27 April 2010

Swan song

Some streets, sights and places in Copenhagen hold a special place in my heart. If they are not on my way, I will make a detour every now and then, just to drive by and let my eyes touch them. Make sure they are all right. A fine example of this is the swan and eagle murals, from one of my earliest posts. So when I saw the scaffolding earlier this month, I had a bad feeling. And today a piece of my heart broke:

I blame the people who put this thing up, without taking measures to protect the swan, just as much as I do the morons who could not let this one slide. Do the trains, do tunnels, do all things concrete, containers and abandoned areas. But not the swan! I am sorry to play this one-tune song once again, but I can't keep it in (thank you for being here for me).

But fortunately for my bleeding heart Copenhagen still holds surprises. One of them is just around the corner from this one. Another cool mural, and with some rare 3D work, accompanied by a beautiful blooming tree and a blue picket fence. When I see people taking such good care of their environment, it brings back hope. Getting involved with and keeping the neighbourhood clean and beautiful, picking up garbage and taking care of the vegetation is a sign of dignity and pride. In one self and in Copenhagen. A sign I really needed today.

Nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Northern Countries

Nominated for a Classic Copenhagen Award in the category Best Mural.

26 April 2010

Gee, thanks

As I passed Sankt Hans Square the other day, I noticed there was huge packages hanging from the trees and traffic lights. And you know that a stunt like that is just bound to suck me in... but I quickly realised they were empty, which is sort of the point. Whenever a political party comes up with a plan, they name it a package. Like the immigration package, or the welfare package. It sounds fancy, and more than indicates that it is a good thing. But we have had quite a few of these "packages" by now, and the word is loosing its meaning here.

The stunt is that of a young division of the communist party, who had wrapped the empty boxes in bad news, underlining their political standpoint. Like the story of the multi moochers, huge corporations like McDonald's, who for 26 years in Denmark did not pay tax. I know this because when they recently did own up to the profit, it was such a rare event that it made the evening news.

Now, I am not posting this to promote any one political party. In my opinion the Danish politicians has made more of a mess of things than ever before, and I dread the next time they ask me to choose one to represent me. But when they finally come up with a package that puts a smile on my face, it has earned the 2.5 minutes of fame, and a comfortable spot on Classic Copenhagen.

Welfare package

The multi moochers

Environmental article

Democracy package

25 April 2010

Inspirational ornaments

The weathervanes are ornamental tell tales, predominantly in the shape of roosters. This king of the Copenhagen skyline is not only a classic decorative wind compass, but also an inspiration to many humans. After all, weathervanes make it to the top.

A rare dolphin caught on a grainy winter day. Looking up in Copenhagen is never boring.

23 April 2010

Creatures of the night

Some creatures only come out at night. One of them is the digital project The Monitor Gallery, in a corner window of a bookstore on Town Hall Square. At a time when all TVs must be flat and PCs portable, a lot of functioning equipment is discarded, and it is from this the wall of monitors are build. The digital gallery can only be viewed from the street side, and only after dark, when it comes alive with images from Copenhagen. The latest opening was wednesday on a rainy night, and even if I got there late, the show was still up and running. It may not be the kind of thing you camp out in front of, but just the fact that it is there takes Copenhagen nights to another level.

On my way home I caught the Young People Sitting, in some night time action of their own. I did my best to capture them in the (g)rain, it was dark but the message was clear: give hugs, loosen up, laugh out loud, smile to others and play more. I'm on it. 

21 April 2010

Car(e) free

As an alternative to the larger and more expensive cargo bike, a lot of Copenhageners are getting creative with crates and boxes. When a regular bicycle basket is not butch or big enough, this is the perfect solution. I have spotted supermarket shopping baskets, vintage wood crates and plastic milk boxes, strapped on with an elastic or wire. I have seen them pretty and painted, but more often they are just left unattractive for practical reasons (as in unworthy of stealing).

The unwritten rules already seem to dictate it must be home made and that is a big part of the charm and usefulness. I can almost smell the frustration of the bicycle industry. It is strange, but I know the feeling so well: getting big projects done by bike is so incredibly satisfying. Like riding with big paintings, tons of groceries, lamps and even small pieces of furniture. I mean, really, who needs cars?

Old guy with a hat, all about practicality and style.

Wine brings joy (in German)

The classic 70s wood crate, from Carlsberg

A double seater, basket in front and the painted plastic box in the back. And two flat tires.

20 April 2010

Chill when served

Every once in a while a new concept comes to town. And if it is any good, it will spread like wild fire. Denmark is a beer loving nation by long tradition, but in the past years we have embraced wine bars too. It is now so wildly popular that if a location becomes available, chances are it will be a wine bar tomorrow. They almost all compete (or maybe just agree) to have the most "authentic French wine farmer look", and the Copenhageners are all over the hype. The instant aura of sophistication is a big hit with the 30+ Danes. Getting a load on from a long stemmed glass inarguably seems so much more refined. The atmosphere in the Copenhagen wine bars is laid back, it never gets rowdy like in a regular bar with a younger crowd, or anywhere near as festive as a cocktail bar. But if you are content with just chilling when served, this is could be it.

