Weekend in Copenhagen
Saturday December 15th 2007
The receptionist at Hotel du Nord has red eyes and a rusty voice. "Hangover!" I say to myself, but maybe he has just caught a cold. Our room will be available at two, so we deposit our luggage and go for a walk.
We have been to Copenhagen many times over the years, and now we're back for a prolonged weekend. We have seen most of the sights and have no specific plans except visiting a museum or two, go for walks and have some good food.
Past Tivoli to City Hall Square
There is a crowd waiting to get in to Tivoli as we pass on our way to Rådhuspladsen (City Hall Square). We visited Tivoli at Christmas some years back, and it was so crowded that one could hardly move. Unless you enjoy being a fish in a shoal, it is more pleasant in the summertime.
At Rådhuspladsen there is a shop selling second-hand books. There are some interesting titles, but they are already on the shelves back home. On the next corner is a bookstore with new books, and I buy four Steven Saylor novels - crime stories set in ancient Rome.
There is a tall Christmas tree in the square, and Indians in feathery outfits play music. On the way back to the hotel we drop into Scala for refreshments. The young waitress asks her colleague for advice, when I order a double espresso. A double whisky would have left no doubt.
The hotel room is nice and the beds comfortable. It is on the corner of Istedgade and Colbjørnsensgade near the central station, but no traffic noise gets through the windows. The neighbourhood is cheerless, but there are many hotels here, and it is central.
Europe's longest pedestrian street
We go for a walk down Strøget, the long pedestrian street from Rådhuspladsen to Kongens Nytorv. This is Denmark's premier shopping street - that is if you go for international fashion and stuff like that.
It is teeming with people. You must follow the flow, and it is easy to loose sight of one another. It is definitely not the place to be, if you want to escape Christmas frenzy. A man puts his arm around Helle's shoulders and asks:
"Isn't the Copenhagen Café just down there?"
"I really don't know," Helle answers. He gets a shock, when he realises she isn't his wife. The wife comes up from behind wearing a similar coat with a similar hood, and we all get a good laugh.
We can hear a brass band playing. At first I think it is Salvation Army, but it turns out to be a band of men wearing pixy hats and playing Christmas carols. We stay for a few carols and then walk on. After a moment we meet a colleague from the cement plant in Aalborg - small world.
A side street takes us away from the crowd, and soon we find ourselves close to Kulkaféen ("The Coal Café") in Teglgårdsstræde 5.
We are thirsty, and it is a cosy place in the basement with old furniture and candlelight. Some guys are drinking beer by the bar. We find a corner with deep armchairs, listen to the blues and sip our Cokes.
Appointment for supper
We have an appointment with a friend, Jesper, at City Pub on Vesterbrogade at six o'clock. Jesper was at a Christmas party yesterday and has almost recovered. He works for the Defence as an economist.
Lately there was an opening for promotion, and he was put through some standard psychological tests. He didn't do well, he says. He was too honest and described himself as the kind person he truly is. And of course he was told afterwards that he didn't perform well.
He looks gloomy after this story. I try to comfort him saying it is better to be honest than getting a job by pretending to be something you are not. "Oh, but I got the job", says Jesper. So much for tests.
Supper at Restaurant Mostar
I have made a reservation at Restaurant Mostar, Gl. Kongevej 41, 1610 København V. not far from the Planetarium. We had wanted to exchange memories from our chess trips to Slovenia, and a Yugoslavian meal seemed appropriate. However Restaurant Dubrovnik in Studiestræde was closed (a private party), so I found this rather new restaurant owned and run by a chap from Mostar.
Jesper and I have meza for starters: spicy sausages, smoked meat, ham, ajvar, tzatiki and more. The delicious ajvar must be homemade. Helle has duck liver pâté with pieces of rosemary spiced apple fried in butter. It is delicious. With this we have a generous glass of white wine from Bosnia-Herzegovina.
As main course Jesper munches a steak and we get chunks of lamb. The lamb is carried up the stairs from below, golden brown and roasted whole. We share a red Vranac from Montenegro. Dessert is a lemon/lime pie with pomegranate seeds. It is tasty, but a bit dry. We finish off with coffee and pear brandy.
Jesper talks us into visiting Café Svejk in his neighbourhood (Smallegade 31, 2000 Frederiksberg). It isn't far, he promises, but none the less we take a bus. Café Svejk specializes in and imports Czech beer.
The beer is exceptionally good - almost too good. We get a Czech brandy on the house. It has a distinct taste of cinnamon, which must be washed down with yet another beer. Past midnight we flag down a cap and go home to the hotel. Zzzz.