Lan and Jane 'do' Western Europe travel blog

Bamboo bicycle, Design Museum

"The Chair", Design Museum

Sam and Jane by a Christianshavn canal

Sam and Jane in Amagergade

Sam and Jane at the main entrance to Christiania

A much more pleasant day is ahead of us, with only the wind to contend with. So we decided to try out the Donkey Republic bike rental scheme. This is a similar one to the O-Bike scheme that Melbourne just banned. But unlike O-Bikes, which allow riders to drop their rented bikes off anywhere they wish, thereby resulting in their bikes being dumped all over the place, Donkey Republic has found the perfect compromise. There are specified pick-up/drop-off areas all over the city (with one conveniently near our apartment), always where other bikes park, but without the need to use an expensive docking system because everything is controlled through their smartphone app. Anyone dropping off their bike in an unspecified spot is fined heavily by Donkey Republic.

It worked brilliantly and we were very impressed. The bikes were solid but very ridable in flat Copenhagen, and the company has thought of lots of little things that make them very easy to use (including a special handlebar holder for your iPhone!).

Thus armed with bikes, we rolled over to the Design Museum Danmark in Frederiksstaden. We all know how much Danish design is admired all over the world, mainly due to its simple but elegant lines and attention to practicality. Well, this museum showcases these elements admirably, through interesting exhibitions about the history of design in Denmark, videos discussing how design is done here, and demonstrations of the environmental issues that guide design projects.

Today there was a particularly good chronology of chair design, emphasising the Danish approach that new designs should be based on older, well-tested one. This led to the development of “The Chair” (1949) - said to have been a breakthrough that influenced all 20th century chair design in Denmark - the famous Breuer cantilevered chair, and several other variations. There was also a lovely exhibition of how Japanese arts and crafts influenced European and particularly Danish design. There was even an incredible series of cabinets containing hundreds of superb Japanese sword furnishings.

We spent several hours in this wonderful museum, until it was nearly time to meet up with Sam. Unfortunately she has been working during our stay, so while we had plans to go for a little drive together, we weren’t able to fit it in.

But first we popped into McDonalds for lunch(!) We caved in as we’ve been feeling the pinch from the ridiculous prices here, and were just looking for something affordable. Even so, a decent Big Mac with a salad worked out at A$10 each, so it was not exactly the cheapest lunch we’ve ever had.

We met up with Sam at the Christianshavn St Metro station, from where we could wander down one of the lovely canals nearby, and to Amagergade, a gorgeous little street featuring some of the oldest houses in the city.

We then walked over to nearby Christiania, a controversial community that occupies a former military barracks. Comprising squatters, hippies, drug dealers, bikies and various other groups who don’t fit into the strictures of conventional Danish society, this large “town” within a town conducts a delicate dance with the authorities, but for the most part has been left alone to develop a school, cafés, social events etc. It has become quite a tourist attraction and provides a meandering oasis for conterculture in the middle of what is otherwise a highly structured and organised city.

Once again, it was lovely to fit in another session with Sam and to see how well she has been adapting to life in this city. She is learning Danish at a rapid rate, and is figuring out how to navigate all the different systems and cultural norms here. It’s a big change but we’re sure she will handle it all very well.

We bade a final farvel (farewell) to her before riding off on our Donkey Republic steeds to explore the city a little further. We negotiated more of the city’s terrific bike paths, crisscrossing the city to ride around the botanic gardens, Kongens Have and Nørreport. We were figuring out how to ride among the throngs of cyclists without causing any accidents or wandering off in the wrong direction, but we will just have to dream of having such a brilliant system at home in Melbourne.

We arrived back at the apartment with our fridge beeping again. Fortunately the plug was visible and not hidden behind it, so we just pulled the plug for some peace and quiet. We finished the day off with take-away pasta - yum!

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