København, Denmark (2018)¶
København has been on my list of cities to visit for a while. Recently my friend Chris’s girlfriend started her PhD in that city and moved there. He had invited me to visit them there, and that it what I have done in this trip.
As the city is known for its cycling infrastructure, I have done this trip with the bike in mind; similarly to the trip to Utrecht & Holland, Netherlands (2018).
As København is not that far away, I thought about taking the train there. A quick search with Deutsche Bahn showed that a single trip would cost around 160 EUR and would take around ten hours. A reasonable surplus for being environmental friendly is worth paying for me, but there is a point where this surplus becomes outrageous. Then I researched flight connections from close by airports and the only affordable direct flights from Köln-Bonn airport are actually the cheapest ones operated by Ryanair.
The sole existence of a flight which costs 22 EUR is mind boggling. And I am aware that ultimately consumers have the power to shape what is offered. But how realistic is it to get enough people to take the train over the plane that politicians will end up putting fair taxes on flights and eventually make the train more affordable? I doubt that my choice really has a noticeable effect if the incentive of taking the flight are so high. So I took it.
In the weeks leading up to the departure I got a lot of emails from the airline suggesting that I buy some extras like check-in luggage, second carry-on suitcase, priority boarding, drinks and snacks on board. Also they urged me to book a hotel via their website. Hilariously they recommended traveling “in style” by booking a fancy car. It is calming to know that their targeting algorithms are so bad that they suggest a car to me while in København.
As I was in Poznań the week before I did not even bother to fully unpack my backpack and especially the toiletry kit. I am glad that I treated myself with a newer larger one with better internal organization as the one that I previously had. Packing the backpack went pretty quickly as this is now my fifth trip this year and the second one with only carry-on luggage.
Ryanair has a generous limit for the carry-on luggage. Their policy seems different from other airlines that I have flown with: In the most basic plan you can have a 10 kg bag and another small one as carry-on luggage. The large bag will be taken to the gate but then put into the cargo area of the plane and returned on the usual luggage claim. If you book an upgrade you can take both bags into the cabin. For such a short flight I do not really care whether my toothpaste rides in the cabin or the cargo area, also I do not care about the additional wait after landing. In total this meant that I could even fit a spare pair of pants and still had some space and weight left.
As the weather was supposed to be in the 15 C region with occasional rain I took my hiking boots instead of the usual sneakers. Also for walking longer distances the slightly stiffer sole is preferable.
A day before the flight I checked in via the Ryanair app. It pestered me with upgrades that I could buy and supposedly other people in the plane have taken. I presume that this is where they make another heap of money from.
My flight was scheduled for 14:00 from Köln-Bonn Airport, so I could just take the bus around noon and still have enough buffer. This bus is very convenient as it parks pretty near the terminal. One trip costs a little less than 8 EUR when purchased via the SWB app. And being driven by car does not really save much time or hassle. It took me 35 minutes from bus stop to bus stop, so door to Terminal 2 might be 40 minutes.
The Köln-Bonn Airport is not so huge like the one in Frankfurt am Main and therefore going through security is a matter of five minutes.
For years one cannot take more than one liter of liquids and no filled container that is larger than 100 ml. I get that you shall be hindered in bringing large amounts of dangerous liquids into the cabin. The requirement on small containers is something that I do not understand. If it is to prevent mixing multiple things in a large container, it does not make sense that I can take my 1900 ml steel bottle. Either way, I dump out the water before I go through the security screening. On the other side I ask at one of the cafe booths to fill it back up with tap water. This has worked every time and I get around 1.5 liters of free water. Also I can tap myself on the back for saving the environment one plastic bottle before boarding a plane and making a big negative impact.
The place I got my refill was a “tapas & vino” bar. People were casually ordering beer and wine an 12:45. Technically it was after noon, but it still feels odd.
While waiting at the gate a Ryanair employee checked my boarding pass and put a tag on my backpack such that it would go into the cargo section of the plane. This is the second time that I do not have a printed boarding pass and only the one on my phone. This has worked just fine as well.
At the airport I saw again how amazingly inefficient a crowd can move. I just wanted to go down a flight of steps. It was only wide enough for three people. Still people managed to make everyone else wait on them by putting their suitcase into the floor right behind the stairs. Then it usually fell over and they arched down in time lapse to extend the handle. Repeat this for every second person. My favorite are people that start to walk down the stairs, realize that their beloved ones are not right next to them and pause to wait for them. This is amazingly inefficient and usually makes me lose hope to get around quickly.
On the trip in Utrecht I found great joy in writing the article alongside of the journey. Waiting at the gate for the boarding was a great opportunity to write this article. Though I much prefer the mechanical keyboard for composing text, the Gboard keyboard for Android with the swiping is not that bad after all. Also my laptop weighs over 2 kg and I just did not want to carry that with me, though it would have fitted into the bag.
