Something is Rotten in the State of Denmark
William Shakespeare has never put truer words to paper than these. To put it succinctly, my trip to Copenhagen, from beginning to end, was a complete disaster. Let me back up, however, and first tell you of my time in Hamburg, which I (mostly) found enjoyable, as you shall see.
There was absolutely no hassle getting to Hamburg from Munich. I found the train easily in Munich, and found myself very comfortable for the whole trip. The person who was supposed to sit next to me ended up getting her own row to stretch and sleep, so I attempted to do the same. Throughout the journey, I had my iPod playing Peter Gabriel on repeat, as his music had been in my head for the last few days. Thinking of my semester in Istanbul, I drifted off to sleep.
When I got to Hamburg in the morning, I tried to call my couchsurfing host, but of course the pay phone didn’t really work for me. Not having internet available to use Skype or send, I just followed the directions he had left me on the site to get to his place (thankfully, just as in Austria and Munich, no one checked to see if I had a valid ticket. Not having money, I didn’t). I got to his bus stop, but could not figure out how to get to his flat from the bus stop, so I bugged some more people for their phone. A business-looking-man gave me his phone to call. I got Tobias (my host) on the line right away, but as he had left the flat, told me to stay where I was, and he’d be back to take me there in less than 15 minutes. True to his word, in less than 10 minutes (gotta love German timing…this time-more later) he appeared, and took me to his flat. He apologized that he had to leave right away, but gave me a quick tour of the place while I settled in, told me to get a couple hours of sleep in (since I “must” be tired from the trip, haha), gave me free reign of the kitchen, and gave me a map of the city. As an apology, he set out a meeting point for us that evening, so that we could hang out, like we couldn’t do during the day. So armed, I went to nap and he went to work (marketing research for a magazine).
I slept a lot later than I’d liked, but I guess it was needed. At around 4 pm, after making a sandwich for a late lunch, I left for a wander-ment (my word) through the city, visiting a couple of the cathedrals. Unfortunately, one had closed, so I had to return the next day. From there, I left for the meeting point by the lake. Meeting up with Tobias, he decided that he was tired from the work day, and so bought some frozen pizzas and some beer (so that I could enjoy a “real German beer tasting”). I only partook of maybe total 1.5 beers (though I should admit that a “beer” in Germany is a 0.5 lt. bottle/can). As I had noticed his Scrabble board, he decided to pull out his brand-new iPad (he’s a bit of a Mac freak haha), which had a Scrabble app. Not only did this app let us play two games in English (both of which I won), but also one game in French (which was a LOT harder…yet I still won :P)
The next day was more of the same. I returned to the cathedral that had been closed, and visited a couple of more. One of these included the Cathedral of St. Nikolai (not you, Nicholas haha), which had been all but destroyed in WWII and left in its dilapidated state as a memorial to the evils of war and the crimes against humanity committed by the Nazis. There was one difference, though, I tried to find my way to a hospital. A friend of mine from Yeditepe lives in Hamburg, and I had hoped that I could see him before I’d left, but he had to have brain surgery (I believe it was some kind of edema that he’d had before that needed to be further contained). Unfortunately, however, I was not allowed in to see him. Good news though, it was an outpatient procedure, and he’s completely fine. Returning home, I got the message from dad that he had sent me money, allowing me to buy my bus ticket to Copenhagen, as well as my flights to Iceland and home to Chicago. Tobias was very helpful in this regard, as he translated a German website (that turned out to not let me buy the ticket anyway, since I don’t have a European address), and looked up flights independently on his iPad while I used his Mac (his wireless is set to uber-private, so I couldn’t get on it with my own computer).
