Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Copenhagen, the bike city

Nyhavn, where Hans Andersen used to live for many years

Lately I have been, among other things, visiting Copenhagen, a city that has been on my travel list for at least 10 years now.  Before, I have only been to Oslo, of all Scandinavian cities, although closely acquainted with Sweden during my early days, while learning to read with a book about Karlsson and his travels on the roofs of Stockholm through the incredible imagination of Astrid Lindgren and my father's efforts.

First impression - a city very similar to Belgium, especially the Flemish part, as well as to Amsterdam.  Another strong impression - bikes. They are everywhere!  There are more bicycles in this city than I have ever seen before, probably more than cars, impressive.  It looks interesting, although maybe not exactly always beautiful to see loads of bikes left unattended in all possible places and positions.

Otherwise the city has more space than other European capitals - big streets, unexciting food, and a lot of Anglo-Saxon influence, for the good or for the bad.  Sure, they all speak perfect English here, 7-11 shops litter every street corner, and eating a steak or a burger is the most usual thing.  Maybe Copenhagen is not architecturally very appealing, but one comes to appreciate the harbour, the small houses, and especially the museums.  Danish culture is carefully presented in the National Museum, with expositions including mummies from 1300 BC, originally buried in oak trunks. Strange to see so much interest in home culture - I am more used to French, English, or Spanish museums proudly exposing things stolen from other parts of the world.  Here Danish have done a great work to expose details of their own, warrior Viking roots.  As interesting as Egyptian culture, a good learning moment, especially given that Vikings were also my own forefathers, engendering Ukrainians together with the Mongols that came all the way from the East.

So much available water also afforded us a pleasant boat tour, visiting the city symbol, Andersen's unhappy little mermaid. Despite the happy-end interpretation by Disney, the original fable is rather depressing. The statue has not been very lucky either.  It is actually famous in Denmark because it has lost its head several times since its installation in 1913 by the Carlsberg brewer, Jacobssen, in fame of his lover.  First, the mermaid was decapitated in 1964, and again in 1998, as a protest against consumerism, and as an act by feminists to show that women are valued mainly in the society without heads, body alone.  The statue is still there, with a copy to replace the head that was never found.

To stay with the mood, we also visited the freetown of Cristiania, ideallist town or dirty squat in the middle of Copenhagen.  The sad free town, declared independent in the 1970s, remains just that...sad but supposedly free...

We finished with a visit to National Gallery and happened to see a very nice exposition of "French" art 1900-1930, especially fauvists such as this Anita by Kees van Dongen:

And Derrain's Woman in Chemise

Travels to be continued...


Birispi said...

I sure don't want to make any comparision, but the gate of Cristiania reminds me the gate entrance to AUSWITCH...“arbeit macht frei”...brrrr! Bad style choice at all !!!!

Curious the genetic relation between vikings and Asian barbars...the result is amazing...isn't! hehe!

Keep rolling!

uasunflower said...

Yes curious parallels, sad in a way, but entrance is also exit at the same time, creative destruction schumpeter would preach