Copenhagen, Denmark

Postcard dated: 11 May 2007

[Postcard/Picture]

On the reverse of the postcard...

Greetings! Hello from Copenhagen, the final trip sponsored by the Lafayette-IUB exchange program. This trip was a weekend in the Scandinavian country of Denmark, in the country’s largest port city. We began with a tour through the canals of the city, which resemble those of Amsterdam: old densely packed maritime-architecture houses providing color to the sides of canals lined with personal boats. Boats are quite a popular form of transportation here, more popular than automobiles. Cars are considered a luxury and carry a 188% tax, but bicycles outnumber citizens of this flat country 2 to 1. We took advantage of this bicycle culture (and free city-sponsored bike rentals) to explore by pedal on Saturday afternoon.

Our city explorations began in the “New” Harbor [pictured]. “New” by European definitions means it was built in the 1600s! This is where Hans Christian Anderson lived and wrote novels and fairy tales, which are now the second-most translated works worldwide. Later, I took a “Flying Trunk” ride through these fairy tales, similar to the “It’s A Small World” attraction at Disney.

We then saw the stock exchange, with its spire of four intertwining dragons’ tails. The three crowns at the top (where the dragons’ tails meet) represent the former union between Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. Since then, Denmark and Sweden have split and battled several times over land and ocean territory, but now they are in partnership again as part of the peace-building EU. A recently opened engineering marvel of a bridge now connects the two nations.

After visiting the Little Mermaid (one of the most photographed ladies in the world), we saw the largest fountain in Denmark – a quite elaborate structure crowned by a woman driving a team of bulls behind a wagon. Mist coming from the bulls’ nostrils and water spraying up from behind the wagon wheels were just a couple of many details in the watery scene. We then walked to the royal palace to see the changing of the guards. In the center of the palace square is a large statue of a king on a horse – supposed to be one of the best in the world- and certainly one of the most expensive. With all the architect’s expenses, the statue itself cost ten times what each of the four palaces around it cost! I don’t remember which king it depicts, but I am half-sure of his name. Every king of Denmark since 1500 or so has been named “Frederick Christian” or “Christian Frederick,” with only the numbers changing. The current king breaks that pattern because she’s actually a queen, who has no real power in law but is highly respected and adored by the Danish people. She’s the “mother” of the country, and her people generally listen.

Christiana

One King Christian, who wanted to increase the strength of the port in the city, added a new harbor with his name. It was used for trade and military barracks, but after the army moved out the hippies moved in. They occupied the area and declared it a free state, where they made their own community rules and paid no rent or taxes. After various clashes with police, the Danish government eventually let it be as a “social experiment,” which is what it remains today. It was interesting to walk through this last commune of the 1970’s “peace and love” dream. People live in quite a simple way, relying on the community and supporting strong bonds between one another. Generalized trust is high, and people greeted one another as good friends and neighbors. Though we were strangers, we were still well-received and greeted by everybody we passed. Art is more common than modern technology in Christiana, with murals on interior and exterior walls wherever there’s extra room.

Animals in Christiana seemed to be given an almost human status in the community, coming and going as they pleased. One of the funniest illustrations of this was when I went into one little grocery store, and saw a small dog in there who had just come in and was looking around. There was a selection of dog food –one of the cans even had his picture on it. I half expected the dog to pick it up, bark a few times (paying for it in smiles, as in Debbie’s dream society) and walk out. After looking around for a short while, he walked out of the store and headed down the street.

After Christiana, we visited the main square and found an few South American Indians performing music and dance – quite well! It has been a while since I’ve heard that music, and it was quite nice to hear again. After some more exploration, I visited an old-fashioned, famous amusement park called Tivoli. I had good timing in coming upon a big band playing in the park, followed by a pantomime theatre show featuring all the classic characters depicted in old park art. It was accompanied by a live orchestra and done almost completely in mime, avoiding any language barrier. As soon as I left the end of that performance, I found a marching-band parade passing through the park.

That evening, I saw Tivoli Illuminations: a night show of dancing fountains accompanied by colored lighting and laser synchronized with music, the only attraction of its kind in Scandinavia. The last exhibit of the evening was an excellent fireworks show from the roof of the main concert hall.

Our final stop was a visit to Køge, a little port on the Baltic sea. There was a marina with a bunch of small boats, and a rocky outcropping to climb out on and sit out on the blue-green sea. From the ferry and the bus back to Bremen, our “energy future” was quite visible: large fields of yellow flowers (used for biomass fuels), dotted with windmills and solar-powered farmhouses.

This trip’s accommodations were the best of the semester. Both mornings there, we enjoyed breakfast with a view over the city. Our tour guide was a Dane who knew a good deal about the city and the national culture. The cultural information she told us was significantly more interesting after this semester’s Sociology coursework, and I predict my travel experiences this semester and summer will continue to get more interesting when I continue in the field this fall.

This e-postcard was sent at the same speed as normal mail to allow for completion of term papers. I hope to write again soon!

Grace and peace,

Ben

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