Sunday, 20 May 2007

Copenhagen-Malmo

I’m now on a train from Malmo to Gothenburg in Sweden. The high-speed trains here have internet access which is VERY nice. Especially since I’ve had a hell of a time getting access to internet the last few days. Copenhagen was fun, it’s a lot more cosmopolitcan than I would have imagined. The town hall square is just packed full of neon lights, kind of like Times Square as a medieval centre. I hit all the requisite sites, including the little mermaid statue, which yes, is very small.

Here are some things that there are a lot of in Copenhagen:

-7/11s
-bicycles
-squares
-Americans

There really were tons of Americans there, you couldn’t shake a stick without hitting one (and not just because they’re so fat). Even beyond just Americans, you hear tons of English there. So much so that there’s no need to ask if someone speaks English before you just start speaking, as opposed to France or Germany where that would be rude and somewhat presumptuous (I did ask the Danes I met if they were ok with that). 7/11 seems to have taken over all of Scandinavia, it’s almost eery. Literally there’s one on every corner.

I went to Christiania, the barracks that hippies took over years ago and have since been granted some sort of murky legal status around it. It seems like the Little Mermaid and Christiania are the two most-oftened mentioned things about Copenhagen. Yet it was interesting because Christiania wasn’t even marked on the map, and I had to ask people to find out where it was. I imagine it’s not something the tourist board in Denmark wants to heavily promote, since for years it was known as a section of lawlessness where the police didn’t enter so you could buy weed out in the light of day. But apparently the new right-wing government in Denmark cracked down and started arresting people for selling drugs and there have been all these riots about it. Indeed, when I was walking around Christiania the overwhelming impression I got was that everyone there was just really pissed off, moping around and lighting anything they could get their hands on on fire. I went there with this guy who was staying at my hostel and when he went to take a picture of “pusher street,” the street where they used to sell the weed, someone came up and shoved him and told him he couldn’t take pictures. So much for the hippy community of peace and love! Really the place just kind of looked like a big junk yard. The verdict: not impressed.

So yes I did stay in a hostel, even though I vowed after Edinburgh that I wouldn’t be doing that again.I decided to make an exception because it was the only city on my journey that I’m staying at a hostel in, so I figured I could deal with just two days in a hostel within the trip. Plus, this wasn’t any ordinary hostel. This was the largest hostel in Europe. The Danhostel Copenhagen is this huge tower on the water, which has over 1,000 beds. It was pretty interesting, purpose-built in a way that made a lot of sense for a hostel. Each of the 6-bed rooms has a little changing area with lockers ina separate little room before you enter the main room where the beds are, and the bathroom is off of that. So when you come home late at night and stumble in the door, you don’t have to worry about waking the other people up while you get ready for bed (and vice versa of course). But still, it’s just about near impossible for me to get a full night’s sleep in those places, I’m always woken up early with people coming and going. So I think this will be my last one.

Last night I hung out with this guy who I had met in London a few months ago but lives in Copenhagen normally. We were talking about the EU, and it was a really good conversation. He was actually the first European I’ve met who actually wants a unified European state (although we both acknowledged its doubtful that would happen in our lifetimes). But, we talked about why it is that so many Europeans, even those of my generation, are so hostile to the EU and continue to be driven by these (in my opinion) outdated nation-state mentalities. He could only throw up his hands in exasperation when I asked why Denmark and Sweden haven’t adopted the Euro. The situation seems even more absurd when Copenhagen and Malmo, Sweden are right next to each other, and many people live in one country but work in the other (especially now that there’s the bridge between them). It did seem very silly to me when I traveled 20 minutes on a metro to go from Copenhagen to Malmo and then had to change money (even though both kroners have about the same value). There have been a few referendums but it always fails by just under a majority.

The tunnel/bridge that connects Copenhagen to Malmo was actually just completed in 2000, and it was pretty cool going over it. Here’s a picture of it viewed from the beach at Malmo. It was really amazing how simple it was to go from one side to the other. No passport check of course, which is true of any rail or road trip between EU countries (except for the UK, which thinks its better than everyone else). Malmo itself was interesting, very cute and hardly any tourists. I actually didn’t hear one American accent during my whole day there today. Amazing!

I went to this really bizarre museum there, in the Malmous Castle. Part of it was a reconstruction of what the castle looked like, but the rest was this extremely bizarre exhibit with crying children and mice and all kinds of random shit. And it was all in Swedish so I had no idea what was going on. It was also extremely confusing to get around. It’s hard to explain, you’d have to see it, but trust me it was very strange.

I have to say by this point in the trip I’m pretty exhausted. I’ve spent a lot of time on trains and the last few days have been especially frenetic, so I’m looking forward to just taking it easy once I get back home on Wednesday. Of course things are going to be a mess when I get home. My landlord has moved back to Kosovo and is trying in vain to get the room he was living in filled, and for some reason right before he left he sprung on my other roommate that he was having the floors replaced. So she got mad and now she’s moving out too. So she’s finding someone to replace her while I’m gone, and this weekend I’m going to move into her room and some random person will be moving into my old room. And that’s besides the random person who will be put in my landlord’s old room. On top of all that, my brother and my dad are coming to visit this weekend. Oy. At least they can help me move my furniture…

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