Act 3, Scene 3

Denmark patch

Ancient Rome, The Italian Renaissance, And Postmodern Love

by Frederick Noble

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The train ride from Amsterdam to KØbenhavn (Copenhagen) is longer than you’d expect, about 8 hours. The smart way to do it is to get a sleeping compartment for the overnight trip. But, poverty-stricken slacker that I was, I opted for the cheaper alternative, figuring I could sleep in the regular seats. On lots of trains in Europe the seats fold down so that you can push two together and make a nice bench and snooze away. The problem is there has to be two seats available to do this. When I got on board in Amsterdam the train was nearly empty. But it stopped at every little town along the way, preventing me from ever falling asleep. At each town it picked up more and more people until there were no spare seats at all and I had to sit up for the remainder of the trip. About halfway to KØbenhavn the entire train was pulled into a cargo ship and taken across the channel to Danmark (Denmark). It was very creepy looking out the window at the gray steel interior of the ship, thinking there was no way in hell anyone could possibly get out alive should the boat go down.

I arrived at the crack of dawn, cold and tired. I exchanged some currency at the station, but only a little in case I got mugged.
Lena had scared me about my arrival in KØbenhavn. “I live in the worst part of town in a condemned building a few blocks from the train station,” she'd said.
The thought of walking through the worst part of any country’s capital was not appealing, but nothing was really open yet so I didn’t think the busses would be running, even if I could figure out which bus to catch. So I put on my best “don’t fuck with me” walk, slipped on my pack, made sure my pocketknife was at the ready and headed out into the street.
The worst part of KØbenhavn is nothing like the worst part of Atlanta. The biggest danger I faced was tripping on the single abandoned soda bottle on the way. I spotted graffiti, once. There was a porn shop, closed at that hour, but I wasn't even half way to Lena’s before my fears had vanished. In the worst part of Atlanta I’d be dodging gunfire. In KØbenhavn I stopped at a bakery and got a few Danishes. They were divine, melting in my mouth as I walked. I meant to save some for Lena but they were all gone by the time I found her street.
The condemned building was nothing like condemned buildings back home either. In Atlanta my apartment is the worst on the block, but it’s livable. Anyone who’s seen my apartment is jealous at the low rent for the location and they all concede that though it is a bit run down they'd happily change places with me for the price I pay.
Lena’s apartment building looked to be in about the same shape. A little rough around the edges but I wouldn’t hesitate to live there. I rang her number.
Nothing.
I rang again.
Nothing.
I was getting worried. She knew I was supposed to be there. Maybe she’d had to go to school early? Or work?
I rang again.
A confused voice answered in Danish, not Lena’s. I babbled back in English, even more confused, and the voice said, in perfect English, “I’ll be right down.”
A few minutes later an angel opened the door, her wings folded about her in the form of a thick white bathrobe wrapped tightly around her curvy body. Big, bright eyes, full, pouty lips, perfect skin, hair still wet from a shower - the works.
“Uh.... hi...” I stammered.
“I’m Lena’s roommate.”
There’s a scene in the film Animal House in which a 14 year old kid is reading Playboy on his bed when a scantily clad woman is thrown through his window onto the bed. “Thank you, God!” he says to the ceiling.
I followed her up five flights of steps. The stairwell was not heated and the stairs were not in the best of shape. The interior was much rougher than the exterior, but I still felt safe in the place. Their apartment was cute, in a New-York-loft kind of exposed-beams-and-bricks and only-cold-running-water kind of way. A handsome young guy got up from the couch, the roommate’s boyfriend I assumed. “Hi, I’m Ben” he said.
He was getting his stuff together to head out and I was beat so I just asked for Lena. She was still snoozing in her bedroom on a mattress on the floor. I giggled, a bit giddy from the lack of sleep and the surprisingly pleasant morning. I dropped my gear and slipped into the bed beside her to try to catch a little nap. However, the excitement of being in a new place with an old friend, the smell of Lena and the sight of her gorgeous roommate kept me wide awake.
Eventually everyone was up and about. It turned out Ben was a 19 year old kid from California on something like a 6 week tour of Europe. He was supposed to get off the train in Stockholm but accidentally slept through the stop. Lena met him on the train and took him under her wing.
(If there’s any stronger evidence for karma I don’t know what it would be. Lena has such a good, giving spirit and good things always happen to her. I, on the other hand, am not in the least bit surprised by my luck with humans, or, more accurately, lack of.)
Ben’s luck had continued. Lena’s roommate had some rich lesbian friends that needed an apartment-sitter for the weekend. All Ben had to do was feed the cats and he had a fantastic apartment in the middle of downtown all to himself.
Lena directed me to the shower. It was on the ground floor, down five flights of cold stairs. There weren't many other people still living in the building so the place felt deserted. Then we hit the town.

