Da things youse can learn

So here I sits, in Copenhagen, where I have never been, mostly trapped by muscle aches, a low fever, a headache wanting to bloom into something spectacular, and intermittent sniffles. I suppose it’s a cold, as I had my flu jab in September. I waited til I got to the UK for it so I’d get the formula for whatever combination of flu germs they expected here. I had the pneumonia shot in the US in June. But just as there is no cure for the Common Cold, so there is no immunization for it, either.

So far, I have appreciated Copenhagen’s allotted two sunny days this week from my couch by the window, and tomorrow is my last opportunity to be a tourist. I did go out for groceries yesterday, and took a stroll through a highly-touted mall. I saw almost nothing there I couldn’t easily find in the States, which was depressing.

OTOH, the lox sandwich I had in the food court was really good! Split pita, toasted, a nice pile of lox, cucumber cubes, a mighty handful of mixed salad greens and a wad of fresh dill, dressed with a slightly thick balsamic vinegar glaze. Fries on the side, with a big scoop of really good mayo (possibly restaurant-made).

At least most stuff in the grocery store was unfamiliar, and I could not read the labels. But pickled herring is pickled herring is pickled herring, and I like pickled herring. There were at least half a dozen varieties of rye bread – heaven! But only one kind of mustard (Dijon) was on offer.

The apartment where I am house/cat sitting has one entire wall of window that looks out onto a grassy walkway that leads to a central grassy sward, so there is lots of people watching to be done. I have been sightseeing, regardless of the sniffles.

Assuming that a walkway and small park passing through the center of a modern housing/office development with nowhere else to go is populated by locals, I offer the following observations:

This part of Copenhagen sports at least 1.5 bicycles for every person old enough to ride one – from training wheeled numbers to small cargo movers. The local letter carriers have electric-assisted cargo bikes, and there are delivery service bikes everywhere. There are a few of those demon-spawned scooters around (they seem to be the transport of choice for the airport employees!), but not enough to be the hazard they are in DC.

The national costume is black or grey, highlighted with thoughtful touches of color (scarf, hat, boots). Boots are black, unless they are neon, and seem to be a fashion statement rather than truly practical cold weather footgear. LL Bean doesn’t seem to be a fashion statement here. If not wearing boots, locals wear sneakers/trainers in muted, practical colors or eye-watering blasts of neon orange/blue/yellow. I seem to be the only person in Copenhagen wearing Birkenstocks.

Children wear what in my childhood were called “snowsuits” – one piece, zip-up outfits, some with integrated hoods. These are not black, but are mostly muted pastels (think “dusty rose”) or cute little floral prints. I have not noticed any dinosaur prints, but I imagine they are out there.

Pre-ambulatory children are packaged in quilted boxes installed in prams with only their eyes and noses exposed to the cold. I’ve seen a few bobble-topped knitted hats peeking out from all the padding, but that’s to be expected, as eight out of ten knitted hats have some sort of bobble on top. Fur in a matching color seems to be the bobble of choice. Note that the temperature has hovered right around freezing all week, so it has not been all that cold, really. Certainly, it’s not Minnesota!

Few adults go without some sort of hat. Women with lots of hair that would be awkward to contain in a knitted boggin favor earmuffs and artfully wrapped or knotted scarves around their neck. I see a few men with no hat, but those are probably guys who are walking furnaces anyway, the ones who go out in freezing temps in shorts and flip-flops.

This development is of very starkly designed multi-story apartment and office blocks in shades of charcoal grey with cream accents. Every apartment has a balcony, mostly furnished with little bistro tables and chairs if not children’s toys. It seems like each building has a day care center on the ground floor and some sort of communal (?) kitchen. On my grocery run yesterday, I did notice a laundromat in one building.

What is extraordinary is that every building has a recycling center. And the residents use them! Recyclables are separated into various bins, and the areas around them are meticulously neat. No busted chairs, ratty disgusting mattresses, piles of dumped ash trays or other junk normally seen around trash/recycling centers in the States. Recycling is taken very seriously here – even plastic cat food sachets are recycled! Non-recyclables are placed in trash chutes leading to incinerators in the basements. I assume this is to fire the boilers for the building’s radiators. I don’t know what happens to the ashes.

Since it is still winter here (sunset will be at @4.30 today), people are out and about long after dark. But I was startled this morning to see a couple pushing a pram at 3 AM! Maybe they were commuting, no way to tell, but it was a jolt. Public transportation runs 24/7 here, and there is a Metro stop nearby.

Because so many people walk/bike, grocery shopping is done daily, more or less. One buys what one can load onto one’s bike, and that is that. 40 years ago, when I lived in my school bus in St. Augustine, Florida, I bought what would fit into my backpack and my front basket. I didn’t have panniers on my bike, as some misbegotten, 10-toothed yahoo wiped one off with his truck bumper and crushed the other. At least the bike wasn’t trashed, but still.

At any rate, I really, really, really hope I can get out and do some touristing tomorrow, as my flight back to London leaves at 10 PM.

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