On my way back to my hotel from an uneventful evening in Copenhagen, I saw a woman going too fast on her bike fall head first in the street. Her friends came to her rescue in a fit of laughter, while she stood up and slurred a few words in Danish. It’s easy to catch slurring in any language. One thing is for sure, the Danes like to drink and they like to bike. Together it could be a dangerous combination as they don’t wear helmets. On my way to a restaurant/bar/dj spot in Norrebro, I saw a biker misjudge a street barricade, doing a clotheline in the process with bike going one way, him another. I wanted to help, but I wasn’t sure what I could do. Luckily, a pair of guys from the place I was going rushed over to help. He was shaken, but appeared to be OK.
I walked about 30 minutes from the tourist haven of Nyhavn to the grittier, more lived-in neighborhood of Norrebro to check out Bodega, a place that Lonely Planet called “one of the hottest spots in one of the hottest neighborhoods.” There are two people inside other than the staff and a few people having drinks outside when I arrive around 9:15. A blonde with an assymetric bob wearing a cut-off “I Love New York” t-shirt tells me that the kitchen is closed and there’s no DJ and they will probably close at midnight because it’ll just be her working. I guess I should have come up with a plan B when the woman at the front desk of my hotel said she hadn’t heard of the place. I decide to make the best of it and order a Bodega at Bodega, which is a bourbon with ginger ale and mint, which actually is a mint julep. Oh, well. It is tasty and I take in my environs. It has the makings of a hot spot with colorful banquets lining the bar area and multicolored pillows. A disco ball hangs from a corner and there is actually a DJ booth, just no DJ spinning R&B and funk grroves as promised. I do hear some mellow R&B that sounds like it could be from the B side of some neo-soul artist album–something that you’ve never heard but sounds vaguely familiar. A bit later one of the guys working in the bar switches the music to the slighty more upbeat Kings of Leon song, “Use Somebody,” and I head off to another nearby spot where I am able to score chocolate cake and a coffee.
Not the evening, I envisioned, but I had a day packed with more cultural activity. The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek has a pretty impressive post-Impression collection and I’m a nut for the Impressionists. My favorite is Paul Gaughin and the museum had a comprehensive display of the development of his works and style from the 1880s to the 1890s. His paint dappled canvases of French women and landscapes evolves into the bolder, more colorfully stroked canvases of Tahitian women and mythical places. I was surprised to learn that Gaughin worked in cermamics and elaborate wood carvings as well. I was so enamored that I even bought a little book about him at the gift shop. While in the Etruscan and ancient art collection, I was thrilled to connect my wonderment at the Trajan Columns at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London with the statue of Emperor Trajan himself here. (I am a total nerd, I know, but what are the chances?) I was also happy to have meandered through an amazing sculpture collection including Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, who I’d never heard of, to the great August Rodin. Carl Jacobsen, the beer barron and founder of the museum was apparently close friends with the sculptor and had access to many of his original works. I spent time among the works of Danish artists as well and stopped to snap a photo of Mother Denmark.
I took a break to have a hot dog at Andersen’s Bakery next to Tivoli and across from the Central Train Station. Copenhagen is actually known for it’s hot dogs and I can say without a doubt that this hot dog is the best hot dog, I have had, EVER. It was called the Great Danois and was filled with the meatiest and most flavorful pork sausage along with ketchup, a dijon mustard with kick, a pickle-infused remoulade and topped with crispy bits of deep-fried onion and pickled cucumber. All of this was in the softest, fresh-baked bun. It was tough to eat, its contents oozing out of the bun and onto my fingers, but I made it work. It put the street vendor version I had earlier in the week to shame, and it wasn’t bad either.
Rejuvenated by pork-product, I move on to the near-by Dansk Design Center. If you didn’t know, Denmark is pretty much the center of the design universe. After World War II, the country began filling the needs that consumers across the world never thought they had with Legos, tabletop telephones, stackable bowls, tea sets and even chairs. Danes realized that we needed swivel office chairs and desktop file holders to be more efficient at work. At times the permanent exhibit looked like an old 1970s family room complete with leather egg chair and the first Bang & Olufsen television set, and at others an Ikea meets Crate and Barrel store. It was definitely fun to see Denmark’s inventive spirit on display.