This is the first part in Melissa Curtin’s series on travel surprises in Europe. Next up in the series, next week: Berlin!
There are so many things you don’t think about before you embark on a trip—especially things that you take for granted in the good ‘ol USA. Some of the surprises I list below are really cautionary tales that I wish someone had either told me or that I that I wish I’d thought about before I left. Other surprises listed are part of an attempt to share with you some of the travel experiences I didn’t expect, and that you too may want to experience. Life enriches us with surprises, but sometimes it’s good to try to read ahead and attempt some travel planning!
1. I wish someone had told me that my credit card would not work anywhere in Copenhagen because everywhere I went required a credit card pin. I don’t know any Americans who have a pin for their credit card, nor did I think to ask for one before I left. Thus, I had to use my debit card everywhere and include my pin for every purchase.
Related: Johnny’s favorite card with pin.
2. Service is not what they’re about in Copenhagen. No one offered to hold the door for me at my hotel with my backpack, bags and luggage. Get used to fending for yourself.
3. Summer is probably the best time to visit Copenhagen since it’s warmer, and one Danish guy told me it rains most of the summer, too, with some sun, and that they have about one good week. Regardless, I was freezing in March, but still loved the city. I kept warm in a ski cap and knit gloves.
4. Since I’d decided to venture out of this lovely city one day, I read a travel article about biking up the Whiskey Belt (comparable in LA to the Malibu coast but more reminiscent of New England). As I veered left and right on my bike, passing lovely homes that reminded me of the American east coast and staring at Sweden to the right, I came across a massive forest and to my shock I stumbled upon thousands of deer—just me on my bike freezing and thousands of antlers staring at me.
5. When I pedaled further into the park forest, I was even more astonished to see the oldest amusement park in the world called Bakken. It was like a small olden-day world of endless smaller-scale vintage rides, games and candy shops. I could imagine Walt Disney World may have been like this if Disney had created it over 100 years ago.
6. The furthest north I made it was the beautiful modern art museum called the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, with outdoor sculptures (many by Calder) overlooking the sea and a glass, maze-like building. While there, I found it interesting that they had a huge exhibit on Americana—all tied to consumerism and greed.
7. Nearby, before Louisiana, stop by writer Karen Blixen’s home and museum where she’s buried in the backyard. Blixen’s breakthrough book “Seven Gothic Tales” was published in America in 1934 under the pseudonym Isak Dinesen. She’s the writer of “Out of Africa,” which was adapted into the Oscar-winning film of 1985. After learning about her interesting life and what brought her joy and sorrow, I flew through her backyard on a dirt path through the woods, passing fields, into a neighborhood that eventually blossomed into the train station, where I took my bike on the train back to the city. Don’t even think about getting on the train without a ticket. I got booted off one time. What a ride!
8. Another unexpected discovery to explore is the Free City or hippy commune in Christiania. The Green Light, as they call it, doesn’t allow photographs. People are smoking hash everywhere in covered canvases, in stalls. This independently run community reminded me somewhat of Venice in LA with its graffiti-laden rough neighborhood. Definitely worth a visit, and if you want to go to the number one restaurant in the world that will set you back at least a grand, head to Noma not too far away.
9. Taking a three-and-a-half hour walking food tour is a great way to learn the cuisine and specialty ingredients of Copenhagen, like licorice, elderflower drinks and Smørrebrød for lunch—the famous open-faced sandwiches with plenty of delicious toppings. Each new item presented to us, from cheese to beer to chocolate to candy, was a tasty surprise and a great way to learn more about Danish cuisine.
10. Malmö, Sweden is just 20 minutes away from Copenhagen by train. I spent a day checking out this neighboring country. Prices were somewhat cheaper, and it was fun to walk around and explore another country.
All photos credited to Melissa Curtin.