Getting to Copenhagen wasn’t easy. First, of all things, I needed to recover from my burnout. Travel is exhausting, and you need a minimum level of confidence and physical and mental resilience to embark on a trip. I worked towards it in stages. Nine months ago I stayed a single night in a hotel in my home town, and I was so tense that I almost collapsed in exhaustion. A few months later, it was time for step two: I took a two-hour train journey to another city to stay there for two nights. I didn’t sleep at all the first night, and then walked around for a day in a daze. Now, I’ve recovered enough for the next step: take a flight again and stay in a foreign country.
Secondly, during the pandemic, every airport in the western world laid off their security personnel and bagage handlers, and when the pandemic wound down and everyone started travelling again, no airport saw that coming. Who could have predicted it? Is there no airport manager, no CEO, anywhere with the foresight that people wanted to travel again? Not even when the airlines started to sell tickets like hotcakes? Are these managers then completely useless? Curiously, there is never a shortage of managers. Is there something fundamentally wrong with how companies are managed?
After a quick check-in at home for my flight, I had to stand in line for 3.5 hours for the security check. The waiting line snaked through the terminal, moved out of the terminal along the entry roads to the airport, then curled back into the terminal, only to move upstairs and coil some more. There were no toilets and no food and water. Since Schiphol Airport is really the main airport of the country, there are only a handful of security personnel for an airport that essentially services millions people, which is insane. At the security check, I didn’t have to pull out my electronic devices and didn’t have to ditch my liquids, which tells me that the whole security theatre in airports is mostly nonsense, and always has been. (On the way back, Copenhagen airport insisted that we all fidget around with little sealable bags to put all our liquids in; it’s just total nonsense.)
Copenhagen is very similar to Dutch cities, and I had deliberately chosen a destination that was not far away and would not give me major culture shock. Later on I learned that there is a reason for that similarity. In the 17th century, the Danish King decided that the city needed canals that resembled those of Amsterdam to lure the wealthy Dutch merchants north, so that explains it. The Danish and Dutch languages are also closely related. I can’t understand a word they are saying but I can read about 40% of it. The hard part is that the people swallow certain letters or skip whole syllables sometimes.
The Danish themselves are not known for their hospitality. I’m sure they are fine people if you grow up with them as friends, but on the streets they practise what could be called ‘negative politeness’. They consider it polite to safeguard each other’s autonomy and privacy, which means that no one meets your eye, no one smiles or says hello in stores, and for all appearances pretend that you don’t exist. Offering help is too imposing and too suggestive, and they don’t have a word for ‘please’ as the English use it. In these cultural matters too, it is not dissimilar from the Netherlands, but even as a Dutchie I was taken aback a bit.
A clear positive is that Denmark is less crowded and therefore less hectic. The people and the city of Copenhagen are calm and reserved. Except when it comes to sausages. They are absolutely nuts about hotdogs, and that alone makes it a superior country. We have a terrible lack of good hotdogs, and try to make it up with our own street food. Another thing is that the Copenhagen tourism board proudly proclaims the city the “world’s best biking city” and I rented a bike for a day to reach some places too far away for walking. And I must say, it’s not as good as in Dutch cities, it really isn’t. There are many road crossings where it is confusing for bikers to know what to do and the dedicated bike lanes blend too much into the roads. I could give you a handful of Dutch cities that are easier for biking.
The city has its collection of old palaces and fortresses, which are always interesting to look at, but what personally intrigued me the most was a silly little thing. When I was still a gremlin of about 8 years old, I read a comic series about a bear, a pelican and a penguin who build a boat and go on adventures. It was called Pol, Pel and Pingo. Now I discovered that this series was actually Danish and the bear is called Rasmus Klump. It took 30 years for that revelation to find its way to me.