“The door is on this side. You aren’t in England any more!”
Too sleepy to be embarrassed, I stumbled away from the driver’s seat and managed to make myself around the car and fell into the back seat. Wait – was he annoyed at my going to the wrong side of the car? He seemed to be smirking, but it was a strangely warm and welcoming smirk.
“Frederiksberg please – I think the street was called Guldborgvej.”
The taxi driver shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He was in his late forties, and was gifted with an impeccable memory. This strange unknown street in the heart of his city had bothered him immensely. He stared into his dashboard, as if there were some sort of clue that would wisp out of the air conditioner vent and spark a memory of precisely where that street was. Eventually, he decided that the air conditioner fairy would be a no-show and that he should have to get on with his day without it.
“Sorry, I don’t know where that is. Are you sure it’s in Frederiksberg?”
“Oh here, I printed out a map – it’s pretty close to the hospital.”
That smirk again.
“Ah right, so not ‘Guldborgvej’?”
“No, we don’t like to pronounce things as they are spelt. It makes the language too boring.”
This time, I smirked. This was a sense of humour I could get used to. As I slowly became more alert (somehow I forgot to get a coffee after landing), the view outside the taxi window started to become a bit less hazy. The sun was shining bright and the trees and tall grass were a shade of green I hadn’t seen in nature before.
“I’ve only been here once before. It was winter then though. It feels like a different city now.”
“Yeah, we have had a long and warm summer. You know, I think Copenhagen is one of the greenest cities out there.”
A few minutes of silence ensued as we both enjoyed the hot sun and appreciated the beauty of the architecture and nature on both sides of the highway into town.
“So does everyone drink Carlsberg here?”
“Yes. That and Tuborg. I think it’s because they’re the big international brands. But now they are the same. United Breweries they call it! Did you know that the Carlsberg family donated a history museum to the city? You should go and see it. There are some beautiful antique Greek statues and Paintings by French impressionists. In fact, there is a similar story with our Opera House. It was donated by one of the Maersk family. Do you know Maersk?”
“I think I’ve seen-“
“They’re a shipping company, and one of our biggest companies from Denmark. Anyway, the Maersk family paid for the Opera House but I don’t think they paid for the operating cost. That became pretty expensive for the city. But it’s a beautiful building, and you have a great view of it from the palace, over the harbour. There’s a church there as well with a roof that’s shaped like a – what do you call it? – a circle? no…”
“Yes, a dome roof! That was another building that was gifted to the city by a rich industrialist a few hundred years ago. Oh, we’re coming into Frederiksberg now. It’s strange; the rules are all different here. Frederiksberg is separate to Copenhagen and has some different parking rules and even has its separate politics. You can park for two hours for free in Frederiksberg before you have to pay. In Copenhagen, it just gets more expensive as you get closer to the city. There’s a famous swimming pool in Frederiksberg on the top floor of one of the buildings. Not the roof, but the top floor. It is very popular with the locals. In fact, some people call this whole area the ‘swimming pool neighbourhood’. Oh, here we are. Kul-bahr-vhay.”
Clearly I had struck a chord. I was happy to listen and learn a little about the city and kept a mental note to bring up Carlsberg if I ever run out of things to talk about. Watch out, Copenhagen.
Taufiq Khan / 15 August 2014