19 April 2010

I was wrong

Only on one other occasion have I taken a picture of a member of The Royal Family, and I felt like crap then too. So why would I go and repeat the deed? I have been turning it over in my mind, trying to figure out just why it feels so wrong. I ask myself why I took the picture. It is not because I love my Queen, because I have been doing that successfully from a distance all of my life. So I have tried to place myself in the Royal shoes, and see myself pointing a camera at me, and it does not make me feel loved... I was not there to cheer on my Queen and wish her all the best (even if I do), I was there to get the picture. And now I feel like crap.

18 April 2010

Soft graffiti

Lately I have been spotting a lot of soft graffiti in the streets of Copenhagen. Like chalk work: first it was the non-turds at the fountain, then at the wall surrounding the construction site on the farmers market, and now it just seems to be popping up everywhere. Even if it is short lived, it makes a great impact, perhaps because it is an unusual medium (to adults, anyway), and in every way friendly. Like the paste up movement, with the cut out paper work glued on odd places, another favourite of mine for much the same reasons. 

And even if I only caught a glimpse, as I ran over this foil animal on my bike the other day, I knew it was a rabbit. So I went back to document the shiny piece, all the while wondering if I am just seeing street art everywhere, or if this could be the early signs of foil tagging? You tell me.

The worlds best gym 

(nothing to do with art, I know, but it is still the chalk movement. And it is a clever way of getting free advertising on the most crowded pedestrian street in Copenhagen. Shame about the poor condition of the pavement,  don't you think?)

Cheeky (although I really want to translate it as "nosy")

16 April 2010

Mission accomplished

However fondly I think of my Queen, and wish Her the best birthday in the world, I just can't get exited about the televised side of things. Who is wearing what, with what jewels, and in what company, and what are they going to eat, and who will provide the entertainment... I can not grasp how anyone can find that fascinating?! But I did make it just in time today, to catch the Royal Birthday Carriage Ride in person, even if I had to fight off some very aggressive elders to make it. It was a big show, fronted and backed by impressive horses and horsemen, and I got so absorbed by the details, that I true to form nearly missed the big picture.

I was standing next to a small and very emotional old woman, who told me that she was also here for the 50th birthday 20 years ago, and as this extended event only takes place once every 10 years, it was a very big deal to her. We were standing across form the Caritas Fountain (the one the non-turds decorated), dating back to 1608 it is the oldest in Copenhagen, and even if I heard the rumours, I never believed it before today: every year on the Queens birthday, it plays with golden apples.  

As you can imagine, this event is taking up a lot of space. Besides the two biggest TV networks in Denmark following every preparation and event, the National Bank has launched a special commemorative coin, there is a new post stamp out, and the cartoonists are lining up school yard style, to pull the Royal pigtails. I am beginning to think that a full week of celebrations and probing must be enough for any 70 year old. Even a Queen.

Happy birthday!

15 April 2010

Holy hygge

If there is something that is ultra Danish, it must be "hygge". Perhaps best translated into "cosiness". If you live in a warm climate, you will probably have your own version with a barbecue and cold drinks with friends, or a good book in a hammock. But in Denmark you must work with and make the best of the cold and the long, dark months, with candles, hot beverages and good food, or whatever rocks your boat. It is about setting the mood, combining as many of your favourite things as possible.

Last night I caught a heavy dose of hygge in Harbo Bar, the local family run joint in my neighbourhood. The girls from the band Er De Sjaeldne performed a mini concert, and the in house cup cake queen had created a special batch for the occasion. Let me tell you... this girl had handmade the bands trademark tiny bird footprints in milk chocolate, on a piece of baking paper, peeling them off one at the time, to decorate the coolest cup cakes I have ever seen. And they fit both the bar, the band and the mood perfectly. I wanted to make a real sound bite for you, but I don't know how to yet, so you will have to make do with the recycled material in the video below. Now imagine we are all hanging out, eating blue cup cakes and listening to dreamy music. That is hygge for you.

Er De Sjaeldne on myspace.

13 April 2010

Queen of Hearts

Living in a monarchy is not something you really think about. It is sort of the same as with The Little Mermaid: a part of the picture, without being part of your life. It just is. But on friday the 16th of April our Queen turns 70, and that is a week long event with endless dinners and media hoo-ha. It is slowly building up to the big day on friday, with the greetings from the balcony and the horse driven carriage ride through the city. I feel a dilemma approaching, because I am allergic to crowds, and hate to see myself as part of one, but on the other hand I am responsible for feeding the blog. And I do have a soft spot for our Queen. I will tell you why:

The tradition calls for the Royal Family to assemble on the balcony of the Royal Amalienborg Palace, in the centre of Copenhagen, on the big occasions like birthdays and weddings. From here they will greet the thousands of Royal Subjects, gathered to praise, cheer and wave the flags. Despite growing up a 5 minute bike ride from all this, I never attended it myself before that one day, many years ago. I decided on a whim to give it a go, and see what the fuss was about. And about half an hour before, I went. You see where this is going? I only made it to the neighbouring street, before I hit the crowd, and a dead stop. From there I could hear the cheers and people go absolutely bananas. And I found myself oddly disappointed to miss the view. 