Boarding took rather long as we waited in the hallway to be let out to the plane. I have the impression that they did this to have the flight in the boarded status and not be liable for delays later on. We got to look at the plane for a while:
Eventually we got to go to the plane. I put my large backpack onto one of the trailers. On this plane they used both doors to board, still people took ages to find their seats and store all their oversized luggage. I was actually quite happy with the window seat that I got assigned; the whole row was free when I boarded and I did not have to get up once.
The cabin was the least visually pleasing one of all planes that I have flown with. The seats are of marine color, the headrests in bright yellow. Perhaps that is similarly with the Netto supermarkets. There the typography is awfully bad and I cannot believe that it is sheer incompetence. They must be using a design that makes everything look cheap such that people think that it is cheap to buy there. The tegut markets have beautiful typography but people are actually deterred by this as they assume that it must be expensive even though it is normally priced. So maybe Ryanair intentionally makes their cabin visually unpleasant such that people do not think that the airline spend money on it.
Unlike Lufthansa and Eurowings, Ryanair does not seem to have a storage net in front of the seat and neither a safety card. The safety instructions are large stickers on the back of the headrests. This seems like a small thing but it certainly adds up with hundreds of seats in hundreds of airplanes; especially since the sticker cannot be taken off board by accident.
Also there was music playing during boarding. Between the songs the Ryanair slogan was announced. It had the same feel to it as waiting for a call center agent to pick up your call.
There was one lady with a very small child going up and down the hallway. By the screaming the child must have been in terror. Unfortunately she did not know which seat she was in so the kid had to be on her arm longer than necessary. She got the seat right behind me and the screaming was deafening. But once the seat belt was resolved the kid calmed down. Even the air pressure change was not a problem.
Takeoff is an amazing feeling, though I had two flights the week before and one flight each in the weeks after. Now that I have seen The Expanse, the acceleration reminds me of the astronauts getting pushed into their seats, injected with acceleration drugs and a swivel of the seat. I am not sure whether a commercial airline can accelerate so hard that people start to pass out. That is easy to achieve with a fighter jet and the Zero-G Airbus can also pull some g’s, but a regular plane? I checked on Aviation Stack Exchange but did not find a matching question, perhaps I will ask eventually.
Right after takeoff I got to see various villages. It is amazing how rural Germany is when you leave the city. Maybe next year I do a bike trip from Bonn to the source of the Sieg river and get to see a bit more of rural Germany.
During the end of the flight is was announced that you could buy lottery tickets. They said that this money went to a charity and one could win a million EUR, a new car or “other cash prices”. Then they stressed again that you help kids with your donation. One ticket is 2 EUR but you can get seven for 5 EUR.
This is a marvelous setup: There is the chance for a life-changing event but they do not give the likelihood. Psychologically people cannot process this information in a statistically meaningful way when the unlikely outcome is extreme. It is the same with terror attacks: They are more than life-changing but extremely unlikely in Germany. Still people fear them but are not scared of overweight. Also the focus on charity means that you do not have to feel bad if you do not win. And the two pricing models are viciously clever. If the chance to win was seven times higher and one ticket would cost 5 EUR, people would feel ripped off. But dilute the chance of winning and add a cheaper option to make it sound like a great deal.
I must admit that my brain also instantly thought that a million EUR would be awesome and that buying seven tickets was the clever choice to get a higher chance of winning. Also I could feel the excitement and anticipation kick in, epinephrine or serotonin perhaps? As they did not tell me the chance of winning it made no sense to buy a ticket. I guess putting 5 EUR into mutual funds makes more sense than gambling on having a million EUR and ending up losing 5 EUR.
The guy next to me bought a ticket and seemed to have lost in one part of the ticket. But the other thing said “Yes”, so he had to then go online and check what he won. This is even worse, now you have to give them data before learning that you did not win. It does not shine a bright light on the airline, but if selling data helps children, there are worse causes to support.
On the return trip I have asked for the chances of winning, but the steward could not tell me. He assured me that it happens “sometimes”. As they do not know, not many people are asking this.
Chris had warned me that the weather was not so great and I saw that online as well. Departure in Germany was with a nice blue sky, arrival in Copenhagen was with a cloudy sky.
The approach was a rather rough one, it seemed very windy. I have great respects for the pilots who can land a plane in any weather conditions. My humble attempts in Microsoft Flight Simulator 98 two decades ago were mostly really bad even under perfect conditions. There are likely many videos of landings available, but here is mine:
Getting off the plane took longer than necessary, like always. People seem to be unable to sense that they are in other people’s way. I just kept sitting in my window seat until the corridor was free. I walked to the terminal and then had a long way to go to the baggage claim. It turned out to be the one furthest away from the exit as well, so I had to walk a lot on the airport.
