DanIsh Diary Entry 2

This week you find me luxuriating in what is a five day Easter holiday here in Denmark, more bank holiday week than weekend. When you are new to a place free time can be something of a rich dish, beautiful to taste but best served in small quantities. That said, all my belongings finally arrived yesterday including a shiny new bike so I have no excuse not to use the time to explore my new surroundings.

Before I head out to bravely learn the logic and laws of Copenhagen biking etiquette, I thought I might share a few more first impressions of my new home. I must admit to being quite smitten by the feel of the place already, it has as distinctive a personality as any city I have spent time in.

I am trying my best not to fall into too many “expat in Copenhagen blog” cliches, an objective I may already have failed by mentioning bicycles but I promise you will never hear me moan about grey skies (how could an Irishman complain about the weather?) or marvel at mothers leaving their toddlers in buggies outside coffee shops (marvellous though it is).

I write this sitting in my new apartment which I must confess, being provided by work, far exceeds the standards to which I am used to. It is a new building in an old part of the city; the historic city naval base of Holmen which has recently been given a radical makeover. The result is some pretty modern architechture overlooking some old and pretty naval barracks and canals affording me the best of both worlds I like to think.

Clean and modern though the apartment is, I can’t but feel as if I have moved into a goldfish bowl. The floor to ceiling windows in every room are great for maximising the daylight but leave very little to my neighbour’s imaginations. I can’t believe that even the body unconcious Danes wish for the kind of bare all expose that my morning ablutions yield.

Culturally there appears to be a pleasing solidity to the Danish way of life. The general attitude appears to be as wholesome and healthy as the local bread. I have heard one or two grumbles about life being ‘too safe’ here but after news of another young friend being badly hurt in a car accident back in Zambia I no longer believe in such a concept.

To my ears there is a pleasingly solid hum to life here, something like the sound made by the ultra modern tram system. It suggests that things will move in a smooth, efficient and relatively rapid manner, yet at the same time with a degree of linear rigidity in the system, not unlike the tram tracks. We may have five days holiday but the shops are only permitted to open for one of them, regardless of how much panic grocery shopping on Thursday would suggest that there might be a bit of pent up demand in the system yet.

This effecient inflexibilty hit me full force last weekend on what I am ashamed to admit was my first brush with the Danish police. Struggling to find my bearings whilst driving my parents to the coast I absent mindedly drifted up to 65km/h in a 50 zone. Before I knew it I was being brought to a halt by a young officer who promptly determined that as my transgression was 15% above the limit, I would be subjected to the full 2,000 kroner (~$350) fine. No amount of good natured pleading from my father who was celebrating his 76th birthday was going to change his mind. I am just glad that I managed to supress a shameful reflex developed on Zambian roads that perhaps the young officer was waiting for a ‘gift’ before I got myself in a whole lot more trouble!

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