I don't understand why people make planes or trains without AC power plugs all over the place. Having power to run my laptop is the one way I can be tamed into making long journey's and feel like I'm being useful somehow
. If my battery is dead, then I'm forced to read my book, after I get tired of reading I just sit and stare off into space. If I get bored of doing that, then I start shaking my leg nervously until Karla tells me to stop shaking the table and her seat.
An hour and fifteen minutes late we arrived in Paris, then had to stand in line for another half-hour to get our tickets changed. Standing in a line of 30 people with only three counters open is another thing that drives me up the wall. I don't know why they don't have more windows open, there are 45 windows, but the majority of them are closed and the line is getting longer by the minute. Does it make the ticket people feel special? That someone would wait in line for 45 minutes just to talk to them? These are the kind of places where you really want to double check that you are in the correct line because if you stand in the wrong line for that long there might be a murder in the train station. As it turned out, The sleeper cars were all full (they were expensive anyway) and we were just happy to be on any train at all after our first delay. We would now be traveling overnight to Hamburg and then catching a train from Hamburg to Copenhagen the next morning. The train to Hamburg was not good at all. I had flashbacks to the terrible nights on the Portugal train as we pulled away from the platform. There was only one AC power plug in the whole train and that was in the dining car. I waited for an hour for it to be available and then I used it to recharge my battery and get a little more work done on my laptop
. When I returned to the cabin that Karla was in there were two other dudes in there as well. I tried sleeping a little bit but it was a joke, the chairs are facing each other, but they are about 3 feet apart so you can't spread out between the two without sagging in the middle. It was hot, I was sweating, this whole thing sucked. Karla had a pretty good thing figured for herself. She had captured a broken middle seat and was able then to spread across to the other middle seat so she at least was almost horizontal most of the night. I would pay 200 euro for a bed right now, anything to get horizontal and have some good rest. I left the room and went two cabin's down. There were lots of bags in there, but no people. I laid down across the seats and got comfortable only to be interrupted about a half hour later by the two girls who owned all the luggage. They didn't speak English, and I couldn't tell what they were speaking, so I just said "I'm sorry" and left. I walked to the end of the car and slept next to the bicycle locker on the cold floor. It was as comfortable as sleeping in the back of a truck but at least I wasn't overheating in the cabin with Karla and two other weird guys. I later heard from Karla the one of the guys was a tad annoying, he kept messing with his chair and sprayed himself with cologne about 40 times during the night. I guess that's his way of getting by without showering. Karla almost choked.
I wasn't sleeping much better with the bicycles
. At about 5am we pulled into some town and I saw a handful of people get off the train. I wandered through the corridor again and found a cabin with only one guy in it, I stretched out on the other side and got about two hours of decent sleep before arriving in Hamburg.
Day 79 - Somehow that previous night I lost my Krone. Let me explain: I had one Swedish Krone that a guy had left in a hostel in Rome. A Krone is only worth a 1/9th of a euro so it wasn't a big deal, but this Krone fit perfectly in my money clip and held it tight so none of my paper money could fall out. It had stayed with me this whole time and right at the end of the trip it fell out. I normally could put those kinds of things behind me but I was so tired from sleeping so little that I felt like crying. I was totally defeated, and to top it off our train to Copenhagen was late coming in. It was the straw that broke the camel's back. I sat dejected in at the platform. Karla made me feel better by making fun of some people with matching Rick Steves luggage. They were older travelers and each had fanny packs, we got a kick out of it. I have nothing directly against Rick Steves travel; I've looked up information on their sites before because I know it's valid and up to date. But you wouldn't catch me dead on a Rick Steves European Tour. The train is still late, let's see, hmmm... Oh yea, let's make fun of these people
! Here they come, down the platform... not one, but two fanny packs a piece, she has a camera and they both have backpacks. It's not Rick Steve's luggage, but these guys might as well be screaming "rob me, take my vacation money please!" It's no wonder tourists are targeted in many large cities. Not that our giant backpacks are any more discreet, but they send a different message when traveling than the double fanny packs do. Karla went to look at their luggage tags to find out where they were from so we could make fun of their state. She was obviously too conspicuous because the woman saw Karla stare at her luggage and quickly flipped the tag around. Karla was a bit taken back, she wasn't threatening the lady, just wanted to see where she was from. Turns out these paranoid travelers just arrived from British Columbia. I can definitely tell that the summer tourist season has begun. There are a lot more touristy looking people here than there were two weeks ago. There are even a lot more backpackers. I feel a sick feeling in my stomach for those people who just arrived and are planning to do their three months over the summer. Karla and I had such a good time, and I think that March, April, and May were the perfect months to go. There were numerous times when we did something interesting and afterwards pondered how bad it would have been during the height of summer.
Here comes the train time to stop making fun of other travelers.
