Copenhagen – Day 2: Chaos and Miracles

I only managed to sleep for 4 hours before I had to get up in the middle of the night to catch another early morning flight. The gloomy, grey light that fell on the city did little to cheer me up. It was raining again (or maybe it never stopped) when I stepped outside to walk to the train station. In fact, the downpour was so heavy that I could almost swim in the puddles that had built up on the ground. Trying not to get lost in the darkness was hard enough in itself, but the rain made it significantly more challenging. I was relieved when I finally reached the station after a 10-minute walk that seemed endless.

However, my relief soon turned to anxiety when I was told that all the trains to the airport were cancelled due to the weather conditions. Apparently, weather-imposed disruptions on the network are everyday occurrences in Copenhagen. (These moments make me appreciate the transport system in London I’m usually so critical of.) I was advised to take the train to a large transport hub in the city centre and change to another train there. I began feeling slightly worried at that point, even though I still had plenty of time. Being prone to lateness, I always plan to arrive at the airport two hours before departure. So, there was no reason to freak out just yet. I had naively planned to get a relaxed breakfast after going through security, and now as I made calculations in my head (a rather painful activity at that time of day… I mean night), I maintained the hope that I would still have enough time for that.

I arrived at the transport hub and even successfully found the platform for my next train. The display informed me that it was due to arrive in 10 minutes. Excellent, I thought, quite a long wait, but everything is fine, there’s absolutely no need to panic. Then, all of a sudden, ominous yellow letters flashed up on the screen, telling us that the train was delayed by five minutes. I shrugged and returned to the book  I was reading to pass the time (The Name of the Rose, in case you were wondering), struggling to fend off my mood of annoyance. The next time I looked at the screen, I discovered, to my horror, that the delay had increased to 10 minutes. Then 15. Then 20, until there was no hope of the train arriving in the foreseeable future. It was at that point that I first considered finding a cab, but I was reluctant, partly because of the exuberant prices and partly because it would have required me to leave the station and step out into the rain. At one point the yellow numbers disappeared, and I was flushed with hope. Maybe the train is finally coming! Then, all my hopes were shattered when the hateful yellow letters invaded the screen again, announcing a further 20 minutes of delays. I realised the impossibility of reaching the airport by train, so I braced myself and returned to the streets.

The transport chaos affected a significant number of people around me, many of whom huddled together by the entrance of the station. Many Danes themselves struggled to find a way home, and nobody knew what was going on. The roads, by contrast, were almost empty, and there were no taxis around that I could have hailed. But I managed to obtain the phone number of a taxi company, and I dialled immediately, putting all my hopes into this phone call. But the operator told me that all the cars they had were in use, and that there would be no available taxi for the next hour or so. Time was rapidly running out. I abandoned my dreams of breakfast, I just wanted to get to the airport with enough time to get through security and reach the departure gate. I silently prayed to God to help me.

Then, all of a sudden, I noticed a bus across the road with the name of the airport as its destination. I didn’t know whether it was about to leave or not, so I began running towards it. But there was no need to rush. The bus was already packed, as fellow tourists squeezed onto it in a desperate attempt to get to the airport on time. I had no chance of getting on, and could do nothing but watch the bus driving off into the distance. The next bus was to be expected in 20 minutes. I was counting the minutes feverishly. If I have to wait 20 minutes here, and the journey takes at least 40 minutes, would I have enough time to catch my fight? My answer to that question was “maybe”,  pronounced with a faint tone of hope. But I could do nothing more. With no available cabs, the bus seemed my only chance of reaching the airport. Although, I must say, I didn’t understand why the buses could brave the weather, while the trains couldn’t.

And this is when God showed up and performed a miracle to help me. Even in the midst of all this confusion, deep down I knew that He wouldn’t leave me stranded in the piercing rain in a foreign city, and in the end my faith was justified. As I was waiting at the bus stop, a taxi appeared on the road out of nowhere. Two ladies flagged it immediately. I watched them with a sinking heart. How lucky they were, I thought, and decided to pay more attention to the streets in case another cab might pass by.

