The last few words about the fantastic 30 hours I had spent in Paris were written about 20 minutes before the CityNightLine train picked me up on my way to Denmark. I was sweating like an obnoxious pig, tired, warm… and, by the description of the sleeper cars over the Internet, I was looking forward to lay my weary head on a comfy pillow and fade into a series of particularly irrational dreams.
The train arrived late. Upon boarding, I realized what it’s all about. Small rooms, each has between four and six bunk beds (I tried to reserve a private or a semi‐private room about a month ago… no vacancy). Very narrow, but still there was space to store my stuff.
Air conditioning? you must be kidding me. In other words—no, there wasn’t. Lucky me, we’re still not in full summer mode so the temperature was bearable—the only unbearable thing was my body being sticky and sweaty; contrary to what I was told before (and checked, too), there were no shower facilities on board.
In other words, I was expecting an on‐board hotel‐room (even if shared with 3 other people); what it turned out to be was a tiny dorm room with the absolute minimum you need in order to sleep.
Night trains like the one I boarded make multiple stops during the night; reservation is compulsory. Other than the decreased privacy when you take a bed in a 4‐ or 6‐bunks room, there is also the annoying problem of people boarding the train in 2:00am—half way during your own trip—and getting set‐up in a bunk bed right beside you or above you. You are very likely to wake up.
So considering all of that—and especially my physical condition with all the sweat etc—you should understand why I slept a total of about 30 minutes between 10:30pm and 6:45am.
At some point, I believe it was around 12:30am, I was just on the verge of falling asleep when the room’s door opened and an old lady got set‐up on the bunk bed beside me. Five minutes later, she started snoring.
So there I am… in a small room, having 6 beds altogether (4 populated), sweaty, warm, dead tired and neighbouring an old lady who was snoring so passionately as if her snores produce electricity.
Mental note #1 for future sleeper trains (I have two of those left): Buy them f’n ear‐plugs and get a shower before boarding!
(The Bose QuietComfort would be useless here as I sleep on the side. Just a fact I thought you may want to know)
Time passed slowly as I was flipping back and forth in my “bed” trying to catch some sleep. The attendants on board carry the duty of waking you up 30 minutes before you arrive at your destination; 30 minutes before the wake‐up, I suddenly fell asleep and I remember waking up just before the attendant entered the room to wake me up.
I was so tired, folks… but also very happy as it meant that the nightmare is over.
Exiting the room towards the toilets, I took a look through the window. Wait a minute, where am I? Is this really Denmark, or am I travelling through south‐western Ontario? The resemblance was uncanny: foggy air; mist over rolling hills with hardly a square inch not being green; farms with horses, cows; small houses with red or dark brown roofs.
… We’re obviously not in Paris anymore, but hey, I do like this kind of landscape. The city of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada—where I live—is not entirely unlike this, and its neighbouring towns (say, for example, Hillsburgh) have exactly the same atmosphere and structure as what was reflected through the train’s windows.
The train’s destination was Copenhagen, so I had to get off it in a town named Kolding; most train inhabitants were set to leave the train in that station, so I assumed this is some sort of a central transportation hub. However, as the train approached the station—perhaps even 2–3 kilometres away from it—the view started to change gradually; by the time we arrived at the station, the view was rather depressing; I think it would be best described as “Belgium, only greener”. Unpleasant at best.
Arriving at Kolding, having about 13 minutes to kill, I decided to tackle an important hurdle: cash. Denmark is not a part of the EMU (European Monetary Union), despite being a member of the EU (good for them, I guess… I wonder how longer would the Euro hold). The same, by the way, holds for Sweden and Norway—my next two stops; each of these countries has its own currency. Switzerland is also going to be a bit of a problem as it has its own currency (Switzerland is neither a member of the EMU nor the EU. That’s good, otherwise things would be too simple).
Nobody in that Kiosk at the Kolding station could tell me where I can find an ATM (interesting fact: all Danish people I spoke to during the day, understood and spoke English very well; in Germany it was a disaster) so I decided to put an end to the chapter of Kolding in my life and just get the hell out of there.
Wait time was over and the InterCity came to pick me up to Middelfart—the very next station, about 15 minutes ride. An ATM was much easier to find over there, and I had my first meal in Denmark—a sandwich, and got some chocolate milk drink for the way.
The first thing I think you need to know before you travel to Denmark is that things are expensive here, especially food. Sandwich and chocolate drink in a Kiosk cost me about 45 DKK which is about $7 CDN; quality of life in Denmark is considered to be of the world’s best despite very high taxes which, I believe, are the reason for things being so expensive in here.
My hotel, Severin Hotel & Conference Centre, was located 2.6km away from the train station. Rather than taking a taxi cab, I decided to use the fact that I’m already sweaty and tired to make myself even sweatier and more tired—and walk it. Good for fitness, and the weather was perfect for it: misty, grey, very light drizzle.