The airport itself looks very warm and friendly, mostly due to the light wood applications:
Once you exit the is a large welcoming area and signs for metro, taxi and busses. Unfortunately all the Bycyklen bikes at the airport had been taken, so I just went to buy a metro ticket. They had a queue in front of all the ticket vending machines. It was easy to get a ticket and I payed 36 DKK for it, that is around 4.38 EUR. Compared to the bus ride in Bonn this was cheap.
The metro has doors on the platform as well. This means that it is predictable where exactly it comes to a halt and also you cannot fall onto the rails by accident. But they likely are more expensive to build.
Their next station indicator shows “Næste station”, which is almost exactly like the German “Nächste Station”, especially since “ä” is transcribed as “ae” when no umlauts are available. There are other words that are really close to Dutch. Knowing German, English and a bit of Dutch really makes reading Danish possible.
On the return trip I spend quite some time waiting at the airport as I arrived too early. From a bench that I sat on I could see the self check-in machines where you can either scan your passport and print the boarding pass or scan the boarding pass and get a luggage tag.
In principle the latter was rather easy to use:
- Press the name of the airline that you fly with.
- Choose the language, English or Danish.
- Put the bar code or QR code below the scanner.
Unfortunately this did not turn out straightforward for a significant share of people. Finding the right spot for the bar code took most people 15 to 45 seconds. Sometimes I got up and just showed them the right spot.
There was one lady who did not interact with the screen at all and just tried to put her boarding pass under the scanner. I approached her eventually and offered help. She was German and did not speak good English. When I talked her through the process she just stood there and did nothing. So I went ahead and pressed something on the screen and instructed her to do the next action. Eventually I checked her in and attached the baggage tag to her suitcase.
It is easy to blame the people for this. But it really is the design of the machine. There will be people who are unable to use even the best designed machine, but those cases should be rare. For these machines I think that some more user interface work is needed to get more people to use them confidently on the first try.
I booked this whole trip before the ones to the Netherlands and Poznań, Poland (2018). Though I only had one night in a hostel at that point I have booked the seven nights in an eight-bed dormatory at the Generator Copenhagen hostel. Booking was very easy online.
As I arrived the Generator and checked in, the room was just as expected. Being on the sixth floor means either taking a bunch of stairs or the elevator. But seven nights for 155 EUR in an otherwise expensive city is so cheap that I will not complain about that.
The receptionist has given me two key cards as the magnetic strips supposedly get erased frequently. Initially I inserted it the wrong way. Do you also find it confusing that the cancellation looks like the glitch art on the rest of the card and the dotted arrow more blends into the art?
In my room I made my bed. In every hostel the procedure is different, here they put the sheets onto the pillow and blanket, you put the sheet onto the mattress.
On one evening I sat a bit on the deck of the hostel. They have large wooden furniture there, it should be even nicer during the day. Eventually the wind got too cold, so I moved to the inside onto one of the many couches. Two Danish businessmen who were there for the beer joined me and we had a pleasant chat. They were surprised to hear that I came here to see the bike infrastructure even though it is just a hobby of mine. Later on they asked whether I was abroad because my English is better than what they are used with Germans. We then talked about learning languages. In Denmark they have English from first grade and German from fifth grade. This seems sensible as Germany is their largest partner in trade they told me. They were also interested in the room prices and mockingly asked whether one could book an eighth bed dormatory with seven blond girls. Eventually they left but not without telling me how to properly pronounce København: “Köbenhaun” in German and perhaps “cobenhaughn” in English, though the “ø”/”ö” does not really have a corresponding sound in English.
Nowadays I try to fill my water bottle with the local tap water. This turned out to be difficult in my dorm as the faucet was too low. I ended up using the shower but the shower head is wider than the opening of the bottle. This works but is slow, messy and wasteful. At the bar they had water pitchers but that was not very convenient when I was in the room already.
It is just the second evening and this article already had more than 5000 words. Writing on the phone is not ideal and I saw a computer in the lobby. So I just opened up Google Docs document there and was quickly annoyed. The computer is woefully underpowered for running Windows 10 and browsers with tons of bloat add-ons. Every time you opened a tab it would open some wrapper for Google search. Then the screen was dirty, way too bright and the keyboard was not exactly an improvement to my touchscreen. After writing a single paragraph, accidentally hitting a shortcut and bringing the computer to a halt, I quit that endeavor and went back to my phone.
Staying at the same hostel for the whole duration of the trip had the pleasantry of being able to leave most of my stuff in the storage chest in the room over the days. On the trips between the cities in Holland I had to carry everything around, which was annoying after a while. Also I could just let my towel dry on a hanger. I can recommend trying to get the lower part of the bunk bed.
