When I checked into my hostel in Copenhagen, the receptionist asked if I came for the music festival.
“What music festival?” I asked him.
He explained that Copenhagen was halfway through the 5-day Distortion electronic music festival. He marked down on my map where the festival would be taking place that night. It sounded interesting, so I bought a few beers (very expensive, like everything else in Copenhagen) and headed over.
I immediately liked the festival. There were numerous dance parties around different DJs scattered around the neighborhood. They were playing songs I liked (such as “Windowlicker” by Aphex Twin), and, despite the energetic dancing and club-style music, there was a friendly atmosphere. I saw a guy wearing an Ohio t-shirt, so I went up to him and asked if he was from Ohio. He was just a local wearing an Ohio shirt, for some reason, but he shook my hand and yelled “go Buckeye State!”
I was standing in the crowd, enjoying the music, when a young guy asked me something in Danish (the Northern Europe segment of my trip is also the segment in which I’m often mistaken for a local). When he learned that I was a foreigner at the festival by myself, he invited me to hang out with him and his brother. So, I spent the rest of the night with Michael and Martin and their friends. We ended up at a bar where they bought me a rum and coke and some tequila shots. Everyone in their group of friends was very friendly – the Danish like to speak English, sometimes even slipping in phrases in their conversations with each other. They speak English better than in any other country I’ve visited on my trip. Martin explained it to me like this: people in small countries like Denmark and the Netherlands have to learn English, because no one else in the world speaks their language.
After sleeping off my hangover the next day, I checked facebook to see that I had received a message from Michael inviting me to join him and his friends at the last night of the festival. I met him at the Islands Brygge neighborhood of Copenhagen, a former industrial district that has recently been gentrified. Michael pointed out some modern apartment buildings that were made out of cement silos.
After drinking some beers by the canal, we walked to the festival. The last night of the festival was in Copenhagen’s meatpacking district, which is in the middle of a conversion into a neighborhood of dance clubs. The final party was supposed to cost something like 40 euros, but we snuck in over a roof.
The party was even crazier and more crowded on the last night. Part of the party was in a pool. I jumped into the water in my boxers, and regretted it later.
I traveled with Michael and his friends from one dance floor of the party to another, drinking many beers and Jagermeister shots, until I finally walked back to my hostel at 2:30 AM. Imagine my surprise when it started getting light outside on my walk back, and the birds started chirping.
Michael invited me to a barbeque at his family’s house in the suburbs the next day, so I took a train out there. Michael, Martin, and their mother treated me to a delicious meal of salad, potatoes and grilled chicken in their backyard. They claimed that their neighborhood was really crummy, but it seemed nice to me – maybe Americans have different standards for crummy neighborhoods than Europeans.
I was inexpressibly thankful to Michael and his family for giving me a nice meal at their home – the first home-cooked meal I’ve had in months. I think they enjoyed using their impeccable English with an American, and I think they also wanted to give me a good memory of Copenhagen. They certainly succeeded at that. Thanks in large part to their friendliness, I would rank Copenhagen among my favorite cities in Europe.
I especially appreciated their friendliness because my hostel, Hotel Jorgenson, was sort of a dud. Although the staff were friendly, the breakfast was excellent (plenty of cereal, meat, bread, and chocolate), and everything was clean, there wasn’t much of a social atmosphere. If I hadn’t met Michael and Martin at Distortion, it probably would’ve been a lonely four days for me.
Apart from going to Distortion and sleeping off the resultant hangovers, I ventured into Christiania, a neighborhood of Copenhagen that considers itself independent of Copenhagen, and Denmark, and even the European Union. At the neighborhood’s exit there’s a sign that says, “You are now entering the E.U.” The neighborhood was founded in 1971 by hippies who occupied former army barracks. Today, it still has a hippie atmosphere, with artful graffiti covering every surface.
There was a lot of great architecture in Copenhagen, including many interesting spires. I also spent time in a beautiful park near my hostel. Copenhagen was experiencing perfect weather while I was there (which is unusual, according to the people I met), so the park was always crowded.
On Monday I took a train to Berlin, carrying lots of great memories of Copenhagen and its locals with me. Thanks to facebook, I’ll be able to keep in touch with Michael and Martin. I deactivated my facebook account when I left for this trip, thinking that it would be good for me to get some time away from it, but I quickly reactivated it because it’s a good way to keep in touch with people you meet while traveling.