The Not Quite Frozen North

or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the $10 Big Mac

I’m just going to go ahead and recap my first few hours of this last weekend (which started, naturally, on Tuesday night) in bullet point form:

  • Tuesday night, 9 PM:  Go to a bar called “The Irish Pub”.  Proceed to speak English and watch Bayern München dominate its way into the Champion’s League, uh, championship.
  • 11 PM:  End up in a German apartment, celebrating with champagne in €50 glasses.
  • 11:19 PM:  Apartment is by now down €150 in glassware.  Leave.
  • Wednesday morning, 2:30 AM:  Sleep.
  • 4:00 AM:  Wake up.
  • 4:30 AM:  Manage to somnambulate myself into a taxi, head to the airport.
  • 5:00 – 5:10 AM:  Get in line to check in.
  • 5:10 – 5:12 AM:  Terrifying moments of dawning comprehension as my brain slowly and sleepily struggles with the realization that my group’s tickets to Copenhagen are booked for tomorrow morning.
  • 5:13 AM:  Panic.
  • 5:14 AM:  Get in line to buy new tickets.
  • 5:20 AM:  Drop €90 on a correct ticket which originally cost €30.
  • 5:21 AM:  Get in line to check in.
  • 5:30 AM:  Actually check in.
  • 6:35 AM:  Flight leaves, my row is empty, I pass out across three seats.
  • 7:30 AM:  Woken up by excited squeals of “Look the Danish windmills!”
  • 7:35 AM:  Willkommen in Dänemark.

You won't see this for hours!

Now a brief interregnum here to explain a few things:  I’m supposed to be meeting my friend Tiffany who’s studying abroad in Copenhagen at around 9 AM.  She’s going to show us around the city.  On Tuesday night she sent me a text message with the information about where to meet, etc, etc, etc, and I’ve also read an email from her about how to get into the city from the airport.  All good, right?  Well, yeah, except that I turned my phone off on the airplane, like ya do.  But my cheap-ass pay-as-you-go phone requires you to input the PIN every time it’s turned on.  And on Wednesday morning, my PIN number was conveniently located on my desk in Berlin.  So I have no phone.  I am operating purely off of memory and an average of maybe four hours of sleep a night for the past week and a half.  This is not a winning combination.  Anyway, now back to our regularly scheduled programming:

  • 7:45 AM:  Spend at least ten minutes looking for an ATM.
  • 7:55 AM:  Spend at least twenty minutes trying to buy a train ticket.
  • 8:15 AM:  Follow the signs in the airport that say “TRAIN”.  This is important.  Tiffany has said to take the metro train from the airport to Copenhagen.  She has said that the airport is the end of the line.  She has said that the trains only run one direction.  She has said it is impossible to get on the wrong train.  Impossible.
  • 8:18 AM:  Get on the wrong train.
  • 8:20 AM:  Do not realize in the slightest we have gotten on the wrong train.  Start going over a rather long bridge.  For probably the next ten minutes we proceed to be loud, obnoxious tourists on this train full of Scandinavians (all of which, I’m sure, spoke English), talking about how excited we are to be in Denmark, und so weiter.  I’m just happy to have made it, really.
  • 8:30 AM:  Ticket check.  The train employee collects our metro ticket, and gives us a very questioning look.  I ry to explain we’ve punched one ticket five times for the five of us.  The look becomes more questioning.  “Where are you going?” she says.  I point to a stop on the metro map that sounds vaguely like what I remember Tiffany saying to meet her at.  There’s a pause.  The woman collecting tickets looks at the five of us.  “You’re in Sweden.”
  • 8:30 – 8:32 AM:  Terrifying moments of dawning comprehension as I realize what this statement entails.  Luckily the woman is very, very nice about the whole situation and writes us a note in Swedish that I haven’t translated but probably says something along the lines of “These idiot Americans accidentally came to Sweden.  Please, please, please, conductor of the next train, let them go back to Denmark so they don’t ruin our country.”
  • 8:33 AM:  Exit the train in Malmö, Sweden.
  • 8:34 AM:  See an IKEA.
  • 8:50 AM:  Catch a train back to the Copenhagen airport.
  • 9:20 AM:  Follow the “METRO” signs to the metro trains, which only run in one direction and definitely look like a metro instead of a passenger train.  Board.
  • 9:40 AM:  Get off at Nørreport.  Tiffany is nowhere to be found, and we do not have her phone number since I conveniently STORED IT IN MY PHONE WHICH CAN NO LONGER BE TURNED ON.
  • 9:50 AM:  Realize McDonald’s has free WiFi (for serious).  Proceed to find Tiffany’s phone number, which goes straight to voicemail.
  • 10:00 AM:  Realize we’re never going to find Tiffany and begin to wander vaguely back towards the metro station when I hear someone yelling “Seth” from across the street.  Tiffany has saved us.
  • 10:03 AM:  Get free bread and butter from a stand in the metro.  Day instantly begins to get better.

So yeah, after the first few hours the trip continued largely without incident.  I got to wander around Copenhagen for two days, which was fantastic.  Highlights include watching the changing of the guard, buying authentic Danish Legos (packaging in English), visiting the Danish Design Museum for a helping of Scandinavian design, and going to a bar where Tiffany somehow conned her way or something into bartending.

Gute Design ist whatever this is.

Friday I caught a five hour train to Sweden (on purpose this time) and wandered around Stockholm Friday night and Saturday.  The hostel we booked was on Gamla Stan, or old town, and was, oh, 300 meters from the castle where the king works.  Like, THE castle.

This castle.

Stockholm’s an awesome city.  It’s built on fourteen islands, and we managed to explore six of them in a day or so — not too shabby.  We also checked out the Vasa Museet, which is a museum built around a 17th century naval warship, and Skansen, which is an outdoor zoo / museum / Swedish folk dancing extravaganza.  Perhaps most importantly, I had tapas for the first time on Friday night.

All in all, it was a great trip to continue my unintentional capital tour of Europe (Berlin, Bratislava, Vienna, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and next week London).  Scandinavia is damn expensive, though.  I have no idea how all the people are so happy when a bottle of water costs $4.  Maybe it has something to do with the herrings.



  1. Your life is fucking epic.

    But I wish you had mentioned that you were visiting your friend Tiffany’s friend Tiffany in Copenhagen. Partially to add to the confusion, partially to implicate me in the mayhem, but most importantly to keep me from feeling like TiffHu is stealing my friends.

  2. Isn’t it oddly comforting — as you watch the evolution of bag under your eyes each morning — to think that you will probably never be as sleep deprived at Stanford?

    Then again, Stanford will never be quite so epic, either. Except for our Bike Helmet “We’re Sketchy Grad Students!” Party that WILL HAPPEN.

  3. You’ve really seeing the lay of the land – practically all of Europe. Keep it up – who knows when you’ll have another chance. Just remember to keep your eyes open and TRY to get some sleep. How are the courses and what are they that you are taking?

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