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Being a bad cycling tourist in Copenhagen

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I got to Copenhagen and was entirely too jittery and excited about seeing the city, so I decided to tuck in my bike for a day of ambling through the city on foot to calm myself the hell down. Since I’m a pathological planner, I made a walking map and exported it to a .gpx file which I then imported into my phone for offline routing. I put one earphone in and navigated the city like a boss, not once stopping to look at a map like other tourists. OsmAnd dutifully informed me as I arrived to the landmarks I’d targeted on my map. Things you learn from bike touring!

Since I don’t have much time in the city I didn’t visit any museums, but Copenhagen is itself a museum and just from outside you have front row seats to some of the most beautiful buildings and green spaces in the world. I started at Rosenborg Castle, right in the middle of the map, and strolled through the King’s Garden, whose manicured green areas and flowers were charming. The Garden was not overwhelmed with tourists either, and I could easily find quiet places to read a few pages of my book.

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Then I made my way to Rita’s for lunch, where I greedily sampled a wide selection of smørrebrød (Danish for “open faced sandwich”), a traditional Danish lunch of different toppings on buttered rye. The spot I found was well priced and supremely delicious.

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With my newfound energy I continued to Brumleby, one of the first examples of social housing in Denmark which served as a model for  subsequent ones, and then Kastellet, the most well preserved fortress in Northern Europe. Shaped like a star, with impeccably mowed grass and clear instructions (no bicycles on the ramparts!) Kastellet was a serene place to walk in, and I even joined the locals lounging on the grass, to let the sun warm my face and think about the many miles that brought me here.

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Speeding through the touristy Little Mermaid (thank Hans Christian Andersen for making this puny statue a tourist magnet) and Amalienborg Castle (home of the Danish royal family) areas, I made my way to the lively Nyhavn. Little did I know this is the most happening spot in Copenhagen! This is like Sausalito on a warm California day, complete with overpriced restaurants, bored-and-confused tourists and irresistible smells of desserts wafting from everywhere. I couldn’t resist stopping to get an overpriced ice cream cone myself, and sat with widened eyes on the edge of water by the boats and people-watched for a long while.

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My next stop was Torvehallerne, a huge outdoor market in traditional Scandinavian style (read: very modern, they accept cards to pay for produce!). Determined to find a Danish-Danish and rather exhausted from the 8+ miles of walking so far, I stopped at a quiet cafe in a corner of the market and had a rejuvenating cup of coffee along with 3 (read: three) pastries, none of which were an actual Danish as we Americans think of one, but all of which made me happy. Pictured below: a dream snail.

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Before you ask, I did go to the Freetown of Christiania. But it didn’t impress me. Tourists are discouraged from taking photos in this community, and it’s easy to understand why. Lots of substances are dealt there, not all of which are legal in Denmark. Besides, for the locals it’s probably a bit unpleasant to be constantly stared at and photographed by hordes of the culturally curious (or worse, Americans!). The place is charming in its own way, but to me the Marleyesque kumbaya was reminiscent of a time in my life when I wore colorful hair threads, and thought recycling could save the planet, and basically when I wasn’t an engineer. So I rolled my eyes, just a little bit. Worth at least passing through while in Copenhagen, for sure!

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