Originally written in February 2020
Since our last edition of the Leader, I got back on the trail after a bit of a hiatus from traveling in 2019. It wasn’t Asia, Africa or South America this time. Instead it was somewhat closer to home with a venture to Copenhagen.
By Jonathan Foley
Arrival in the Danish capital was pretty late in the evening; about 11pm local time and although it was rather chilly and a bit damp, it was still nicer than the constant hailstones and snowfall we were getting here at home.
With Celtic FC being in town for a Europa League game with the local side, there was a great buzz and excitement in the air the night before the game.
There’s always a great sense of comradery amongst the Hoops supporters. Being a lifelong fan myself, it was easy to blend in and quickly make friends with others who’d made the journey.
The only major landmark I saw that night was the famous Tivoli Gardens. Built in 1873, it’s the world’s second oldest theme park and was said to have been the inspiration behind the creation of Disneyland.
Granted, it looks just okay during the day, but with Scandinavia having long periods of darkness at this time of year, the park lights up beautifully and quite romantically later in the evening.
The next day was all about football. I was fortunate enough to have a ticket but because it was in the Copenhagen section of the ground, I made sure to have the jersey well covered up and the scarf hidden away in the jacket pocket.
Upon arrival at the stadium, the Telia Parken, a steward did stop me and enquired about who I supported. I must not look very Danish! And it was here where I feared the worst.
He was great though and allowed me entrance to the ground with no real hassle. He just advised me to not celebrate too much if and when Celtic scored to which I politely obliged. Sort of.
Within the stadium, the atmosphere from both sets of supporters was cracking. Copenhagen fans create an electrifying buzz with flashing disco lights, huge banners and pyrotechnics.
On a deeper level though, there are also very mild. They didn’t seem to mind that some Celtic fans were taking seats in their parts of the stand and their banter was still very respectful and polite. Nothing callous or crass at all.
My own abiding memory was sitting beside a delightful looking blonde Danish lass. She seemed to enjoy my Irish wit and happily shared her popcorn with me. Although her older brother in the next seat over seemed less impressed.
The game itself ended in a 1-1 draw and any promises I made to the steward about not ‘over-celebrating’ became null and avoid. This was when myself and an elderly but energetic Celtic fan joined in the sing-alongs and when we both leapt for joy as our keeper dramatically saved a late penalty.
The next day though was much more about taking in the city as a whole. With it being wonderfully clean and safe, it was a joy to just simply dander around and explore in my own time. A luxury I enjoy most when traveling.
On a stroll down by the famous Nyhavn Harbour, I took in the sights, sounds and colours of the many boats and decorative apartment buildings and cafes. This was where I just so happened to bump into a guy from Donegal Town.
His name escapes him just now, but he’d spotted my Donegal wooly hat amongst the crowds on the pier and came over to say hello. He’s been living there for 16 years so was keen to offer me some tips on where to go and what to see.
As we bade farewell, I made my way out to the statue of the Little Mermaid. People often say it’s way too far out, but it’s not really. Granted, it’s not a huge statue but still very nice to see all the same.
Like many people, my main knowledge of the mermaid’s legend came from the family-friendly Disney movie with Ariel and Sebastian singing ‘Under the Sea.’ The real mythology was a tad darker however.
The original narrative was written by Copenhagen-native Hans Christian Anderson as a rather grim fairytale. Like the kids movie, it did involve a mermaid wishing to find her prince on the land, but the real story was a lot more graphic about the physical and emotional pain and suffering she went through when on land.
It was interesting to learn about how there were so many huge alterations made to the story so as to suit it for a more family-orientated audience three centuries later. I won’t spoil these differences for you though. Check them out online.
Lastly, it was off to Freetown Christiania. A sort of hippie-commune of squatters where people live by their own laws and where the aroma of certain green herbs would make you wanna go home and put your Bob Marley records on.
Photos are strictly prohibited inside the village however, but it was interesting to see their artwork and way of life. Not only had they cafes, bars, a stage for live music but also a school for the children.
Thinking closer to home, the graffiti messages drew a parallel with the ‘Free Derry’ corner for me and upon departing, a huge sign reads ‘You Are Now Entering the EU!’ Maybe it was like their own idea of ‘Dexit’ that was going on.