Middelfart (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middelfart) is a tiny town, located at the north‐west of the Funen island (a part of Denmark, of course). Less than 14,000 people live in this town (as of January this year) and, while strolling up and down the streets, you’re never too far away from the sea—I suppose that is the reason for the high humidity in the area.
Green everywhere, and lots of space. Not even one apartment building have I seen on my way to the hotel—only houses. Once I took the turn to the main road, the road became closer and closer to the sea (see pictures below).
Very pleasant walk; hardly a soul around and the air feels fresh and revitalizing.
Still, I was sweaty and tired like a dog; finally, I arrived at my hotel—located on the top of a hill overlooking the sea. Brilliant.
Upon arrival, I realized that I had booked a room with no en‐suite facilities—I was so longing for my own privacy that I changed the booking without even asking for the price (well, I asked for it after the fact; it was not cheap). Very early in the morning, but they had the room ready for me within 30 minutes.
Taking a shower always feels great after nights like the one I had. Any trace of that old snoring lady has been washed away along with the soapy super‐hot water. You know, after the rush to Paris’ train station and the awful night at the sleeper train, moments like these (the shower) feel like victory. I made it, and I’m happy despite the hours of crap I had to put up with.
Laid my head on the pillow and had a fantastic, terrific 3.5 hours sleep—waking up fresh and upbeat as if I didn’t spend the previous night tucked in a smelly bed with the delicate sound of chainsaw in my ear.
Writing: on board the 9:45am InterCity service from Middelfart to Copenhagen, where I will change trains en route to Helsingborg, Sweden for the concert tonight. I often find it foolish to divert my gaze from the beautiful view reflecting through the train’s window.
Once one elementary need—sleep—has been satisfied, there came the time to satisfy another one: hunger.It was around 2:00pm if I recall right; the concert was slated to start at 8:00pm, with doors opening at 7:00pm (general admission, standing concert). I decided to not spend my day waiting at the gates, so there’s plenty of time for everything.
Quickly packed my laptop and I was set out to walk to Middelfart’s town centre—a short walk from the train station, which means another 2.5km walk… back towards the train station.
With time on my side, I savoured any minute of that pleasant walk. The main path is very close to the sea, yet there is an alternate path that goes in parallel to it, a few meters west of the main path—closer to the sea.
A few meters further, and a short sign pointed me to a public, free path to the sea. I found it hard to stop taking pictures.
It was such a pleasant sight. I am a total sucker for the sea, can’t get my eyes off it, regardless of the weather.
As I am writing these lines, the train is crossing a sea. My Lord, is this a beautiful country or what! I took some photos… for June 12’s blog entry. Don’t worry, I got you covered.
30 minutes later, I arrived at Middelfart’s town centre. Now, remember this town is inhabited by about 14,000 people so one shouldn’t expect high‐rises and sky‐scrapers here. The entire town centre consists of one street, offering very few restaurants, cafe’s and pubs. In fact, I have seen more women lingerie stories here than cafe’s. Bizarre, isn’t it.
I chose to go to a place called Cafe Edsberg right by the water. Very spacious place (the Danes appreciate their personal space, so I have learned. That is good. Way to go Danes), contemporary decor and a very inviting atmosphere. Very expensive, but nothing out of the ordinary for Denmark.
As I was waiting for my order, I browsed the Internet for a bit (free Wi‐Fi there) and learned a few things about the Danish people. According to what I have read, the Danish people are generally extremely polite and reserved; they will smile at you on the street but will rarely strike up a conversation—not due to snobbism, but rather due to respect to your own privacy and your own need in some peace of mind. Politeness is key here—cutting in line is considered to be an extremely rude action here and is very, very frowned upon. They enjoy life by its little moments, usually gathering with friends for pleasant chats over a drink. They see it undesirable to be “special”; nobody here wants to have the spotlight directed at him / her for any reason, which explains how come people here are so reserved to themselves.
A good sandwich and great cappuccino cost about $15 CDN in here—certainly not cheap, but quality is quite good. I spent a few more minutes there and decided to head back to the hotel, not before I took some pictures of the harbour.
The last picture shows the tents (later, I found out that those were the tents where food and merchandise were sold) of the Rock Under Broen venue. As you can see, it’s not entirely under the bridge…
A pleasant walk back at the hotel…
When I was doing my research for hotels last month, I took into consideration the location of train stations and the concerts’ venues. For Middelfart, I was a bit bummed because the map showed quite the distance (about 2–2.5km) between the station, hotel and venue; imagine my surprise when the hotel’s attendant told me that the Rock Under Broen venue is actually 200m away from the hotel. So here is a tip: for outdoor venues, do not trust mapping software such as Google Maps. Turns out that, when searching for “Under Broen” in Middelfart using Google Maps, what you get back as a result is the address of the offices of the company running this thing, rather than the venue itself.
