I’ve made it through my first week in Copenhagen! It seems that I’ve been here for weeks, and yet I cannot keep track of the days that have passed. I feel physically settled and psychologically like a tourist. The first week is a strange place to be.
My first few days here were filled with housing and academic orientations and much spare time for walking around and acclimating to the new time zone. My roommate and I share an apartment in our kollegium with a kitchen, dining area, and stairs leading up to a bathroom and shared bedroom. We have a fridge, an electric stove, and microwave. (Is it a microwave? This is a serious inquiry. We can’t tell).
The sun really does start setting at 4:30, and it sets an urgency to the day. On one of my first days I did a long tour of the city with some DIS neighbors in my Kollegium. We wandered near the DIS classrooms and through the center of the city, which is full of student-friendly cafes, bars, and shops on grey cobblestone streets, and then walked along the Nyhavn canal with sailboats sitting before a colored row of buildings. After a detour on a few trampolines built into the sidewalk, we crossed over into the community-run, mural-filled neighborhood, Christiania, before walking home.
I took another day on my own to see an exhibit on Leonard Cohen at the Kunstforeningen Gammel Strand building. Afterwards I took a wide walk around the Christiansborg Palace grounds as the sun was coming down on a low slant, and then stopped in some stores on the route home.
I’ve already gotten terribly lost was well. I was on my way to a DIS meet-up after my first day of classes when I realized my phone was at 17%, and then saw it immediately die, and figured I had to turn home. I forgot the exact direction I needed for the 5C bus, so decided my odds were better walking as I knew the general direction. It wasn’t enough. The sun had set entirely behind the horizon, hiding my usual landmarks of spires and bridges, and I soon had no idea where I was. I had to stop in a 7-11 to ask the cashier to enter my address into google maps, which is one of the most shameful and humbling requests you can make. It was a fiasco and a wake up call. I made it home, but I haven’t left without written directions since.
Yet even despite this it has been exhilarating, all in all. I am a flighty person and the hectic week has worn on me, but the truth is there is so much to reach out for here that all the anticipation becomes dizzying – and then you settle back to reality of the situation: this is not a vacation, but a life. It’s been wonderful to meet people and share collective excitement about the city. I have found myself instinctively unfolding in new ways to get a grip on the new terrain below, and then looking around surprised to find that I’ve adapted.
It turns out that I’ve missed living in cities and the way they open themselves up to you with each day. Walking outside constantly introduces you to unprecedented moments, and I have been walking everywhere. I try to stop in every church I pass, and they all seem to have chandeliers of polished gold or bronze over the aisles. When the sun is out, I spontaneously follow blocks that have bright yellow buildings at the end, and am always glad to see a puppy paddling down the street without a leash. This may just be the tourist phase, but in my experience localized details don’t tend to fade with time. I have loved the way the water looks in the canals when the sun is coming down. The ripples are yellow and orange against grey, as they reflect surrounding buildings under a dark sky. It seems distinctive to this city, and at the same time is just water. Water, plain and simple, looks different in every place. I always find this funny, and simultaneously amazing.