“We have one free space to the airport”, one of the ladies shouted towards the group of tourists standing at the bus stop. This was my golden moment, and I didn’t want to miss it. I jumped to the call within a moment, and soon I was on my way to the airport, arriving just in time to catch my flight to London. I was overwhelmed by feelings of gratefulness, joy and awe at God’s love and mercy. I had some moments when logic told me to stay on the platform and wait for the train, but now I could see that I was right in obeying His call to come up to the street. And while not getting a cab at the first attempt seemed like a disaster at the time, God had better plans for me. He didn’t want me to pay for the ride by myself, so He made sure I could share the cost with others. I knew all along that if I turned to Him and listened to His voice, He would help me, because His love for us is infinite, and His grace is way beyond my imagination. I could have left Copenhagen with a bitter taste after this adventure, but instead I will always remember it as the city where God performed a miracle for me.

Copenhagen – Day 1: Beauty through the Rain

I possess an insatiable desire to travel, and as soon as I return home after a trip, I immediately start planning the next journey. So this weekend I headed to Copenhagen, the capital city of Denmark. In a masochistic moment I booked an early morning flight, which meant that I had to travel through night-time London to get to the airport. No matter which place I had to go to, the bus stop, the night bus, the train station and even the train itself, I was surrounded by loud party-goers on their way home. I was relieved when I finally got on board the plane. The engine’s humming was music to my ears after the noises of the youngsters, and, whilst I was relaxing and enjoying the flight, I looked forward to my visit with excitement. On arrival, a heavy rain welcomed us into the country. But I did not want that to deter me, so I set out on my sightseeing trip with firm determination. I wasn’t even bothered by my less than suitable outfit consisting of a flowing skirt, ballet flats and a hat, but, of course, no umbrella. As we say in Hungary, I’m not made of sugar.

The Little Mermaid

Where else could I have started, if not at Copenhagen’s most famous landmark, the statue of the Little Mermaid? I couldn’t help feeling flushed with elation as it appeared in the distance. Although I am not particularly obsessed with the major tourist hotspots, I must admit that even I fall under the magnetic charm of such sights. There is something truly magical about seeing something you’ve heard a lot about. The places that have evoked such emotions in me include The Statue of Liberty in New York, the Eiffel Tower, Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, and the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles. And now the Little Mermaid. I was slightly surprised by how small the statue actually is, far smaller than a real-life person. But this makes it even more powerful in my eyes. The rain showed no sign of wanting to stop, and within the first ten minutes of being out on the streets, I was sopping wet. But I pressed on, despite the slight discomfort of walking in wet shoes.

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I walked towards the Amalienborg, the home of the Danish monarch. On my way there, I encountered several examples of the simple elegance of Danish architecture. I’ve always preferred elaborate, complex designs, but this no-fuss style was refreshing to see.

Amalienborg

Even the Royal Palace seemed to blend into the surroundings. If it wasn’t for the stern guards standing by the gates like their colleagues in London, I might not have realised that it was a palace.

Royal Guards

Then, “for something completely different”, I continued towards Nyhavn. I passed by a row of design shops, giving me another chance to marvel at the refined taste of the Scandinavians – as well as the slightly steep prices typical of the city.

Style

Nyhavn is one of the most crowded areas I’ve visited in Copenhagen, and understandably so. The charming, colourful houses of this old harbour now mainly function as restaurants, presumably overpriced and geared at tourists. Nevertheless, I was absolutely seduced by the area, even in spite the crowds.

Nyhavn

Nyhavn2

From there I walked past Christiansborg Palace and the Old Stock Exchange. The former is built in a similar style to the Amalienborg, but the latter is an imposing, lavish building. It was touching to see a series of rainbow-coloured flags on its tower, in honour of the Gay Pride event that was taking place in Copenhagen this weekend.

Christiansborg

The Old Stock Exchange

Then I crossed over to the neighbourhood of Christianshavn, home of Christiania, a free-town community of artists living independently of the Danish government. It included houses resembling garden sheds, a row of stalls selling folk art products, as well as places encouraging the consumption of marijuana. Some of the characters I encountered there were rough and slightly scary, and the whole area felt like a makeshift camp for the homeless, but the artist in me was attracted to this lifestyle of freedom, above the binding constraints of a ‘decent’ life.

