Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Counting Copenhagen

We went for a day. Some co-workers and I flew on a weeklong assignment from Chicago to Zurich and London before returning home. Between Zurich and London we were booked on SAS via Copenhagen which prompted me to look for a way to stop over in the Danish capital since I’d never been there before. I arranged a late evening departure from Zurich which gave us an overnight stay so we could wander around before continuing on with our business.

The question is does that count as a visit? What experience can one really get with less than 24 hours on the ground?

Friends at the airlines formed loose associations with such titles as the “100-Club” or the “200-Club,” indicating the number of countries the person has visited around the world. The only proof required was the passport entry stamp and some took it to exactly that minimalist extreme. One colleague of mine flew from New York to Brussels simply to boast not only flying on what was then an inaugural service but also merely to collect the passport stamp. Having little interest in Belgium itself he turned around and flew the same plane back to New York that afternoon.
The only locals we met in Denmark were the drivers to and from the airport and the desk clerk at our hotel. We largely had only one thing in mind for this hot minute in Denmark.
Copenhagen is closer to Sweden, which we couldn’t see and weren’t looking for as we dashed about town on a mission to see the Little Mermaid before catching our flight that night to England. This iconic, often vandalized statue is a good hike to what must have been the edge of town when the work was first unveiled. It is located near the Kastellet, a pentagram-shaped fortress guarding the inner approaches and is a lot smaller than imagined. Worse, where she might once have gazed across the open sea one as one would expect, today she sits across the inlet from a major industrial port built on a manmade extension. Forlorn as ever, though, we walked around it, stared at it and snapped the close-up pictures that give the work the mystical setting expected - as well as to hide all the container ships barely 1,000 yards away - and then dashed back to Kastrup International Airport.

Mission accomplished and we all could say “been there, done that” but did I really and would I go back? We didn’t get to Billund, the home of a favorite childhood toy, Legos; we didn’t get to Skagen on the north cape of Jutland where the Baltic meets the North Sea in explosive fashion; not even Elsinore at the far end of Zealand, famous for Shakespeare’s setting of Hamlet. Despite skipping the Tivoli Gardens we headed for the airport, satisfied that at least it was a day trip to Denmark instead of 45 minutes at the airport. Still, I think of my friend on the Brussels flight and others who deign only to drive or walk across a border, collect the stamp and turn around on the spot, their attitude being “C’mon…what is there to do in Luxembourg?”
If they only knew.
Gotta go!

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