Monday, November 2, 2009

A Family Reunited, Plus One

Gefion Fountain

Monday, September 28. Copenhagen, Denmark.

The day dawned rainy but the skies cleared into pretty tattered clouds in time for us to return to Plan A. Randy would do the final clean up at his work, then meet us after I biked the girls to the Little Mermaid statue and the changing of the guard and returned the bike that was due by one.

All worked like clockwork although I could feel Nora's cold in my lungs and had to breath through my nose to keep cooler air out of my throat. I smile as I pedal, despite this. What a city. What a country.

As I take our last bike ride through the city, I worry the puddles will splash up at the girls from my rear tire but they are happy to be out of the hotel room and sing "Potato Butt, Potato Butt!" until the song is interrupted at a stop light by their roller-coaster screams. I look behind me and the plastic rain cover that they refused at the beginning of the ride has flopped down over them. They punch at it and scream happily while the Danish man on the bike behind us smiles.

I do slip in the wet at the Radhaus though, second guessing a yellow light and nearly take a tumble off the bike. I manage to stay upright, straddling my fallen Wonder while the trailer scarcely shivers.

"Are you alright??" asks the Danish woman who rushes to help. "What happened?"

"I stopped too quickly," I reply and explaining to her and knowing she understands as so many of these intelligent Danes (more Nobel Prizes per capita than any other nation, same with candy consumption) is as comforting as her question.

We pass the closed Tivoli Gardens on Hans Christian Anderson Boulevard and catch glimpses of the pleasures waiting inside for our next trip. Ny Carlsberg Glyptoteck has a mask exhibit from the late nineteenth centure to Picasso. Sally said the garden cafe inside is one of her favorite places in Copenhagen. Will we get here later?

Near the Parliment building, Daddy passes us in a taxi and waves. Later, at lunch he'll tell us he thought, "Why that Danish woman looks a lot like my wife." We'll boat together later after lunch in this canal we're passing now. The captain will navigate the low riding tour vessel under a bridge that clears mere inches overhead and to the sides, then negotiate a pivoting turn in a corner only slightly wider than the boat.

"It's a Willy Wonka city," I tell Randy and Ken, his coworker who joins us in the afternoon. "We've got the boat ride through the scary tunnel and a candy factory and even a glass elevator." The last was a tiny three-person round capsule of windows that the girls and I rode at Duckling, Randy's work. It rose through the middle of the spiral staircase all the way to the top of the building, then dropped us with a bouncy thrill on the second floor.

But we aren't there yet. We're still on the bike, heading for our mermaid. The rain spits a little but the girls are tucked in and I have my warm gray beret. I'm wearing a dark dress and textured tights and my purple coat and my lovely Naot Mary Janes so I'm feeling comfy and Euro.

We pass the Royal Theater that displays a banner for the West Side Story Suite ballet - oh for more days and a trusty babysitter.

It's 11:30, half an hour to see Den Lille Havfrue before the changing of the guard at the queen's residence. I plow up to the surprisingly beautiful Kastellet park - a star-shaped set of ancient ramparts are now grassy hills surrounded by a picturesque moat. The magnificent statue of the goddess Gefion plowing the channel between Sweden and Denmark with the four sons she transformed into oxen has Mia begging to get out.

"Look at the snake!" I tell her. Its fanged head is bigger than mine. When we pass the fountain on the way back, water will be gushing from the oxen's heels as Gefion whips them on. Spectacular.

Further, further, the girls are cold and asking when we'll get there and we put on coats and hats and gloves and when finally beyond the huge National Geographic Explorer ship and a curve, I spy her, tiny figure on a rock near the shore, I burst into tears. I'm so happy and relieved and she looks so small and defenseless and the movie got it all wrong cause she failed to win her prince's love.

As we get closer we can see her face is forever turned toward the sea and away from the hordes of tourists taking her picture. Mia climbs down onto the smooth and wet rocks with my helping hand because she wants to get close to the girl.

We go back to Amalienborg Palace and watch a few minutes of the black hatted soldiers presenting arms and clicking their heels. The guard who waits in the rain to be replaced stands in front of a a tiny guard house that resembles a giant upright red crayon - round with a pointed roof and most enchanting and Danish of all, tiny heart-shaped cutouts on the side.

Goodbye bike! Goodbye Wonder, the Amazing Rental Bike, with your single powerful gear and your ratty little trailer! Thank you for your faithful service and speed and ease. Riding you showed me so much of this magical city, up close and personal, and made our last three days an adventure. Thank you for the warming and steady exercise, that stirred my jetlagged blood and cheered my foreigner's heart. Thanks for the intimate views of the city at our own pace. Thanks for floating us past anonymous blocks whose beauty would be too subtle and length too arduous for my little ones.

We take the bus from the Central Station to Kongens Nytorv (costs 21 Kroner, about $4, free transfers within two hours) then I carry Nora to Randy's work. We meet up for lunch with Randy and Ken, who's been my husband's great help through the four day sleepless marathon of cutting and recutting. Ken's easy-going, relaxed about my sometimes demanding girls and funny.

"We must have seemed like machine-animals to the Danish," he said over lunch at an Italian cafe on Nyhaven, the canal-side street lined with bars and restaurants that must be Copenhagen's most visited spot. "We trashed their rooms and broke their espresso machine and never stopped working."

"Did you have sleep deprivation effects?" I ask.

Ken says, "I had to avoid soft surfaces. I would pass out."

When I tell him my wallet story, I include the bit about asking the help of the woman at the front desk to translate the recorded message on the art museum's phone. She had listened for herself, then told me the museum would be open on Sunday, but no one would be answering the phone. Ken says, "that would never happen in America. We'd answer the phone but you'd never get your wallet."

Everyone's elated after lunch. The girls get ice cream. Nora's cone is topped with unsweetened whipped cream that I lick off when she says she doesn't like it. The richness catches me off guard. "I'm licking whipped fat," I tell Randy and Ken. Their adult and familiar companionship feels good.

Randy says, "I finally feel like I'm on vacation" and asks if I want to stay a few more days. Sweeeeeet! I'm jumping up and down and hugging him. Who knows where we'll sleep. The original plan was to leave town before the Olympic delegates arrived since they had booked the town solid. Perhaps they'll leave by Sunday so we'll find a room when we return from Sweden.


Randy and Ken and the girls and I take a boat tour. Fun and interesting, but a bit long for the girls who only want to go back to the toy store I had promised after a visit without any purchase. I'm amused at how the tour guide describes the Nyhaven channel as being dug "by Swedish prisoners of war" with a tone that is so unapologetic it approaches pride. We see the mermaid from another angle, an eye-popping immense yacht that looks like it was designed by Donald Trump for Captain Nemo, the opera house, the new "Black Diamond" library and a crazy twisty church steeple in Christianshavns that Ken wants to climb. He has the opposite of Randy's fear of heights. He does it, too, in a couple of days, climbs the tiny metal staircase that spirals around the outside of the steeple with barely room for one person, let alone the other brave tourists coming down the opposite direction.


After the tour and a visit to a spotless underground pay toilet, it takes us two cabs and one wrong destination before we're all reunited at Gammeltorv Square.

We have dinner at a generic buffet on the Stroget (once again, the wait staff treats us as gently as loved family) and cab home. The girls walk with us through the rain to get dessert of candy at the quickie mart across the street from the hotel.

1 comment:

2KoP said...

"the skies cleared into pretty tattered clouds"

Sigh.