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Christiania2

Christiania1

Returning to the mainland, I walked along the waterfront towards the Town Hall. On my way I got the chance to take in slightly more ‘mundane’ buildings, which, nevertheless, still displayed the typical architectural features I marvelled at earlier. I love leaving the tourist tracks and seeking out areas that only the locals would frequent, because it gives me a fuller picture of what it is like to live in a certain city. As someone who likes to call herself a citizen of the world, I am always looking for a place where I would be happy to live. Copenhagen did seem like such a place. It is tranquil, stylish and liveable, if expensive . And I couldn’t help noticing how good-looking Danish men are. I practically fell in love with someone new on every street corner. Blue eyes, light hair… just my type of guys…

Copenhagen waterfront

But back to the architectural beauties of the city… The area near Central Station was another jam-packed tourist hub. If you are into fun-fairs, you must visit Tivoli, one of the oldest amusement parks in Europe. But, as I am not too fussed by such establishments, I preferred to move on. As the area is so popular with tourists, international brands inevitably begin appearing along the busy roads of Vesterbrogade and Stroget, the main shopping street. I don’t really see the point of spending hours browsing the same items that I could also find at home, so I paid more attention to the detailed façades of the houses along the way. Although, I must say, I wandered into the Lego store with the wide-eyed enthusiasm of a child… And I was baffled to see a model of Tower Bridge made entirely of Lego bricks. Coupled with the never-ending downpour, I felt at home immediately…

Nyhavn in small

Tower Bridge

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I eventually left the buzzing shopping streets and turned to a quieter path again, heading towards Rosenborg Castle. After the all-day hustle and bustle of the city, the quiet and almost empty King’s Gardens were a piece of heaven for me. The castle, resembling the castles of fairy tales, put me in a dreamy mood. If it wasn’t for the rain, I would have loved to sit there for hours and let my imagination run wild.

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I headed towards the Botanical Gardens, and intended to walk further up, but by that point the rain was falling in torrents, and I didn’t want to risk catching a nasty illness, so, with a great deal of regret, I took a detour and hopped on the metro towards my accommodation.

I stayed at a private flat rented out on Airbnb (https://www.airbnb.co.uk/), a service I regularly use. It is the middle ground between the exuberant prices of hotels and the risks of couch surfing, because these spare rooms in residential apartments and houses are relatively cheap, but the involvement of money still serves as a guarantee. And the level of service is often miles above that provided by hotels. The rooms are impeccably cleaned, and the hosts often provide little personal touches, such as a kettle and tea in the room, or maps and guides to the city. Of course, it also means that a guest has to be considerate of the rules of the household, but as long as mutual respect is given, this can be a pleasant experience for both parties.

So, at the end of a long and wet but still highly enjoyable day,  I went to bed in my cosy room to get some rest before another early morning flight back home. Little did I suspect the difficulties that I would face on my way to the airport only a few hours later, and the amazing miracle that God performed to set everything right… But I will tell you all about it tomorrow. Stay tuned!

My Hotel/For Ondřej

My heart rivals the Grand Hotel.

It accommodates millions

For a few days, no more.

Then the bill is settled

And the room prepared

For another traveller.

I don’t favour wealth or rank.

I welcome any guest.

So, for a fickle moment,

A tour guide

Stayed in my heart.

His face was chiselled to the Eastern mould,

His tones were of the drying grass

Under the scorching sky,

His smile the wind

That blew all anxieties away.

My bus was delayed

But with him by my side

A hundred years passed like a minute.

I know how stupid,

How futile

This aimless verse is.

When distance stretches between us

Like a cruel desert

And I am no more

Than a nameless shadow

Tempted by the mirage of an oasis

But surrounded by the kingdom of drought.

I will never see you again.

And you will never care.

And that is fine.

For I am a poet.

So I’m always in love.

New flames flicker

Day in, day out.

But passion is a mask

That covers the sad truth.

What my heart screams for,

One steady beam,

One everlasting light,

I fear, I will never find.

Love’s Decay

It is still summer in its gilded glory,

But in the balmy heat lingers the breath of frost,

In your kiss the rancid taste of war,

On the blushing bloom a tint of rust,

On my floating heart the weight of doom.

Our home on a cloud

Is soon shattered by a storm

Because the echo of forever

Is nevermore.

My face in your mirror

Is no more than a blurred shadow.

Where green purity lay under our footsteps

Now runs the toxic flood of death.

Yesterday’s abundance

Is today’s puff of sand.

The world I once saw rosy and clear

Only exists now in the prism of a tear.

Our idols we cast in stone

Now flee us without goodbye.

Beyond the bleak pedestals

Stretches the kingdom of decay.

The eternal truth reigns supreme:

Love waltzes keenly with misery,

But haughtily spurns hope and cheer.