The secret behind beautiful Scandinavian skin

Trip Start Jun 21, 2008
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Trip End Aug 03, 2008


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Flag of Denmark  ,
Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Didn't feel like spending any money on the in breakfast at the hostel (though I heard it was pretty good), so instead I picked up some yogurt and a banana at the grocery store.  Used the cheap internet at the train station, then off for a walking tour with a guy named Richard Karpen.  His gimmick is that he gives the tour as Hans Christian Andersen (HCA) - normally, I'm not big on tours but this guy was great, incredibly knowledgeable about HCA, Copenhagen, and life in Denmark. 

Interesting fact about HCA - only the Bible and Shakespeare have been published more than his works.  Some interesting Danish facts - minimum wage is $15 USD/hr, and they pay 60% income taxes, and 20% on all goods.  I thought that it was the Dutch, but apparently the Danes are consistently ranked the most content in European surveys.  Why exactly is this, Richard asked, somewhat rhetorically

They pay lots of taxes, and they have terrible rainy weather.  Perhaps it's because they feel that even with the high taxes, they receive a lot in return.  And perhaps they are happy with less?  From what I've seen over the years, I'd definitely say that Europeans are happier with less than us North Americans.  Big, fancy houses and cars are not what drives them - they are happy to walk down to the local cafe or bar and share a glass of wine or coffee with a friend. 

As Richard discussed why the Danes are so happy, some random guy from probably the UK or Australia yelled out "It's the women, mate!"  Funny, but this definitely can't be the only criteria - otherwise Spaniards would rate off the charts in terms of happiness!  Oh, Spain .... how I miss you ... all I can say is that any time I spend in Spain is marked by a feeling of happiness.  And when the senoritas walk by, this becomes a profound state of euphoria!

The tour finished up in the Kungshallen garden - Richard recommended a local butcher shop for smorrebrod, the ubiquitous Danish open-faced sandwiches that are one of the best budget lunches in the country.  I followed his advice and hooked myself up quite nicely - the worker commented "You're having a very Danish lunch today!"  Very true, except that I only paid about 45 Kroner ($9 CAD), which isn't traditional in terms of high Danish prices

I ended up with three smorrebrod and a meat ball for that price - the meat ball was like a greasy little burger, and the texture was a little bit like a Vietnamese spring roll, with lots of shredded veggies interwoven with the meat.  Good stuff! 

The roast beef sandwich was served with sprouts, some wicked fried onions that are popular in Scandinavia, lettuce, and something pickled.  Mayo and mustard ... not too bad, but the light, crisp texture of the onions was definitely the highlight.  The grainy, dense bread falls apart quite easily, making it difficult to eat. 

The chicken salad was served with lettuce, tomato, and herbs - very messy to eat, it was my least favourite of the three.   Without a doubt, the best was a crisp, battered fish, with tomato, lettuce, herbs, and a mustardy tartar sauce.  The sauce was a little bit sour, but yummy.  

Dessert was a dense, coconut/chocolate tart with almonds.  Way too sweet!  A very good lunch, though everything still could have been improved slightly.  The value was great; smorrebrod elsewhere probably would have cost an extra $3 or 4 CAD.  I might have to come back and try some other smorrebrod. 

I went back to Kungshallen to eat the lunch - they also have a kid's jazz festival to go along with the main one taking place this week, and I enjoyed some of that.  The group on the stage today was somewhat interactive, and incorporated some elements that you would see in a production of "Stomp".  It was a beautiful, sunny day - a perfect jazz picnic in the park!

Rosenborg palace - I decided to go with the same tour guide because he was so good.  I tried but couldn't score a student discount for entry into the palace.  I need to make myself a fake student ID, one of these days!  The palace was a little bit boring, but the guide made things entertaining - he really is a fountain of knowledge.  After finishing up, I cursed the fickle weather here - all of a sudden it was cloudy, windy, cold, and rainy. 

Off to the neighbourhood of Christianhavn - not much going on here.  Next was Christiania, a squatters' community established in 1971 in an old military barracks.  It promotes an alternative lifestyle, though I don't think it's as alternative as it used to be.  It used to stand for a way of life, but many people now come to stay or visit just because you can obtain and do drugs (but no hard stuff), without any problem.   

It had an interesting vibe, but felt similar to any other run-down neighborhood - it was neat to visit, but not really my kind of place.  Over the years, there has been pressure from the US government to "normalize" Christiania - why can't people just leave others alone?  What business does the US government have to interfere?  

Personally, I'd never live here, but the people seem to be happy and though crime has been on the rise in recent years, generally there is no trouble here.  Though it seems to have changed, I do admire what it originally stood for - a free city of idealists that promoted non-materialism (nobody owns any property here, if anybody moves out the community decides who to invite in). 

