• 6 November 2013

Copenhagen a capital established for people

Copenhagen a capital established for people

Copenhagen a capital established for people 300 169 Gürkan Genç

The ferry trip to Denmark was quite pleasant. I was all by myself in the four people compartment, so I traveled on my own. Actually, it is not bad to have a companion during a ferry trip. You can talk to each other and form new friendships. As the ferry anchored in the harbor I went to my bicycle, the right to exit first was mine. Good to be traveling with bicycle.  Just leaving the ferry, I realized the signboards directing the way to cyclists as everywhere in the city.

This is my first time in Denmark. According to my searches in the internet and previous information, I entered a “bicycle country”. As a one who saw the bicycle reality in China, I always grin when something extraordinary is mentioned for Denmark or any other country about bicycle issue. “What about China?”  I don’t guess that there is any other country which would impress me about transport with bicycle other than China. They have highways called as bicycle roads.

Well since I have started to use national visas I went back to the application agenda I had used during my Japan tour. I have to apply to the visa for the next country from the country I’m traveling in. I wrote “German Embassy” on the GPS which immediately displayed the coordinates. Using GPS, smart phones and e-books provide great convenience during my tour. Normally, I never use GPS when looking for a special spot in the city. No need. I ask to people, to a nice girl on the road. By this way one can meet people and start conversations with them. They will do their best after learning who you are and where you are coming from. It is a must to socialize. It is 11:00 am, I’m in a hurry since during noon time the consulates are closed.  Therefore I sought for GPS support

Coming in front of the German Embassy I looked around. I guess nobody would hook my bicycle here. I left my loaded bicycle as it is and went inside the building. I passed the first security and came to the second one. I introduced myself.

–          Türkçe konuşabilirsiniz (You can speak in Turkish)

–          Hadi ya (Really)

Well, the second security was a Turk. He became a German citizen and started to work at the Embassy. Of course he got the German discipline. Not a warm welcome or so, as usual by the Turks. Keeping his distance he said: “Wait there inside”. After waiting for 20 minutes in the small boring waiting room typical for any consulate an official came. I introduce myself and tell what I’m doing. She looks at my passport

–          Impossible! We cannot give you a national visa.

–          How come? Why is it impossible? I apply for your national visa for which your Foreign Affairs Ministry will decide.

–          We know that since we are in European Union such visas are not given.

–          Madam, I’m traveling around the World. I will travel every inch of your country and tell about what I would see and live, give information on my website.

Unwillingly she tells me what kind of documents I have to prepare and adds again: “Most probably you won’t get a visa”.

I leave the Embassy and just in front of the door representatives of Hurriyet (a famous Turkish national news agency) and TRT news (Turkish Radio and Television, governmental) meet me. Our Embassy informed them that I will arrive today. Even, they waited for me at the ferry exit. While my bicycle was placed next to the eight wheels, I couldn’t use that exit. Anyway, after a couple of shootings and a short interview I headed towards our Embassy.

Thanks to our Copenhagen Embassy and its employees for taking care of me. They also helped for preparing the necessary documents and I got the visa. One evening we went out for dinner with Mrs. Emel, Mr. Ahmet and their little daughter. We ate sushi. I had heard some about Justin Biber and saw a couple of pictures of him through social media but was not aware about his influence on little girls till that evening. I asked realizing a Justin Biber cushion on the lap of the six years old girl:

–           Who is it?

–           Justiiinnnnnnnnn Bibeeeerrrrrrrrrrrr.. Sooo cute isn’t he?

Well, I have to reply

–          Give me the cushion. Let’s see how cute he is.

I take a look at the photo on the cushion. A baby face kid. I don’t know how weird I must have been looking to Ecem, she said

–          Don’t even ask Gurkan, he is the idol of the new generation

She takes the cushion while getting out of the car and doesn’t want to leave it in the car although her mother and farther insisted for the reverse. I immediately stepped in:

–          But, look we will be going to eat now. If you incidentally sputter on the cushion Justin Biber would get dirty and won’t look pretty anymore (the cushion is violet and has got furbelow).

She thought for a couple of seconds and then admitted. Generally little girls like her listen to me and obey to what I’m saying. But this time I realized not because that I wanted her to leave the cushion she left it in the car. She thought for sure that “He is right. Justin Biber shouldn’t get dirty. Therefore I must leave the cushion in the care safely”. Meanwhile, there was a Justin Biber concert in Turkey and I read a marvelous article written by a father who honestly wrote what he was feeling.