The train to Copenhagen was an ICE fast train, at least it would have an AC power plug. This train did something else that I've never seen before, about an hour into our journey, the train took a ferry. The tracks go right up to the dock and the train rolls right on the bottom deck with all the cars and semi-trucks. The ferry from Germany to southern Denmark only took 40 minutes and we were allowed to walk around the ferry while we were in transit, Karla and I ate sandwiches and explored the boats duty free shop, when we arrived at the port the train rolled right off the boat and kept on going. You see something new every day, Today it was a train on the ferry.
As a final punch in the gut we arrived 40 min. late into Copenhagen. We checked in and Karla instantly went to sleep to catch up from the train ride.
I took this opportunity to explore Copenhagen a little bit. I walked down to the waterfront and looked at the modern looking buildings. Copenhagen is a very compact city but at the same time it's not very tall. Several buildings are built in the Renaissance style and many others look like Canal houses from Brussels or The Netherlands. Above the 5 or 6 story houses, there is not much topping the skyline. A church here, a building there, but overall, the city is pretty flat. I found some City Bikes, this is something interesting in Copenhagen. All over the city there are free bikes available to the public. Just put a 20 Kronen coin in the slot to unlock the bike. As long as you return the bike to another one of the City Bike racks, you get your 20 Kronen back. They were blue and heavy and only one speed, but they were faster than walking. Continently, there was a rack located near our hostel so no matter where we picked one up, we could return it near home. I crossed the river to the Christianshavn district and wandered around for a while
. There were about 6 people sleeping in the room when I got back. I know that these people aren't all taking naps. I bet dollars to doughnuts that these guys just arrived and are trying to sleep off the jetlag. This was my second big indication that the summer peak season had hit and was now in full swing. School was out and the tsunami of drunken college students and families were coming across the Atlantic at an alarming pace. It's a little depressing to see all these places turn into crowded tourist traps, but at the same time, I won't be as sad about going home and getting away from this.
After Karla had a nap, we walked around the central area and had some excellent Chinese food. This is something that we have both been craving for a long time and though I've seen lots of sushi, Thai food, Japanese food, and other oriental food. I haven't seen a good traditional sweet-and-sour-chicken Chinese food restaurant until here. The food was great, but we didn't get a fortune cookie afterward. (It's the Chinese meal that never ended because I got the bill but no fortune cookie.) Unlike the missing Krone story, I let this pass without emotion. Outside in the square there was an American classic car cruise-in going on. I felt like I was back in the states during summer time looking at all the old Chevy's, Fords, Chryslers, and Pontiacs. The car show led right us to the Tivoli garden entrance. Karla and I paid the entrance fee and went into Tivoli for the evening
. Tivoli garden is like a piece of Disneyland that broke off and landed in Downtown Copenhagen. It is located directly next to the central station and you can see the rides spinning and moving from all over the city. Without a doubt, Tivoli was a theme park but Karla and I had a hard time guessing exactly what its theme is. It was a mix of royal palaces, water fountains, a carnival, pirates, and Chinese pagodas. I'm not sure if those things fit into one theme, but if they do, that's the theme of the Tivoli gardens. We ended late and walked around seeing the town hall and the government buildings. At night we went to bed feeling like we accomplished something, even though most of the morning was spent on the train.
Day 80 - Copenhagen has free bikes! Today we took them for a ride. There happened to be a marathon going through Copenhagen today, just our luck. Copenhagen isn't actually big enough to host a marathon and stay inside the city, so a course is set up and people run around in circles. If you're running the marathon, you have a lot of laps to run, people running a 5K or 10K will run the same course, just fewer times. This put a big monkey wrench into navigating through downtown. We were inexperienced bike riders even without hundreds of people standing around and running in the streets. First it was over to the Christianshavn district for lunch, we biked around the canals and saw that part of the city
. There is a commune in that district that is famous for it's liberal rules and hippie lifestyle. Bevar Christiana is buried next to a park in the back of the Christianshavn district. Graffiti covers most walls and shops along the road signs sell everything from Reggae music hats, head shop supplies, sunglasses, knock off handbags and watches, t-shirts, etc. Many people come to the area during the day but if you sit on a waiting list long enough you can join and live in the commune itself. The place is really friendly but seems a little out of place in a city like Copenhagen. I heard that the city wants to shut down the area due to the "crime and drugs" that have settled in the area. Personally I think the area is unique and good for the city, if you get rid of it, you won't solve the problem of crime and drugs, you'll just push it underground and to other parts of the city.
