Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The so-called "Danish Situation" - June 15 2011

Here lies H. C. Andersen
I can't visit Denmark without recalling the famous article in The Onion about the so-called "Danish Situation":,2360/

After some surprises yesterday, and it being our last day to visit Copenhagen, we planned out our ideal itinerary of what we'd most like to see and do. The process was so methodical: the bike tour we had put off, drop by the Danish Design Center museum, two hours for Tivoli Gardens, an avant-garde performance in the evening completes the scene.

Mike, who encourages people
to Bike with him
 Joined the tour at Bike with Mike. In fact, we were the tour as nobody else had shown up. Mike explained that most of his business comes on weekends, so we got a free upgrade to a personalized bike tour of Copenhagen. It's a good thing too, because by our last day, we had walked around and seen many of the sights on the standard tour. We started off biking over the bridge most cycled in the world every day - I noticed a counter that shows how many people had biked that day. In Copenhagen, when you look at the census stats, something funny stands out: there are more bikes than people!

A small corner of Christiana

Pedaled through the cemetery to pay our respects to children's story author Hans Christian Andersen and philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. Apparently Kierkegaard absolutely despised Anderson, the attention he got, and the pop rubbish he created. Hopefully they have resolved their differences during the 136 years they have been neighbors.

We biked through Christiana, which is most decidedly not on Mike's official tour. Guidebooks refer to Christiana an "eye-opening" "hippie enclave" of 700-1000 residents. It was formed when some free-thinking "squatters" moved into an abandoned military base with poisoned land in the middle of the city in 1971.

Very healthy lunch in Christiana commune
Copenhagen's system of medical care, retirement planning, and education are socialist programs. No matter their background or the financial means of their ancestors, all citizens of Denmark have the right to such things: long healthy life, the liberty to enjoy their golden years, and the pursuit of happiness in any field of study. As such, the hospitals, doctors, diagnostic labs, retirement planning, primary schools, and universities are government-run. Well-run. Yes, government can run something well. Kids growing up in a village in the furthest reaches of Denmark will be able to read Hamlet in the original language. It doesn't matter where they live or what income their parents pull in. This is how it is done properly.

Within Copenhagen, the Christiana compound is an example of communism. Nobody owns any of the property, people can work as much or as little as they want - in any field they choose, and income is redistributed "fairly" as decided unanimously by the residents. As a result, we saw people working in cafes and restaurants, a famous bicycle manufacturer named Christiana Bikes, and a lot of people relaxing in their shacks, doing as they please. Most people live in what would be considered "squalor."

Biking around Copenhagen

As a side note, even the compound itself isn't formally owned - the group is in long-term contention with the government about legal rights to live there. There is a proposal on the table for the group to purchase the buildings of the commune (not the land), and because the group doesn't believe in ownership, a non-profit foundation would be formed to manage this for them, if the group is able to agree unanimously to do so.

The place seemed rather tame to me, something like Harbin Retreat minus the hot springs and nudity. Here you could really see the difference between socialism and communism, which is something I have struggled to understand for 20+ years. It's a neat stopover, definitely recommended for anybody with a couple days in Copenhagen.

Sweet Treats

The city is home to Noma, reportedly the BEST restaurant in the world. We waited, and waited, and waited on the waitlist for several months, but nothing ever came of it. Thankfully, Mike is fully acquainted with the affiliated shops from the co-owners of Noma, so we had a slice of rye bread (with whole grains, pumpkin seeds, half-dried cranberries, and other fun local whole ingredients) from Meyers Bageri - and a deliciously frothy and beautiful latte from Sweet Treat with European-style macaroons and chocolate-and-peanut-butter-covered nougat. If we can't dine at Noma, at least we can get a yummy taste :)

If Danes designed cars
 We kept our bikes for a few hours after the tour and cycled over to the Danish Museum of Design. Our first experience was the bathroom, of which 3 out of 4 devices were not working properly (faucet, soap dispenser, and towel dispenser) - also my museum entrance pin fell off and disappeared immediately never to be seen again. I love the Scandinavian design aesthetic, really I do. Simplicity. Straight lines. Raw wood and brushed metal. Ikea. But looking through the exhibits - and the experience in the bathroom - leads me to call for a focus on function. Do you hear me, Apple? I wonder what that museum would look like.

How did Yogi get up there?
 Returned our bikes and walked to Tivoli Gardens, complementary passes in hand, for a second attempt at having a good time. We caught a pantomime show starring Olga's favorite characters Pierrot, Columbine, Harlequin - and a random overstuffed bear! The mine ride was adorable (Olga wasn't too scared riding it) and the Rutsjebanen I rode myself - one of the oldest still-running roller coasters in the world at 97 years. Major success! Everyone advises going at night when the "kid stuff" ends, but I say the afternoon is best - the kids stuff is most of the fun, and the place closes hella early too.

Fibonaci Project, take a bow
 Capped off our visit to Denmark with a performance of the traveling show called the Fibonacci Project. It's based on the Fibonacci numeric sequence, which is the basis of life itself. The show is part modern dance, part rap, part hard rock, part Laurie Anderson, part Cirque du Soleil, with a dose of Discovery Channel as the framework. Must see next time they're in your neck of the woods!


Bruce said...

I didn't know about the Christiana compound, I am going to look it up.

I am reading Atlas Shrugged, I am sure 'ol Rand would be none to thrilled about this place, ha.

The other Olga said...

Hey, they've got free enterprise in Christiana and they don't force anyone to work who doesn't want to.. Ayn Rand would have nothing to complain of, in good faith :)