31 March 2010

The easter blues

No sooner is Christmas behind us, before we are faced with the next big holiday. As with any holiday Easter brings Copenhagen to a slow stop. Some Copenhageners visit the family in other parts of Denmark, while others travel a longer distance to escape them altogether. As always it is about getting together, eating and drinking, and this occasion also calls for the seasonal brew, the knock-you-out Easter beer. The shops will close for the whole duration, causing us to once more (remember Christmas?) stock up like crazy on all staples as well as on everything remotely egg-, chicken- and bunny shaped, daffodils, the brew, freshly slaughtered lambs and all things yellow. 

The Easter holidays appeals mostly to children, happy families and those employed by others. If you fall outside one or all of these categories, you may find yourself kicked in the ass by the Easter blues. Some find the holiday spirit in the Easter brew, and I seriously suspect this is one of the reasons they made it so strong. Others look forward to the big two day indoor flea market kicking off tomorrow. One guess which cure is mine?

From the children, hanging in the window of a kindergarten.

For the grown ups, one of the many kinds of Easter beer.

28 March 2010

About time

It is official: spring has sprung. And I am not talking about how we have been messing with the clock today, or how the ever patient eranthis and snowdrops have arrived, because they have, or the fact that we have lost the fuzzy layer of clothing, so necessary just a month ago... This morning I brewed myself the very first glass of iced coffee. And with that I am ready to go through my wardrobe and dig out the lighter layers. For now comes the season when most of us miss the target and dress too warm or too light, catching that seasonal cold, the other sure sign that spring has arrived. 

I know you read this from different places in the world (but not from Osterbro, after yesterday..), and spring may have been around for a while. Do you see the signs yet?

Latte ice, extra ice, to go.

27 March 2010

Worlds apart

As you may have guessed, I live in the borough Norrebro, which translates into Northbridge. Only a short bike ride in one direction is Vesterbro, Westbridge, and just as close, in the opposite direction Osterbro, Eastbridge. So close, yet so far apart. Today I went to Osterbro to buy my weekend stash of groceries, and as always I felt like a tourist in a foreign country. Osterbro is just so... preppy. Everybody looks the same, and travels in matching couples, or they push baby carriages around. The streets are wider, the houses are nicer and the whole thing is just so groomed, like a page in a lifestyle magazine. Don't get me wrong, we are all Copenhageners, and it is not that I don't like people who live here, I have sweet friends who do, but phew, I just don't know how they survive. 

But while Osterbro is not my flavour, it is still the closest place to go for decent food. The Daniel Letz salmon (legendary and home smoked, this stuff just melts on your tongue), fresh fish, olive oil and other delicacies. So I suffer the trip, because food is King, but when my bike turns homeward, I always breathe easier.

It only really dawned on me today how strange this is, and I knew this would be my subject of the day. All I needed was some interesting photographs... ha. In any other part of the city I have to get off my bike every other minute to catch this or that, but on Osterbro... nothing. All I could come up with was this row of candy colored houses. You see what I mean?

Parking only allowed if the business is related to the properties

26 March 2010

Cold feet

Escape by bike. Anytime now.

25 March 2010

Lesson learned

I passed this colorful explosion on my bike today, and I just had to dismount and investigate. Even from a distance it was clear someone was trying to communicate something, and when that is the case, the least you can do is listen and try to understand. My first thought was that of my childhood hero Pippi Longstocking, and her house Villa Villekulla. There was lots of signs, with different quotes and slowly I got a sense of the overall message. Hidden behind a tree in the garden was the owner, and we communicated out of each others sight, while I was working my camera.

He explained how this is his way of educating the world on the pitfalls and injustice in Danish politics. It was clear that he is a fan of a political party I do not support, but at the same time we agreed on a lot of issues. He is a retired math and chemistry school teacher, whose parents both died in the poor care of Danish nursing homes. His main complaint is that old people are stripped of their dignity, when instead of help to go to the bathroom, they are equipped with diapers. If they refuse this humiliating offer, they are on their own, and many elders have severe accidents on their way to the bathroom, and subsequently die from the injuries. Like both his parents.

This one man demo, or propaganda as he calls it, in many ways resembles street art, only it is done on his own property. And it reminded me of my meeting with the street artist at the Armsrock show. They would probably never meet, being two opposites, from two different generations, but they do share some important things in common: they both look for justice, and they both use street art to achieve it.