For the next trip I am going to pack a couple reusable zip ties. There were not many proper points to hang stuff.
The key difference between a Hotel and a Hostel is that you share a room with strangers. So far I had a lot of pleasant encounters in hostels, which had been the same on this trip. But there were also some rather interesting characters this time.
Carrying earplugs is a must in a hostel. One of my roommates had a really loud snoring which even sounds unhealthy as he occasionally stopped breathing altogether (sleep apnea?). With the earplugs one can find some sleep. This person had been sleeping in the room most of the time I was there, so I will just call him always-sleeping-guy.
Some days into the trip we had a new person on the room, Michael. He travels around and does voluntary work for a room and board. Pretty much like work & travel. He recently was on an organic farm in Turkey. In Denmark it was hard to find a farm to work at because you apparently need a special visa for work and the farmers did not want to get into trouble. He seemed rather upset about all the worker protection laws that would kick in if he should have a work accident. Apparently these things are just hindrances to him. For this reason did not stay in Denmark for long but headed off to Iceland to help some older person with his sheep, and he never worked with sheep before.
Being also a guitar player he asked downstairs whether it was okay to play some music. The receptionist said that they would need to ask somebody else and Michael just decided that it was not going to work. Incidentally he was sitting in the little bathroom on the closed toilet, as that was the only seat in the room. We had a lengthy conversation about different hostels in various cities and that this one was just too big and professional to actually have this honest spontaneous music sessions. It reminded me of Charly & Yvonne (publishing CDs as Bamboozy) who stay the winters on the Hacienda Buena Suerte and play music there every evening. This is a really nice thing and it really feels spontaneous every evening.
He eventually headed off and I used the toilet to find that the floor was really sticky. I notified the reception and they were really sorry and notified housekeeping. Also there had been wet toilet paper on the floor and the toilet seat up. Looked like somebody had a bad aim and did not fully clean up afterwards. For this reason a lot of other travelers carry flip-flops.
Back in the hostel room I overheard a discussion with Michael and a girl, apparently he had slept in her bed. I recalled that when we arrived he asked whether the beds were numbered and I thought that he did find his one then. Back then he told me that the bed was not made but he did not mind. And then he moved to the one above mine. The girl started that it was no problem for her, which I did not really buy.
When I went to sleep that evening, Michael was already sleeping and snoring. That night I had snoring from him and always-sleeping-guy. To make it worse Michael frequently tossed around in sleep, shaking the whole bunk bed. Earplugs can help against the snoring, but I doubt that there is anything one can do against the shaking.
Given the circumstances I did not sleep as well as the other nights. In the morning I noticed that my (own) towel was missing while Michael showed. So he just took some towel that was available. Sharing a bedroom with seven people, having loud snoring and a sticky toilet floor is one thing, but other people taking my personal hygiene stuff crosses the line. Getting a fresh towel at the reception was an easy fix.
It seems that one has to keep one’s bed full of personal stuff such that it looks taken. Also the towel should be placed somewhere at the bed to be clearly a personal one. My other five hostel stays in the Netherlands were fine in this regard, I presume that this was a very special guest.
A few days into the trip a group of Canadian travelers arrived in the room. As it was their first time in a hostel they each looked at bathroom, showers, beds and the storage lockers. We had a little conversation about where we all come from and our intentions for visiting. One of them told me that he had an uncle living near Köln and that European cities are just so large and dense compared to the middle of nowhere where he lives in Canada.
They took showers after the exhausting flight and always-sleeping-guy came in from somewhere else. After he took a shower he applied various sprays and stuff, I lost track. Together with the stuff that the girls used the room was packed with aerosols, I got a mild headache. I wonder how much ailment of that guy comes from the apparent ludicrous use of deodorant, hair spray, cologne and whatnot.
Back in the evening I had a very long discussion about capitalism, social security systems and our deviating opinions about equality of chances and whether extreme differences in income are fair. It was a very interesting and frame challenging conversation!
One one day at 22:50 I decided to sleep and went to bed. Only always-sleeping-guy was there, so besides the snoring it was quiet. After a couple hours of sleeping I got woken up by the other travelers who had been out and about. Then they settled down and began snoring, I heard three people competing for the most annoying sound. At 5:30 I woke up again, and was thirsty; my water bottle was empty. After filling it up in the shower the one Canadian told me that he did not manage to sleep until that point because of the snoring. I suggested getting earplugs from the reception. This little conversation woke up Vincent from France below. Then I must have slept again because I got woken up again by the construction site right in front of the hostel. It sounded like lots of stones being dumped onto metal. As a side effect I got to see a nice sunrise from the hostel window:
In order to continue this sleepless night the alarm clock on the phone of the guy above me went off at 7:40. With some song and vibration that propagated through the metal frame of the bed. Naively I hoped that it would stop after the song but it did not. I got up and saw the guy having the phone right next to his head and still dozing. A few knocks on the steel frame brought him back from dozing, he apologized and woke up. He and the other Canadians got up, took stuff from their storage chests under the bed, which have hard plastic wheels and are noisy. At 8:30 the room was quiet again after they let the door fall close with a loud boom. It was just Vincent and me left and we both tried to sleep. But although I was really tired, I just could not find sleep again and gave up on it.