Next we biked north to Kastellet. The star shaped island is undoubtedly the old location of a fortress or castle of some kind, but all the buildings were relatively new and there were no signs in English to tell us what was going on. After some pictures we looked at a neat church and then wandered over to the little mermaid, but only because we were in the area! First, some background on the little mermaid... When we were on the bike tour in Berlin we spoke with three people from Copenhagen. The first thing they told us was NOT to go see the Little Mermaid. Copenhagen is very fond of its literary master Hans Christian Anderson, across the city monuments and streets named after him stand as proof
. And the first "attraction" that Copenhagen touted was a bronze statue of a little mermaid sitting on a rock by the riverbank. This statue lives up to it's name, it is little, about a meter tall at most, and after seeing it I realized how overrated this statue was to the tourist information board of Copenhagen. It was worth seeing because we found ourselves near it by chance, but If I walked all morning or rode a tour bus across the city to see this statue, I would be sorely disappointed. It was getting late in the afternoon and we still had much to do so we ditched the bikes and hopped the train and went west to the Carlsberg brewery. To my dismay, we arrived just 20 minutes after the last tour of the day. I took pictures and paid my restpects, Carlsberg and Heineken are the two that I missed on this trip, so it's just more reason to come back again. As a consolation we ate some great pizza by the train station and then returned to the city center. I wanted to see Kings park, but there was only one bike available at the city bike stand in front of our hostel so Karla rode the bike slowly and I walked next to her at my normal going-to-class pace, which is a clip for those of you who have ever walked to class with me. The speeds were similar and it worked out perfectly, regardless of how silly it looked. Kings park was beautiful with manicured lawns and shrubberies. Several cities in Europe have parks that are decorated with trees cut into shapes. In Kings park they happened to be square, but sometimes trees are cut to be flat, round, triangular or whatever
. In America I've seen people trim hedges into shapes, but I've only seen tree shaped trees. As the sun went down we returned the bikes and then went to the Absolut Ice Bar that was located just down the street in the posh "#27 hotel". The cover to get in was a bit steep, but it came with a free drink. They give you fuzzy coats with mittens at the front door in case you left your parka at home. The bar, seats, tables, glasses, wall decorations, literally everything is made of ice and the bar is kept at a cool -5 degrees Celsius. The bar isn't that big, but it's fun to be in and take pictures for a short while until your bum goes numb. Craving something south of the (American) border, we checked out the Mexican food restaurant I saw yesterday down by the train station. It's rare to find a Mexican food place anywhere in Europe, especially one in Denmark. Even more rare is to find a real Mexican in Europe (Spanish don't count fool). The two guys who ran the place were Indian actually, we couldn't figure it out but the food was authentic and awesome! This was one of the first meals in a long time when Karla and I ordered way too much food but then totally cleaned our plates. I didn't ask who taught them to cook Mexican food, but I wondered if somewhere in Cabo San Lucas there were two Mexicans serving delicious curry chicken...
That night we met a couple of younger guys standing with a pile of stuff in front of our door. I was nervous at first because they each had book bags and were packing stuff and looked like they were leaving
. "going somewhere?" I asked innocently as I scanned the stuff to make sure none of it was mine.
"yea, I guess so," explained the guy. " We thought we were here for two nights but it turns out we only paid for one. I got up to take a piss and my key locked me out, I went downstairs to recharge it and they kicked us out." He finished shoving socks in his backpack.
"That sucks man, so where are you going to go?" I asked.
"Probably to a bar to get trashed and then we'll pass out on an overnight train, we're headed to Amsterdam next." These guys looked like College students for sure. By this I mean they were unshaven, needed a haircut, getting kicked out of a hostel and yet in a relatively good mood about it.
"So how long are you traveling for?" I asked, feeling sorry that they were being kicked out into the street and I was about to enjoy a feather duvet.
"We're going for 90 days, this is our first hostel. We haven't gotten over the jetlag so it's OK if we have to stay up all night."
THREE MONTHS! I've carried bigger backpacks to class, these guys had little school backpacks for their entire trip. Either they misinterpreted the phrase "backpacking Europe" or they were crazy, or possibly they were just college students with a desire for adventure, negotiable morals, and a high tolerance for alcohol. We gave them some pointers on what was cool to see and wished them good luck. Two single guys taking over Europe in the summer. Why are you reading this travel blog when you could be reading theirs... I'm sure at least one of them will get arrested and they might bring back souvenir STD's to help them remember their trip for years to come.
That's not me, but I'm sure it's fun.
Day 78 - Up and at 'em early, we caught our first train at 9:30am. Actually, the train was late so we caught it at 9:50. The first leg was from Nice to Paris, where we would have to switch trains and go to Cologne, then switch again. Immediately we encountered issues because the Train from Nice got delayed in Marseilles and we would be arriving late into Paris. This screwed up all of our connections down the road. I tried not to freak out, but the train kept being delayed longer and longer as the trip went on and there were no AC power plugs to recharge my laptop with so I was a complete wreck. Is there going to be a connection? Are they going to charge us twice for the reservations because our train was late? What if we have to spend the night in the Cologne train station? All questions I was thinking because my mind wasn't preoccupied with my laptop.