Demo for the allowance of long term residence in vacation houses, camping and auto camping. 
The people against forced diaper use for nursing home residents.

Every society have a tendency to reduce its opponents to caricatures. Nietzsche

We shall overcome.

24 March 2010

Pimping Copenhagen

Every year thousands of tourists come to Copenhagen, and a large part of them stop by to see the most famous statue in Denmark, The Little Mermaid. Ever since 1913 she has been greeting her visitors on Langelinie, on a large rock in the water, keeping alive the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. I rarely go to visit, but I know she is there, and whenever some attention seeking idiot vandalises her, it hurts. She is not just a statue, she is a symbol.

New York has The Statue Of Liberty, London has Big Ben, Paris has the Eiffel Tower, and we have The Little Mermaid. This comparatively tiny statue holds the same magic, and that is in itself miraculous. It goes without saying she should not be moved, wouldn't you agree? Nobody has the right to mess with that. But they have. Tomorrow she will be uprooted for the first time in her life (not counting repairs), and transported to China, for a spot on The World's Fair. For 6 months. In the tourist season.

Not only is this move reducing The Little Mermaid to a piece of merchandise, it is undermining the entire magic behind the story. The fairy tale and the emotion of The Little Mermaid is communicated on a fragile frequency, and I wonder if the magic will be intact when she returns. Will anyone be able to see her in the same way?

And what bugs me is that the move is all about business, and nothing more. My least favourite politician in City Hall, responsible for some of the biggest blunders in recent time, is not surprisingly supporting the move. Justifying it with the promotion value, and the large amount of business to be milked from this event. And so what if all we have to do is prostitute our poetry?

Come back soon!

The Little Mermaid in transit.
Old token for the tram, pre 1971.

22 March 2010

Fast and furious

Copenhagen has traditionally always been a bicycle friendly city. But when it comes to city planning, that has not always been the case. However this has changed (back) in the last couple of years, so that a lot of the places bicyclists were not allowed, are suddenly friendly.

The quiet side of the lakes was until recently only allowed for pedestrians, but a lot of bicyclists risked the 500 kr fine anyway, taking the scenic route. There was no bell action, and the bicyclists got along with the pedestrians just fine. It is no longer illegal to ride the lakeside, and with this newfound freedom came a new breed of two wheeled helmet clad tyrants, going places fast with a trigger happy finger on the bell. To him anyone taking the ride in stride is basically in the way, slowing traffic down, and even pedestrians is considered a nuisance.

The hard hat bully is fortunately not your typical Copenhagen bicyclist, but he is loud, and he is obnoxious, and he is giving the well behaved bicyclists a bad name. Could it simply be that the helmet is strapped on just a little too tight?

Care to subscribe?

21 March 2010

By invitation only

One of the most popular addresses in Copenhagen is the small village in Osterbro, called the Potato Rows. Consisting of 480 small three story brick houses, build in 1873 by a group of doctors and architects, who have had enough of the unsanitary living conditions offered to the hard working men and their families. The Potato Rows were simple and affordable (at the time), and the elite looked down upon this pitiful arrangement. 

Ironically these days the elite are the only ones who can afford to live here. Politicians, filmmakers and wealthy hippies occupy the tiny houses, that are among the most expensive real estate in Copenhagen. And even if the picturesque little homes may look like dolls houses, you are not invited to play.

Private property

One of my favorite details: the built in drainpipes.

20 March 2010

Happy birds day

The botanical garden, food for the birds attached to the branches from the street side.

Only in Orstedsparken.

Happy birds day!

19 March 2010

Work in progress

As a people we are not easy to get to know. When I talk to visitors or new immigrants, they all complain that we are moving in closed circles. It always saddens me to hear, but if it is any consolation we treat each other the same way. Unless you work at keeping an open mind, the circles tend to get fixed around the age of 30. By then you will have accumulated the amount of friends from school, work and hobbies estimated to last you a lifetime, and new faces is not considered good news. So I can just imagine how hard it must be for an outsider. 

