Thursday, September 17, 2015

Initial impressions of Copenhagen September 2015

I learned about Mr Abbott's removal from eldest on my arrival in Copenhagen. When I wrote Saturday, I had not expected it to be that quick. Upon reflection, it made sense to act before the Canning by-election.

I have mixed feelings about Mr Turnbull, something that I will explore in another post. Presently, I want to give you my first fragmentary impressions of Copenhagen before they become dulled by familiarity.

The photo is of of one of the galleries, the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek just down the street from where I'm staying.

My first impression of Copenhagen was the attractive architecture. While some buildings are older, much older, many of them are neoclassical, dating to the growth period during the nineteenth century. My second impression was the the bikes. They are everywhere. I mean everywhere.

Following moves that really began in the 1990s, the streets and road rules are designed to accommodate cyclists. Nary a helmet in sight, cycling is integrated into the road rules, including hand signals that I was taught at school but which have now, I think, been largely forgotten in Australia. There are bike racks everywhere, bikes leaning against walls, bikes for hire and in some cases what are clearly graveyards of old bikes. There are locals on bikes, tourists on bikes, babies and pets carried in containers set on or linked to bikes, men in business suits on bikes, laptops in the rack on the back.

They are not your standard Australian bikes of the type so beloved by Australian cyclists all dolled up in lyrcra riding in packs, but simpler and more old fashioned bikes with baskets at the front for shopping etc. So you see people popping out for groceries or riding along listening to music or indeed chatting on their headsets with briefcases or other things in the basket.

It's all very convenient and indeed heathy. There seem to be no fat people in Copenhagen. It's also a little nerve wracking until you get used to it. It's quite easy to stray unintentionally into a bike lane. You are more likely to be clobbered by a bike than a car!

Early yesterday morning I went for an orientation walk. I found myself by accident on what is called the Royal Route around the area known as Slotsholmen. It was about 7:30 by then. Central to this area is the Christiansborg Slot or Palace. Originally the home of the Royal Family, it now part museum but also houses Parliament and various offices including that of the Prime Minister.

I had no idea of any of this. I had just gone for a walk. However, conditioned as I am by Australia, I started to get very uncomfortable. I was clearly in some official area with people going to work. There were open gates displaying new vistas that looked interesting. There were no signs to indicate that I shouldn't be there, but I kept expecting to be pulled up by some uniformed figure.

It was then hat I found signs indicating that I was travelling around the Royal Route. It was then I found out that the big building was (among other things) the home of Parliament and held the PM's office. I walked on, finding a big gate that led to a large quadrangle with horse areas and beyond that a large statue and then the very impressive back facade of the Slot.

I stopped. Again, there was nothing to say that I couldn't enter, but as an Australian I have been conditioned to expect authority, guards and warning signs. As I obviously hesitated, a high vis coated man who had been checking cars entering said go in, you can go in. Obviously very proud of the building, he pointed out to me where Parliament was and the PM's Office and other special features including the tower and stables.

I walked in and around the large quadrangle. It was then that I realised I hadn't so far noticed any police in Copenhagen. They are omnipresent in Sydney. Later I was able to identify police uniforms, but they are very different from Australia's police with their flack jackets and kit including capsicum spray, large pistols, tasters etc. NSW police uniforms and associated kit are intended to convey authority and install order over and indeed fear among potential wrong-doers. This does not appear to be necessary in Denmark. No doubt Australians are less law abiding, the threats to our security greater.

More relaxed attitudes extend to smoking and drinking. There are anti-smoking rules and indeed I am sure that there are campaigns too, but cigarettes seem to be a quarter of the price in Sydney, there are more receptacles for buts, while it is still possible to have a cup of coffee outside with a fag.

Drinking rules are more relaxed too. Danes like to drink, although to this point I have seen no evidence of public drunkenness of the type you might see in some Australian cities. Drinking in public places is allowed including along the canals, while all the convenience stores carry alcohol. Mass grog shops of the type we know may exist, but I haven't seen them.

Finally, Copenhagen seems prosperous with cranes everywhere. At least in the parts of the city that I have seen, there is no evidence of the abject poverty and homelessness that you now see in parts of Sydney, nor have I seen any beggars. There are homeless people, but the problem does not appear to be at the same level.

I accept that these are superficial assessments. However,  they do provide a base for further observation.


Anonymous said...

Jim - Australia seems out of step to the countries I have visited in regards to alcohol. In other European cities you can get a drink anywhere, anytime. The taboos that exist here don't seem to be in force over there. Even in Asia where I have travelled extensively they are much more open to selling alcohol at 7/11's and other outlets and yet you don't see drunks on the street. If you do encounter a drunk at a bar it's most likely to be an Australian or Pommy. Its interesting that the fall in the numbers of people riding bicycles over here was a direct result of the compulsory helmet laws. I couldn't help thinking when I was in Europe and seeing hundreds of people going about their business riding without helmets that if this was Australia they would be breaking the law. And when you think about it, someone is breaking the law for jumping on a bicycle and riding down to the shop? Lucky for us we have gun toting capsicum spraying semi- military authority figures to clamp down on this heinous crime.
Enjoy your trip

Jim Belshaw said...

Apologies for y slow response, Adam Different patterns are interesting. I mean to write something about the different patterns, especially on bikes.