“It is particularly ironic that the battle to save the world's remaining healthy ecosystems will be won or lost not in tropical forests or coral reefs that are threatened but on the streets of the most unnatural landscapes on the planet.”- Worldwatch Institute. 2007

Saturday, 25 September 2010

September 24th Kalundborg to Copenhagen

km by ferry 45
km by train 60
km by bike 35

Katface meets me at Roskilde train station and we cycle out to the Viking museum. They have five boats that were sunk in the bay around a thousand years ago which they have hauled up, stuck back together and used to learn how they made Viking boats. Then they built a replica of the biggest and sailed it to Ireland with a team of volunteers. It looks amazing. We learn a load of stuff about Viking boats and then dress up as Vikings. I am struck by how well the wood is preserved even after 1000 years under the sea, and the fact that it is displayed in a concrete building that will probably have crumbled in less than 100 - mental.

We get some lunch from a supermarket and I set about explaining why we should cycle the 30 or so km to Copenhagen. Katface is concerned that it might start raining and she doesn’t have waterproofs. I confidently explain that the cycle route goes along the edge of the road and that statistically roads and trains almost always run close together on the flattest land so that we should easily be able to change our minds and jump on the trains (I don’t know if this is true but I make it sound convincing). Katface says that more to the point her hire bike will be uncomfortable. ‘It will be much more heroic if we do cycle it’ I tell her, ’and we should be researching the cycling infrastructure outside the cities as well’. ‘But we’ve drunk half a bottle of wine,’ she says. ‘Well there then’ I say back, ‘We’ll drink the other half as we go’.
And so we do. It’s not scenic but there is a segregated lane right alongside the main road and the rain holds off. As we come into the outskirts of Copenhagen we are joined by more cyclists and more and more bikes appear outside buildings. I stop to photograph these and Katface smiles indulgently. She spent the day before in Copenhagen and met Mikael from Copenhagen Cycle Chic and has been thoroughly Copenhaganized. Closer in and there are many many more bikes than cars, filling the blue cycle lanes and lining every street. There are old bikes, new bikes, sit up and beg bikes and racers, bikes of every hue, battered old cargo bikes and shiny bullit bikes, bikes with whole families on them and whilst the cycle lanes in Germany made me grin like an idiot now I am just slack-jawed in amazement. Katface leads the way, ably demonstrating the Copenhagen ‘box turn’ that stops the people behind crashing into you and finds our hotel – a five storied town house on the main drag past the station with a mirrored hallway, courtyard for bikes around the back and a clean room, albeit next to one with a stag party, off out with the stag dressed in a blue cape and wig.
After showing me the infrastructure (separate blogpost – Copenhagen Cycle Rant) Katface takes me off to ‘What used to be the meat packing district’. It clearly still is but in between the industrial units are loud clubs, with thousands (I’m not exaggerating) of cycles propped up outside. We find one that appears to be on the roof of a supermarket. It has a red carpet but they don’t stop us walking in. Inside there is a bar and a series of small rooms off a corridor leading to what looks like a canteen with a band in, beyond which is the smoking terrace with astroturf. Everyone is beautiful, glamourous and very tall. There is a wall covered with mobile phones which spell out ‘What a Waste’, paintings of lego men in gimp suits, and a bouldering wall above the stairwell. It turns out to be some design house’s first birthday party and we hang out with the beautiful people, even taking to the dancefloor for some impromptu break dancing which goes badly and sees us both falling on our arses. We dance for long enough to make it look like we aren’t bothered and then move on to a smoky little bar on a corner where we talk to Mats who is surprised that Samsoe is considered renewable ‘as they have a cable connecting them to the mainland’. He’s excited about wave power and has even heard of Wave Dragon although he mixes it up with Pelarmis. He is a nano-scientist apparently and whilst he’s shorter than most of his countrymen he still towers over me.Saturday morning we go to Larry vs Harry, the cargo bike specialists to get a postcard for the courier. We meet Harry who lets us ride the pink bullit bike round the block – it’s difficult to steer and we both nearly crash it several times.
Then we go to see the little Mermaid, who is in the Shanghai expo until November but has been replaced by some ‘modern art’ by a Chinese artist – which is nothing more than a big screen with a live video link showing her in Shanghai (called ‘Little Mermaid – Remote’). We decide this is nonsense and I get my swimmers on and go and sit on her rock for a photo, to the amusement of a Chinese school group and a boat full of tourists.
Lunch is in the Laundromat, a great café that also has washing machines and does ‘Cuban toast’ which is a slab of pork belly topped with salsa, crème fraiche and roasted garlic. In the afternoon we cycle down to Christiania – the ‘free town’ set up by a group of anarchist squatters in an old naval base in 1971. It’s the day of their annual party so rather than any meaningful information about alternative societies it seems that the order of the day is live music. We decide that it looks like an all-nighter and so come back to the hotel for a sleep before heading out.

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