This is the negative side of a hostel. One could have tried to close the windows against the noise from the construction site but then the air would just turn bad really quick and the snoring remains anyway.
On the second last evening we had a very peculiar encounter with always-sleeping-guy. I had a very interesting discussion with one of the Canadians as he approached our beds. As it was 2:30 I thought that he wanted us to stop chatting such that he could get to sleep. But instead he told us how awesome roommates we are and that we should please continue talking as it was very interesting to listen. Then he told us about the Japanese lady who was in the room with him before we arrived and how horrible this person supposedly was. His English was not so good that all the meaning came across, but I think we got the important parts of the story as he told it multiple times. We eventually starting laughing at the situation as a whole, then he started to laugh with us and it did not stop for a while. Suddenly there was loud snoring from his bed, so he must have fallen asleep while we were still rather loud. And he did not wake up until 14:00 the next day. I would like to be able to sleep sound like that!
I needed a bike to get around the city. What fun would it be to go around the world’s leading bike city without one? I have checked for a bike rental system and found multiple ones. There is the Bycyklen system which rents electric bikes by the minute or hour. I have registered online already and was told that I could then unlock the bikes with just my contact-less credit card. The hostel also told me that they rent city bikes, but I could not have reserved.
Chris already arrived at the hostel with his electric longboard. I rented a bike at the reception, it costs 250 DKK for 72 hours, that is 33.52 EUR. I had to give them my driver’s license as a safety deposit.
My bike had a really simple light system: There are magnets attached to the wheels close to the axle and a small lamp mounted on the fork. On every rotation of the wheel the magnets induce a current in the lamp and it gives a short flash.
This way you have position lights which should be sufficient in a forgiving infrastructure. At home I have a hub dynamo, a 40 lux headlight and parking light function front and rear. On the other hand Bonn does not have anything that would deserve to be called “forgiving infrastructure”. Unfortunately the front one of my first bike did not work, so I exchanged it for a different one.
The second one was similar to the first but had a SRAM “Automatix” hub in the rear. This has an automatic two gear transmission. As I later returned the bike I was glad to get rid of it. The saddle would not stay at the height I wanted and the automatic transmission was working against me most of the time. Especially that it shifted into high gear when going over a bump really annoyed me.
Do you know the Chinese restaurant owner from the TV show South Park? He pronounces his restaurant “city wok” as “shitty wok”. And from the second day with a city bike I was starting to call them “shitty bikes”. The automatic transmission of the second bike kicked into the high gear at around 17 km/h. Usually I ride with more cadence (rotations of the pedals) and less force as I just have more stamina than force. This automatic transmission made this impossible, I had to slow down in front of hills to get into low gear again.
Chris and I then planned to go to that park in the north that we got recommended. I tried to rent one of the Bycyklen bikes for that. For this I had signed up two months ago, had set up a username and code as well as my credit card. For some reason the code was not accepted. I tried to reset but did not get an email. Then I tried registering again but my email was already taken. So I called the service and they just reset my PIN. This does not feel too good as the knowledge of the username apparently suffices to gain access.
The new PIN then worked and I checked out the bike. Driving an electrified bike is a very different feeling as it feels as attached to a rubber band pulling forward. I started with the support on level 2 (of 4) and found it quite fun to accelerate with. Once I reached 25 km/h it would just drop all support altogether. After a while I found the sweet spot at 24 km/h with the right amount of pedaling.
The hydraulic front disk brake is very nice, I might want to have that on my next bike as well.
Eventually we started the return trip. The battery indicator on my bike was still unchanged. I expected that it would eventually warn that only little energy remained, Chris expected a range of several hundred kilometers. Rather close to his girlfriend’s condo it notified that the battery was low and would have power for another three to five kilometers. Nice, could not they have said something earlier? When I returned the bike it had 11 % left, I started with 94 %. We did around 50 km with moderate support. So the range is just a bit over 50 km it seems.
Unfortunately the rental period turned out to be 504 minutes, and they bill by the started hour. This trip then has cost me 180 DKK, around 25 EUR. Still I was glad that I took that bike and not another one from the hostel with a low saddle and possibly automatic transmission.
