Since I actually did something today, the Scotland posts won’t begin until tomorrow.
Today I woke up in much the same way I went to bed, with the screams and honks (and now sirens) of the recently graduated students. This was a really cool thing.. five weeks ago when I first heard about it. Then seeing them in Sweden was funny and all, but now that they are swarming of the streets of Copenhagen, its gotten ridiculously annoying. Granted, this is their city, and their country, but still, it gets really, really old after you’ve heard a car honk over 50 times in a row, a siren go off, and then someone scream Danish into a loud-speaker for the next 15 minutes.. all at 2am. And no, none of that is the cops, the cops don’t car, its the students who have obtained sirens and loudspeakers. Even as I type this, they are still busily causing chaos just outside my window in one of their seemingly thousands of trucks.
So, as I said, I was woke up by that, but the weather was gorgeous so I forced myself out of bed. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do today, but I knew that it was probably my last full day in Denmark with no real time or school obligation (group project work starts tomorrow, Sunday). I had read about the Cathedral in Roskilde, a town that is also on Zealand. Apparently this Cathedral is the biggest and baddest in all of Denmark, and it also happens to be the burial location of pretty much every Danish monarch since about 1100. There are even a few tombs from before then, dating back to ~890, but they were moved there afterwards. So, I decided to head to that, which meant another 22$ train ticket, but with a week left I am over 440$ under budget, and I have plenty of cash to last the week with no more withdraws, so I went for it. One of the people on my floor also wanted to go, so we headed out around noon, and the weather was awesome, it was actually somewhat hot (i.e. 70 degrees, pure scorcher here). We headed to the main train station where something seemed.. wrong. Wrong in the sense that there were TONS of people everywhere with camping gear. Now yes, a central train station is always busy, but this was crazily busy. So we waited in line for a long time, then dealt with the extraordinarily rude ticket sellers, then headed to find the train. After descending to the platforms, I noticed, well, about 80 trillion people. And sure enough, they were all waiting on the train I needed to get on.
So what was up? The Roskilde Music Festival is whats up. It runs from June 30th to July 8th and is one of the such largest festivals in the ENTIRETY of Europe. This year one of the big headliners is Bruce Springsteen (who I actually ended up hearing way, way far in the distance). The attendance last year was around 110,000 and this year its suspected to bring even more people. Of those 110,000+ people, about 100,000 of them were on my train. We managed to get on the train, but didn’t have seats, and it was so morbidly hot that it wasn’t even funny. To make matters worse we got stuck in a bunch of 1980’s time travelers (80s American fashion is HUGE in Denmark, sans hair) who couldn’t have bathed in at least 15 years. Heat + Massive B.O. + 45 Minute Standing Train ride, you get the picture.
But that’s where the woe is me part of the story ends, as once I cleared the mobs and was able to breathe without inhaling the scent of gym socks from 1985 things perked up. We found the cathedral pretty easily, because it was huge, and huge buildings in small towns tend to be pretty easy to find. Things were pretty chill, because the 110,000+ people had flocked southwards to the southern edge of town were the festival was, whereas we headed north. When we first got there, I was taken back by how huge the Cathedral was. This isn’t a Catholic country (I had always thought “cathedral” was synonymous with Catholic, that is apparently a common misconception), so they don’t tend to have huge massive over the top churches. The Roskilde Domkirke isn’t super over the top, but it is big. Here’s a challenge.. which of the flowing buildings is the cathedral? If you look closely, you will see it. But its pretty hard to pick out, so don’t be frustrated if you can’t find it.
Once we got close, a wave of disappointment was had as it was closed. Turns out they were having a wedding that day. The Church is still used for regular services, etc. and you can’t tour it during those times. Luckily, in the slew of Danish on a sign posted on the door I was able to make out that the Church would reopen again at three and stay open until five, whereas it normally closes at four. In the meantime, we could see the harbor, as the cathedral sets up on a big hill. So, we decided to head down to the harbor and take in some scenery as it was still about 1.5 hours until three. This was the view we had at the edge of the cathedral which told us that yes, there is in fact an ocean down there.
