Rhapsody in Copenhagen

Danish butter, danish bread, and australian yeast-based spread. It's a beautiful merge of cultures - somehow the vegemite tastes better than usual.

With breakfast dealt with, I investigate the hostel's shower. However, when I go to turn the hot tap to check the water temperature I notice there isn't one...

I should take a moment here to touch on an idea that has intrigued me for some time now. It relates to the coupling of temperature and water flow in a standard hot/cold tap shower setup. That is, if you want a hotter shower, you must increase the flow of hot water or decrease the flow of cold. It's probably the programmer in me - coupling is a dirty word in good software design - but it always struck me that it would be convenient to seperate the two instead have one tap controlling water flow and another controlling the temperature. I'm no expert on hydraulics, but it seems like it shouldn't be a huge engineering feat either.

Anyway, it takes me a moment to understand that the taps I'm staring at are a realisation of that exact idea. Suddenly my clothes are all over the floor and I'm really exicted about this shower - the water is warm so I'm in. Unfortunately the hot water runs out after about 30 seconds, but the idea is sound damnit! The cold shower serves to calm me down at least.

There's no lockers at this hostel, but another tip Twan gave me is that reception will hold my laptop for me to keep it safe. I took the advice last night, which backfires on me now as my laptop is locked away and reception is nowhere to be seen. Their advertised hours are pretty inconvenient (open between 10:00-12:00 and 15:00-20:00), and innaccurate - this morning there is a notice on the whiteboard that they're starting at 11:00, but it's about 11:30 and many doorknocks later before someone finally wakes up and I get my laptop. Probably should have done something useful with my morning rather than wait, but I wanted to check up on a couple of things - I know the software I'm using on my web server and blog are due for some significant updates, and I want to look for other parkour parks around Copenhagen. I'm sure I've seen footage of people training in an area labelled Copenhagen which was very different to the park I found.

My hunch proves to be right. There's very little information available on any english sites, but searching in .dk I eventually manage to find a location for Street Movement park (yesterday's was "Plug 'n Play Parkour Park"), as well as information on a Street Movement camp starting tomorrow! I can't believe my timing, but it's getting tedious finding all this stuff via translation so I find a contact for Mikkel, one of the Street Movement organisers and shoot him an email. Halfway through composing it I realise I should avoid getting too excited because the camp is probably aimed at younger kids/beginners, so I word it in such a way to give me an excuse to visit anyway and hope Mikkel is fluent in english.

In the afternoon I head back to Christania - Twan tells me it's very different in daytime, with market stalls and the like all set up. It's also supposed to be the cheap part of town, and I'm in the market for a warmer coat as my current wardrobe is less than effective verse Copenhagen's windchill.

It is indeed different in the light, you can see all the greenery and wildlife which is what I spend most of my time looking at - I'm still a little apprehensive regarding confrontations. I stumble upon one patch of dirt, something like 1.5m by 0.5m where some low bushes are growing. This is notable because, hopping around in the bushes and on the ground are about two dozen small birds! I'm thinking I must get a picture of this for Manda, so I pull out my video camera...

Congratulations to anyone who has guessed what happened next at this point. Suddenly there's a guy in my face - "What the fuck are you doing?!". Apparently the vendors are a little camera shy, can't imagine why. Anyway, the commotion attracts the attention of another guy on the other side of me who walks over. I take a moment to try and explain that I'm photographing the birds, during which my mind makes the connections required to understand what they're in my face about and I become very apologetic. The first guy is still telling me to erase everything, but I show him what's on my camera and manage to convince him that he had stopped me before I got anything (truth). They were pretty understanding about it, recognised me for the ignorant tourist I was. I quickly found a coat and went on my way.

In retrospect I should have bought the guys each a beer for being cool (doh!). Oh well, I get back to the hostel to find a reply from Mikkel (woohoo!). The camp is indeed aimed at the younger crowd (doh!) but he welcomes me to visit (woohoo!). The park is an hour out of Copenhagen in Slagelse (doh!), but there's a train+bus that get me there (woohoo!). I check the map and the road layout is confusing as hell (doh!), so I figure I'll just wing it (... woohoo?).