As I was a teenage there was “Beverly Hills, 90210”. Jason Priestley and Luke Perry the idols of the girls ruined our lives. Look what came in my mind, the TV series “Generation”. There was a character called Sam. We loved her. Wow, what a woman. Anyway, there are such periods for every teenage. No matter to worry.

While I was passing from Sweden to Norway, I received a message on Facebook:

–          Hi Gurkan, this is Ecem. I pedaled with you on the Eymir Bicycle Tour organized by Atilim University. For the time being I’m visiting Denmark as Erasmus student. I would be glad to host you. We might also go sightseeing with bicycles.

Look. That’s great. Previously I met Cem a graduate of Atilim University in Finland. For sure, I accepted her offer. Hahaha I must mention her excitement as we first met. “Wow, we will really be pedaling together, I can’t believe this. Super. Who would have thought this could happen?”.  We had the opportunity to undertake long conversations.

Now, when I talk about what I have undergone to people, also to the students who pedaled with me around Eymir Lake, usually they think that I’m talking through one’s hat. Also such expressions of disbelief come to my ear after the presentations I held in Turkey. Also Ecem told me that “people are thinking that you make up some of your stories.”

It is an interesting feeling to be on the road. I’m aware that this journey inspires many people. After all, the journey itself is not a minute happening. I went from Turkey to Japan with bicycle. Just a year after during which I attended several bicycle tours and held many presentations I departed for a World Tour for seven years. Just look back to get across all what I have had realized. I don’t need to add up new stories on top of what happened. The people I run into during my tour keep asking me what I’m doing. As I answer “I’m travelling around the World with my bicycle” they reply me “are you pulling my leg?” although they witness me on the bicycle. They don’t believe me even seeing with their own eyes, what is the use of telling or writing my odyssey? 

Now read the scenario, it wouldn’t have matched such perfectly if I had had set for.

While in Norway I was invited to a radio program broadcasting in Turkish. The anchorman said “Now, you might think that you are the first Turk arriving Norway with bicycle”. Well, as far as I know there hasn’t been anyone pedaling during winter but might have come during summer time. A Turk started from Istanbul with bicycle and arrived to Norway in 1951. He married in Oslo and then returned to Istanbul. His son still living in Oslo connected to the radio program. We had a nice conversation. After him a man from Denmark called

–          Hi. My name is Parvin from Azerbaijan. When you arrive in Denmark I would like to host you, my friend.

The next day after Ecem I met with Parvin. Also I held a presentation to the pupils at the school where his wife works. I mentioned before that the smartest questions are always asked by children, there was also no exception here. Meanwhile, every child is using Instegram. After my presentation they asked me for my address which I wrote on the board and left the class.

Out of 30 students present in the class that day, 25 added me and use the “like” button for every photograph I load on Instegram.

The day I was invited to meet Parvin’s family I called Ecem: “This is a great opportunity for you to meet local people. Come with me.” I know that not everybody invites you to his/her home spontaneously, just so. Ecem, me, Parvin and his daughter went to Helsingor 40 km to the north of the city. We met with his mother and father in law. They were divorced and leave in the same district but in separate houses.  They both have an enormous knowledge and experience of life. One day as we visited Helsingor Castle Michael accompanied us and introduced the culture of Denmark showing many places. Parvin’s mother at an age of 65 is an iron-woman. I’m not kidding she showed me the medallions she won. She is still active as sports teacher and attends marathons. Guess, what happened afterwards? Ecem is still in touch with this family.

Likewise, as I was invited to our consolers I called Ecem to meet these Turkish diplomats. Although such happenings seem minute in fact they lead you to gain life experiences. Turning back to the starting point, Ecem participating to the bicycle tour around Eymir Lake and before that attending my presentation is also a subject of another story.

Ecem is not the only Erasmus student visiting Copenhagen. There are other Turkish students which I had the opportunity to meet. Even, on the national day organized for Erasmus students they cooked traditional meals.