In one of the pictures above, you might have noticed a bridge visible from the hotel I was staying at. “Under Broen” in Danish means “Under the Bridge”… and guess what bridge… that’s right! the one conveniently located a couple of minutes away from my hotel.
As I was approaching the hotel, it started to rain. I figured that I’m not going to make this day too complex and too aggravating so screw it, I’m not going to wait in line for the gates to open. I took the time to rest in my bed while it was pouring down rain outside. At around 6:00pm, I got a bit bored so I decided to not take much chance—who knows when they’re going to close the ticket pickup booth—so I headed to the venue.
Luckily enough, the hotel had umbrellas for guests’ use… without that, I’d probably become very sick by now. Also, I would like to thank my common sense for not giving up to stupidity, and guiding me to actually take a coat with me.
The march towards the venue took about five minutes. It was still raining; when I got there, not more than 50 people were gathered by the gates. More interesting was the fact that I was of the only ones holding an umbrella; most people showed up with rainwear—oh, that would have been useful, wouldn’t it—essentially a full‐body nylon‐made cloth that is water‐resistant and basically covers your entire body.
Ticket pickup was a snap and I joined the line. Within minutes, the line‐up grew significantly. Perhaps that was the reason why the gates to the venue were opened at 6:10pm instead of the advertised time of 7:00pm.
In sharp contrast to the standing / general‐admission concerts so far, there was absolutely no running of any bulls here. Even the younger members of the audience were walking easily towards the stage—heck, most people decided to hit the beer / food stands first.
This venue is huge and is not at all located under the bridge; nearby—yes… certainly not under. Who’s up for a law suit? :-)
As it was still raining (although not as bad as before), the equipment on the stage was covered and was only unveiled a few minutes before the show started.
I walked slowly and still was able to get the second best spot (visibility‐wise) at this venue. To understand what’s the second best spot, I should first explain how things were laid out as it was somewhat strange.
Facing the centre of the stage, about 20–30m away, there was a high “shack” where some lights came from. The path between that “shack” and the stage—20–30m long and about 2m wide—was blocked for public access as it had all of the wires going through it. In other words, you could not stand at the centre of the stage, regardless of how bullish you are.
Here are some pictures to demonstrate…
See the first picture showing the curve of the fence? the best visibility‐wise spot in the venue (on the left‐hand side of it; I was at the right‐hand side but things are symmetrical there) is where that black umbrella is—perfect angle‐to‐distance ratio. I was standing behind a guy that stood at exactly the opposite side.
Not bad for a pleasant walk… no need to rush anywhere to get a good spot in this venue.
At the right‐hand side of the stage (from the audience’s point of view) there stood a large screen.
During the show, lots of video cameras (I can’t seem to recall any Knopfler concert featuring so many video cameras running around all the time. I apologize to Guy Fletcher in advance as this may trigger quite a few of those obnoxious “what about a DVD” questions in his forum… yet I’m just reporting what I saw. Sorry mate) were filming the entire thing so people at the far back could see something.
While waiting for the concert, my eyes met with those of one of the stage workers whom I suspect was precisely the same individual who handed me the pack of crew T‐shirts just before the show in Albany, NY (can’t believe it’s been more than a month now). Pretty sure it was him, as he waved his hands at me as an expression of disbelief that I made it all the way to Denmark. He was later joined by Paul, who also spotted the Danish‐unlike bearded face of mine and waved a warm hello.
Yeah… I guess Denmark is indeed out there.
Meanwhile, the rain magically stopped. The venue started to fill up pretty quickly.
Due to the wind, the banners at both sides of the stage went loose. Not even two minutes passed and it was fixed.
It was cold and windy; didn’t rain (it did, though, towards the end of the show, but still the audience clearly deserved for the show to start right on time, which it did (8:00pm).
Eh guys, it’s cold, isn’t it?
All band members except for Danny (wearing a short‐sleeve shirt; unbelievable) and Mike were evidently cold as they were dressed‐up warm. Hats off for the hat, Mark.
I was expecting the cold weather to affect the performance; I am not, by any mean, a professional guitar player but I do know what the feeling is when your fingers are cold and you ought to play guitar. It’s annoying at best, and I usually just give up and go warm my hands somewhere (no, not in the oven). Frankly I don’t know how the guitar players in the band managed to play a relatively good show under these conditions; they were, for the most part, isolated from the wind (see pictures of the stage above) but the temperature was way below what would make a guitar player happy.
The show was short—14 songs, with Sailing to Philadelphia being dropped this time (to my recollection, that happened only once before… I’ll have to check).