KØbenhavn is a nice town, clean and easy to get around. There are lots of impressive buildings and some amazing sculpture.
But what impressed me most was the incredible number of beautiful women. So many that I spent the entire time rubbernecking everywhere I went. I met an English guy who'd lived there a year but still had no vehicle, not even a bike. "I'd break my neck!" he said, pointing around the bar at all the eye candy.
Speaking of bikes, you can borrow them for free. They have these clunky little one-speeders in bike racks all over town. You deposit a coin in a slot that releases the lock and when you’re done with the bike you take it to any rack in town and lock it back, getting your coin back. They’re heavy, ugly, and have a big advertisement bolted into the frame but they work fine. When I borrowed one I almost put myself into the middle of a crossroad as I turned to stare at just another breathtaking, breasty, blue-eyed blonde. The Englishman was right.
To make matters better, the women are very friendly. I finally understood why Lena refused to believe us when we told her she's pretty. With such an abundance of fantastic beauty all around, the merely above-average seem pale by comparison.
Seated in a bar one night, Ben said to me "Have you noticed there aren't even any ugly women here? I mean, it's not just that there are so many gorgeous women, it's that there aren't even ugly ones!"
I looked around and realized he was right. Not an ugly woman in sight.

On the other hand, there are 4 weeks of decent weather in KØbenhavn, 2 in May and 2 in July. Otherwise it’s winter, or raining. It was the first week in September and the leaves were already falling.

After Lena’s all-day guided tour we sampled some Danish nightlife. On the edge of downtown is a hippie community called "Christiana." In 1970 the military abandoned a base and the hippies moved in and declared themselves an autonomous community and stopped paying taxes. Every year the Danish parliament debates over what to do about the place but it remains mostly unchanged. Lately a few residents have opted to pay taxes, so now they have power and water in some buildings. In the states the FBI would kick in the door, shoot everyone and burn the place down. In Danmark it becomes a tourist attraction and after dark hot spot. There are hashish and falafel vendors in the streets, a couple of bars, and two night clubs where acts from around the world come to play. In general it's a little trashy but extremely friendly and an interesting stop, just for the uniqueness of it all.
We also hit Tivoli, an old-style amusement park right in the middle of downtown with a few good rides and lots of pretty lights. Rumor has it it's the oldest permanent amusement park on earth. It has a very European feel, like some impressionist painting come to life. I can't say it's really worth the hefty admission price when compared to the incredible parks back in the States, but it's a charming, old-fashioned experience with lots of live shows.

Copenhagen

Copenhagen

We hit a bar around the corner for cheap local beer and lively conversation. Ben told me tales of his travels. He had started in Germany, meeting some friend, then when he got bored he hit the train station and asked where the next train was going. If it sounded good he’d hop on with his Eurorail pass. He’d get to the next city, look up a hostel and move in for a couple days. When he got bored again he’d hit the train station and repeat the cycle. He’d been all over and had some amazing stories.

"For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move."
Robert Louis Stevenson

I was deeply envious of the kid, but it was impossible not to like him as he is both humble and intelligent.
The Dane sitting next to us thought differently. She plowed into him about what Ugly Americans all we Americans are. Here we were discussing how to expand our horizons and escape the stereotype laid on us (justifiably so from the way I’ve seen most Americans behave everywhere I've been) and some Danish girl is busily sticking us right back in the pigeonhole. Ben defended himself for a while but I realized his attacker was completely belligerent so I turned my conversation to Lena instead.
We chatted about our significant others. Lena did her best to sooth my worries about what was to come when I got home. I did my best to wreck her relationship with her fiancée. I didn’t think they were made for each other. (It turned out I was right. A couple years later they got a divorce and rarely ever spent more than a couple months together at a time.)
Ben could barely get a word in edgewise with his Danish combatant so we gave up and headed out in search of other entertainment. We found a basement bar, smoky and dark, with a live band. We got cheap local beers, good stuff you’d pay an arm and a leg for back home, and settled in.
The band was the kind you thought were sooo cool, back in high school. All 70’s-guitar-hero covers done as close to the original as possible. The only fun part about it was their Danish banter between songs, then they’d jump right back into the English language cover tunes.
I jokingly yelled, “Freebird.”
Ben laughed and said, “No, they’ll do ‘Sweet Home Alabama.’”
“No way!” I responded.
It was the next song.
I retreated to the bar, “I’m probably the only person in the place that’s even been to Alabama, and I’m damn sure the only one born there,” I told the bartender.
She just looked at me, confused.
“Nevermind. Beer,” I said, pushing my money across the counter.
Like all the Danes I’d seen she was utterly dreamy.
I sat back down and joked with Ben about the set list for the band, rattling off every hokey tune we could think of. Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar On Me was next. Ben had predicted that one too.
We conceded defeat, unable to handle the assault of audible cheese, and headed for bed.

Map of Copenhagen
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