16 August 2012

Copenhagen: bikes, bins and garbage

I have never been to a more filthy city than Copenhagen; beautiful but filthy.

The guide book says Scandinavians are touchy about tourists criticising them so let’s look at Bergen or Oslo just across the water as well. All three are great tourist cities – particularly if you manage to score one of the five days a year in Bergen when it’s not raining. All are easy to get around if you ignore the fact that Copenhagen bus maps and timetables are difficult to find. All three have great food that poor Aussie pensioner-tourists can afford. Anyway, snuffling out cheap, obscure bistros is much more fun that simply consulting your Michelin Guide (number of stars equals number of years in advance required to book). All three have great suburban train systems that connect to very frequent country systems. And when you get stuck people will happily help.

Copenhagen’s bikes deserve a tourist star in their own right. None of the macho status stuff we get in Melbourne. Not a thread (?) of lycra in sight. Dad pedalling like mad, Mum and the kids in a box-sort-of-thing out front and everybody getting stuck into ice-creams. And the thousands of commuter-riders don’t yet appear to have found the sport of attempting to kill tourists who amble all mind-in-neutral onto the bike lanes.

What Copenhagen does have as well is rubbish in huge quantities. Walk across the Børsgade bridge over the canal. Every crevice, every crack is full of cigarette butts; thousands of them. Drink cans and coffee cups wedged into the bridge superstructure suggests clean-up is an annual event if at all. Suburban streets are much the same; dray-loads of cigarette butts in gutters and on footpaths.

Norreport Metro station opens above the fabulous driverless trains that run every two or three minutes. On the surface a monumental bike rack that doubles as a giant pissoir. The stink is overpowering. The glass skirt panels of the escalators to the platforms are all lavishly decorated with dribbles of melted ice-cream or some sugary liquid. And on a Sunday morning about 10 am dried vomit still festoons the platform rubbish bins.

The bright yellow Havnebussen (water ferry) commutes between the Nyhavn ferry terminal (a few metres from the Royal Danish Playhouse) and the Copenhagen Opera House just across the water. Under the Nyhavn jetty’s wooden seat, two neat piles of human shit. They were there for more than 24 hours quietly drying in the morning mist.

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