Finally, I have a few spare moments to devote to a blog that isn’t selling something (okay, I only have one blog that sells anything, but it’s eating my life!). Starting my own business, while still teaching, then traveling for seven of the last eleven weeks, has felt a bit like jumping off the high dive platform when I was a kid. First, there’s the surprising length of the fall, but then you hit the water and while it stings a bit, you’re alive. But then, just as you realize you’ve survived your non-Olympic-quality dive, it dawns on you that you are still traveling down, down, down in the water, with no way of stopping yourself.
And that you still have to swim back up.
All on the same breath.
And when you do finally surface, you think: “I am NEVER, EVER doing that again. EVER.”
Then you see the cute boy you like climbing the stairs to the platform, and up you go again.
Okay, that’s a very labored analogy, but I swear that’s EXACTLY how I’ve felt the last few months (except the cute boy is actually my next trip. Or he’s the company. Or something. Damn, this metaphor stinks!).
Moving on! I’m at the surface now, and ready to ride again.
In fact, being in Copenhagen made me want to ride my bike so badly it was almost like a craving. It didn’t help that I’d just received The Gazelle and that it was new (to me, anyway). Bikes are like boys: there’s always a honeymoon period for me, where I just itch to see the bike so much that I can’t stand it (I was going to say “ride the bike,” but then there were all sorts of jokes that went with that one… oh what the heck. It’s lust, either way!).
Copenhagen’s bike-y-ness has been well-documented, but until you are standing there watching literally thousands of people commute by you in dedicated lanes, wearing their regular clothes and riding upright bikes, it’s really hard to understand the depth of the city’s commitment to bike riding. During the day, I was particularly struck by how quiet the streets were, given that so many folks were riding bicycles instead of driving. Well, and Copenhagen also has an excellent subway/train/bus system.
Really, I both wanted to love the Danes and flip them off at the same time. It’s not fair for any people to be that well-supplied with transportation options while also being almost uniformly gorgeous. I mean, it should be one or the other, you know? You get to look like a model, but you have to die of heavy-particulate related cancer. That’s how it’s supposed to work, damnit! I kept trying to find the downside to life in Copenhagen, but it was impossible. At one point, when my client’s train was delayed but we didn’t know it, we were momentarily concerned that he had wandered off and gotten lost. Then I thought: what’s the worst that can happen here? A beautiful, six-foot tall blond girl offers to help him find the hotel? Someone makes him sit on their rear rack and pedals him back to us? He gets lost in Copenhagen and the Danes NICE him to death?
Anyway, all my Seattle traffic bitterness aside, after a couple days there, I was dying to ride a bike, any bike. We had made arrangements to do an intro-to-Copenhagen-type ride on the second day, but it was cancelled when the other group who were supposed to take it rescheduled. Instead, we waited until the third day and went on a sunset ride. This ride didn’t involve many stops (three, to be exact), and blitzed us through all the neighborhoods so quickly that I barely had time to shout “I’ll explain about Christiania later!” and we were out of the cloud of pot smoke and on our way to the Opera House. Still, the rapid pace, lack of chatty stops and beauty of the time of day made the ride much more enjoyable than I think the big group tourist ride would have been.
Our guide, from Bike Copenhagen with Mike (Mike himself) told us we’d ride through some of the poorest neighborhoods in Copenhagen. After the ride was finished, we found ourselves playing a guessing game: where was that “poorest” neighborhood? It wasn’t Christiania, where folks are more deliberately without stuff. We decided it was the one composed of adorable little shack-like houses by the water, most of which we could see into as we passed. I actually found myself admiring the pretty interiors of many of them, thinking, at the time, that they were holiday homes. I don’t know what I was expecting from Copenhagen, but inner-city Detroit, it wasn’t.
Mike rents out two types of bikes: hybrids or “traditional” bikes. We opted, of course, for traditional ones.
Our traditional bikes were standard-issue modern upright bikes, all bright red and all step-through models. None were equipped with lights, though Mike threw a few on before we left. All the women got bikes with front baskets, which was nice for tossing in our purses. The bikes rode much more like The Raleigh than like The Gazelle, despite the superficial resemblance to the latter. They were relatively responsive and easy to ride, with three-speed internally geared hubs. The only thing I had to get used to was the coaster brake, which I hadn’t encountered since I was about twelve. Though I came to appreciate the way I could modulate my stopping power, I hated having to remember to put my feet in the right position every time I stopped. I know I’d get used to this eventually, but it was awkward and annoying trying to remember this on a city ride where we were all trying hard to keep up with our intrepid leader, who was riding a hybrid with hand brakes on familiar streets. I kept nearly falling over at lights, which was rather embarrassing.
Our first stop was at the edge of a canal, to snap a picture of the sunset:
Danish sunsets are extremely long, so though we stopped within the first half-hour for a set of sunset pictures, I was also able to take more sunset pictures nearly an hour later at our last stop! More on those in a moment.
From our sunset stop, our only real time spent off the bikes was at the Carlsberg Brewery. Though they no longer brew beer here, it’s still a source of great pride for the people of Copenhagen that the brewery is justly famous for its beauty. The elephants supporting the columns are truly stunning. Mike used the brewery as an apt conduit to talk about Copenhagen and the history of the city and the family who founded the brewery. Once our brief history lesson was over, we were told to be “silent and meditative” for the rest of the ride. Some of us managed this better than others.
From there it was straight on past the waterfront, through rural areas where horses grazed, then back to more waterfront, Christiania, and the Opera House.
Here we took a ten minute break, and I snapped a sunset panorama:
That one’s worth clicking on, trust me!
We finished out the last few miles in the near-dark, and arrived back at Mike’s shop tired but satisfied. Everyone loved the ride, and we’d worked up a good appetite for the delicious Indian food we found just a few blocks away. All in all, a very worthwhile ride! I’d love to go back to Copenhagen someday and do a more purposefully bike-y trip, but this was a great start.