Leif Pettersen's Travelogue

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Posted on 7/17/03


The trip over the bridge from Malmö to Copenhagen was fast, easy and convenient. It took me less time to move between these two countries than it used to take me to get to work. I love that about Europe. If you want to see something different, all you have to do is get on a train and ride for an hour or two in any direction and bam, you’re someplace new, with a different language, a different currency and different soft drug laws.

Those Danes really love their nudity.

My first three days in Copenhagen revolved around catching up on sleep and pounding out the material for Sweden. I stayed at a hostel called “Sleep in Heaven,” a hardcore dormitory style hostel with almost all of their triple-decker bunk beds in one huge room. It was very cozy, to put it lightly. They sold ear plugs in the lobby by the gross. The Spartan surroundings intimidated me at first, but I eased into the community rather quickly. Once I stopped being an anti-social geek, I found the other residents to be very laid back with a we’re-in-this-together mentality when it came to the total lack of privacy. Wine and beer was served in the lobby, they had a pool table, internet access and plenty of “chill-out” areas inside and out in their enclosed courtyard where people could just randomly bump into each other and end up spending six hours drinking and talking.

After a slight reprieve in Sweden, I was again suffering from the ill effects of being surrounded by the most gorgeous women on Earth at all hours of the day. Not to say that the Swedish women aren’t attractive. They’re totally hot, (and very tall) but I wasn’t having to focus deeply on keeping my cool while I walked among them all day. Resisting the urge to drop to my knees and worship their beauty was just slightly less painful in Sweden than it was in Norway and now Denmark. The beauty in Copenhagen was coming at me from all directions Too fast for me to even stare longingly at any one women for more than an instant before someone even more stunning would pass though my sight lines. And to make matters worse, they were all on bikes, so I was forced to lust at a very high speed. I spoke too soon when I raved about the biking scene in Sweden. Copenhagen had them beat hands down. The biker to car driver ratio in Copenhagen was the highest I have ever seen live and in person. Biking is such a big part of the streets that bikers have their own lanes, rules and even street lights on nearly every road in the city. Biking as transport is further encouraged by the City Bike program that provides free community bikes that are strewn around the city for anyone to use any time. City Bikes are easy to spot, because they are covered with sponsorship ads (pictured), that fund the City Bike program. You need to shove a 20 kroner piece into the bike lock to unlock it from one of the 110 designated City Bike stands scattered around the city, but you get the 20 kroner back when you are done with the bike and relock it to another stand. So cool!


If you are not fortunate to find an available City Bike first thing in the morning, count on muscle strain and recurring whiplash injuries as you swing your head violently to admire the women flying by, hunched over, with their perpetually low neck lines revealing a dangerous amount of their bosom. And if that weren’t enough, for an extra thrill you could always turn around as they sped by and catch a glimpse of their scandalously tiny thongs. Apparently not only does fashion dictate that 90% of the European females over the age of 12 wear thongs, but they must also be hiked up past the waist line at all times. Huhuhuhuhuhuhuhuh! If you happen to be on a City Bike and decide to give chase to the object of your yearnings, good luck. Despite the beauty of this concept, the downfall is that the City Bikes are notoriously poorly maintained. Most of them are in great need of a tune-up. The momentum generated by coasting downhill on a City Bike was about the equivalent of the momentum generated while coasting downhill on an anvil, so anyone on a World War II era bike or better could out-run you. Pregnant women, wearing skits, riding completely trashed, three speeds were passing me like I was standing still when I was on a City Bike. It was very humbling.

Speaking of pregnant women, they are everywhere. Maybe I just wasn’t paying close attention when I was in the States, but the number of pregos running around in Denmark was astonishing. Perhaps they are more noticeable due to the fact that they have all taken the trend of proudly showing off their bodies to a new delicious level. I seem to have a little, ah, “thing” for pregnant women, so watching these women prance around in very tight clothing and little halter tops revealing their bare bellies and a scandalous amount of their engorged breasts was almost more distracting than the slim, gorgeous women in the same outfits. Goddamn, I sound like I need a date, don’t I? Ok, moving on…

