Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Soren's City.

The second best side trip we went on was even better than the temporally first. It was to a little place I call Copenhagen, Denmark, and is the city of my philosophical hero, Soren Aabye Kierkegaard. The truest way to describe this trip is to call to mind Charles Dickens famous words in his Tale of Two Cities: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. (This is actually true of a lot of times in my life, the prime example being wedding day: lovely and happy--though a tad stressful. Directly post wedding day: terrible car wreck.) We planned to take an overnight bus, because while potentially not as glamorous as a train (or plane for that matter), buses are generally much, much cheaper. We pack our bags after securing a place to stay with a friend, and head to the station.

We are there before take off time and notice workers in the office still selling tickets, both fortunate things. For a very unfortunate thing: they were no longer selling tickets to Denmark for that night, because the bus was full. The woman explained we could purchase a ticket for the following day. We had to say no, because we needed to be there the following day to hear my professor speak at a philosophy conference. We hurry to the train, and buy tickets. Or try to. The person didn't say yes, or no, just that we could get them, but on the train itself. It was too late to be booked all of the way through. That type of thing has happened to me once before, and doesn't make any sense to me, but was what we would have to do, so instead of buying tickets all of the way from Vienna to Copenhagen, we had to buy three train tickets each. One to each country border. It was very sad, and quickly became very expensive. Our affordable trip suddenly wasn't as affordable as we hoped/needed it to be. First "worst" time.

The second came soon after when the train we were on was about to split and go in a different direction. We were warned at the last possible moment, so just barely had time to gather our bags, run out the door, and connect to the part of the train that was continuing its "to Denmark" course. The problem now was that every car was full. Not only would we not be able to lay down and sleep, we were having trouble just finding two sitting up seats in the same car. I walk all of the way down and back, twice. And then I see it. One car, that has no people in it. Just one bag, on one seat. I don't think very much of it, except to feel gratitude that I found somewhere for Spencer and I to travel, when the bag's owner returns.

He was the most currently-on-drugs/un-showered person I have ever seen. His pants were all of the way down, showing his underwear, and while he knew English well, he could barely speak or be understood for his slurring. As soon as he sat down, he started smoking in the tiny car inside. Spencer politely asked him not to smoke in the car. He politely asked us if we didn't smoke. When we said no, he stepped into the hallway, but unfortunately just outside of the door, right by where I was resting my head on the wall. I had to turn away, but could still smell it strongly. The smoke combined with other unclean smells was nauseating to me. The individual came back in, and struck up a conversation with Spencer. He mentioned he was going to Prague, so Spencer asked him if he was visiting friends there. "No. I'm going to buy drugs. Crystal meth. Do you know it?" And then I got to hear Spencer, my very appropriate, very clean husband say things like, "Yeah, I know crystal meth." And then later, "No, I haven't gotten too much into death metal," when the gentleman asked him about American death metal bands. At one point the man fell asleep, but not before asking Spencer to wake him up at a certain stop. When the time came (about 3:00 in the morning), Spencer tried to, but he wouldn't wake up. I thought he was passed out, or completely gone. I could neither see nor hear him breathing. It was completely scary. I had to get out of there to find another car that had purer smells so I could sleep. End second "worst" time.

The third came when we got to the conference to find out that my Switzerland/California professor wasn't even there. He had gotten sick, and let the conference chairs know he wasn't coming, but neglected to tell anyone else. We could have taken the bus the next day after all, and avoided the crazy cost plus circumstances. Finding this out was maddening enough, but only moments later we discovered that the hotel we had originally booked (before we knew we had a place to stay) did not accept our cancellation. Another large chunk of money, and the fourth worst thing. Our situation was getting sadder and sadder. There was one more "worst of times," but it is more complicated and less worth talking about in such a sphere.