As we started to descend towards the harbor, we were treated to a lot of really cool scenery. It sort of reminded me of Humlebaek, where my visiting family lives, but on a larger scale. The path we took brought us down through a park, and past a lot of old houses. We got to the beach, found a bench by the harbor and ate our packed lunches. While sitting I noticed that some of the ships in the harbor did not look quite right, well that’s because they were modern viking ships. Now, when I say modern, I don’t mean modernized I mean they were of modern construction. Apparently the Viking Museum in Roskilde not only has a couple of real ships (though not as intact as the ones I saw in Norway) but they also have 3 working ships that you can take out to the harbor and row around. Well, it ended up costing like 60$ for the Museum and the sailing, so we passed. We did get to watch a bunch of people trying to be coordinated enough to sail, since most of them had to be over 60, it was rather comical. After watching the ships and walking through the living history village in the port, we headed back. Since I showed a view from the top, here is one from the bottom.
Once we made our way back up to the top, which included some really beautiful spots in the park along the way, the wedding had just ended. As a group of the attendees had flooded out into the square and were saying their goodbyes. This meant the church didn’t open quite at three, but I wasn’t really in any major hurry.
After they left, the church opened and we went inside, I managed to score a student discount, which wasn’t posted (they never seem to be, and often you must badger people for them) which brought the price down from 60 DKK to 40 DKK. That’s really not that much, plus they give you a guide book, I’ve certainly regretted spending less money at other attractions here, it was really worth it. The interior of the cathedral was, like the outside, very big (imagine that). The nave was undoubtedly the largest I have ever seen in Denmark, and I’m still trying to decide if I think it was larger than St. Giles in Edinburgh, I’m fairly sure it was.
Now, more so than the central part of the cathedral, the various chapels are really what the church is famous for. There are a multitude of reasons for this, but primarily its because they are full of kings, queens, princes, and princesses. I was finally able to see the sarcophagus of Christian IV, the dude who built what seems to be at least half of all the famous buildings in Copenhagen (and subsequently made the country broke). I also saw Christian I, whose tomb was very interesting. Being the first Christian, he is obviously sort of a big deal in Danish history. However, his tomb is just a tiny little spot in the floor, the same as the 100s of other tombs in the church. He had an entire chapel commissioned, and when he and his wife (Dorothea) died they were placed there. It was too also be there chapel were his immediate descendents were placed. Its actually kind of cool in a way, surrounded by all the gold, silver, bronze, ivory, and marble of the other monarchs, lies the simple tomb of the guy who started it all.
There was a ton of really interesting stuff inside of each chapel, and it was actually pretty easy to forget that you were surrounded by tons of dead Kings, and were walking on top of countless other people entombed in the floor (there are 100s according to the guide). We explored the cathedral for almost two hours, before we decided to head out. Naturally about the time that we went outside it clouded up and started to sprinkle (its a true fact that in Denmark it only rains when Taco is outside). Luckily it didn’t last long and we made it back to the train station mostly dry. Along the way we noticed that the town was almost eerily abandoned. Since it was after 4pm most of the shops were closed, and anyone left had migrated towards the festival. We did find this really odd fountain that was full of nasty looking orange water. Apparently there is some history to that, as the entire street is named the “Orange Path.”
The train ride back was far more pleasant, it was cooler and had about 1% of the people from before (so only about 1,000 this time). The weather decided to remain sunny, so when we got back we tried to brainstorm something else to do since we had, after all, paid for the very expensive 24 pass (which is cheaper than buying two one way tickets). Unfortunately it was after 5pm at that point, which means that the country is closed, even on Saturdays. So we decided to go to the Botanical Gardens, which I had mentioned in an earlier post. Round two was much sunnier, however the guide pamphlet I had lied and overstated the greenhouse’s opening hours by two hours. Luckily the grounds themselves were open until 6pm, so we got to walk around. It was really pretty, and the weather most certainly helped.
I had wanted to go inside the greenhouse because there is apparently a plant in there that only blooms once every billion years (OK that’s obviously a lie, but its like 5 years between blooms) and once it blooms it smells strongly of rotting flesh. Now why would I want to smell that? Because I’m weird, that’s why. As mentioned they were closed though, but I did get to see the plant inside, and it was ugly. I tried to take a picture of it, but the second door inside of the greenhouse pretty much reflected everything right back into my face. If I get a chance to return I likely will, but I’m a little doubtful at this point. After seeing the flesh plant and the gardens we headed home as I was about to consume my backpack out of hunger. The rest of the day was pleasant, except for the screaming students.. who are still outside as I finish this.
