Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Joy of Academic Travel, part 2

When academics (other people too maybe, I wouldn't know) travel, many of them spend their time in foreign places doing all those cultural things like visiting museums and art galleries. I've even heard some brag about the number of "shows" they went to in London or New York. Not me. I don't waste my time on that stuff. Me, I follow my own 4 "S" rule of travel: soak-up sounds, sights and smells. That's done by simple wandering, usually (but not always) with a map in my pocket (safely out of view, safely stored for a quick glance while walking).

Being as I am in Copenhagen, I followed my normal pattern. I've been here three times before, as best I can remember, so I've wandered a good part of the main city before. When Lucas and I were here, we did parts I wouldn't have normally wandered to, like Tivoli Gardens, so I have experienced the city in a variety of ways. I do conclude that most of Copenhagen is pretty weak on smells (certainly compared to the urine and vomit of London) and sounds are pretty limited other than the odd siren, it seems. Yesterday I wandered to Christiania. I'd been down that way before -- the jaunt took me past some churches with amazing architecture (a spire with dragons wrapped around it; a spire with an external spiral staircase going up it), sights that had attracted me before (always from the outside only) -- but I've never quite got this far previously. Christiania is a part of Copenhagen that "broke away" in the '70s and became an independent free-living/thinking enclave. Today it looks somewhat anarchist in character -- graffiti blending with brightly coloured buildings, litter fairly frequent, the cobblestones getting ever more uneven, dirt tracks functioning as roads -- but its eclectic buildings (shades of Hornby Island in an urban setting!) certainly set it apart. Hard not to observe too, of course, were carts along the street displaying their wares -- chunks of hash of a variety of kinds and colours (not that I stopped to ask, naturally, being of the "not wanting to look like a tourist" kind of guy; the local tourist pamphlets helpfully contextualized the visit before I got there), all openly for sale. And what were those little seedlings I spied over in a corner in one commercial square? I'm not sure but I do wonder.

Seeing the nature of the merchandise, it suddenly dawned on me why there were large "no photography" symbols scattered around the area in assorted odd places. I was glad I hadn't pulled out my phone to snap a few pics for this blog: my Danish just isn't up to explaining myself.

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