For fans of our ‘Italian Native-Speaker Conversations’ series, here’s another:
Just click the link to go to the page, which has both audio-player and transcript.
The ‘conversation lesson’ on which this recording is based can be found here.
Previous recordings with transcripts are here.
And other ‘conversation lessons’, that is to say questions on a given topic on which you can base conversations with a teacher or fellow student, are here.
Friday morning, Stefi and I arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark, having taken a train from Malmö in Sweden across the famous bridge.
It wasn’t a nice morning, weather-wise, and the train was full of families with young children, all wrapped up in rain-proof, wind-proof layers, heading to the Danish capital for a day out. So we listened to Swedish nursery rhymes as we crossed the border.
The walk to our Airbnb rental was long-ish, more than enough to instill in us a healthy fear of bicycles, which were whizzing everywhere.
It’s second-nature to be careful crossing the road, but who expects to be mown down when stepping into a bicycle lane?
The owners of the apartment, a newly-wed couple with a young baby, appeared to be vacating it just for the weekend so as to make room for us and, presumably, to earn a little extra cash.
It was odd, sleeping in someone else’s bed, relaxing in their living room, making coffee in their kitchen.
“Think of it as a hotel bedroom, specially designed by experts to look like a real home”, I suggested to my wife, which helped.
The area of Copenhagen where we stayed is called Nørrebro, and is described by Google as…
…a hip, multicultural neighborhood, popular with students and creative types. Kebab joints and indie shops line the main road, Nørrebrogade, and late-night bars are tucked into the side streets. Foodies head to the high-end eateries and trendy coffee spots on Jægersborggade. Nearby, the leafy paths of Assistens Cemetery wind past the graves of such notables as Hans Christian Andersen and Søren Kierkegaard.
That should give you an idea. Heading into the centre we grabbed a kebab, which was average but definitely the cheapest thing we’d eaten in Scandinavia.
Copenhagen is a nice city, though shockingly big compared to most of the places we’d spent time in (before my wife objects – yes, Stockholm is big too!)
There’s much to see in Denmark’s capital (and Sweden’s…), even too much, if you’re on foot. We only discovered the metro as we were heading to the airport on Sunday.
If you go, rent a bike or take the underground train so you don’t risk exhausting yourself, as we did, getting from one scenic spot to the next.
On Friday evening, back in Nørrebro, after much walking around looking in restaurant windows, we ended up at Gao Dumpling Bar, which is basically a cellar serving Hong-Kong style dumplings seasoned with a mix of vinegar and soy sauce, cooked by a Dane and brought to you by an Irish waitress.
I asked the chef about the seasoning. Hong-Kongers, he explained, put vinegar on their food. Westerners, conditioned by years of eating in ‘Chinese’ restaurants in their own countries, expect soy sauce. So, as a compromise, he mixes the two.
On Saturday morning we were picked up from outside our apartment by a club member (thanks Inge!) and taken for breakfast at a former church, now repurposed as a community centre.
As it was a holiday weekend (mid-summer in Sweden, Saint somebody’s in Denmark), there were events planned, and stalls, where local people were selling stuff they wanted to get rid of – clothes, shoes and general knick-knacks.
After breakfast, Inge loaded us back into her little, bright-red car to give us an enthusiastic tour of her city, the place where she was born and has lived all her life.
More than all the wonders we were shown, I was simply surprised that you even COULD drive around a capital city in a private car without restrictions, fines, or dense traffic. Don’t try it in Italy or you’ll go crazy and are sure to get fined! (Park outside and walk in, instead.)
The tour ended at the royal palace, where we glimpsed the prince (the prince? a prince? There are several, I think) arriving back home by car, what looked like a dark-blue Range Rover.
The palace gates swung open, the prince drove in, and the gates swung closed again, all without fuss.
As it wasn’t such a large palace, I wondered out loud whether the prince might bicker with the other royals about who gets to use the parking places within. But my attempt at a joke fell flat – Danes LOVE their royal family, apparently.
My wife, an ardent republican back in Italy and prone to making sarcastic comments about the soap opera which is the British royal family, seems to feel the same way about the Swedish royals. They’re all wonderful, humble, normal and loved, and don’t you dare think differently!
Why, the prince and princess are so normal, an example to us all, that they even take their kids to school by bike, and to a regular school at that! The paragons.
Which means that, if you happen to be in Copenhagen one morning during the school year, and step into a bike lane without carefully looking both ways, you have the chance to be knocked down by a royal on a bicycle pushing a cart-load of princelings.
On Saturday afternoon we spent an enjoyable couple of hours at a local holiday-weekend event back in the zone near ‘our’ apartment.
There was a Danish rock band, a stall selling cold beer at half the usual price, and local families enjoying the sunshine. Mums sat and chatted while small kids and their dads danced and whirled to the music.
Later, and back up the street a little, we ate Mexican food in a place where Copenhagen’s Mexican community had just finished watching their team notch up a victory in the soccer World Cup. The atmosphere was festive, the foood spicy, and the beer locally-brewed.
And then it was our turn – we headed to a pub to watch Sweden play Germany!
The Internet had told us that Sweden’s chances were slim, Germany being many times bigger and a soccer powerhouse at that.
But we were keeping our fingers crossed!
The at-first quiet pub gradually filled up with young Danes and the match began.
Sweden played defensively, but anyway got what seemed to me to be a lucky goal!
But later Germany scored, too. And then it was almost over. In extra time, heart-breakingly, Germany scored again.
The consensus amongst the Swedish-Italian community back here in Italy seems to be that the referee deliberately let the extra time go on until Germany secured their victory. Take that as you will.
And so to bed early in our cozy apartment, surrounded by baby-gear and guitars. The instructions the hosts had left us were very clear: NO loud music or parties, please!
That’s so not a problem at our age. But the neighbours hadn’t got the message, it seemed.
Their holiday-weekend celebrations started just after we got ‘home’ and went on the entire night. The party was still in full swing as we left the next morning for the metro, the airport, and finally home to Bologna and the same old same old.
Thanks to Ryanair’s policy of deliberately separating passengers who might have imagined that, because they bought their tickets together, they could sit next to each other without having to shell out extra, I spent the whole flight chatting to a pleasant Danish veterinary researcher, father to two young boys, while our wives sat silently next to each other seventeen rows further up the plane and his kids pounded their video games half-way between their mum and dad.
Way to go, Ryanair – that’s some algorithm! Like I said, the guy was nice, and so hadn’t realised that the seating disaster was deliberate on the airline’s part. Perhaps he’d checked in too late, he wondered.
Nope, I assured him, treating clients with contempt is actually an integral part of the company’s marketing policy.
If you choose to fly with Ryanair, and want to sit with your travelling companions, or take your bag on board with you, you’ll need to pay extra.
Or you could vote with your feet and opt for a different airline, as I plan to do in future.
But naive or not, the vet guy was very interesting. The two-hour flight was just enough time for us to swop life-stories and travel tips.
He was heading for Tuscany and wanted to know about Italian motorway tolls, which could easily be my Mastermind specialist subject.
And I had lots of questions about life in Denmark. Yes, he agreed, Copenhagen has way too many bicycles.
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