It's the street art, graffiti and all the other 'noise', such as cultural spamming, ad jamming and so forth, that really brings a city to life, I've long believed. And Copenhagen has some fantastic murals, spread around the city. Incidently, notice the distinctly Copenhagen style street lights...
Thank you very much! This is one link to The Copenhagen Report that, in my mind, I've always wanted - but yet that came completely out of the blue.
Fantastic. In fact, I'm chuffed (link for non-Brits).
You see, if I was to answer the timeless question (in many versions), "which newspaper would you take with you if you were stranded on a desert island" (you know, that question...) I would most certainly say The Guardian (though I must admit I would miss the sports section of The Toronto Star).
Incidently, on a related note, if stranded on the same island and forced to choose between having an iPod filled with music and a sexy female companion of my choice, I'd take Pernille Rosendahl (one of my favourite Danes...formerly of the Danish band Swan Lee, these days The Storm) without a moment of hesitation) and allow her to serenade me to sleep every evening. Ahhh...
...and now back to normal blogging.
To many, Temple Bar on Nørrebrogade in Copenhagen is surely a dependable 'standby' kind of place, pretty much any night of the week (and especially on weekends). A place that is very much like an old - very old - comfortable (and rather ugly) sofa that you just can't bring yourself to throw out. In fact, Temple Bar is filled with ratty sofas and chairs upstairs that they really should bring themselves to throw out.
It is perhaps for this reason that year after year living here in Copenhagen, I have resisted the urge to frequent the place. In fact, until last week, I had never even set foot there. This was not because I doubted that it was a dependable place for having a drink and a chat with a friend or two. Rather, whenever it has come to finding a place to grab a beer in Norrebro, there was just always some place else that always pulled us in. Temple Bar just seemed like it would always be there when, eventually, it was needed. And so the years went by.
So I stumbled in there the other night (late afternoon, actually) with a friend. It's about what you'd expect. Smoking upstairs, along with a lot of ratty furniture and seriously neglected toilets - one with a partially kicked-in door allowing no privacy and a sink missing part of the sink. Yes, you read that right.
But it's cosy and if you went there enough, it is the kind of place where everybody might know your name. Or come to know it, in time.
...like a little bit of history. It struck me recently that this blog has all but eschewed history. Copenhagen's history. Denmark's history. Or to put it another way, in the world of The Copenhagen Report, Danish history began around September 2004. Or to put it still another way, this blog is seriously stuck in the present. (Well, there was that recent link to that excellent clip about the smiley vikings...)
This is odd for a couple reasons. One being that Denmark has a rich (and in some aspects, rather widely known...) history tumbling way way back, century upon century. The second is that the author's girlfriend, being a history student, thoroughly enjoys wading around in the dark annals of Danmark's past...which makes the author, at times, feel that he deserves an honorary degree in the subject as well.
So the other day I was introduced to the blog of one Jacob Christensen, who was kind enough to write a short entry linking to a couple of my posts (always appreciated, thanks!). Consequently, I got to reading a few of his (often very entertaining) entries and I couldn't resist a reciprocal link back to this amusing post of his, about grievous blunders in Danish history (which thereby indirectly adds a little a bit of historical depth to this site - a nice bonus).
Now let's see what else we can write about then brand with the 'history' label in the coming weeks and months. Enough said.
So that was something completely different...or at least a little bit.
*(Gratuitous) Monty Python reference candidly acknowledged...
Or not. To follow up the last post, this was the scene in the heart of Nørrebro last evening. The same place that continues to take a whacking in the media owing to all the so-called rioting, protesting and such.
On the ice rink at Blågårds Plads last night as I cycled by, I was attracted by the sound of reggae music, and the sight of families and children skating and playing on the ice. A DJ was playing at a small stage set up on one end of the rink, and bright spotlights illuminated the ice. It was a great atmosphere.
Of course, this was a stark contrast to the portrayal of an unsafe area of the city, out of control and in the grip of violent and out of control gangs and 'rioters' and the like.
Unsafe? Dangerous? Yeah, if you slip on the ice and manage to crack your head open, perhaps.
Don't believe a word about Nørrebro being out of control these past few days - anyone talking such talk is talking from their ass. Nothing more, nothing less (as I mentioned in the previous post).