Thankfully, everything else was best of times. Everything else was best, so best in fact, that it made all of the bad worth it. It made the bad seem like nothing. First best, Jan Marie. I met her in Boston, and I cannot say enough good things about her, but to say a few: she is intelligent, thoughtful, and an Astronomer!! She also returns books you lent her a year and a half ago, in another country. The second was running into a Swiss friend in front of a busstop in front of the Copenhagen temple. The third was the Copenhagen temple itself. The fourth was running into the Swiss friend again at the philosophy conference, and accompanying her to to the Soren Kierkegaard Institute. She was supposed to meet with someone that morning, but missed it, and hoped to catch him in his office. On the way we passed by a Soren statue, and many other lovely things.

When we walked into our goal building, two girls invited us into a party. That was the fifth thing. The sixth was thinking to ask if the author of the 800-900 page biography on Kierkegaard I had finished for the second time just two weeks before was present. And the seventh was Spencer who had heard me say that they call him the Danish Robert Redford, tell me, pointing to someone, "If he's here, it's that guy." The eighth was having him be right. The ninth was the fact that the Danish Robert Redford was extremely nice, and talked with me for 30+ minutes about his book and other things. The tenth was that I had that book with me, and that he signed it! The eleventh was exploring all of Copenhagen the next day with Spencer, Jan Marie, and another friend from Boston, Matt. We saw everything I wanted to see with a half hour before we had to be at the busstop (which we were smart enough to buy advanced tickets for) except for one thing: Kierkegaard's family home.

I knew what square it was near, what famous church it was also near (that we a. had already visited and b. happens to hold the original Christus!), the name of the street (Nytorv), and had even heard that it was now a bank, so was keeping my eye out. All to no avail. That is, until we got lost on our way to a warm place to sit and hot chocolate to drink. All of our twists and turns led us back to one of the main squares downtown. Jan Marie realized her mistake, and was ushering the troops back the way we had just walked, when I caught glimpse of a bank I had been eyeing earlier. From my current angle I thought I saw something that might, just might be a plaque honoring the philosopher I loved so much (which plaque I had also heard existed). I ignore the others who are turning around, and cross the street at an angle to approach the perceived plaque. It's shine was drawing me in. As I got closer I could see that it was nothing more than a slot for people to put bank slips in. (Boo.) But, what did I see a few feet to the left of it? A real plaque! With Soren's name on it!! Made out of the same white stone as the rest of the house, and crumbled. I would never have noticed it from across the street. In fact, I would never have noticed it unless I was just a few feet from it (which I now was)--it blended in so perfectly. I felt tenderly blessed to have found it, especially just minutes before I would be leaving the city. It was a very sweet send off, and would comprise the twelfth and final "best thing" that happened to me in Copenhagen.

(Except, if I am honest, there are probably at least a dozen more best things, including seeing the Little Mermaid statue that my mom once stood in front of, and on that same tired walk seeing a street sign for the place where Kierkegaard and his ex-fiance would often meet. That trip was heaven when it was not hell.)


Elisse Newey said...

oh goodness.An oh-too-similar horrible bus/train experience has happened to eric and I. I have to say, as blessed as we are in life, full trains (and "strange" passengers) make me into a scary person very quickly. I am so glad your trip ended well!

p.s. I have been reading about Marie Curie and she reminds me of you quite a bit. Something about traveling with her new husband by bike across Europe. ;)

ashmae said...

I love Copenhagen, it was such a magical place full of the nicest people i have ever met. I also love the temple there. I'm glad you made it. If you ever need to return, please let us know, we will most likely join you.

Thirdmango said...

I love that you got Jan Marie to show you around. So far I've hung out with her in Boston, Utah and London, she's such a world traveler.

Rachel Hunt said...

Elisse, I am just thankful that more people are not scary on trains than are scary, but the latter ones really effect me! (At least they make good stories, right?)

Ash Mae: I love Copenhagen too. It was among my favorite of favorites. So I just may take you up on that offer. Their temple is also very special. I love that it was small, but unique. Spencer and I assumed that we knew the layout, but quickly discovered that we did not. We got lost at least three times, and each time, the same kind gentleman popped his head out from wherever he was and led us to the right place. It was pretty funny.

John: She really is the best traveling companion. So nice. So relaxed. Etcetera. So far I have only hung out with her in Boston and In Denmark, but I hope to add many more places to the list.