One of the notorious attractions in Copenhagen is an ongoing “social experiment” called Christiania. This is a small section of the city that a bunch of art students and hippies more or less conquered and settled in 1971. They knocked down a walled-off, abandoned military barracks and started squatting there with the intent of developing a communally run, free society. Despite constant threats from the government to reclaim it’s property, Christiania is still around 32 years later and has been successful in developing a fairly organized community that houses more that 1,000 people. The source of their political problems and infamous notoriety comes from the free-for-all, open sale of soft drugs. I’m still a little fuzzy on how they get away with this, seeing as how these soft drugs are unquestionably forbidden in Denmark, but you wouldn’t know it while walking down “Pusher Street” in Christiania. Rickety shacks, folding tables and wooden benches are tightly lined up, selling a dizzying assortment of hash and hash related paraphernalia. Now and again, the Danish authorities invade Christiania, conduct raids and shut down “Pusher Street,” but 24 hours later, everyone is back with a full inventory like it never happened. My visit to Christiania was brief. I found very little going on. The place was almost entirely deserted except for other tourists like me lurching around trying to find something to look at. I got my wish when I stumbled onto “Pusher Street.” It was about 100 yards of very conspicuous drug sales. Most booths will have several samples of hash laying right out in the open with prices clearly marked for all types and sizes. More disconcerting was the dozens of people sitting, standing and sprawled out on the ground in a variety of altered states. I had a sudden light bulb moment as I made my way down the street, observing the hash fatalities. Every night at the Sleep-in-Heaven, one could observe two or three people sitting alone, doing nothing and staring into space for hours at a time. It finally dawned on me that these people had probably spent the day on “Pusher Street” and had somehow made their way back to the hostel before drifting off into a shallow coma in one of the chill out zones. I came to the conclusion that most of the people littering “Pusher Street” were not in fact Christiania residents, but were probably tourists, visiting Christiania for a weekend of brain cell baking.

The move into Denmark was yet a another small step in the direction of affordable prices. My food/accommodations/booze budget again dipped slightly toward reasonability. Much of my booze was bought in the lobby of the Sleep-in-Heaven. Overflowing glasses of wine were a paltry 15 kroner ($2.30). The wine wasn’t winning any quality awards, but it was better than I expected and wonderfully convenient for ad hoc wine cravings at the end of the day. Like the rest of Scandinavia, falafel and kebob places were more numerous than all other fast food places combined. The prices were low enough that most of the hostel residents, myself included, indulged in kebobs at least once a day

After sitting on my ass for three days I was more than ready to get out and cover Copenhagen. Despite my anti-tourist leanings, there were several attractive tourist sites that were calling out to me. Specifically the Guinness World of Records Museum. I have always been a world record geek and here was my chance to indulge in such exciting trivia as the largest amount of grapes eaten by a human in one minute. I had also earmarked a full afternoon for the (gulp) Museum of Erotica. Having been to the Porn Museum in Amsterdam, I was pretty sure I knew what to expect, but those crazy Danes one-upped that Dutch by featuring the “Shock Room.” I’ll spare you the details, but you name it and the Shock Room had it. My virgin eyes burned for hours after I found my way to the exit.

As a parting gift, the Museum of Erotica gave me my erotica astrological description (Published by Gemini Film for Museum of Erotica© Copenhagen), which I will reprint verbatim here (in italics) with my comments (not in italics):

The Male-Gemini

He has usually turned 30 before he settles with the woman who is to be the mother of his children. (I’m 33 and this event is about as close to happening as the first manned space flight to Uranus.) He has not chosen her because she is a wonderful mistress, but because she is his best friend: someone he can talk to, someone he can discuss with; someone who listens to him. (Right, but the “wonderful mistress” part wouldn’t hurt either.)

For a whole night he can be in a tense discussion with a woman when suddenly it strikes him that some sex would be nice (“Suddenly?” It suddenly struck me that some sex would be nice when I was 12 and that thought hasn’t been very far from the front of my mind ever since.) whereupon he tempts her to bed (does two bottles of wine count as tempting?), and reveals himself as a warm, considerate and traditional lover who tries to pleased his partner (Well, huh, what can I say?). If she likes long foreplays, that is what she will get; if she is the “right-here-right-now type,” he can manage that too (And if she’s the “sure-we-can-have-a-three-way-with-my-hot-roommate type,” I can manage not to do a naked happy dance on the spot.).