For the last days I tried out the Donkey Republic rental system. They have city bikes where your phone connects via Bluetooth to the lock and unlocks the bike. You can return it at any station, which are just defined spots where there usually is a public bike rack. They also have a carrier on the front:
The carrier is attached to the fork which means that there is a massive moment of inertia attached to the steering. This turned out to be extremely difficult to maneuver such that I find this carrier highly unusable.
Besides that the tire pressure was very low, the saddle could not be set high enough for me and the brakes were really squishy. They were cheap to rent, but that is all.
When I got back home I was so pleased to have my own bike again: 30 gears, 6 bar tire pressure and a saddle which is not too wide and too soft.
Riding the bike in København feels about the same as in Amsterdam. There are ample bike paths but a high density of cyclists. Adding to that is riding a foreign bike which I feel less confident about than my own. There are no left turns for cyclists, one has to cross the intersection and then wait to go left. This is the cost of having a separate bike infrastructure in the right side of the roads. At this point I was unsure whether I liked this.
Another thing that people do is raise their hand when they want to stop, except at obvious places like a red traffic light. This is awesome as randomly decelerating cyclists are one of my grievances in Bonn. Together with the two step left turns out plays out nicely and you can easily pass the people intending to make a left turn.
There are some special left turns for cyclists, but they are rare and clearly marked:
The hostel city bike rides rather strangely as I am used to my premium trekking bike with 6 bar tire pressure without a squishy suspension under the saddle. On cobblestone the bike is quite pleasant to ride and Chris’s longboard becomes unrideable. There were quite strong winds, and the three gear shift on the bike was not fine grained enough to find a good gear. Having been used to 30 gears I could perhaps do eight gears, but three is too few for me.
Using the “Happy Cow” app that a vegan colleague showed me in Dublin we found a vegan burger bar and had some burger with fries. Even though Chris is not a vegetarian he liked the taste of the burger. The patty was made from mushroom they told us, I guess something like Quorn.
Chris and I arranged to meet at noon at his Girlfriend’s apartment. On the way there I took one of the commuting routes that are easily found with the Open Cycle Map. There are a bunch of them, just like in the larger Dutch cities.
Occasionally I found cars and trucks parking on the cycle lane. This was as annoying as in Bonn. Actually it was worse as most cycle paths are separated. This means that you have to either squeeze through the width that remains or stop the bike, carefully descend onto the street level and then stop again and lift the bike back on the sidewalk-style elevated cycle path. In Bonn there is mostly no dedicated cycle infrastructure, so you just pass the illegally parking vehicles on the left.
This really shows that dedicated infrastructure has drawbacks as well. There are vocal proponents of the “vehicular cycling” approach like Berlin Cyclist. The idea is that you ride your bike in the same lanes as you would a car. No dedicated infrastructure is needed or even wanted.
As the cycle paths are usually rather wide a single parked car does not block traffic completely on most streets:
This does not mean that it is okay to park there, but the infrastructure is robust enough to cope even with lazy entitled car drivers.
Another drawback of dedicated infrastructure is that passing slower cyclists is impossible on some stretches where the cycle path is narrow. Luckily they are two to three cyclists wide, passing did not pose a general problem on the commuting routes in København.
After lunch Chris and I went for a ride around a nearby park. On asphalt roads the electric longboard had a clear advantage as he can go around 40 km/h without him breaking a sweat. As we got into the park and roads started to become a little worse, the rising comfort went down. The city bike still handles rather well.
With all the wind the rising was more exhausting than with a proper bike, but at least I did not have the range anxiety he had with the longboard. Riding against the wind took its toll from the battery pack and he was down to 65 % after just 7 km. We finished a smaller round and returned to get the charger.
For the second round we rode towards the sport fields and planned on going around a lake. One road was gravel and had a sign with a tiny sign prohibiting cycling. The other way around was with asphalt but with the same sign. As we walked along, we was a lot of cyclists on the right side of the road.
It turned out that the older part of the road was an exclusive pedestrian path and that the road had been paved wider for cyclists. Even though there were no signs, cyclists took the right side and pedestrians the left one. In Germany you had to paint a solid line in between, post signs and people would then just choose to ignore them.
Chris left for training, I continued on my own. So I followed the cycling routes and hit another such sign that prohibits cycling:
This was on a route marked as cycling route on my map, so this was odd. I asked a pedestrian and she told me that she rides her bike there every day. Also the sign is so small that it does not mean anything. There was an email address started on the sign, so I wrote an email to the administration. A couple minutes into that path there was an underpass with clearly marked cycle lanes. So just as the other path this clearly is a commuting route. Perhaps the sign was about the lawn or something? A day later I got a delivery failure for the email, presumably the address just does not work any more. The sign itself was dated at October 2009, so perhaps the sign really is outdated.
