From Iceland — Copenhagen for the desperatly poor

Copenhagen for the desperatly poor

Published November 5, 2004

The reason behind the name goes back to the late 19th century. At that time, Amager served as Copenhagen’s landfill. Today, it appears to be a standard urban scene – video stores, take aways, bars, cafés and restaurants lining either side of the main boulevard, Amagerbrogade, as six levels of apartments loom overhead. But turn right or left off of the boulevard and the neighbourhood turns into a quiet suburban setting of green lawns and cottage-like houses that seems a million miles away from the city. Like many things in Copenhagen, there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.
You’ve seen the Little Mermaid statue, done the Tivoli, “visited” Christiania and think that Copenhagen is therefore pretty much a done deal. Yet outside of the city center there remain endless possibilites.
For example, one Saturday night I felt like doing something different but I didn’t have a lot of money. I’d never been to this town before so my wife and I threw caution to the wind, hopped on the bus and headed uptown. Once the bus got onto Frederikborggade, I watched the language of the restaurant windows changing. First they were only in Danish. After a while they became Danish and Arabic, then Arabic and Danish. Sorely missing a multicultural environment of late as a resident of Reykjavik, I stayed on the bus until I saw nothing but Arabic. This is where I decided to get off. After loading up on some fast, cheap and superb Middle Eastern cuisine, we made our way south. Danish goth kids laughed at trendy clubbers and Arab women regarded both with bemusement. A group of trick-or-treaters pulling a wagon which carried a boom box playing Tom Waits walked passed us and as they did, two very unscary witches reversed the traditional trick-or-treater role and offered us candy. We took at as a good omen and we were right. Frederiksborggade offers a wide array of bars, clubs and cafés to choose from – a variety we were more than happy to take advantage of.
The next morning, hungover, nearly broke, and in desperate need of quiet and fresh air, the answer to all those problems lay not too far to the north along the coast: a park called Jægersborg Dyrehaven. I took the bus which, despite my understanding of the laws of physics, I could have sworn was moving backwards through time. The stainless steel and glass of the city center gave way to the brick houses and lawns, which then morphed into thatched roof cottages. Once the bus reached the end of the line, I found exactly what I was looking for: trees, and lots of them. Free of charge.
The grounds themselves are nearly half the size of Copenhagen. I spent all afternoon wandering around in the dense woods and sprawling fields before I reached a clearing where, somehow very appropriately, a 17th century mansion stood. Herds of deer walked impassively by, although maybe they were just trying to act nonchalant – the park was and still is the hunting ground of the royals. I stepped out of the clearing, walked off the well-worn path and within a minute, I was in the middle of a dense forest again. I stood there for a few moments, taking in the autumn air, simply happy to be where I was. If only it could last.

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