Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Getting our Sea Legs

Copenhagen, Denmark. Friday, September 25.

The sunset clouds were pink over the pitched roofs of our courtyard view. Nora slept on. She'd conked out this afternoon while Mia played at the utterly charming playground in the utterly charming Orsteds Parken (curvy lakes nestled in curvy hills bordered by mature willows.) I pulled a Danish momma and let her sleep while Mia climbed and played with the park-supplied tow truck with tiny working winch. There was a whole assortment of funny pedaled vehicles for the children - some hand cranked, some with tiny seats for a passenger. Mia climbed a science tower worthy of Tycho Brahe and jumped off a springboard that catapulted the kids onto a padded section of the blacktop.

Who knows when Nora will wake, chipper and hungry and eager to chat or craving a rub on my belly and a restless foot on my back? "Looking outside can tell the time for kids," reassures Mia. Perhaps she'll sleep all through the night.

Jetlag plays funny tricks. Early this morning I woke in the dark and thought, "I don't feel too bad - we're going to have a great day," but when I got a drink and checked my phone, it was one a.m. Oy.

Luckily, I went back to sleep. And sleep. My phone died overnight.

Here are the important tools I left behind and had to live without:
- my deodorant
- my cell phone charger
- my camera battery
- one of my purple gloves (more, too much more, about this later)

Here are the important tools I brought along:
- a new pair of Naot walking shoes from Israel with cork inserts "that mold to your feet" said the salesman at the Walking Company store. New true blue friends.
- a warm enough purple coat with deep pockets
- four guide books. The map that lovely Christina at the front desk handed me the first day was well-worked and well-loved by the end of our trip.

No phone, no 'puter (Randy took the laptop to work), no watch (I always use my phone), no camera (I'd have to wait for Randy's iphone.) We are traveling light! I feel like a pioneer woman! (Says the woman staying at the four star hotel.) But it's really my favorite thing to make my own way - figure out the bus fare, ask strangers questions, find the bike rental.

"I have no helmets left," says the rental guy in his subterranean bike cellar next to the train station. "Anyway, they will be safe with the seat belts."

He gives us a US style trailer. It's functional and fairly clean, although the ripped screen sheds threads the whole time. I had been hoping for one of those rounded child capsules carried in front with a tinted plastic sunshade. Or an old school wooden box, also pushed in front of the bike.

The rental guy's casual attitude is everywhere in the helmetless bike crowds but I believe him - the cars share respectfully on the narrow streets and strangers go out of their way to offer help and advice. A man turned back after translating "bike parking only on racks" to add "no one enforces this!" with a big smile. The woman on the bus asks if I need help when she sees my map.

Once I get the bike and trailer up the ramp from the basement rental store, get the girls buckled in, pick the bike up after it falls (the trailer doesn't flinch but Mia starts saying, "hold onto the bike!" every time she climbs in the back), we set out. I'm squealing "Whee!" and "Away we go!" at the ease and power of my single geared bike - it seems to float uphill.

We ride first to the City Hall Square, the Radhuspladsen. Plenty of action - street performers, tents for some kind of festival, statues of long snouted dragons plus an amazing sculpture of a bull wrestling a giant fish creature.

We visit The Wonderful World of Hans Christian Anderson where Nora shivers in the shadowy halls. Apparently Anderson's grim details (the little mermaid's new feet burn when she walks; the soldier hero of The Tinder Box cuts off a witch's head with little reason, steals her dogs and uses them to attack his wife-to-be's parents, the King and Queen) weren't deemed thrilling enough for visitors - they had to add a giant rat that leaps out at you from a sewer pipe during the Steadfast Tin Soldier section.

Last night in a jetlagged delirium I had sobbed while I recalled the entire unabridged story of the Little Match Girl to the girls before bed. In the morning Mia said it had given her nightmares and made her cry in the night. I'd felt the tears on her cheeks without understanding them and kissed and hugged her in the dark. Goddamn Hans Christian Anderson, Goddamn Mommy for scaring the kids.

Here in the museum, they do the story of the shoeless hungry girl who freezes to death in an alley on Christmas Eve in full horror movie style. We see her huddled figure bent over the match, but her face is invisible in her dark cloak.

More Danish matter-of-factness toward violence - the children play with community provided rubber swords and shields in the park; the toy stores display knives and cutlasses.

Back on the bike and up tiny Vestergade to KREA toystore (we just browse - beautiful but expensive $100 dress up princess gowns and a $50 princess coach), then on to the charming Nytorv Square. Just past the square on Verterbogade is Hey! Bagel where the sweet clerk proudly touts his delicious salads. "All vegetarian, all from Cyprus!" The girls won't eat the fresh cream cheese bagel because of its raw oats - I'm happy to scarf some couscous, sweet steamed broccoli and ratatouille. Nora puts her head down on the high counter and falls asleep. I carry her to the trailer where she snoozes on.

The street ends at Kobmagergade and here we find Boger til Born, a children's bookstore with lovely postcards of illustrations from children's books for 6 kroner (about a dollar) and beautiful books by HCA and Elsa Beskow translated into English. Nora sleeps on as Mia and I shop.

Steps away to the northwest is the Round Tower, an observational wonder with a steep bricked ramp instead of stairs for horses to haul up Tycho Brahe's viewing apparatus. Nora is too tired. We'll come back.

We pedal by the man made canals on the way home.

Dinner is Hing sushi by the hotel.

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