Next morning that vegimite is still exceptionally good. I'm starting to wonder whether something they put in the butter is setting it off, should have taken more notice but I don't think there was an english word on the container anyway. I don't even know if it was butter.

I've been told there are convenient buses into the city center just by the hostel, so I decide to see how they compare to my metro route. I invoke the famous bus selection algorithm commonly known as "hey look, there's a bus - catch it!", which fails me completely and I end up further west than north. At least now I'm on my information centre map though - I get off and walk to the metro.

I check timetables for Slagelse, and after messing around on the bus it feels like it is going to be a huge rush trying to get there today so, now armed with salient information I postpone the trip until tomorrow and take a walk around Copenhagen. There's plenty of walking to be done too - the city is home to one of the longest pedestrian malls in the world. Unfortunately Copenhagen is quite expensive, so my perusal results in very few purchases. I'm still feeling that windchill so I get some overpriced gloves as a bit of an experiment - never really worn gloves. However, the purchase that really makes my day is a cheap simple umbrella. Not that I'm worried about rain, but I've been feeling the urge to twirl a staff or a sword, to which the umbrella is a reasonable approximation.

The rest of the day consists of all you can eat pizza (for old time's sakes), Ripley's Believe it or not museum and icecream purchased purely for the name - the danes have a brand of icecream called Valhalla, with each flavour named after a norse god. I of course bought Freya, the finest of the flavours.

I also got some blueberries to go with it, and the resulting mix is consumed from the tub, with chopsticks. Not actually my preferred method, but all the cutlery is in the kitchen, which is locked and the key kept in reception, which as previously mentioned is difficult to contact. At least it gives me an opportunity to practice using chopsticks whilst wearing gloves :)

The next morning most of my dorm is woken by some ridiculously loud snoring from some poor fellow who sounds as though he has more phlegm than air in his esophagus. I am no exception, but I slept well and it just serves as a bit of extra motivation to get out of bed and start making my way to Slagelse.

Unfortunately I chose a bad day for it, the morning is overcast and before long it begins to rain. No worries though, I have an umbrella!

The train trip is uneventful, and the Slagelse bus system is conquered after some minor confusion. However when I arrive, I discover that Gerlev Idrætshøjskole is quite a large property, and I have no idea where to find the parkour guys. I wander at random and stumble across all sorts of carnival type games set up - stacks of tin cans with a supply of balls nearby, a few variations on ten pin bowling, a croquet field... I have no idea what I've just walked into.

So I keep walking and just around the corner I encounter the Street Movement park! However, it is empty! I figure that makes sense, they're not going to put new trainees on wet slippery concrete. So I start looking inside, and the first building I try is a gymnasium containing... a bunch of kids drilling pakour moves! I don't want to interrupt the classes so I entertain myself (and occasionally the students) by doing some stretches in the middle of the gym.

Eventually the classes finish and one of the instructors comes over to talk to me. I explain that I've come to get some video of the Street Movement park, and he gently tries to tell me that no one is allowed in the park by themselves unless they are well trusted. Whatevs, I have no intention of killing myself by trying something ridiculous in the current weather. I figure Mikkel will be more understanding since he's actually expetcing me, and I'm right - once I get his attention he says sure take some footage, but stay safe. They're about to break for lunch and he gives me directions to the food hall, so I thank him and head to the park.

After some brief videos I meet them for some food, and during our conversation everything falls into place. Gerlev Idrætshøjskole is a boarding school, which specialises in sports and performing arts. I manage to prepare my sandwich, but before I begin eating it Mikkel informs me they have to get back to classes, and I should probably clear out of the dining area because another group is scheduled for food now. No worries, I head outside so I can drop my crumbs on the grass, and have a bit of a wander which is all the more amusing now that I understand I'm walking about a school ground completely unauthorised and unchallenged.