Central Nørrebro is probably the most vibrant, lively, diverse and generally amusing area of the city to hang out, and a great place to live (even if Vesterbro remains my personal favourite...). The worst part is that around Denmark, those who rarely, if ever, have set foot in the area have been fed such a nonsensically different view over the past days and months from the media. But what can you do?
Below: more scenes from the rink...
by: Tim Anderson (email@example.com)
There has been a lot of talk about the violence around Nørrebro lately. It can be heard on the streets, behind closed doors and not least of all from the talking heads in the media. It is essentially nonsense.
There has been something of an 'uprising' in Nørrebro over the past days, though the reality is it's the same old crowd generally found hanging out somewhere around Stengade and Griffenfeldtsgade (and sometimes around Blågards Plads later in the night). The police have a pretty good beat on the area (it's like 3 small streets) since there's always always a few people lurking around looking 'unsavory' - though I would prefer to use the term 'bored'. It's a feature of every city of any size.
Speaking of bored, that is a fair description for the media in Copenhagen as well. It's forgivable - they've got a lot of print space and air time to fill, and some weeks there's just not a lot going on. So when something happens, like a loud protest in Nørrebro, packs of hungry journalists and photographers are quickly dispatched (sometimes they arrive even before the events have begun, in anticipation) and producers and editors greedily lick their lips knowing there will be plenty of tasty morsels with which to fill airwaves and column inches.
The latest round started a little over a week ago when a car was torched and a couple garbage containers were lit on fire. This may sound a bit disturbing, but seriously it was pretty tame - I happened to be cycling by the incident when the garbage container was on fire. I wasn't alone - plenty of pedestrians and cyclists were in the area. And as (unintentional) proof of how innocuous it was (and overblown in the media) - even in one of the photo published by one of the major newspapers in Denmark, Politiken, intended to show how crazy the situation, a young couple could be seen sauntering by the burning overturned garbage bin holding hands (apparently passing by on a evening walk). Yet if you heard or read the media coverage you'd imagine the street was ablaze half the night, and the situation out of control.
There is precisely one purpose that these fires are started (and cars are torched) - and that is to get the police to show up. It's basically the equivalent of seeing a frog and poking it with a stick to make it jump. The fun is knowing there will be reaction, and having the power to provoke it. Nothing more, nothing less - it's not about theft and violence, and it's not about the Muhammad cartoons though it is always easy to mention those in the same breath as the fires.
One also must understand that in the area of Nørrebro in which this typically happens (as is the situation in the rest of Copenhagen), the nature of the urban layout means it is a relatively simple exercise for the police to patrol and control - and maintain a heavy-handed handle on the situation (which also tends to provoke things further, it must be openly acknowledged).
They just place their vehicles along all the side streets, follow the herd of demonstrators ('rioters'), both in front and behind and that's about it. Yes, windows can potentially get smashed and garbage containers can be set alight, but nonetheless there's not really any place for the protester to run - anyone trying anything stupid tends to get picked up by police almost instantly. Being in the area when something is going down isn't much of an issue either - a short detour of about one street will generally allow you to steer clear around the whole situation, even at its worst. It's certainly not a war-zone.
And one last point about those 'torched' cars: if you ever park your car on Stengade, you're an idiot anyway - no sympathy from this quarter if it gets damaged or worse torched one day. Seriously, find a smarter place to park - choose another of the hundreds of other streets in the city, plenty of which are extremely close by...
And of course, all of this subsequently makes a nice story for the lazy international media to grab ahold of, but that doesn't make their portrayal any more accurate or realistic...
...not quite the like the apple pie mom used to make
For those with a serious sweet tooth, Denmark is not a bad choice. And I'm the first to acknowledge that I have such a sweet tooth - it's no secret.
Whereas many a newcomer to Denmark, upon seeking out and tasting one of those infamous and authentic Danish pastry are shocked at the staggeringly sweet nature of these little sugar bombs, I thoroughly enjoy them. Interestingly, it should be noted these are nothing like that which is served under the tag 'danish' in other countries. Rather, these are heart-stoppingly sugar-laden and often sticky things, the likes of which you've surely never tasted anywhere else. For many the sweetness is simply too much (and in truth, many Danes feel the same way). I, on the other hand, reach for seconds. Perhaps it has something to do with coming from a country famous for producing one of the sweetest products made from a natural substance, maple syrup. Or maybe it's just me.