The next day, however…this is where everything goes tits up, hell in a hand basket, where the shit hits the fan. I got up in the morning to check on the couchsurfing website for my host in Copenhagen, when Tobias’ router, which he had been having some problems with for the last few weeks, stopped working entirely. After playing with it for half an hour, he realized that he could no longer deny it…he would have to purchase a new one (which, of course, he had been delaying until that point). As I could no longer check the site, I finished eating my breakfast, and got ready to leave. Saying my good-byes to Tobias, I left for the ZOB (the bus station by the train station). I went to the copy shop in the train station and printed off my ticket for the bus, and waited for half an hour. At just ten minutes before 3, the driver of the bus opened up the hatches for us to put our check luggage in, and started collecting tickets. I gave him mine, only to then find out that there was a problem. Telling him VERY CLEARLY to wait for a couple of minutes as I had my bag on board, I ran into the ZOB, where I’d discovered that there was another copy shop, to print off a new one. The first computer I tried was unable to print a viable copy (Adobe wasn’t working on it, and Google Docs really fucks up printing…sorry for the language in this post, grandma). Therefore, I moved to the next one, got my ticket, and ran back out AT EXACTLY 15:00 (that’s 3 pm for us…when the bus was SUPPOSED to be leaving) only to discover that IT HAD ALREADY FREAKIN’ LEFT WITHOUT ME, BUT WITH MY BAG!!!!! In a panic, I ran to the bus office, and in a rush, told him, “TherewasaproblemwiththeticketandwhenI’dfixeditthebushadgonewithmybag andOhmyGodwhatthehellamIgoingtodoPLEASEHELPME!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!” Getting the gist of that, the guy immediately started trying to call the driver over the phone…which apparently was off. The office workers kept at it, though. To their credit, they were very persistent, at times calling him every five minutes (whenever there wasn’t a queue of customers to attend), but to no avail. He never picked up. I, in the meantime, was doing my utmost to not only stave off any twitches that I could feel coming, but also to keep myself from going into a full-blown panic attack. In order to calm myself down, I went to the nearby pub and got a beer, before then trying to rouse Tobias again…the only thing I could do. I got a hold of him immediately, and he instantly agreed to house me another night (Thanks be to God for him). I returned to his flat briefly to pick up his spare keys, and returned to ZOB, to see if the office had gotten a hold of the driver. They hadn’t.
With nothing else to do, I sat there for a couple of hours, listening to my iPod and reading, waiting for either they to get a hold of him, or for 20:30 (8:30 pm) to roll around, when theoretically the driver would find the unclaimed baggage and call the office, as he was supposed to do as the offices in Copenhagen were closed for the holiday (a Catholic holiday). 8:30 rolled around, but no call came. At 8:45, I had to concede defeat; my only option at this point was to wait until 14:00 (2:00 pm) that following afternoon (Sunday the 12th) for the bus driver to return with the bus and (hopefully) my bag. Filing a formal complaint to the company on the driver’s antics, I left.
Fast forward to 1:30 pm when the bus returned: I’d come at half past 12, knowing that he’d be there early and not wanting to miss him OR my bag. I confronted the driver about what he did, but his response was a simple “Not my problem.” Oh, and the next shovelful coming my way? He DIDN’T have my bag! It turns out that the bus driver had changed buses this morning, and my bag was now on the OTHER trip; Copenhagen-Berlin-Dresden-FUCKING PRAGUE! That’s right; my bag went to PRAGUE without me!!!!! The office people gave me but one choice: go to Copenhagen on the next bus, which gets in at 20:30, and then meet the other bus coming from Prague, which comes in at 6:00 (they made sure that the driver knew that the bag was supposed to come to Copenhagen). Again resigning myself to my fate, I agreed and boarded the bus.
The bus itself was nice; it had WiFi (until the ferry crossing), so I was able to check couchsurfing and update dad on my situation. I contacted my host, who told me (and I quote): “Not a problem, just call me when you get in.” Settling in to the trip, I chilled out. BIG mistake.
I arrived at the bus station early; 7:30 instead of 8:30. Therefore, I decided to head over to the train station to find a phone and call my host. First I tried a payphone, on which I was supposed to be able to choose a language. In practice, however, after you put in your money, it went straight to Danish. I tried calling anyway, but got another message in Danish. Thinking that there was a problem with the pay phone, I tried another one. Same result. Therefore, I started asking if I could borrow someone’s mobile. After asking what felt like 20 different people, I finally managed to find an amicable person. Calling the number, I again got that message in Danish. This is when I finally realized that the message was the host’s phone message, telling me that the phone was off or otherwise unavailable and to leave a message. Leaving one, I then got someone at the internet kiosk to let me on during their time to send a message- you had to pay per time, but there was a 20 Danish Krone minimum, which gives 2 hours. I refused to pay for that which I did not need (by the way, 1 USD is something like 5 or 7 Danish Krone). On this message, I told him that his phone wasn’t working, and so to meet me if it was possible at the train station, and that I would wait at the McDonalds. I looked on his profile, but he had no directions to his flat, unlike Tobias (oh, funnily enough, this host’s name was Tobias as well). After a couple hours, I decided to pull out my laptop and see if maybe there was wifi available, but doubting that I’d find anything free. I was wrong, and happily so for once! McDonalds had a free hotspot, so I got online, and started sending out other messages on couchsurfing, both to Tobias and to other people, to see if anyone could take me in. I also started messaging people in Iceland.
