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COPENHAGEN VISIT: NOT SO SURE I LIKE IT

COPENHAGEN VISIT: SEPTEMBER

11:00 p.m. My plane lands in Copenhagen, the passengers stand, and hundreds of coats are retrieved from overhead bins. Not a good sign. I’m still clad in the skirt/sandals attire that served me well in Berlin.

Denmark Map

 

Hartmann Tweed Expandable Upright Mobile TravelerBagzillo (my trusty Hartmann companion: we are inseparable) arrives promptly (kinda like Singapore: this country has it’s shit together). We take the subway and arrive at Copenhagen Central Station (Kobenhavn H) in under a half-hour. Piece of cake. We exit the station (chilly, damp), walk up the sidewalk, down the sidewalk, around the back of the station. This Time Out map sucks. I know I’m close to the Marriott by my proximity to the water, but I can’t spot it. No locals can (or will) direct me to the property, which seems strange, as it’s a major hotel in a not-so-big city.

I surrender. Two minutes, six blocks, and 20 dollars later my taxi deposits me at the Marriott. This Copenhagen visit is going to cost me.

The Copenhagen Marriott management was very cool when booking my reservation: they allowed me to use points for four nights when only three nights were available, according to their website. And the cheerful front desk clerk (an Australian) not only accommodates my request for a water view, but goes out of his way to give me a top floor room.

It’s a nice Marriott. But it’s still a Marriott. Devoid of charm, devoid of coffins, even.

Starving. And I depleted my emergency supply of Pringles back in Berlin. Thank Dog, the hotel sells mini-cans of Pringles in my room. 42 DKK, that’s…$7.20! At 40 chips per canister that makes out to…a criminal 18 cents a chip! Coming from a sensible Midwest family that washed and reused our sandwich bags, invested solely in bonds and cooked our own vacation breakfasts in our hotel room on a portable propane stove I cannot — will not — pay 21 cents per chip, as much as I worship those golden, concave disks of salty goodness.

I go to bed hungry, poor, and cold. Like Tiny Tim!

RESOURCES FOR YOUR COPENHAGEN VISIT

Oanda: This currency converter tool will tell you just how much money you hemorrhage with every Danish Krone spent.

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TO DIE FOR LUNCH AT NOMA RESTAURANT

Everyone collects something. My friend L: purses; my friend T: religious artifacts; my slutty friend R: lovers. I collect restaurants. Lunch at Noma restaurant in Copenhagen is in my Top Five.

ABOUT NOMA RESTAURANT

Noma restaurant, Denmark’s sole Michelin two-star establishment, has claimed the title of BEST RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list for the past three years. It is known for its innovative and inventive approach to Nordic cuisine.

MY EXPERIENCE

Not too stuffy. Which is good: I despise attitude in a restaurant. The decor is what I expect from the Danes: understated, natural, classy, slightly Beowulf: light pouring in from the waterfront, wood floor, exposed brick and beams, simple chairs draped in wooly animal skins (?).

The menu consists of three prix-fixe options ranging from “Noma’s lunch menu for the busy” ($75) to the 12-course, four-hour, $240 (sans wine-pairing) option. I’ve traveled too far for the small menu and there’s no way in hell I can digest the large menu: I opt for the $105 meal (Denmark is not inexpensive.)

The servers present me with a series of amuse-bouches, each more clever than the one preceding it: smoked, pickeled, and soft quail eggs served in their shells, resting upon nests of hay; chicken skin, gjetost cheese and vegetables served on wafer-thin toast; just-plucked radishes nestled in an herb emulsion that looks a lot like dirt. My bouche is truly amused.

Radishes at Noma restaurant Copenhagen

I pull-out my pad and pen, take notes, and the staff descends upon me like clockwork. Mistaken as a restaurant critic/food-writer (an assumption I never bother to correct), I am now An Important Person. Works every time (Elena Arzak once gave me a personal tour of her kitchen, but that’s another post).

The dishes that follow are more brilliant, more delicious than the appetizers:

  • Mackerel and grilled cucumber, dill and nasturium leaves
  • Lamb and cauliflower stems with sorrel and watercress
  • Mushroom and birchwine bouillon with egg yolk and chickweed

Soup at Noma restaurant Copenhagen

I devour each dish.

And I’m SO miserable. Just one big, gluttonous mess.

“Are you ready for dessert?” asks the server.

“No.” Seriously, I’m full.

“But it will remind you of a walk in the woods,” he cajoles.

Sounds like a douche commercial. But…How can I resist a walk in the woods? Exercise is exactly what I need at this moment.

Best. Dessert. Ever. Best-looking. Best-tasting. Just Best. Plump blueberries, homemade vanilla ice cream, vibrant fruit sorbet, a pine and thyme-laced granita and sugar cookie croutons. I all but lift the bowl to my face and lick it clean.

“How did you enjoy your dessert?” asks my server as he scrapes non-existent crumbs from the tabletop.

“I feel as though I’ve just taken a walk in the woods!”

Dessert at Noma restaurant Copenhagen

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A STROLL THROUGH COPENHAGEN’S CHRISTIANIA

One reason why I chose Copenhagen to visit is to see Freetown Christiania with my own two eyes. This place is So. Weird.

FREETOWN CHRISTIANIA

Freetown Christiania is a partially self-governing neighborhood of approximately 850 residents, covering 85 acres in the borough of Christianshavn. It established semi-legal status as an independent community, which has been a source of controversy since its creation in a squatted military area in 1971. Its open marijuana trade was tolerated by authorities until 2004 but since then, attempts to legalize the community has been a source of conflict.

CHRISTIANIA ENTRANCE

Christiania Entrance

Although Christiania is only a five-minute walk from the Best Restaurant in the World, Noma, I spy two people (not together) smoking joints along the way (they like their substances here). Its brightly-illustrated entrance is straight out of H.R. Pufnstuf (can you believe that was the name of a children’s series?): I feel as though I should skip through the archway. The gallery-worthy graffiti continues inside — everywhere.

Christiania is big-time Hippyville. I’m uncomfortable here, but I’m the exception: a swarm of high-schoolers bopped in front of me into the village and made themselves at home in a cafe. They’re obviously indifferent to what strikes me as very bizarre surroundings.

I tentatively approach the turn onto the notorious Pusher Street, the largest open soft-drug market in Scandinavia. Whiffs of patchouli and reggae music greet me. A sign instructs me to put away my camera and I do (but not before getting off one shot): I’ve read that it will be snatched from my hands if I photograph an illegal transaction. The thoroughfare — a shell of its former self (pre-government crack-down) — is a depressing sight: scruffy dogs and even scruffier people roam aimlessly.

Pusher Street Entrance Copenhagen

I’m sure they’re harmless in Christiania and I’m just uptight, but I cannot get out of here quickly enough. I am NOT in the Midwest any longer.

A totem pole-style arch warns me that I’m returning to the EU. I’m happy I saw Christiania and I’m happy to leave it.

Christianoa Exit

P.S. Wikipedia states that Christiania was closed in 2011 but it’s still listed as an attraction on the VisitCopenhagen website.

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