Saturday, August 18, 2012

Denmark diary - day 5

Today we started by filling in some of the gaps in our exhaustive mapping of central Copenhagen, including exploring more of the grounds around Rosenborg Slot, and then having a snack in the same baker as on two previous days - every trip yields some routes you just keep repeating, by accident or design, and this one keeps taking us past that baker. It’s on the same street as the movie theatre where we saw Weekend, and sitting there today we were facing a poster for Take this Waltz, which features a picture of the CN Tower, which we can see from our living room. Spooky! Then we embarked on a walk to Frederiksberg Slot (listed in the “further afield” section of the guide book, a former summer palace. The Pride parade was happening in the vicinity, and the music from that accompanied our entire walk around the grounds - not perhaps the most obvious of soundtracks. It’s a very pleasant area, with lots of shaded paths around mini-lakes, occupied by lots of young families having picnics. We walked only briefly around the outside of the palace itself – it didn’t seem to be attracting a lot of action. Then all of a sudden we came round a bend and we were looking over the wall at an elephant enclosure. We’d known the Copenhagen zoo was in the vicinity, but hadn’t realized it was quite so close. But a free look at elephants is a pretty good way to get you in a zoo frame of mind, so we decided to pay up and go inside.

Zoos are problematic places – the more impressive the animal, the keener the sense of its removal from its natural instincts and rhythms (elephants, which cover many miles a day in the wild, being as good an example as any), but you might wonder if the zoo animals are in some sense taking one for the team, serving as ambassadors of awareness and sympathy in the hope of safeguarding the greater good. That latter train of thought would be more compelling, I guess, if the omens for the greater good were more positive. Compared to Toronto zoo, Copenhagen is much more compact – much more old-fashioned I guess, although it appears it’s being modernized over time – the outside world never feels far away, and you can get incredibly close to the animals. Actually, a man died just last month after jumping into the tiger enclosure and swimming the moat, and I haven’t been so near to a rhino or a lion since we were actually on safari. At various points the animals are also well able to study each other – a giraffe was taking a great interest today in the adjacent hippos – and sometimes they do a great job of creating ambiguity: a polar bear was studying the crowd so intently that you might entirely forget which way round this was supposed to work. Despite all of that, the most popular area by some distance seemed to be the petting zoo, where the kids can run around with goats and suchlike. Anyway, for all its inherent issues, we were entirely entertained there and found it a bit hard to leave.

We walked back by a slightly different route, and as we were approaching the core I saw a former colleague from Toronto, Rick Whiler, coming the other way. This was remarkable because anyone would agree it’s bad luck to run into Rick Whiler even in Toronto, let alone on a completely different continent. I ran after him to check if my luck had really been that bad, and indeed it was – he and his wife are here for a few days before embarking on a cruise. Spooky!

The Pride event had taken over large chunks of the city – we went down one side-street and could hardly move nor hear for all the drinking and celebrating. We switched to a quieter street and made our way back. Today might have been the hottest day so far and we’d been walking almost constantly, so we were pretty exhausted, even without that Whiler encounter depleting the resources we had left. The standards in the hotel are a bit mysterious – the soap dispenser in the shower fell off this morning and we left it lying there assuming it would speak for itself, but it was still lying in the same place when we got back.

We’re always good at getting good walking coverage of the cities we visit, but I think we may have overdone ourselves this time – there seems to be nothing left of note on the main city map. It’s not just that Copenhagen’s fairly small – if anything it covers a larger area than we thought it would – it’s that we’ve really plunged into it. Throughout we’re helped along by being able to make cheap shots at the Danish language, which seems to consist only of very short words and very long ones, and its acronyms – for example, an elegant-looking gallery, full name “School of Drawing,” proudly draws people in with a sign saying “SOD.” It’s in a very nice font though.

We ate tonight at the Lumskebugten restaurant, a slightly out of the way place dating back to 1854 which we’d looked for and failed to find the other night. It was likely our best meal so far – for example I had an appetizer of astoundingly fresh lobster and tomatoes (by their quality confirming Letterman’s recent remark that most tomatoes are manufactured by the same people who make lacrosse equipment). Then we set a new vacation record by having a bottle of wine in the same place for the fourth successive night – dull maybe, but that waterfront location is just perfect. The waiter recognized us by now and remembered our order, and volunteered that while Copenhagen is indeed an energetic city, a lot of it is just powered by drinking. Checking this afterwards, Wikipedia says that Denmark “which has the most lax access to alcohol in Scandinavia, unsurprisingly also has the highest alcohol consumption among teenagers, not only the highest in Scandinavia but also in the world” which bears out what we’ve been seeing. However, it goes on, “the alcohol consumption among teenagers in Denmark is lower than the alcohol consumption of adults in Denmark, which is only average worldwide.” See, you let them burn themselves out early on, and then they’re well-behaved for life!

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