As it got later and later, I started to get more desperate. This is when I turned to hostel searches, but found that each and every hostel in Copenhagen was out of my price range (it turns out that Denmark is VERY expensive). Resigning myself to couchsurfing or the station, I kept at it. No one, and ESPECIALLY not my original host, responded. At 1 pm, I was evicted from the McDonalds, which was closing (but the internet stayed on) so I moved to a nearby bench. At about 2:30, I was informed that the train station was closing, which left me with one option…the bench at the (outdoor) bus station…in Scandinavia…at night. I had my sweatshirt of course, but I was still freaking cold. At 5 am, I got up and wandered 20 minutes one direction, in the hopes of finding a cathedral or something where I could use their bathroom. I found a synagogue and the royal guest houses, but they were (of course) closed. Deciding to hold it, I returned to the bus station, where I met a guy also waiting for a bus, the one GOING to Prague (well, OK, Berlin). He and I chatted for a bit, in which I outlined all that had happened to me, until his bus arrived, which, as you may have guessed, was NOT the one I wanted. Thankfully, that one came a few minutes later. I seriously hugged that driver when he pulled it out of the hold for me.
Reunited with my bag, I returned to the train station, which had just reopened. Quick side note: being in a train station in the early morning is interesting…you see all sorts of characters, not the least of which being what seemed to be all of the Red Light District heading home…if you get my meaning. Again sitting on that bench, I pulled up the couchsurfing website and returned to hunting for a place, this time skipping through until I found profiles of people who were “online right now.” I sent out several “Emergency hosting requests,” asking for the chance to nap for a few hours and shower (remember, I’d been wearing the clothes I was wearing for 3 days straight at that point). Finally, a Miaozi Li responded, and in the affirmative too! She gave me instructions to get on the next train towards the airport, getting off at the Orestad stop. Sounds simple, right? Well, apparently not simple enough. I get to the platform at the train station, and a train pulls up with the designation of “Airport” (“Lufthavn” in Danish- you can really see the Germanic influence, can’t you?) and I get on. After a couple of stops the woman asks for my ticket, which is when I find out that I’m on the train…going the completely wrong direction. Not only was I headed away from the airport, but I was leaving the island and on my way to the Jutland! I started freaking out a little, but she just had me get off at the next stop and take the next train going to the airport. So I do, and wait at that stop for over half an hour for the train to come!
Eventually, the train arrives, and I get to her stop. Getting to her place, she apologizes profusely for the mess (she’s an exchange student, and was in the process of packing and moving out of the dorm). Replying that it’s OK, I immediately lie down on the mat pad (no blanket) and fall asleep. 5 hours and a shower later, I had returned to the human race. She and her roommates offered me some food and while I ate, they pointed out some things I could do for a couple hours before I leave for my flight (which, by the way, was slated to leave at 00:15- aka 12:15 am; a true red eye). They settled on the idea that I should take the metro to Norrestad, and wander around the neighborhood. The problem, they told me, was that everything was closed for the holiday, but I could at least see the architecture. Wanting to see something of Copenhagen, I agreed and left immediately. No problem, right? Wrong again! I forgot the camera in my bag at her flat (don’t worry, it had been my plan all along to return when I was done sight-seeing,, pick up the bag, and then head out), and left my Europe guide book on top of the ticket machine at the metro station. When I returned later to retrieve it, it had gone. Oh well, it wasn’t going to be any use in Iceland anyway, and I’d gotten it for free, so it’s not like I lost any money from it.
Finding my way around the neighborhood of Norrestad was interesting. It was a maze, I swear. I wandered around, through a garden near the military barracks, past some royal houses, and into the midst of stereotypical Copenhagen (and by that I mean beautiful buildings stacked on next to the other with no space between, and church steeples rising as beacons over the rooftops). I made toward these, with the theory that they at least would be open on a freakin’ Catholic holiday, but was (of course) completely mistaken. After these failed adventures, I realized that I didn’t know how to get back to the metro station, and had to ask for help. Trial #1: a local college student walking her dog. Result? I got to another royal space, with guards posted around. Trial #2: Numerous people in this courtyard. Result? Nada. Trial #3: One of the aforementioned guards. Result? I got to a main square. Trial #4: a waiter. Result? Success! It wasn’t the same metro station, but it had the line I needed to get back to Orestad, so I didn’t care. I returned at 9:20 pm, 10 minutes before I’d originally planned. From then until about 10:15, I decided to putz around on the CS website, trying to find someone to host me in Iceland. No responses ever came, but not for lack of trying.
At 10:15, Miaozi Li looked up from her studies (she was, besides packing, attempting to study vocabulary for the GREs that she’s taking day after tomorrow- Good luck to her!) and suggested that I get ready, as the train to the airport was slated to arrive at 10:39. Agreeing, I rushed off and finished packing (i.e. shoved my dirty clothes in my duffle and put my laptop away) and headed out. I got to the train station, had someone help me get the ticket (“Karstup” was the name of the stop for the airport on the machine, not “Lufthavn” for some reason). I stepped on the platform at 10:37…and waited…and waited. At 5 to 11, the train finally came (it was only a 5 minute trip to the airport actually).