The commuting routes are very nice to ride on. One of them was just redone with new asphalt, so I had to ride on the sidewalk for a bit.
This means that they continually invest in the bike infrastructure! Bonn has not build a single meter of bike lanes in 2017 and 2018, but I am sure that they will make it for their “Bike Capital 2020” target …
By accident I ended up on a road that was not finished yet, but felt very nice up to this point:
In retrospect there was a somewhat vague construction signaling blocking the entrance to this road a bit. It made me a bit cautious, but it was not clear enough.
Another interesting detail are the rails on front of traffic signs. There you can hold onto when stopping at a red light. Judging by the labeling they are part of the commuting routes. They also have a footrest.
Often traffic signs are repeated multiple times and also on the other side of the intersection. This is not done in Germany as it is feared to confuse people. Here I find it pretty convenient.
Near the hostel there is a cycle lane that ends target abruptly. Every time I have passed it there were cars parking even over the bicycle pictograms. So this can happen also in one of the leading bike cities.
Most intersections have dedicated traffic lights for cyclists, some even have special phases for bike traffic:
This means that turning cars will never run over a cyclist going straight.
At one of the metro stations there were at least five of these bike parking lots:
Compare that to Bonn where there are few to no official bike parking spots near the stations and the main station has a lousy capacity of just a handful of bikes in the new bike station.
Parking cars are usually separated from the cyclists such that opening doors are not as dangerous as in Bonn. Also the parking is usually on the left of the bike lane such that car drivers do not have to cross it and open their door into the “real traffic”.
You know that a city is bike dominated if store owners are getting annoyed of parked bikes:
How I would love to see such a sign in Bonn!
During the more frequented times of day you would have a dense queue of cars in the two lanes and smooth flow in the parallel bike lane. One can see the efficiency of biking right there.
Over the days I went to various places, sometimes with Chris and sometimes by myself.
For breakfast I usually go to the next supermarket and bought some bread and yogurt. Right around the corner from the hostel is an ALDI Nord which has a very similar offering as the one in Bonn. And just like the Generator Amsterdam, this one is close to a park. Breakfast in a park is much better than the expensive buffets in the hotel/hostel where “all you can eat” does not even remotely match the amount that I want for breakfast.
The park is rather large and has a castle inside it:
On that day I started off towards the west and ended up at Amager Strand, a little dune in the sea with a curved concrete path:
It was very nice but a bit windy, so it got cold after a while. There are a bunch of large houses to be seen from the beach:
Also you can see the Øresund bridge that connects to Malmö, Sweden:
From high school geography classes I know that this bridge had lead to a lot of growth on both sides and that many people live in Malmö, where it is cheaper to live. This is also due to taxes which are apparently rather high in Denmark, take for instance the 25 % VAT.
After a while I got cold and started to return to the hostel to fetch my warmer gloves. There was a strong wind against my direction of travel, so I had to work up against that. The saddle on my rental bike would not stay as high as I wanted it and slowly descend a few centimeters. It was stable there, so eventually I got tired of adjusting it every now and then and just kept riding with a too low saddle. Although I just did 14 km that early afternoon, it felt rather exhausting.
On the way I saw a lot of new condos:
I was told that the Danish want to have courtyards in their condo complexes, something I can certainly relate to.
And they are building many new apartment buildings in that part of town. Chris’s girlfriend told me that politicians want to make the city more family friendly and therefore they only build new apartments with at least 80 m² and three rooms. This makes it very challenging for singles and students to find a place to stay.
One afternoon I met with Chris in a park, we enjoyed the sunny yet cold weather. From there we walked to Christiania, which is somewhat of an autonomous district. Even though marijuana is forbidden in Denmark, it is a solid gray area in Christiana. You could smell it on every corner. People were sitting at the water and happily smoked and shared. From what one reads on the internet the police does not control too tightly there and sometimes they were even chased out. Sounds a bit like the Rote Flora in Hamburg and Rigaer Straße in Berlin.
Chris bought a cup of beer and we sat down in a table bench combination where two other people were already sitting. Eventually we got into a conversation and it was tremendously interesting to talk to genuine locals. They live some 10 km north of the city center and told us about a great park with old forts that I found very interesting. We also talked about the nature of Christiania and marijuana in Denmark. They were very friendly and kind, which seems to be typical for the Danish. Eventually we all got hungry and parted ways to get some food.
Around noon I started to cycle to the park that Chris has sent me the location to. It was supposedly created by students of architecture and nice to see. I tried to stay on the declared bike routes though I ended up parallel to one. There I saw that even in one of the leading bike city’s car drivers feel that they need to keep the road free for “real traffic”:
There is a conference center and hotel and that looks very fancy compared to the average architecture in Bonn:
After cruising around some construction sites I found a residential street:
The park at Valby was just a park. The location that he send me was a very interesting looking playground for kids, but that was about it. It could be that the students designed that, but I had expected some fancy garden or so. Later it turned out that the location was not means precise and I just looked at the wrong parts of the park although I drove through half of it.