That last picture obviously has nothing to do with the concert itself, still I thought it would be a good idea to add it because I’m a big fan of white gloves with grey stripes.
… OK, what else… lets see (sorry, I lost my train of thoughts). Why Aye Man appears to always be played in standing shows and yesterday’s concert was no exception.
The audience?… well, how should I put it… very talkative. I was surprised as the Danes are supposedly very polite; they weren’t yelling much, but chatter was all over the place, often distracting. Also in sharp contrast to previous standing shows, personal space was obviously much more respected here as nobody appeared to step too violently into a fellow concertgoer’s soul.
Not much communication with the audience this time around; I suspect the cold weather was really an annoyance to the band.
Arriving at the venue and seeing how large it was, I was convinced that the sound is going to be too loud for me to handle and prepared for the worst. I was surprised, though, to find out that the sound wasn’t loud at all—in fact, perhaps a bit too soft? No wonder people kept on chatting—why block your mouth or freeze your tongue when you can talk softly to the people next to you and still be heard clearly?
I think that soft sound is better than loud; no question about it, as over‐loudness makes the “little details” of the music sound distorted or even be superseded altogether. But for this tongue‐busy audience, I wish the sound was louder just so they would shut the f**k up. Too bad for them, I think—lots of chatter during the Marbletown jam‐session made it very hard to enjoy every bit of this wonderful mini‐composition this band has been developing over the tour.
It also appears that the audience here is forward‐thinking in nature: rather than having to leave their post towards the beer stands, people here came with 3–4 litre jugs of Tuborg. Was hilarious to see them pouring beer from those jugs into plastic cups during the show. Bladder‐control? I don’t even want to know, thank you very much.
Typically, Mark inserts the city / town’s name into So Far Away’s lyrics (“here I am again in…”); he didn’t do it this time, but he also didn’t follow the original lyrics (“mean old town”). Instead, he said something else that I couldn’t understand—I’m not sure it was in English but it did make him and the rest of the band laugh. I suspect “Middelfart” was just too funny to say… “Here I am again in Middelfart town”? probably not the most romantic line in existence.
The audience appeared to have loved the show. As I mentioned, definitely not the loudest audience out there but you could see joy on people’s faces, especially when the old Dire Straits tunes were performed, Sultans of Swing being the one extracting the greatest deal of excitement (very good outro solo, by the way).
During Telegraph Road, it started raining again. Not too much though, I actually didn’t need my umbrella at all but you could definitely see people starting to get annoyed by it. The lights, generated by the shack behind me and aimed at the stage, highlighted the constant drizzle which, with the kind help of the stage equipment (all bunch of fans used to spread that smoke‐like substance) was spread all over the place. Hopefully the equipment remained dry; and even under these conditions, the band played flawlessly.
Cheers, you dear band.
The show ended at 10:00pm.
The Rock Under Broen venue is essentially a huge grass area. That’s pleasant, unless rain is involved. Lord, was that messy: puddles of mud were formed everywhere, which is the reason why it took so long—about 30 minutes!—to walk out of the venue. The locals, apparently, were prepared for that… I wasn’t. My simple running shoes were very quickly soiled beyond belief. Here is an example of how to not grass a venue:
Back at the hotel (finally!), I was hungry and asked what my dining possibilities were. The hotel I was at offers free drinks 24 hours a day as well as pretty interestingly‐looking desserts at the evening (for free as well) but I was looking for something else. Unfortunately, my only option at that time was the nearby McDonald’s. I had to, then, commit the ultimate sin. A Big Mac together with Camembert Nuggets solved my hunger problem.
On my way there, I saw police checking people for DUI. Clever. The amount of beer that found its way to people’s stomachs during that concert was immense.
Leaving the hotel towards McDonald’s I forgot to re‐grab the umbrella I had previously taken to the concert. That was stupid and I was punished by returning to my hotel, post‐meal, rather wet. But it was fun… walking in the rain can sometimes be pleasant, especially when you know when you’re going to be back in a dry warm place (only 100m away).
Fantastic shower to wash the cold and mud off and I was anew, ready to charge at my laptop for blogging. I decided to go down to the dining room so I can blog while sipping some tea. Was good for the soul but I didn’t manage to write much.
BlackBerry’s alarm clock set to 7:30am, as the train to Helsingborg was going to depart 9:40am. Some re‐packing had to be done, plus allowing time for breakfast and the 2.6km walk to the station…
Signing this post off as the train from Copenhagen Central is just about to arrive at Helsingborg Central. The concert tonight is also in an open‐air venue, general admission, standing. I think I’ll prefer enjoying it from the back, over waiting for hours at the line‐up. I need some rest, and also to book some flights in Spain.