Stories from Sweden: Denmark
[This is the sixth in a series of stories of my Erasmus exchange semester in Sweden. This series will take you through my amazing time in that country and through the several shenanigans I went through. Read more here, here, here, here, here and here.]
Ha! What a title isn’t it. Well, yes, this is a retelling of a very fun trip that a bunch of us took to Copenhagen on a — get this — bus. Yes. An actual bus all the way from the capital of Sweden to the capital of its lesser neighbour, Denmark.
This was a group trip, so it involved a fair number of folks who will be referenced to at different times.
- SJ: My college batchmate
- DV: A Greek student of education/pedagogy (who SJ and I knew from a previous trip)
- AS: A fellow Indian and resident of the same building
- SS: AS’s batchmate from home
- Dr SS: SJ and my doctor friend who was studying sleep stuff at the university
- R: Another fellow Indian who we got to know because SS and AS knew him
- Another SS: DV’s friend who we’d also met when we got to know DV (so many SS folks in this trip wow)
I actually have almost no recollection of how this trip was coming around. I do remember at one point, perhaps in the month of September or October, SJ pinged me randomly and asked if I wanted to go to Copenhagen on a group trip. It sounded amazing, and she’d mentioned that there are others, but I think I was in the midst of exams or assignments or something, because of which I just outsourced the entire task to her to complete (especially because my debit card didn’t work internationally and I was fully dependent on others for online transactions!). Thanks, SJ!
Tickets booked and dates fixed and what not, I was actually in a great place, because this tour happened to be right during a break between two courses. I planned a trip to Norway (read about that, here) in the days before this trip. That one week allowed me to look at the trifecta of the Scandinavian countries hehe.
The night before the trip, I’d just returned from Bergen and I was quite exhausted considering I’d done some amount of trekking and the cold had begun to set in. Fine, I also suffered a tiny dose of homesickness for Uppsala and it was showing. Anyway, I had the evening to myself and I repacked and recharged.
The tour itself was to begin from Stockholm which meant that we had to make our way to the city via train at an ungodly hour. We woke at some 430am types and I do remember having overslept because I definitely lied to SJ while she knocked at the door, while I said, “Almosht reaby, jusht putting my shoos on” as I hurriedly brushed my teeth. C’mon, I had just come back from a trip okay.
Anyway, we were a bunch of penurious students so obviously we didn’t book a cab or anything, but actually just set out walking to the train station — no buses at that hour and we weren’t comfortable leaving our bikes there for three days. En route we picked up DV and reached the station. We got onto the first Pendeltåg (commuter train) that we could and slumped into our seats for the ride. Again, super hazy about this, but we somehow made it to the bus stand and got onto the right bus.
This was a long ride for sure. It was a full 8 (eight!) hours from point to point and, while, yes I had taken roadtrips that long before, it just felt excessively long for some reason. The bus was super comfy and I sat with SJ, me in the aisle seat. Asleep for the start, but then we actually had a great conversation between us and I think we definitely learnt a lot about each other on the ride up. At some point, though, we were super bored and I remember that I googled out a story SJ had in her class 10 studies that she had been trying to look for for a while.
We made like one stop through this, at least that I remember, and it was at a Burger King. While the concept of chomping on cheap burgers was good in itself, what actually made the stop memorable was not even getting to use the loo, but of actually seeing real-life, white as ever snow! I’d never seen snow up close and this was a treat like no other. A person can explain snow to you all you like, but it’s only when you actually hold its crystalline form in your palm that you feel its magic. Yes, I said magic because that’s what it feels like to me even now.
We reached at a respectable hour (my notes say 420 pm; no, did not blaze it) and made our way to the hip Generator hostel (10/10 recommended if you want to see where Getty images gets its pictures for ‘hostel’ or ‘youth having fun abroad’ or ‘young people’).
Shenanigans — Day 1
As we pulled upto our hostel, I noticed a signboard outside that said, “Tuborg truck arrives at 2059”. Weird thing to tell us when you get your stocks refilled, but okay. Anyway, we checked in and everything, freshened up and gathered round our tour guide like obedient children around their class teacher who said, “Alright everyone, we’re going to go out on a little night tour of the city and if you want there’s a pub crawl after that, or else, a little surprise around 9pm.” Now, we knew that this hip place did have a little club scene (because we googled, how cool are we huh) and thought that that’s what she meant. Okay, fair, onward ho!
The night tour was actually quite amazing! We walked around downtown Copes (Copenhagen is too difficult to type every time). We saw some of the palace buildings and I remember learning that their queen is some kind of crazy polyglot (massive props) and that the people really love her. We also learnt of the term Hygge far before any books were published on it because our matron-chaperone took us to a side gully with cozy little shops and made us feeeeeel it for real. That was quite the experience. I remember mumbling hygge to myself for a few minutes after that. SJ and I got ourselves a huge all you can eat Turkish dinner and later on joined our gang at the hostel.
Anyway, none of us were really in the mood for a pub crawl, so we made our way back to the hostel. After a little bit of idle chatter, we realised it was 2030 and so we went down to see what it was all about. Most of the other folks from the bus tour were there too, and after a little bit of catching up we made our way to the little disco-y place. The DJ actually had good music on and me being me, I made full use of that.
At 2059 there was a sudden change in music and a bit of commotion! A bunch of folks just barged onto the floor and started running around pulling others into a circle and putting on these blue afro wigs on our heads. What even was going on! Somehow, between all the noise, I learnt that it was J-Day which is the day that Tuborg launches its Xmas brew and goes around the city distributing it to all! What a concept innit! The truck goes around from place to place in the city and just hands out beer :D as much as it sounds like a fever dream, it was not hehe.
