04 March 2010

Staying power

It has struck me that living in a big city is much like being in a relationship. If you take it for granted, you will not reap the benefits. With a hungry blog to feed, I find myself exploring back alleys, talking to strangers, to get and exchange information, and as I zoom in on the details, a whole new side of my city unfolds. Yesterday I looked up, and the sun was hitting the old beehive neon sign (the logo of a bank that is no more) on Norreport Station. Being a night time attraction, I never imagined it would have such a day glow.

Today I talked to Mr. Neon himself, Bjarne Bentzen. Born and bred in the neon business, he is involved in the maintenance of most landmark neon signs in Copenhagen, and he was kind enough to share some information on the beehive. It turns out that the day glow comes from the sun hitting 23.75 carat leaf gold, and bees made from glass. The sign has been in action since the 1950s and even if the bank has long since been swallowed by a bigger one, it has so far been allowed to stay, courtesy of Den Danske Bank, who pays for the maintenance.

The old neon signs of the city holds a big place in our hearts, and when they decide to retire one, it hurts. When The Frogs went last year, a big group of people went into mourning. The old signs holds a great sentimental value, and many have earned the status of landmarks. The little unfolding stories on repeat convey the message in a way no led lights and diodes, or any other noisy commercial have been able to replicate. And in a case when the sign survives the product it advertises,  it deserves the nomination for a Classic Copenhagen Award, in the category Best Neon Sign.


  1. Hvor er det fedt, du tager dig tid til at undersøge og snakke og pille! Tak for det og for gode billeder.

    Måske har jeg ikke fulgt godt nok med, men de her nomineringer - hvad skal de ende med? Laver du en afstemning på et tidspunkt eller...?

  2. Det er meget detektiv agtigt, men jeg føler mig helt kaldet. Dejligt at der er nogen der kigger med. Det ender med et Classic Copenhagen Award show/event en dag, i en eller anden form, når der er nok at vælge imellem. Jeg glæder mig helt vildt, og skal nok huske at invitere mine trofaste læsere. :-)

  3. Hej S, He, den kube minder mig om barndom. Ligesom kyllingen der lægger æg ved søerne. Tror jeg så det første gang da jeg kom til byen og skulle se Star Wars med min far engang i 70'erne. Det der med bladguld er en ret almindelig måde at få noget til at skinne på. Vor frelsers kirke f.eks, - eller domen på Marmor kirken. Der er nok nogle ton guld at hente hvis man gider ligge og skrabe med lommekniven ;) Hvad var han for en, ham der fortalte dig det? C

  4. Hvor hyggeligt! Der hænger en million minder i de gamle skilte, det er derfor det er sådan et dødsstød når de bliver pillet ned. Neon eksperten er en mand der kan sit kram, dem kan vi godt lide, ved du. Tak for det fornemme besøg. :-)

  5. I like it when you link to one of your past essays. There's so much about Copenhagen that I miss in my "few and far between" visits to your cool city. I have to look up more often as I bicycle!

    There was (maybe it still exists) a huge sign, reading, in giant red neon letters, "Secondi Bros"* at a truck stop on highway 95 about 125km west of New York City. Once in a great while, all of the letters were lit at the same time(!), but usually at least part of one was unlit. I guess it was no match for the harsh weather. It's curious what I remember from decades ago!

    *("Bros" is an abbreviation for "brothers")

    1. Ha, it's fun to connect the posts like that, I'm glad you like it. The old neon signs have a special place in my heart, they changed the yellow in this one to ugly white, I have to check up with them and see why. Only one tube remains in the corner, in the original warm yellow, so sad. Also they have crammed LED advertising up next to it, they just don't get the idea of space. How some things deserve it.

      Good to hear from you, as always. : )


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