Look what Turkish students have prepared: Dolma (rice stuffed pepper with olive oil), small lentil balls, bulgur salad, green beans with minced meat, oven baked quince with sugar syrup and some other dishes of Turkish cuisine. Dude, I was craving for dolma for months. I had deserved it, I really had. I pedaled through all the Scandinavian countries during winter and this was my award: Dolma. Now, I’m starving for sarma (rolled vine leaves). By the way, the foreigners mostly liked the desert, oven baked quince. Since I had eaten almost the whole pot of dolma, only one or two persons could taste it I guess.

We ate well, what to do now? There was a pub downstairs. This is the Technical University of Denmark. The administration established a pub with karaoke facilities and billiard tables. You can find any alcoholic beverage you look for. Their educational systems are cited as an example throughout the world. I learned through my research that almost every university has such entertainment places within its campus area in Denmark. We got beer and started to chat. I asked the students what their plan after graduation is. A Mexican girl sat next to me, Endy. As we were chatting she burped loudly directly towards my face while I was telling something. She didn’t even turned her head aside.

–          Ecem, this girl ate from our dishes. She burped into my mouth smelling of onions.

As I said this loudly in public, Ecem was thrown into a short convulsion.   

I looked around and saw the Chinese students. I really missed China and Chinese folk. Dude, what about if I change the route to China after North Africa? Since I returned I kept conducting searches about the young Chinese generation. Asking to any student who is studying abroad the question “what do you plan to do after graduation?” the answer is almost always “will work abroad”.  I told Ecem about my research. Ecem didn’t know those Chinese students so we got acquainted with them. Afterwards, we kept in contact via Facebook and Twitter. I asked them what their dreams after graduation are. The answer of all of them was the same: “We will return to our country”.  I still remember the conversation I had had with a young Chinese boy. Also the answers of these students showed that I was not wrong.

The next day Busra a friend of Ecem from Atilim University came to Copenhagen. She was also an Erasmus student in Finland. I said: “Since Busra came let’s go to Halsingor which is a historical touristic place. There is a castle which we haven’t visited yet. Furthermore, let’s take the bikes so that I can continue my journey from there.” We boarded the train with my oversizebicycle and went 40 km to the north of the city.

In every train in Denmark there is a separate carriage specially designed for bicycles. There is no need to buy an additional ticket for your bicycle for local transportation by train. However, it is required for the long distance intercity train travels. The ticket system is good but expensive. For example I bought a discount card for Copenhagen-Helsingor for 520 Krons (170 TL) for 10 journeys for a distance of 40 km. There are several offers as Eurail Denmark Pass, for local transportations city passes, travel cards which you can also buy via a smart phone. Copenhagen card along with other opportunities offers free public transport by bus, metro and train.

The first spot we visited in Helsingor was the Kronborg castle an outstanding example of medieval castles. It is also known as the setting of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy Hamlet. It is said that Shakespeare had never visited this castle.

As in previous years, also this year gun salutes were fired during ceremonies through original cannons. We asked where to put our bicycles during our visit. One of the rooms of this historical castle was turned into a bicycle parking area :). Also, for children there was a Lego room to play.

After visiting the castle as we pedaled downtown I saw another cyclist just in front of me. That’s it! The belief to succeed!! (Examine the photo carefully)

Well, we got hungry, let’s eat something. Downtown was very crowded. Hoop, we found a Turkish restaurant. After having our meals we returned to the house of Michael, Parvin’s father. He offered us to take out for sightseeing which we did not reject. He is Danish and on top of it a history teacher. He took us to the huge Viking castle about which I was already told in Norway. Of course as we arrived there we saw that nothing much was left up to day, but a map was drawn showing how difficult it was to arrive to this place from the sea side. It is almost impossible to conquer this castle with ships. Only the native were able to find their way to the castle in this labyrinth of rivers. I asked to Michael how the Danish became Christians. The ruling king forcibly converted everyone to Christianity, that simple. The ones who didn’t obey were killed. Well, before that whom did they believe? To the God Odin. Vikings were fearless warriors. Those fallen in a battle were brought to Valhalla ruled over by the god Odin who gave a feast for them. Beautiful maidens, the Valkyrs, brought the heroes great horns full of mead (an alcoholic beverage produced by fermenting honey and water) and huge portions of boar’s meat. They built their temples for Odin on the highest spots of the country. Also, at present churches are present on almost every high spot. He also took us to a pagan temple situated 2 km away from the castle. There is also a church in that place, but you can also see a runestone.

Let’s travel for Denmark too.

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