Copenhagen was awesome, although this was at least as much down to catching up with my friend Sam and his lovely son Matthew as the city itself.
The highlight of the trip from Hamburg was without a doubt the novelty of a train that goes on a ferry. Yep, it drives straight along tracks that go right up to, and through, the lower deck of the ferry, alongside trucks and cars also being transported. It was super cool. The train literally just fits in the ferry, everyone gets out for the 45-minute crossing, then you get back on the train and off you go, this time out the front doors.
While we were up on deck, Lauren made a bee line for a woman with a dog, and spent the whole time stroking him – at one point, he actually sat down on top of her. She was delighted.
We arrived midafternoon and Sam put us on the right bus, before cycling along the same route with 7-year-old Matthew, who cycles 5km to school and back every day. Welcome to Denmark, where they do things differently. We didn’t need a ticket on the bus because one local journey is included in train tickets. Cool idea.
After a couple of hours catching up, with the kids downstairs playing in the communal garden of the flats, we got a ‘bus boat’ down to the centre.
The part of Copenhagen we got off the boat at was close to the opera, but was eerily quiet, with the whizzing of bikes but very little traffic. Dark, cold, clean, lots of interesting architecture and open space. A lot of construction going on in what was an industrial area and some land being reclaimed from the sea.
It was cold and drizzly out and there didn’t seem to be a lot of people around. Sam led us to what seemed to be a warehouse of some sort, right on the sea, but inside was full of warmth and people, with a series of pop up stands selling food from Brazil, Cambodia, Morrocco, Germany, Denmark, India etc. Sam had an Ostrich burger, Lauren and I had pulled pork and Matthew had an enormous plate of chicken.
The rest of the evening consisted of mars bar ice creams, kids to bed, then putting the world to rights over a couple of bottles of wine.
Poor Sam had to get Matthew to school by 8, so faced an early and dark bike ride, while I stayed in bed nursing a hangover. After multiple cups of tea and a coffee, we eventually got organized enough to go into town, where we bought Lauren an extra jumper as I’d started to worry I hadn’t packed enough layers for her, visited the botanical gardens where the sudden heat and humidity defeated my hangover and Sam manfully stepped up and climbed the spiral staircases with Lauren while I languished below, then strolled through some lovely shopping streets and a beautiful park.
We clearly didn’t have enough time to get to know the city, but it does seem to be a fairly regulated, quirky, safe and ‘can do’ kind of place. The cycle lanes everywhere clearly keep traffic down, so it can be very quiet for a capital city. There are some lovely green areas. Everything is very clean, buses and boats seem efficient, punctual and cheap. Everyone speaks English without hesitation – there’s not that split second where someone has to switch, people just seem to be able to do it automatically, and there doesn’t seem to be resentment of having to do so. Health and Safety haven’t gone mad as in the UK – its assumed you are not idiotic enough to mess about by the open water at the boat stop (in the UK there would be a chain, warnings etc.), that you won’t stray into cycle lanes, and that you will all obey the rules. Kids seem to take themselves off to school and play out with far less supervision and at a younger age than elsewhere.
After lunch at the university canteen, with a good spread (plenty of vegetables which we sorely needed) but a bewildering payment system, it was time to return to the train station for the start of a big trek north towards where we would get the ferry to the Faroes. It had been lovely to see Sam and Matthew, even for such a short period, and we are hoping they will come visit us in Lisbon next year once we are settled.