Examples include: wienerbrød, spandauer, snegle, kringler, to name but a few.
Upon tasting them, one immediately wonders why the average Dane doesn't weigh 2 tonnes (which they certainly don't - and I don't weight 2 tonnes either, I might add!).
So, coming home from work I occasionally find myself thinking about indulging my sweet tooth after dinner - which was the case the other night.
Previously, I've bemoaned the fact Danish supermarkets all too often leave something to be desired. This is especially true for those supermarkets without half-decent in-store bakeries (yes, this means Irma, Super Brugsen, Netto and Fakta). Føtex and Super Best are generally acceptable, in this regard.
Alas, I fell victim to my own desires the other evening, and consequently I was metaphorically 'sucker-punched' by a bunch of marketers from South Jutland (the part of Denmark attached to mainland Europe, if you don't know).
You see, this craving for something sweet lead me into Irma (as it was already past 6pm, meaning all the bakeries were closed) because that's about the closest thing to a decent supermarket around where we live (meaning not a Føtex or Super Best in sight).
Oops - they had me within 3 steps.
There at the entrance way was a stack of "Gyldne Kager" (Golden Cakes) boxed cakes/pies on offer. Choices included apple-cinnamon, carmel and nut, and a couple others. Superficially, they looked okay. So I grabbed an apple-cinnamon without really paying much attention or giving it much thought. Since Irma really doesn't have much in the way of decent desserts anyway, this seemed an alright option - one about as good as it was going to get.
Arriving home, I took a closer look at the box and began to wonder. The box proudly proclaimed, "bagt med sønderjyske traditioner og de bedste råvarer". To translate: 'baked with south Jutland's traditions and the best ingredients'.
And the moment I opened it, I knew I had been had. Apparently South Jutland's traditions and best ingredients revolve around heavily processed food with plenty of chemical additives. Not even the illusion of freshness (but a very unnatural sort of sticky feeling thanks to the questionable residue leftover in your mouth after eating).
Sometimes marketing can give you a real bitchslap, if you're not paying close enough attention. I won't be fooled again...famous last words.
On toast and ovens and heating stuff (in certain Copenhagen apartments)...and where to buy used stuff in Denmark
by: Tim Anderson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Here we have a distinctly Danish toaster. It is, from a global perspective, not your typical toaster.
Rather, if you're not from Denmark, it's probably not like any toaster you've used or owned before. I hadn't. I thought it would be a cool and very Danish thing to go out and buy one for myself, until I realised that the real value of a toaster comes from the fact that the bread gets toasted (quickly) on both sides at once. Do it one side at a time and not only is it slower but, inevitably, one side gets cold while the other is being toasted. So I decided to go for the more traditional version and spurn Danish design (actually, I've never figured out whether the design is actually Danish...).
Anyway, this is just a lead-in, as this is not a post about toasters. Well, it sort of is. It's actually a post that is more generally about heating things, buying contraptions that heat things, and the state of apartments in Copenhagen.
Our apartment, not untypically, is missing an oven. You see, the kitchen is small and the apartment is old and the association that controls the building is not terribly proactive, which could also be said about our landlord, a nice as he otherwise is. (Another consequence of this is the stand-up shower located in our spare bedroom, not the bathroom - another common feature of very old re-furbished Copenhagen apartments). So instead of a normal oven, we have a little mini-oven, that I bought used from www.dba.dk, which serves the purpose instead (I mention www.dba.dk intentionally, as this is the best site in Denmark for finding pretty much any other used item that you can imagine - like a mini-oven...it also happens to be a good place to find an apartment to rent - just be sure to get ahold of a Danish dictionary first, if you don't speak the language). And as it turns out, rarely is it necessary to have a full size oven anyway - I think I've missed having such a thing about 2 times since we've lived in this place.
As I mentioned, this oven arrangement is not uncommon. Many an apartment kitchen in Copenhagen is in need of refurbishment (as there are loads and loads of very very old buildings in the city), and one consequence is a lack of an oven in some places. Actually, I have a friend who owns an apartment in Copenhagen that is even missing a cooker - instead he has two gas burners (connected to gas pipes) that sit on his counter. I'm not kidding, as crazy as this sounds!
Of course, when you buy used, you risk buying crap. So on Sunday our trusty little mini-oven conked out after 8 months - just as the quiche we made was baking. This is what has provoked this post, and the above commentary.
our now defunct mini-oven...
