rules (which include the obvious, like No Hard Drugs, No Guns, No Leads for the Dogs, No Running (since it causes panic), and No Photographs (since soft drugs are still apparently illegal in the EU!!! They also live by their own community pot – they don’t pay taxes to the govt, so the govt doesn’t build their roads. Consequently there are a lot of cobbles and gravel paths. I found the best Chandlery ever there – and they recycle everything. I could go on forever, but then again, you could just look it up on Wikitravel.
Once we’d had enough of the freezing cold, we jumped on a bus, and rode it all the way to the end of the line. Jumped off, had a smoke, jumped back on and rode back again to KobenhavnH, picked up our rucksacks, then went to find our host for the weekend. Niels was well cool. He is the first Couchsurfer we have stayed with who wasn’t actually running a guesthouse, but was a real host! Check him out here: Couchsurfing – Niels.
Since he had no food in, we took him out, through the freezing cold for a pizza, in what was a bloody good pizza parlour. And the walk wasn’t so bad this time, since we’re fast learners, and put our thermal drysuit undergarments on under our jeans this time! He was very, very concerned that we weren’t prepared enough to be wandering into the Arctic Circle in the Middle of Winter. Most Scandivaians don’t do that sort of thing, and he obviously thought we were crazy. I think it might have been Marc’s Crocs that did it. If most people don’t go to the Arctic in Winter, I suspect NOBODY ever did it in Crocs before. I’d contact the Guinness Book of Records, but since we took no photos, we have no proof. But seriously – Marc did the entire trip in his Crocs.
So anyway, when we got back to the apartment, Niels kindly loaded up the weather forecast for us, and then warned us that it was forecast to drop to -20C in Kiruna on Tuesday. No problem,I thought, since if we stuck to our itinerary, we’d be leaving Kiruna on Monday. More about that later! He also looked up the Ice Hotel, and the Aurora Borealis, and the Saltstraumen, and then conceded that it would be an awesome experience for my 40th birthday. On the assumption we didn’t freeze to death as part of the experience! Niels was awesome! So, we invited ourselves back for the foolowing weekend, and were glad that Niels graciously accepted. I suspect he was curious to see if we made it around alive! Oh, and his bed was awesome! Snuggly, wuggly, a great start to a great trip. I really must remember to go and write him a reference!