Once at the airport, I asked where to find the check-in for Iceland Express, and was informed that it was in Terminal 2…the back terminal (apparently there are only two? Or at least only two that I could see). Rushing back, I walked right past them without even seeing them (there was no line, and I couldn’t initially see the monitor proclaiming the airline) and had to double-back. When I did, it was to find that the check-in personnel were quite amicable; they cracked a joke that they “knew” me (hmm…the only English-sounding name on their roster, and I spoke English natively…haha). They were easy-going and quite kind. Also, they made sure to warn me to pull a book out of my bag if I needed to, as the flight was (of course) delayed…until 1:30 am (the time that I was to land in Iceland). It was a scant 7-minute wait at the security checkpoint (most of which was waiting for the next tub to put my stuff in. I wasn’t patted down like others, since I didn’t tip off the sensor. And then there was the little fact that, since it was so late, the “line” was one family and an older gentleman ahead of me). It was 11:30 when I got through. I went through the duty-free shop, which was cleverly situated so that I had to go through to get to the gates. I bought a water using the 50 kr note in my wallet (I needed something to drink). I was left with 35 kr in cash, but I knew that, as coins, they would not be (at least easily) converted. Therefore, I tried to buy dinner (the whole day I’d only had a sandwich at Miaozi’s), but the restaurant I tried to order at was closed (all with me now…of course). Therefore, there was nothing for it but to return to the duty-free shop and buy something to munch on. The only thing I could afford? A big candy bar and a can of soda; so be it, that was my “dinner.” The candy bar had salted cashews and ended up being rather filling, which I was not expecting when I got it.
I meandered down to gate B10, where the flight was getting in, according to my ticket (which made no sense; there were SO many more gates between the main area and B10 that weren’t being used until the morning; you’d think it would get closer, but I guess that’s the price of the low-cost airline). Arriving at the waiting area, I was shocked to see 1) there were no other passengers waiting there already and 2) the monitor still read a 9:00 am flight to Greenland via GreenlandAir. Freaking out a little, I returned to the main area, to look at the arrivals board. Turns out that since the flight was delayed, the gate hadn’t been updated yet., so I sat down at the closed restaurant, ate my chocolate, and typed out most of this post in Word while I waited. At about 1, it was announced that the flight had arrived at gate B10, so I returned to the waiting area and continued typing, until I boarded at 1:30. We didn’t get off the ground until 2:15 (BTW: mom, dad, grandma, grandpa- WARNING! Apparently this happens a lot with this airline, so expect a delay on my return). I arrived in Reykjavik at 3:15 local time. My iPod, though (for some reason) recognized the time zone as 4:15. No idea why.
Just to finish this nightmare up, I thought that I would point out a few good things that happened during this leg. First on the list would be that at least I was finally reunited with my bag! Second? Miaozi Li let me crash with her for a few hours, despite the inconvenience for her! Third (And this one’s a weird one); I won at the slots! A lot! Let me clarify. I did not actually gamble, but on the ferry crossing to Copenhagen, there were several vending machines and a few arcade machines. At every single machine, I found that there was some Danish krone in the change tray that was unclaimed. Naturally, I picked them up, and used them to buy lunch- a “French hotdog” (some weird thing that’s like a corndog once removed) and a coke from one of these accommodating vending machines. Fourth, at the train station in Copenhagen, there were individuals who were unable to provide me with a usable cell phone, and so offered me some change for the pay phone. One of these individuals was a Norwegian traveler, who reached into his pocket and gave me all the coins he had (about 25-30 krone) as he was leaving right then for home and was not able to exchange them anyway. Admittedly, they became 2 burgers and some chili cheese tops at the McDonalds for dinner. In speaking of McDonalds, at one point, there were some girls sitting near me eating, and then got up and rushed off when a train was announced, leaving a thing of French fries completely untouched (I stress the completely). I waited a few minutes, and then took that as well (forgive me, but I was still hungry and had by that time realized just how expensive Denmark was). I really was homeless in Copenhagen! (Haha) One last thing that I can be pleased with is my own foresight and paranoia, as I strictly refuse to ever put my passport anywhere but my own pocket, nor will I ever keep my electronics in anything other than my pocket and/or backpack, which I in turn always keep with me, just for when such circumstances arise.
The good news is, now I’m in Iceland, and will be home soon enough! I miss home and really can’t wait to have my two feet on American soil again. Until next time, then, everyone, Bless! (Yes that is the word they use in Iceland for goodbye, and no that’s not just the translation).