But there is a change in the air. During the COP15 climate talks, the artist-run community Wooloo launched the festival New Life Copenhagen. A hugely successful social experiment, in which private families opened up their homes to more than 3000 climate activists, otherwise stranded in the overpriced and -booked Copenhagen. The Facebook page of New Life Copenhagen is constantly updated with comments from grateful hosts and guests, and new connections is made here daily. It is the epicentre of open-mindedness, and just the place to rekindle your faith in the human race. And Copenhageners.

18 March 2010

Back on track

After years of postponement and bureaucratic delay, it looks like we are finally (!) getting our food market. The semi covered outdoor market in which smaller and independent farmers and food fetishists can rent a stall, and sell directly to the consumer. Bypassing the domineering money-oriented supermarkets, so partial to dealing with only the biggest, and not necessarily best suppliers. The location is already named the Vegetable Market, because back when Copenhageners would not accept today's low standard in food, this was the place to go.

The Vegetable Market 1889-1958, making me so proud! Picture borrowed from here.

The food market is estimated to be up and running from spring next year, and the whole place has already been flattened and fenced off. The contractor has painted the surrounding wall a matte chalkboard black, requesting no bills be posted. You know who is going to explode on this surface, don't you? Not only are they asked not to, but the whole thing is like a big, vibrating perfect canvas, aching for the human touch. 

I caught the thing when the paint was still wet, but I am willing to bet you that it will be unrecognisable within the next month. So I am wondering what about this black plywood wall is so worth preserving? Why not officially invite the streets to embellish it, and make it an exhibition worth watching? Not that they won't do it anyway. You just wait.

First! And it's sidewalk chalk again, I am in love with this new old media.

(All I had to do was look at this guy, and this song is now torturing me)

More on the food market (just hit the flag for the English version) here.

17 March 2010

Hello and goodbye

Of all the events and noise made for the climate during COP15, Trude hit me the hardest. The giant polar bear, carved from a block of arctic ice, has been melting fast for the last couple of weeks, and today she said goodbye. It made me sadder than expected, and I realise I will miss her. But nature has a way of sweetening the deal, with the early signs of spring. The daffodils have hit the stores, and I almost forgot what magical little drumsticks they are.

Goodbye, girl:

An appropriate last picture, of both of us together.

Hello boys!

16 March 2010

Postcards from Copenhagen

Vintage Copenhagen. Everything is the same. Yet everything is so different.

Town Hall Square. Cars allowed. Not a bicycle helmet in sight. 

Town Hall Square, at a later time. No cars or bicycles allowed. But pidgeons. And they never left.

Gammel Strand, for decades a place to buy fresh fish. Logical for a city with a harbour. But no more.

The Kings New Square, wiew of the Royal Theatre. I have never seen busses like that before...

In the upper left corner the fish market, Gammel Strand. The yellow streetcars last stop was in 1971.

Bring back the classic cars, the muted colors and the fresh fish, please!

15 March 2010

A close call

You know how I have always dreamed of catching a turd in the act. Just to say my piece. So when I spotted these two from my bike, I was ready. I was this close to ripping them a fresh pair, when I realised they were using children's sidewalk chalk. Despite the flags and the balloons, they insisted it was no ones birthday, that they knew of, they just felt like decorating. I can't remember the last time I felt so good about being so wrong.

14 March 2010

Mayhem at the market

After yesterdays art-spanking, I wanted to bring you a happy post, just to keep things in balance. And it was going to be easy, because today we had the biannual big outdoor flea market in my neighbourhood, with lots of juicy painted wood crates, and funny furniture and heavy old family photo albums, packed with black and white nostalgia. It was going to be so good. But then things took a turn. Fast.

Spring sky reflected in a beautiful folding mirror. Ravnsborggade 1 hour before meltdown.

Within minutes, the flea market turned into a war zone. Over a thousand bloated, masked, aggressive football fans swarmed the streets, destroying everything within reach, plastering big, ugly stickers and nazi propaganda on any and all surfaces. Today's football match is apparently between two local teams, and those of us who can't tell the difference and really don't care to, just get caught in this destructive inferno. 

Usually the police direct the opposing teams supporters by a predestined route, far from each other, but for some reason this time the Brondby supporters chose to divert, and wreck an entire flea market. The heavily represented police succeeded in stopping them midways, and after a while the mob found another path. 

Leaving this behind: 

Bloated ignorants on vintage velvet. Just an hour ago the beautiful mirror was balancing on this...

Thanks guys.

In the press (Danish): here.