I obviously got my hands on some and got really into the mood, because why not! Back then, DV didn’t used to drink, but nonetheless, very kindly took a bottle to give me later on :D such good friends.
Once the Tuborg folks left, we did too. We thought we’d do a bit of a pub crawl of sorts by chasing the truck and actually did get to some extent. Now note, this was not Sweden, so we could absolutely go outdoors with our beer and not face the politi’s wrath. That was a great feeling!
Somewhere along the way, maybe because of the beer, we kinda got lost and all we knew about the hostel was its name and that it was close to the Danske Bank building. We didn’t have roaming so relied only on wifi when available and basically started walking around in circle. I left the navigation to the others and just walked around chanting “Danske Bank, Danske Bank” hoping it’d magically manifest before me. It did not, but this one couple who was literally just idly sitting on a bench, locked eyes with me and just pointed at this BIG building with bold lettering saying you-know-what. I can only imagine what was going through their minds. A bunch of young kids with blue afros and bottles in hand chanting the name of a bank.
Anyway. We somehow made it back home and exhausted after the wonderful Danish hospitality fell into a deep sleep.
Shenanigans — Day 2 morning
This morning, Dr S joined us having taken an overnight train from Uppsala and made it just as we all woke up and got round to breakfast. The hostel had given us these little bands that we had to show to get our trays and us being us, I managed to slip mine off my wrist expertly to give Dr S and get her a brekkie on the house hehe. They also had these little plastic containers of nutella that we picked up by the handful. They came in handy later on.
This morning was to be spent at Roskilde, the once capital of the country with a guided tour and then free time. Technically, this was for those of us on the bus tour, but SJ and I went to our matron-chaperone and with our best pleading eyes asked if Dr S could come along even though she wasn’t a part of the group. She looked at us and narrowed her eyes, “Okay but is she at least staying at the hostel?” “Yup! (she wasn’t)” “Fine, she can come along, but don’t tell anyone!” Second sneak attack for the day!
After a short bus ride to the city, we reached there on a bright November morning and had a lovely walking tour of the place. It was fantastic weather — like outdoor wedding weather (which of course we saw happening). Quite a lively place and considering Xmas was around the corner, little shops and stalls had started populating already. We explored the place by ourselves and found some very pretty houses where we took a bunch of pics. I think I also remember a maritime museum of sorts as well. Anyway, made it back to the hostel and got a quick nap before the next adventure.
Shenanigans — Day 2 evening
We headed out from the hostel for yet another walking tour (best kind, I tell you; no better way to explore a place). This was conducted by volunteers and ours was by a chap who was from Manchester (and supported neither football team — I know, audacious). The tour itself was quite a lot of fun. We had a ton of sunlight despite the onslaught of the dark months and got great views of the city centre, its stock market, the port (Nyhaven), some smaller parks and what not. As this was a volunteer gig, we all left little donations at the end of it, and I took this opportunity to get rid of my jiggle money along with some fold money too. (Side note: it sucks that forex coins can’t be exchanged!)
The walking tour itself was ended at the doorstep of Freetown Christiana, which as the guide said was, “[where] the boundaries of the uptight city and bohemia merge into an unknown amalgam.”
Now, if you’ve been here, you know what I’m talking about, but if you haven’t then I’m not mentioning what we did here. We did have some wonderful banana cake on advice of the guide and it is something I still remember. That was especially tasty with the nutella we’d nicked. One instance that stood out from here was that while SJ, Dr S and I were buying some sweets from a stall run by an older Sri Lankan woman, when asked where we’re from, all three of us said Uppsala without any hesitation. The shopkeeper looked again and said, “You know what I mean,” to which our lightbulbs went on and we said India. It was quite the moment that our comfort with the city had grown so much that we began to see it as home!
After we got our uh fill, we walked out back into the main city and then decided to do some more city exploration. We decided to make an expedition to find the Little Mermaid statue, of Hans Christian-Anderson fame and see her for ourselves. We walked about, asked people and what not and finally made our way to it. Now, my sister had mentioned to me from her trip sometime back that it is smaller than one would think, but good god, it’s the most disappointing little statue ever! We reached after dark and there wasn’t even a light shining on the poor thing. It was like seeing an unimpressive little art installation a few feet into the sea.
One other lulz instance happened at the park adjoining the statue, but that’s purely anecdotal. We all went out to eat at a restaurant called Wok On and came back to the hostel. We rested a bit and then SJ and I went to drop Dr S off at the station. On our way back, because it was a Saturday, we really saw people reveling! SJ and I decided to treat ourselves to dessert and because we were low on forex, found only enough cash to buy one (1) McFlurry between the two of us. Well done. Anyway, while waiting to get that, there was a chap going about asking for hi5s and I’ve never seen a sadder bunch of people. No one acquiesced. When he came to me, you bet your last kroner I gave him the best hi5 he got that night!
Shenanigans — Day 3
Promise, this was the last day of shenanigans. In the morning, we loaded up on breakfast (yes, also nicked more nutella) and made our way out to the city to enjoy some more sunshine. We went to Nyhavn again and got ourselves a canal tour. Goodness some of them bridges are really low, it’s a miracle I have all my limbs and my head intact. Post that, we walked about the main square, got an eyeful of the city from some nice big tower and wound down with some hot chocolate at some random cafe.
By the time evening rolled around, we took our leave of the hostel and slowly trudged to the bus stand sad to be leaving behind such a lively, fun-filled and yet strangely calm city. Copes remains one of the best cities I’ve ever visited and it’s definitely a place that has to turn up on your itineraries if you’re headed to that side of the world. It’s a city that juxtaposes a sense of youth and history, the charm of regalia and modernity and makes for an easy place to fall in love with. Until the next time I turn up here, the two full days I spent in this wonderful city shall stay very close to my heart!