“Wonderful wonderful Copenhagen!” was the refrain that greeted me over the phone line, every time my Dad was reminded it was where I was heading in July for another, extended Mad and Magic Raving reunion.
It turns out that centuries ago, Dad had a pen pal from Copenhagen, and it’s been a European city that has lingered in his consciousness since then, though he’s never been.
It was a delightful coincidence that Copenhagen was the destination of my first visit to Europe. Flemming reminds me that back in 2008, I’d left a comment on his blog about never getting anywhere close to it. It was always an impossible thing, me visiting Europe. Even when he and I were plotting this remarkable journey during Mad and Magic Raving II in April. Even when I had my tickets booked. Hell, even when I’d gotten on my plane in Montreal and was winging across the Atlantic. The whole time, my brain was going “no no, you’re not actually going to be in Europe. Something will happen. You watch.”
So when the plane landed, my first impulse was to leg it down the aisle in proper action movie style – knees and elbows flying, hair whipping, crowd streaming by in motion blur – screaming “I’m heeeeeeeeerrrrreeeeeeeeeee!”
But I opted to bounce impatiently on my toes down the jetway, through the terminal, baggage claim and out the arrival hall doors to where Flemming was waiting, mercifully relieved of the crowds, and into Copenhagen proper.
Many incredible first things happened in this wonderful wonderful city.
For starters, they reportedly had the best summer weather in years. Which meant unending sunshine and real warmth for weeks on end.
The thing that occupied the bulk of my time there, was the abundance of music festival shooting I did with the Jedi master. Nevermind not having done any festival photography before, I’d never actually been to an electronic music event, period. My introduction to this began immediately. The day after I landed, with a badly sprained ankle, Flemming and I were out shooting Bas Under Buen. Then in quick succession, there was Trailerpark, the Reggae Festival, Strøm (which included engagements for Redbull Studios), RAW, Taste the World, and Images festivals. Seven events in six weeks, most of them spanning several days/nights, and a bunch of smaller club nights in between. Phew!
On off time, in between cycling around getting to know the city, and hanging out on Hipster Bridge with a bottle of wine or two – consuming alcohol in public is a very ordinary thing to do there, a novelty I haven’t gotten over – the other highlight of my time in København was getting to see castles.
I’m a fantasy buff, so coming into contact with a real live castle is… well, insane. Like a science fiction fanatic getting to board a space ship. There was Amalienborg, Christiansborg, Frederiksborg, and Rosenborg, but the best of them all was Kronborg, or Castle Elsinore of Hamlet fame, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage listed site. Walking through the turbulent past, cemented in literature all the way through time, space and culture by one man’s imagination, was bringing the history to life for a few hours. It’s also incredibly easy to pretend you’re on a quest to find dragons when you’re in a suitable setting. That’s always a winning experience.
All in all I found Copenhagen to very beautiful and though upbeat, also unexpectedly serene. I was completely comfortable in my own skin there, which was initially confusing, having never experienced this before. Weeks of feeling pleasantly strange went by before I realized what it was: I’d been walking around without a whit of customary awkwardness hovering around.
I’ve often referred to myself as a hermit, and while I am a solitary creature by default, it has a lot to do with the effect that being around a lot of people has on me: i get worn out. The culmination of wordless, almost unnoticed contact with passing strangers builds up like layers of ash. A lifetime of always being the wrong person in the wrong place and time, made up of the wrong amounts of all the wrong things, means this invisible contact bothers me more than it should. I’ve learnt to dread being around masses because of this, so stepping out the door of my hermit’s cave, a mutable space in my current situation, is frequently more difficult than it should be. I am better equipped to deal with this on some days than others, but I often found in Copenhagen that it was easy to ignore, or forget about altogether.
I’m not entirely sure why this is. Doubtless, a lot of it has to do with being around my best friend / jedi soul mate / MMR partner in crime. Everything is always better when you’re totally comfortable with the company you keep. But it also has something to do with Copenhagen itself, so gorgeous, and relaxed to the extreme. People were gracious, welcoming, and there was also an unusual amount of easy acceptance. No visible suspicion, or judgement, or expectation. It was downright hyggeligt.
(What is this strange word, you ask? A great explanation exists here.)
It could just be osmosis. Hang out in the happiest nation in the world, and some of that wellbeing is bound to rub off.
Maybe that’s why they wrote the song.