Staying close to the waterfront on the way back gave me ample opportunity to look at a new residential area that is being developed. Here is one directly at a canal:
Here you can see a relatively new one which has underground waste collection, bike racks and no car parking lot:
And then there are older looking ships and new condos:
There is a bike bridge connecting two residential areas as well as a bridge leading up to the main street. This feels like Houten, just with a higher density of condos instead of houses.
I started that day by walking around a bit and ended up at the Kastellet, one of the many forts scattered through the city. The people we meet in Christiania told us that there are many fortifications in the city, remaining from various ways. For World War 1 there was an extra ring build.
On top of the ring you can see one of the entrances:
To the other direction you can see more of the water:
For the trip to the park recommended by the locals I rented a Bycyklen electric bike and started off to Chris’s girlfriend’s place. It did not take long and I was annoyed by all the slow moving people. The separated bike lanes are fixed in width and usually two bikes for next to each other. Passing is somewhat risky, especially with parking cars to the left. Most of the time one could pass. So if Bonn should ever undertake steps towards becoming a bike city, imagine that, they should be careful to have the bike paths wide enough for passing. Otherwise one is stuck behind some slow rider. At this stage I am not exactly sure what I want. Wide separated bike paths are very nice, riding feels nice. But when the city does not dare to take space and use it for cyclists, having no bike lane might actually be preferable to a narrow bike path as I can then pass people. Not being passed by cars is a plus, though.
For that day Chris had chosen his girlfriend’s bike instead of his longboard as we estimated 30 to 40 km for this trip. Here are the two bikes:
We drove quite a long distance to that park, most of the time on official bike routes. The infrastructure was very good, often wide enough for three bikes. Passing larger bikes was possible as well.
The park is very large and mostly woods and grass with wide paths. A lot of horse carriages or horses with smaller kids were out there.
We first stopped at the fort we were told about, the Garderhøjfortet. It was not very pretty, rather pragmatic. We looked to the top and looked at the cannons.
Then we went on to the castle that we got recommended as well. Along the way we saw a few deer on one of the paths through the woods.
The Eremitageslottet turned out to be more of a villa:
We then took a break and sat on a fallen tree and enjoyed the view:
On the second last day I went to look at the center of the city by foot. There is a pedestrian mall. I found the city hall:
Also I found the congress building, which had some special event going on that day:
There were a lot of construction sites going on in the city, also around the government buildings. Their construction barriers consist of plastic poles and wooden bars. They look like toys, though:
Cost of living¶
Chris’s girlfriend makes around 20000 DKK/month after taxes with her PhD position, that is 2680 EUR/month. In Germany with a full TV-L E13 salary one would earn 2280 EUR/month. Turns out that PhD students get a full salary in København and not just 50 % at universities and 75 % at research centers like the one in Jülich.
While making lunch I learned that the single room apartment costs 800 EUR/month in rent, though that includes heating, water and electricity. This puts the seemingly high salary for a PhD student into perspective. Lunch at the cafeteria costs around 5 EUR/day, that is much more than the 2.50 EUR/day that I usually pay in Bonn. To be fair the apartment building was just a year old and very modern. It did not have a doorbell for each flat but a digital bell that seems a notification to the phone of the tenant. On the display you could scroll through the names of the inhabitants and call one up.
A while ago I read a funny German article about Netto and Netto. They is the German Netto Marken-Discount and the Danish Netto with a dog in the logo. Both have yellow as their primary color, both are supermarkets. From the article the Danish one is even more chaotic than the German one. Right across the hostel there is one of them and I decided to enter it.
I was not disappointed. There was stuff scattered across the shelves, stuff on the floor and no stringent ordering in the shelves either. At checkout there was only one lane open and the cashier, a very young high school student, had some problem with a payment. He had already signaled in the store that help is needed at the checkout. When I arrived there, there were five impatient customers just waiting for this issue to get resolved. It took another three minutes and then finally I got to pay. Unfortunately I did not understand the Danish ranting of the customers.
From the amount of electric cars that can be seen in the streets one can infer that there are serious tax deductions on them. This is a parking lot with chargers, and there were many premium electric cars there usually:
Although København might be best bike city of them all, I did not feel really amazed by it. I assume that this happened because I already got to see serious bike cities like Utrecht, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Compared to them København is just another bike city which does a very good job at it. If I had the trips in a different order perhaps this city would have impressed me the most.
There are more photos than I have shown here, see the full Google Photos album for more.