One thing going against Christiania is that it's right in the middle of a very desirable area - developers could make a fortune taking over the land and putting up condos.  Leave it to the almighty dollar to crush a beautiful dream - whether or not you agree with how the residents go about their lives, this place once stood for something good and pure. 

Back to the hostel for a quick siesta, then a walk to find dinner.  The 30 Kroner Asian takeout boxes I've seen everywhere were tempting me all day long, and though it was only vaguely Asian-tasting, you can't beat the price.  Fried rice with spicy beef, and chicken stir-fried with mushrooms and bamboo shoots.  I ate while listening to some old-school jazz playing on Hojbro Plads.  Personally, I prefer more upbeat, modern jazz but it was free, so what the hell?  A couple of Spanish ladies were chatting nearby - the jazz wasn't, but their conversation was music to my ears :)

Not full from the Asian food, I picked up a nutella and banana crepe.  The banana was unripe and the crepe batter was a bit bland.  After, I wandered down the Stroget - it seems to be fairly dead at night. 

Back to the hostel for some laundry - crazy that such a huge hostel only has two washing machines, and one dryer.  There was a big wait for the dryer, so I chilled in the room and chatted with Daryl, a Londoner who also had just left the Roskilde festival.  He's been to Amsterdam 10 times!!!  His love of pot must almost be on a level with my love of Spanish women :)

Daryl spent all his money at the festival, so had nothing left to enjoy Copenhagen.  He's a pretty neat guy, in a couple of bands.  We chatted about music and the festival - an Aussie dude who also was in Roskilde, joined in.  This was definitely the most memorable conversation I've had in a hostel in a LONG time! 

Apparently, there was always a huge lineup for the port-a-potties in Roskilde, so guys would just go up against a certain fence nearby and do their business.  Nobody was shocked by that.  What shocked Daryl, however, was that a couple started having sex up against the fence.  He wasn't shocked that they did it in front of hundreds of people, but that they did this in a quagmire of piss mud!  Eew!!! 

Daryl joked that he had been trying everything to hit on the Scandinavian women, but that nothing worked.  He told us that you must need to throw them down into a disgusting pile of piss mud to attract them.  The Aussie dude chimed in, saying how incredibly beautiful the women at the festival were.  He wondered aloud if their beautiful skin resulted from the long, dark winters, and the lack of UV skin damage.  I suggested that it was the piss mud - maybe it's a popular spa treatment in Scandinavia! 

I went to check on my laundry - I was next in line for the dryer, but some Aussie dude was trying to jump ahead of me, but I caught him in the act so he had to take all his clothes back out.  Bastard!  Earlier, he was complaining about people trying to jump the queue - friggin' hypocrite!  I would've been screwed had I arrived even seconds later.  Karma bit him on the ass, though, and I couldn't help but laugh.  Some other bastard took my clothes out early and jumped ahead of the Aussie dude.  Once you open up the dryer, your time is up, so my clothes could've still been wet and I would've been out of luck.  In fact, they were a little bit wet still because the other guy must have taken my clothes out about 20 minutes early.  But I didn't care, because I laughed at the Aussie dude's bad luck - that's what you get for being a dick!  Suckah!!!

Back to the room for some more hilarious conversation - apparently they have a shower set up, car wash-style for the guys.  The guys strip down, and hot Scandinavian women in bikinis scrub them down!  They even wash and dry your clothes while you sit and read a newspaper!  Why didn't I go to Roskilde???

We couldn't understand why any women would do this, because all the workers all volunteers, and all they get is a free pass for the festival (worth maybe 200 Euros?), and a few perks like daily showers.  What incentive do they have?  "Alright Eva, in exchange for your free pass, please put on this bikini and go scrub Joe, over there.  He's the big fat guy with the stretch marks, and the hairy and smelly butt crack.  No, not that one - I said hairy AND smelly butt crack!"  You couldn't pay me enough to even consider that ...

Apparently there is an incentive at these festivals to collect beer cups - each one is worth one Kroner.  Some guy actually collected one hundred water cups, and one beer cup - when brought them back he was told "Sorry, there's nothing for the water cups, only the beer ones".  So for collecting 101 cups, he got paid 1 Kroner - about 20 cents CAD!  I guess they do it to help with the cleanup, but imagine this - most people buy cheap tents for the festival and abandon them in place.  There are entire tent cities left there, that need to be cleaned up after. 

Funny guys, funny conversation, and a funny night - normally, laundry nights while traveling are boring, but these guys made it one of the highlights of Copenhagen!   
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