I arrived in Copenhagen on Friday morning after a quick layover in Paris and a maddening, hectic (to say the least) time back in Atlanta. Once I got into the central city, via a sleek light-rail system, I just walked to get lost. But it isn’t getting lost, it is urban exploration, or urban reconnaissance. From there, our study abroad group met for the first time. We immediately began to bond with each other, which makes total sense. As our professor Marc Schlossberg said, we “all self-chose this program to experience so we must be pretty cool (and similar) people.”
Our first challenge, once we received our bikes, was to follow a bicycle commuter and learn how to ride on Copenhagen’s robust bicycle network. At first, it was intimidating and scary, with 45% of commuters going by bike, but it so quickly felt natural. Drivers look out for the cyclists, and the cyclists look out for the pedestrians here. As the high schoolers celebrating graduation in their party trucks waited in traffic congestion, dancing and drinking beers to Atlanta’s own Outkast, I flew past in my protected bicycle lane with one hand up cheering them on. We all purposely got ourselves lost to gain the most from the exploration of the city, and would eventually end up at Henrik and Eva’s house for dinner. Henrik and Eva have lived in Copenhagen for all (or most) of their lives and are sweet enough to be a part of our bicycle journey. They are both educated in Landscape Architecture and have given us so much insight about how Copenhagen has developed in their 60 years, and why things have come to be. Between dinner and the following day, after our partnered scavenger hunt around the City, they taught us about the Summer Solistice celebration, the canals, the light-rail system, the tax structure for transportation, the interior courtyards of Christianhavn, and even the recent history of the Christiania (Freetown) created by squatting hippies. Henrik and Eva are amazing people for welcoming our group of students and I can’t get enough of talking with them.
After riding around and experiencing so much of the City, we were able to relax. A group of us grabbed a six-pack of Carlsberg beer and sat at the end of the marina along the harbor until sundown. From there we traveled to Christiania and experienced a free concert of reggae and hip-hop artists, as fireworks exploded overhead. It was a night to remember, spent with new friends.
Sunday morning began with a tour of the changing landscapes of Copenhagen with Bike Mike, from the old city to the modern architecture structures along the harbor. The tour took us through a park with grazing donkeys that was once a garbage dump, over the harbor that was once deadly to swim in but now is filtered every day and hosts a lively beach, around a roundabout with protected-bike lanes where cars actually waited for the bikes, past the famous Little Mermaid statue, and even through the monarch’s palace courtyard. A random fun-fact: The future Queen of Denmark was once a real estate agent in Tanzania and met her royal husband outside of a bar in Syndey, Australia during the 2000 Summer Olympics. In this life.. Anything can happen!
We finished our ride at a food truck park in a former industrial warehouse along the harbor. We chowed on great food and waved as the boats went by. What a beautiful, livable place this City is! It is a planner’s dream and I can’t wait for what is next along this unimaginable journey.