Tidbit of the Day: Copenhagen Public Transportation
I had been considering writing a little bit about the public transportation system in Copenhagen (and the island of Zealand) for awhile now, and my train trip today inspired me to do it. So, getting to it, for someone like me who has never really experience mass public transportation it has been an interesting experience these past five or so weeks. To get around, you need to know how many “zones” you are going to go through. They start with Zone 1 in the center of Copenhagen, then sequentially go outwards in a pattern until you reach the edges of the island (Remember Copenhagen is actually on an Island, Zealand). You buy tickets or passes based on the distance traveled in zones. You don’t need the tickets to board, its an honor system. However, plain clothes inspectors or uniformed officers will often be on board to check your ticket. If you don’t have one, you can expect to pay about a 200$ fine, no warning, no second chances (Its happened to so many students here, but not me, I am Mr. OCD and perfectly calculate out all travel). In Copenhagen, you essentially have 6 “companies” that manage the public transportation. These companies work through the following modes of transportation:
Bus, Night-Bus, S-Tog, Metro, Regional Train
There are of course taxis, but I neither use, nor want to use them due to the expense, though the silver spooners here love using them to travel anyplace over 1 block away.
So what’s what with the public transportation?
Bus: Pretty straightforward, these guys are never on time, and the drivers rarely speak any English. In fact, they seem to often not speak much Danish, as they tend to be immigrants. They are pretty nice buses, especially the “A” routes, which are the busiest routes and have the most frequent buses. I normally use route 14, which takes me to within 3 blocks of where I live, so an easy walk. Much like what I am used to at home, they cannot keep a schedule to save their lives. In truth, no where I’ve been in Europe has buses that run any better than in Indiana. We’ll see if Germany can live up to its legendary clockwork like reputation, but I seriously have my doubts. With the tickets, inspectors are sometimes present, but not overly common. The driver can be a little lax at checking your ticket, so often times people sneak in the back door (there are three doors) and ride free.
Night Buses: Why separate these from the day buses? Well, they are same physical buses, but everything else is different. The drivers are even more mean, and the prices are even higher. They are also ran by an entirely different company. I have only had to use them once. God have mercy on your soul if you are on a tight schedule past 1am and can only take the bus, they will be late without exception, and you’ll likely wait 45 minutes just for it to be late. The ticket checkers aren’t on these buses much if at all, as the driver is much more strict on checking your ticket.
S-Tog: Think of these as above ground subways that also go underground sometimes. These are the bright red trains that hop around the city like a rabbit on LSD. Unlike the buses they tend to be fairly accurate time wise. They are pretty roomy, which is good considering that they are full of bicyclists most of the time. There are also tiny portions of certain cars where you have to be quiet, you can be fined if you aren’t, I quite enjoy those spots. They center around Copenhagen, but also go a bit outside of the city. The ticket checkers are fairly common on the S-Togs.
Metro: These automated trains are the newest addition to Copenhagen’s public transportation system. They go to the major parts of town, and a huge expansion project is underway and scheduled to be completed in 2018 that will take the metro to new areas of the city. The metro is crazy on time, down to within seconds. It comes and goes like a streak of lighting and it WILL close the doors on yo’ ass (I speak from experience, the thing mashed me in the doors like a mofo). Since its ran by a computer (Blue is for girls, pink is for me, I’m the mono, don’t you dare to mess with me) it is undoubtedly the most clockwork of everything here. The ticket checkers are supposedly pretty common on the metro, but I have yet to see one.
Regional Trains: These are the “real” trains, that travel far and wide, including the furthest reaches of Jutland (mainland Denmark). They are.. well trains. They are normally pretty clean, and pretty comfortable, except when packed with 100,000 people. They are the 2nd most accurate schedule wise, bested only by Blaine, I mean the metro. The conductors are ruthlessly mean though, and issue fines and tickets like candy. This normally isn’t a big deal as they will pass you by with a “Tak” and a smile as long as you have your ticket ready the instant you see them. The ticket inspectors swarm these trains like locusts and if you don’t see one then you can count yourself as one of the minority. Sometimes they check tickets multiple times on one trip.
I will try to work on the 1st Scotland post tomorrow. In the meantime: