Copenhagen didn’t really stand much of a chance. Cycling there on Saturday morning I was already in a ‘funk’ and didn’t know why. The weather was grey with rain inevitable. Upon entering the city I didn’t see much to endear it to me. There are a lot of bikes and bike lanes but actually the infrastructure is pretty confusing. There’s pretty much no signage and turning left at a large crossroads from one bike lane to another takes some practice so you don’t end up blocking a bike lane or a road.
Although I had sent out a lot of messages I’d failed to find anywhere to stay in the city. A quick look at hostels showed they were either fully booked or way out of my price range. It looked like my fall back option to cycle back out of town to somewhere I could camp was my best bet. Copenhagen to me is a bit schizophrenic. On the one hand you have this town of new offices, shopping malls, gentrified flats and modern development. All things that do nothing for me. The other side of the city is the ‘normality’ of modern Europe, people just getting by however they can.
Trying to rouse my spirits I went to Christiania. An area of the city which I believe attempted to declare itself an independent state using old Danish law in the 70’s. It was partially succesful and despite attempts to gain control of it’s prime real estate it persists. It’s an odd place to me, it’s like every squat and punk house I’ve ever been too all being in one place. Industrious, enterprising but not the normal society. Smoking of hash and weed is pretty open in the area and the beer is cheap. It’s actually a huge tourist magnet and groups of hip looking young people wander around trying not to engage too much with the locals.
Me? I mean I’m a tourist too. Well I ended up sitting, chatting to the local drunks in between them yelling at each other and everyone else. They were nice enough but I decided the offer of one of their floors probably wasn’t for me. I then had a few beers with an American called Joe who busked in the area and later another old American hippy called Pete. It was pretty fun despite the rain having started by this point. They were interesting people who had come to Europe years ago and never left.
Eventually as time got on I realised I needed to get to where I was sleeping and cycled the 6 miles or so out of town to the Sneppen shelter. If you are ever camping in Denmark then download the ‘Shelter’ app. It’s in danish but the icons are pretty easy to understand. With this app you can find a network of shelters and wild camping spots. At Sneppen there were already three guys with their kids and a homeless guy but as it’s a big shelter there was plenty of space.
When I woke up the next morning I realised the reason why I felt so low the previous day. I was sick, feeling almost like I had flu and running a temperature. Today was planned as a day off but instead of going back into Copenhagen I decided to stay at the shelter and try to rest and get better. The three guys with their kids left in the morning and in between periods of sleep I chatted to the homeless guy about his life. I never got his name but he seemed genuinely happy and alternated between living with his mother, trying to repair her decrepit house in another part of Denmark and living in shelters on the outskirts of Copenhagen. His brother had had an accident in which he had broken both legs and hips. Living in the shelters meant he was close enough to visit him in rehabilitation.
Being sick and especially running a temperature on tour isn’t good. Essentially you sweat into your non-cycling clothes and your sleeping bag without the means to easily get them clean. This then gives you the choice of wearing cycling clothes that smell of sweat or non-cycling clothes that also smell of sweat until you can find somewhere to wash them. Not the most pleasant experience.
However now I’m in Malmo after taking the train here from Copenhagen. Even that wasn’t great as it also serves Copenhagen airport and was packed. I’m still not feeling 100% but I’m getting there. I do have somewhere to stay lined up here and so I’m looking forward to a shower and hopefully doing some laundry. Malmo seems nice, the bicycle infrastructure is equally as good as Copenhagen but with signs! I mean it’s still a city of monuments to excess but smaller so my brain is more able to process it. With that in mind I feel like I’m being harsh on Copenhagen as it does have a lot going for it especially in terms of counter-culture. I guess I’ll definitely have to go back in the future and give it a second chance when I’m not sick.