We were stuck there for a little less than an hour, and as the crowd cleared out, I decided to go and at least see the balcony, and the empty place. It was the saddest sight. There were about 10-15 people gathered below the empty balcony, parents of unbearably disappointed and sobbing children, still hanging on to their flags, on their parents shoulders. And as I stood there, the impossible happened: the Queen reappeared, just to wave to us. It was short but sweet, and I was humbled and overwhelmed by this extraordinary display of kindness. There is nothing the Queen can say or do, that will ever be able to erase the spot in my heart she earned right there. 

Vintage balcony action.

12 April 2010

A light bulb moment

I have always been fascinated by shadows and reflections. It is almost like catching a glimpse of a parallel world, a fresh take on what you believe to know so well. Perhaps the sensation comes from seeing something familiar again for the first time, in the reflection of a puddle, a spoon, or in this case a broken mirrored light bulb. I was busy catching the antique sign for the earlier post, when it caught my eye, and after that I spend a good 20 minutes chasing all the angles and pieces on the ground. They all had their own view of things, and I was completely absorbed and ecstatic about my discovery.

And as always, I felt like stopping the world, and direct the attention to the wonder. So when 4 young boys walked by, openly joking about this weird girl, squatting at the ground, taking pictures of the (to them) invisible, I had to draw them in. For all of one minute I had them in the bulb, before they moved on. There was no time to get the focus right, but I still like that I made them look, and perhaps see things differently for just one minute.

The boys.

10 April 2010

Only in Copenhagen?

The classic Copenhagen tradition of leaving statues fresh flowers, has been taken to a new level. All the statues surrounding the lakes, is holding handmade paper flowers. The Nile is always the first to get the attention, as the rules of man apparently also apply to statues: he with the most kids wins. But this time The Tiber, on the opposite corner is included. And the Young People Sitting (with a paper bag on the head, not too long ago), got a flower too, and then some...

You know how I feel, but I have to say it anyway: it is NOT okay to paint directly on the beautiful old statues, it just breaks my heart. And besides being disrespectful to the art, to history and to the people who enjoy the statue every day, the offence is also on a creative level: it is so utterly uninventive. Not like making your own flowers, and spreading the love. Or like the brilliant new way of promoting an upcoming Danish movie, in the streets: with a necklace of film.

Is it customary to paint on sculptures in any other part of the world? Or is it just in Copenhagen? And would you interrupt the deed if you had the chance?

The she wolf of The Tiber, across from The Nile.

Alternative promoting of a new Danish movie, with a link to the facebook group.

Young People Sitting (1942), and Young People Hugging (2010)

09 April 2010

Stars and stripes

It is so idiotic, but nevertheless true: if a store is placed in a basement or up a few stairs, I am less likely to enter. I am not sure wherein the barrier lies, I only know it does. But yesterday the temptation got too big to resist, so I finally went to see the stripy store This Issue from the inside. It is run by the graphic team Shft, and functions as a combined office-showroom-gallery-concept store. The walls are covered with prints and posters, the floors are painted in bright and contrasting colors, and there really are too many details to take in, in just one visit. My initial love was the handmade banana hammock, by artist Stine Tranekjaer. But now that I have seen what else she does, I am not sure I could limit myself to just one piece of fruit.

From there I got sucked into the satirical jumping jack right wing politicians. Despite the recent shameful deportation of refugees, there is still more than 700 children caught in the system. Some are orphans, and some are even remanded in custody, not for committing a crime, but as a (horrible) way of safekeeping. The art collective Schwimmellmann has created the jumping jacks, sold in sets of four, to spread the word and raise funds to help the children. And in a way this proves my point from yesterday: I can not think of a single store in the centre of the city, with the balls to sell something like this. I consider this the proof that crossing a barrier every once in a while is good for me.

The jig.

08 April 2010

Simply put

As is the case in most big cities, the centre of Copenhagen is only affordable to chain stores and other established businesses. It can at times be hard to tell what country you are in, as H&M, Zara, Monsoon and the gang are lined up in the same order, looking identical in almost every big city in the world. 

The real flavour is almost always to be found somewhere off the beaten path. Only here can the small store owners afford to set up shop, and those are the ones worth watching. In the independent stores it is not about stickers the size of cars, covering huge storefronts, but rather a refreshingly simple way of communicating. It is about standing by the budget, and making it work. Not trying to look like everybody else. 

For your viewing pleasure I wanted to catch the stripes on a storefront in my neighbourhood, for this post. But as I got sucked inside, I realised there was more meat on that bone, so that will be served up in a separate post. Perhaps tomorrow, if you are in the mood for a banana and a shot of color?

Antiques and Fleas. This sign has been around for as long as I can remember, it obviously works.

Big Verner's mini antique book store. On Vesterbro, the Westbridge area. 

The bicycle repair shop. The no-fuss storefront, with a clear message. 

 The Norrebro store "This Issue". 

A coming attraction...