The air is rich with the smell of illegal substances that add to the ambiance of this Danish alternative community, Christiania. I stopped at a cafe, just across from the Hashish and Pot kiosks, for an Americano and was delighted to see Eurosport Live was televising a bicycle race – Arrivee 5KM. At the same time the cafe sound system has Tom Petty rocking in the back ground as the yellow jersey struggles up a mountain and is rapidly passed by a group of six riders. I’m loving this cross cultural moment, European bicycle racing and American rock and roll. As the finish comes into view a Team Sky rider drives hard for the line and takes the win. Chris Fromme – Chappo! Why am I so hungry?
…I just can’t do it. Each morning I start with my list of “must see sites”, museums, galleries, etc. I walk to the site, but often I can’t make myself go in. It’s not the cost, some of the sites are free. It’s simply the desire to want to walk another block or two, or three to see another neighborhood to observe the locals at work and play, visit another bike shop or try another type of licorice. If you like black licorice and gummi bears you will love Copenhagen.
Today, Tivoli was on the must see list. Tivoli is a famous Danish theme park that is said to have inspired Disney to build Disneyland. By American theme park standards it is small, covers one large city block, and the roller coaster and other rides would be appropriately described as quaint verses the American standard of extreme. As I stood at the gate watching the happy children twirl and spin against the blue sky above I said to myself, “You never go to theme parks back home. Why do you want to go into this one? What you really want to do is explore the other side of town, the area beyond the central train station. The side of Copenhagen you have not seen yet. ” So I walked on.
Copenhagen’s pedestrian thoroughfares seem to go on forever. Just like
it’s stream of helmet less, blond haired female cyclist in high heels and short skirts. There is an equally dapper male counterpart smartly dressed with a tie and a well worn leather shoulder bag secured to an oversized rat-trap rear carrier. But admittedly I tire of watching them more quickly than the female version.
My wandering took me to what appeared to be the immigrant section of town based on the Indian, Asian and Kabob restaurants and that the local soccer match was made up primarily dark skinned and black haired players. The match was held on a concrete basketball court with netless hoops and non-english rap music pounding in the background. I didn’t realize rap music was international.
Just a bit past the soccer match and the little Dansk Design store but before the next Kabob restaurant was a small bike shop that specialized in building dependable single speed and three speed commuter bikes. They imported the frames from Belgium and Germany, “it’s too expensive to build steel frames in Denmark,” the salesman said. But he proudly stated they custom powder coat the frames in Denmark. “Bicycles are ridden all year in Copenhagen but the city salts the roads five months a year. Wet paint does not hold up. We let the buyer choose the color and components and then we build it up.” The average bicycle costs about 1000 USD. The other problem with winter commuting is the fully covered cables used on the seven speed internal hubs trap moisture, freeze and when the rider attempts to force the shift, they break. That is why they only sell single speeds bikes or a three speeds that use open shift cables, like the traditional three speed cable.
As for the single speed bikes they have found that the single speed hubs on the market today just don’t hold up like the old ones. For that reason he often will build the single speed wheels with a three speed hub, add a larger cog to lower the gearing and not connect the shifter. “If I can find old single speed hub, no problem, I can rebuild those and they last forever.”
Tomorrow is my last day in Copenhagen. Monday I take a flight to Berlin for about half of the cost of a train and will travel for only one hour instead of seven. The Ny Carlsburg Plytotec is considered by some to be the city’s best art museum and is free on Sundays. It’s on my list of “must see sights”. But it’s only a couple blocks from the hostel and it is suppose to be another beautiful June day. I am sure I will at least walk to it.