Verbally there is no end to all the sexual experiments the male Gemini would like to try out (Sure there’s an end. Right where it goes “...and then a second guy appears.”), but there is a long way from words to action: when it comes to the point he is modest and shy (And ticklish.). On the other hand, as a lover, he is a warm and deep man who never leaves his partner in a vacuum (Or in a shower.).

I finally got my wish for too much skin while in Copenhagen. While I was powering over a canal bridge on a City Bike, trying to find the entrance to Christiania, I stumbled on a grassy area where young people sunned themselves, ate ice cream and swam in an open air pool in the canal. I returned to this spot twice during my week in Copenhagen. The first day went from clear blue sky to clouds as I trudged my way to the canal, therefore the place was only sparsely occupied, but my second trip was a bonanza of naked boobies. I knew this was coming and I wanted to get through the acclimation process as fast as possible as it is generally considered to be rude to sit and stare at the women in these situations. Even for a hopeless breast man like myself, two to three bare booby days usually does the trick and I can be cool around topless women after that.

A poor man's statue guy


The art of tattooing is so popular in Denmark that you’d be hard pressed to find anyone over the age of 16 that is tattoo-free. The “one is not enough” mentality is very intense. Unfortunately, the women favor the small-of-the-back - my second least favorite tattoo area (The chest being number one. Why mess with perfection?) – when they decide to go under the needle. Men tend to go after the arms, often wallpapering themselves from their shoulders down to their wrists. The square inches of tattooed skin ratio in Copenhagen might be the highest I have ever seen. I felt very inadequate and dull with the lone tattoo on my back.

On my third night in Copenhagen, I went to Vega, the First Avenue of Copenhagen’s dance club and concert scene, to see Tricky. I happened upon the concert announcement the night before while leafing though a pile of free tourist brochures in the hostel lobby. During the ensuing crazed desperation to purchase a ticket for the concert, the hostel clerk informed me that she already had tickets, the only way to buy them was on the web and it was too late to do that. Buying a ticket at the door was an option, but she strongly suspected that it was sold out. A wave of disappointment washed over me. I had never seen Tricky perform and the relatively low-low price of $42 to see him in this intimate setting appealed to me greatly. The next evening, I decided to go against the clerk’s pessimism and try to get a ticket at the door. To maximize my chances, I showed up at Vega more than an hour before the doors opened. It was totally deserted. This did not look like the scene of a wild, possibly sold out concert to me. After circling the building, looking for “Sold Out” signs, I ran into a bored Vega security guard who informed me that they were not sold out and in fact they hadn’t even sold half of the tickets. Relived, I went down the street to a bar to eat and kill some time.

I was one of the first people in Vega when the doors opened and consequently I took my place right in front of the security barrier, inches from the stage. Tricky was excellent despite persisting sound problems and the fact that he played songs almost exclusively from his recent CD, which I had not heard. If you’re not familiar with him, Tricky is a British “trip-hop” artist. Besides some really gnarly music, Tricky is know for his very unique voice that sounds like his vocal cords are vibrating at only one third their normal speed. The resulting sound is a low, creaky, gravely mess that one could only achieve after about 120 years of smoking two packs a day.

Seeing Tricky live was a bit of a surprise. He is itty bitty. He took his shirt off after the first song, so we were treated to a lengthy display of his stick-thin body. I’d estimate him at about 5’-5” and maybe a buck ten at the most. Someone needs to feed that man. Plus, his little body appeared even more frail due to him having the posture of a 75 year old, osteoporosis patient.

The Danes turned out to be very well behaved and responsible concert goers. The crowd danced respectfully and the club itself did not have the familiar concert venue trashed and destroyed look about it. The seat cushions on the chairs were intact, the windows weren’t protected on both sides by a layer of steel netting and the bathrooms were veritable joy to use with fresh bars of soap and functioning hand driers. I was informed later that the better than average conduct of the Danish music fans was a fairly recent development after an incident at Denmark’s Roskilde music festival in 2000, where several people were trampled to death while Pearl Jam was performing.

Leaving the concert, I was hit with yet another wave of admiration for the Danes. When piling out of a concert at one of the hippest venues in the States, one could expect to negotiate a traffic jam of limos, sports cars and taxis. Leaving Vega that night, all I saw was a sea of bikes, lined up neatly on the sidewalk. It was a beautiful moment.

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