Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bad Traveler's Good Week--the last day

one more day-tour, this time of copenhagen itself.  this bus was full, sort of.  it was a double decker, and the top deck was well occupied, while the lower deck was empty. the driver seemed to really want me to go upstairs, where the view would be better. they were winding and nasty-looking stairs,  and i was feeling lousy, so i held out for the bottom deck, which i then had completely to myself for the whole trip. a leisurely and attractive drive, with a somewhat over-perky  guide who explained the long shopping streets with a joke about how there should be different tours for men and women, b/c 'we women' would want 2 hours at least to shop and the gentlemen would want only 20 minutes.  i felt like yelling, 'this woman would want about 20 seconds,' but wiser impulses prevailed, and besides i didn't have enough energy to yell. i enjoyed her historical commentary, and also the views down the streets. these no-traffic, wide sidewalk boulevards have become ubiquitous  in europe since i started coming here, and while i understand their raison d'etre is the advantage to capitalists of having comfortable consumers strolling past the shops, i find the streets always pleasant, for some degree of window shopping and a larger degree of people watching, and for the mellow pace they promote.

there were 2 stops on  the trip, geared to the perceived--accurately,  i think-- desire of most tourists to have good photo opportunities.  i have been always amazed at the way people so often gravitate less to the site itself or the opportunity to experience it, and more to the kind a picture it might make.  my own preference is to take pix only of things i know i won't be able to find on postcards or will be unlikely to find by googling.  [to be fair, i'm also a lousy photographer.]

my habit wasn't challenged on this day, since the places we stopped, logical as they are for tours, weren't places that interested me.  well, the palace complex did, somewhat--a big, sprawling beauty of a place where various royal family members spend time now and again, and which have been added to since the first was built in the 17th century.  it's the various-royal-family-members that don't interest me--and, even more, the Changing of the Guard, which i used to think was exclusively a british aberration.  my experiences with the phenomenon in london have been accidental: i was at the Tower when guard change was occurring.  a minute or two was the longest it ever held my interest, and that was only the first few times i saw it. but now for some fool reason i followed the group, and soon regretted it. it was cold outside, my lungs were waiting to attack,  and we had to walk a way to get there.  i didn't turn back, out of fear of getting lost.

i don't know how long the ceremony lasts in london, but in denmark, it's interminable.  my fellow bus-tourists were all crowding around to get the best pictures; i was trying to find somewhere nearby where i could sit down and spray my lungs. finally i settled for a nice leaning place, right next to some regularly-uniformed soldiers. my brother was a soldier in vietnam, and i have had numerous friends and acquaintances who have been soldiers, but the sight of a group of military men always creeps me out. i know they're considered sexy,  but i find few things less attractive than a man in a uniform.  a woman-soldier gives me the dubious comfort of knowing that the military has changed and that we as well as men can now become trained killers.

but at least they appear real to me. the guys  in the funny furry helmets with their ultra-serious faces and high-legging marches always seem like cheerleaders in drag.  we got an extra treat; some of them were playing fifes [or whatever they were] and drums.  oh god, spare me! i cried inwardly.  well, i was there, leaning on my wall, and the only escape route scared me, so i determined to find something interesting in the performance.  i tried to reframe my ideas about the costumed marching; maybe it really was a kind of choreography, i thought. that kept me going for at least a minute. well, for at most a minute. then, through my semi-fog, i realized the fife-and-drummers had finished one number and were beginning another.  i knew this tune well;  the words rushed merrily around my mind:  'i wish i was in the land of cotton....' the vision of these beaver-hatted danes as confederate soldiers in the US civil war saved my sanity.  i started coughing again, this time to cover laughter.

eventually we left danish dixie, and our warm bus took us to the final stop, once again through pleasing scenery, to the ocean harbor.  it was beautiful. but the water wasn't the reason for the stop. everyone but me got out to photograph the Little Mermaid.  no temptation here: i could see it perfectly well out the window.  so please note, ladies and gentlemen: i really did see the statue.  trust me, i'm a real tourist after all. and being a pondering sort, i pondered.  which was a sillier icon for a country--a  disney-esque mermaid staring sadly off to sea, or, in the western part of europe, a smug little boy with a bladder problem? by the time the others got back onto the bus, i had pretty much decided on the belgian brat, but it was a close call.

back to the Town Square where the tour began, and again i was hungry and tired. and running out of danish krona. the guide pointed me to a nearby street, which housed several cafes, a cambio, and a taxi stand.  all my needs within  few yards!  so i got to walk around a bit, savoring the little of the city my lungs would permit, and settling into that most danish of dining establishments, a pizza place--where i ate some of the best pizza i'd ever had.  and once again, an internal burst of laughter.  the three places i had dined in during my brief stay--chinese restaurant, scuzzy cafe, and pizza place, had all been  filled with danish diners.  well, why not? the danes had no need to seek out 'danish food.'  like americans, and dutch for that matter--and probably many others--they enjoy pizza, semi-authentic chinese food, and doubtless many other cuisines.  so there i was on my tour-bus holiday eating where the natives ate.  i felt downright authentic.  a taxi home, with half my pizza napkined into my pocketbook, and a peaceful last night in scandinavia--mulling over my day, eating cold pizza and a coke from the minibar; reading my wodehouse, and realizing that my trip had, after all, been a success. i wheezed, and didn't care. my body hadn't ruined my trip at all, only contributed to shaping it.  and tomorrow, i'd be back in my tweede thuis--my second home-- in the town where i truly wasn't a tourist any longer, but simply a foreigner in a place familiar and long loved.

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