Which brings me back to the subject of toasters - and why those one-sided Danish toasters are just no good. You see, there was some left-over quiche in the fridge, obviously best re-heated. Suddenly, as I was about to eat it cold earlier today, in a flash of almost genius, an idea came to me for how to reheat it in the absence of a new mini-oven (to be purchased tomorrow).
Lest others living in such an apartment with a shitty mini-oven that has just broken find themselves caught in a similar predicament, here's my simple instructions for getting around the problem, inspired by those Danish one-sided toasters:
1. Take your traditional (non-Danish and not one-sided) toaster out of the cupboard (or wherever it is stored).
2. Turn toaster on its side (ok, you'll probably need a wide mouth toaster to succeed further) and push the quiche in (this will also work for leftover pizza slices in need of reheating). In this way, when the cheese on top begins to melt and the 'insides' soften, they won't go as far as they would if standing sideways in the toaster (as toast normally does).
2. When the quiche (or pizza slice) is (re-)heated, remove from toaster (still on its side), then return the toaster to its normal upright position.
3. Enjoy your re-warmed quiche.
yummmmm! Hot quiche...
Optional (but recommended) step:
4. Go to store the next day when it opens and buy a new mini-oven. People will quite justifiably think you've cracked-up if they catch you doing this.
This is one of those very embarrassing incidents. For those non-Danes unfamiliar with Danish TV, 'God Morgen Danmark' ('Good Morning Denmark') is a live daily news program broadcast each morning. Actually, in the background is the central station in Copenhagen where the show is broadcast from each day, if you're curious.
A shockingly good laugh, but my goodness, she surely won't be hearing the end of this one for some time...and for good reason!
Below is an English-subtitled version (the offending remark occurs around the 1.20 mark...). If you're a Danish speaker, you can click here to watch a slightly longer non-subtitled version.
* English translation: "Is it an ape?"
It has been another ugly few days in Danish politics. Two members of Ny Alliance, the flailing political project which has essentially now done precisely the opposite of what it set out to do, left the party over the past days. That's 2 out of 5 of the party's elected members - or 40% if you are one for numbers. Ouch! This is a party that is flushing itself down the toilet, albeit taking a few flushes to get the job done. The leftover skid marks will likely be all but forgotten as they are worn away - perhaps rather quickly at the rate things are going.
Somehow, something went wrong for Ny Alliance when it came to agreeing upon on a strategy, back when the election was called back in the fall (and since), regarding exactly how to stand up to the Dansk Folkeparti's usual mild-to-extremely racist tactics, views and demands (not to mention the government's own particular - and often rather peculiar - manner of handling or 'appeasing' these). You see, this was what Ny Alliance detested above all else.
It seems that Gitte Seeberg, one of the founding members of the party (who left the party last week) was in favour of taking a strong stand and not being part of the governing 'block' (yes, the one that included the not so sweet-smelling, highly xenophobic Dansk Folkeparti). On the other hand, Malou Aamund, who left Ny Alliance earlier today, wasted no time in immediately joining Venstre, the Prime Minister's party in the governing coalition, suggesting that she essentially agreed with the government on mnay things, including the line that the new Immigration Minister has been taking regarding the asylum seekers in Denmark - who are stuck without being able to work in Denmark's happy immigration camps (which has been perhaps Ny Alliance's biggest issue from the start).
And then there is poor hapless Naser Khadar, the party leader, fumbling to hold it all together, whatever is left. He just has never really managed to get past repeating that Ny Alliance stands for an alternative to 'Block' politics in Denmark (which is to say either supporting the governing 'block' consisting of Venstre and Konservative as a coalition supported by Dansk Folkeparti, or joining the essentially toothless minority opposition 'block' of the Social Democrats, Socialist Folkeparti and Radikale Venstre), as opposed to actually finding a productive way to overcome this 'block' mentality. The formula he came up with was to join the governing block. So much for originality.
So now the government coalition in Denmark with the help of the supporting Dansk Folkeparti has a clear majority once again, thanks to Malou Aamund (and without even needing Ny Alliance for support, as they briefly did when one of their coalition MP's deflected her party to become an independent a few weeks back). Meaning it's back to the same old, same old.
It all looked like it might turn out so different back when it all began for Ny Alliance, which was not all that long ago...