And what should I discover along the way? A large open room, devoid of life but sporting a grand piano in the corner of the room. OK so it has only been like 11 days since I left Australia and the synth in my apartment (wow this blog goes slow), but I have been missing it dearly and relish the opportunity to get some practice in.

That about sums up my Slagelse exploration. I would have loved to really spend some time in the Street Movement park, but not in that weather. I have a hit of croquet and try some stilts before departing, and do a bit more exploring when I get back to Copenhagen. I'm exhausted before long - I can tell because I take a wrong turn and end up walking in circles. I do at least find a medieval fair which is just closing up for the day - something to check out tomorrow.

So I head back to the hostel to chill out for a little and get some sleep, only to find it has been invaded by about a dozen new backpackers who appear to be travelling together. Ack, there goes my peace. Soon Twan invites me to the back room - he has been doing some work for the hostel to pay his way and may as well be staff at this point. So I head back there to find another piano, several guitars and a pool table. Ack, there goes my sleep.

Eventually I make it to bed. Next morning I head into the city centre for a Segway tour. I saw these guys riding around the day I landed and I've always been curious about Segways so I thought it was worth checking out, despite the fact it felt backwards touring a city on my second last day.

Anyway, they're pretty neat. For those not familiar with the contraptions, a Segway gives you a platform to stand on with handlebars sticking out of it. Sort of like a scooter (not the motorbike kind, damn ambiguous terms) but wide instead of long. To accelerate/decelerate you lean forward, and to turn you rotate the handlebars. Didn't take long for everyone to pick it up and off we went. Top speed was around 20km/hr if I recall correctly.

Riding a segway reminded me a lot of standing up in a train without holding onto any supports. This is of course something I have plenty of practice at, but if I have my legs in the wrong position I find my right knee starts to ache terribly. The same is true of standing on a segway, except that I couldn't find a comfortable position at all.

We stopped by the Amalienborg Palace for a time to watch the changing of the guards. Well, we watched the new guards march in wearing their epic afro hats, then left when they stood to attention - apparently they just stand still for ten minutes before proceeding. We were a little early and had to wait awhile before they marched in. I passed the time on the segway alternating between tooling around on one leg and spinning on the spot - many rotations were achieved.

The tour wrapped up shortly after that, and I headed toward the medieval fair. There was some cool stuff there but unfortunately still quite expensive. Still fun to see folk riding around on horses in full chainmail and the like though.

Funny thing happened after I left - I sat down on a bench outside the fair for a break and to decide where I'm headed next. There's a woman walking past posing in front of her husband/boyfriend for photos. She comes over to the bench and kind of shuffles around a few metres away. I figure she's wants the medieval fair in the background, so I ask if she'd like me to move. Not sure I caught what she said properly, but it sounded pretty affirmative so I grab my bag and make to move away and get out of the shot. She doesn't like that though, "No, I want a photo with you!". Me, with my awesome hat and overgrown beard and silly scarf and umbrella toting tendencies. Walking tourist attraction, right?

The tour guide rated Tivoli gardens highly. I'm not a big amusement ride fan, but I decide to check it out anyway. Admission is pretty reasonably priced (for Copenhagen), and the atmosphere is generally nice, though very crowded. I find a place that isn't crawling with people and sit down next to a staircase to enjoy an orange, only to be ushered off by security before I get the skin off. So that's why no one is there, unfriendly git.

At this point I'm getting a little tired, and unfortunately start feeling like I'm just a pawn to the Copenhagen tourism committee. You know, visiting the officially sanctioned areasand paying their tourist taxes, when ultimately I don't even really care for famous sites. I think I don't make a very good tourist. Yesterday was much more fun, when I was doing something of my own design.

Anyway, that kind of killed my enjoyment of the gardens. I was cheered a little by all the kids around enjoying themselves, and especially their reaction to me (all smiles, thankfully my sour mood didn't manage to scare any of them). I depart Tivoli determined not to return to the city centre, and to dedicate my final day to training, in accordance with the prophecy my original plan.

And so it went.