Would You Like Ketchup with That?

Because Adam’s great-grandparents were from Denmark, we headed up there to find the old family home.  I have a vague idea that somewhere in my father’s background is someone from Denmark, but that’s about as specific as it gets for me.  We had to take a train back to Munich in order to catch the night train to Copenhagen, so we ended up spending the day there.  The train station was much quieter than the week before since it was devoid of the hundreds of drunk Oktoberfest revelers.  We passed most of the day in the Deutsches Museum which is the largest museum of science and technology in the world.  In typical German fashion, the museum covered every possible branch and twig of the scientific world.  It is one of those places that you wish would go on forever because its so amazing, but at the same time you wish it would end already before your head explodes. 

Later that night we hopped on the night train to Copenhagen.  It took 15 hours, but due to a brilliant stroke of luck, we got the entire car of 6 seats to ourselves so we could stretch out and sleep.  So we entered Denmark fairly well rested.  It was a good thing too, because as soon as we got there we found that there was something rotten in the state of Denmark: it is financially crippling.

If you looked at the exchange rate you might say, “Hurray!  I get 5 Danish kroners for 1 of my dollars!”  But you would only be excited until you saw the prices of things.  Denmark is apparently known as the country with the greatest financial equality in the world.  That must mean that no one has very much money.  Income tax is around 50% and the VAT is 25%.  No, I did not leave out a decimal.  It really is 25%.  Well socialism is all well and good unless you’re a tourist, I suppose.  Let me give you a taste of how expensive Denmark is.

Sometimes due to a craving or perhaps to our financial situation, we might seek out some fast food.  Perhaps the restaurant might rhyme with RcFonalds.  It doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that the food there, which is pretty much the cheapest food you can find, is…well.  If you went to, um, RcFonalds in the U.S. you might spend $10 or so for two people to have meals give or take a dollar.  In Denmark those two meals will cost you…wait for it…just a shade under $30.  And the bastards charge for ketchup.  If my socialism doesn’t come with free ketchup, I don’t want any part of it.

Needless to say, we stayed in the cheapest hotel we could find which was not actually in Copenhagen as we thought, but in a place outside of it called Ishoj which I would describe as suburban purgatory.  Before going to the hotel we wandered around Copenhagen listlessly still reeling from the sticker shock.  We paid $4 for two tiny muffins at 7-11 and then found a free National Museum that had an interesting exhibit on the early Danish people.

When we got to the hotel we saw that it wasn’t near the mall, it was on top of the mall.  We were staying in a hotel on top of a mall.  And a pretty shabby mall at that.  When we checked in the girl asked the inevitable question that would be asked every time someone saw Adam’s last name.  “Do you speak Danish?” she inquired.

Adam assured her that he did not.  She raised an eyebrow and waited for Adam to fill out the information sheet that she had put in front of him.  “You’re not from an EU country and your name is Rasmussen?” she asked incredulously.

She paused as if she could not contain all of this incompatible information in her head at once.  She finally shrugged and pointed us to our room which was not bad except for the fact that it overlooked the parking lot where large groups of Muslim men gathered at night and presumably had dance battles with loud music blaring from their car stereos.  One thing that I can say about Copenhagen and Ishoj especially, is that the racial tension is palpable and a bit uncomfortable.  It’s one of those things that you can’t quite put your finger on, but it is definitely there.

But despite all of this, it was comforting to know that, according to the Copenhagen guide, we could have a “tender sex experience” with a beauty goddess.  Thank God.

After two days in the Copenhagen area, we went over to Odense which turned out to be more pleasant.  Just as expensive, but more enjoyable.  We walked around the city for a couple of hours.  Much to the amusement of some natives, I attempted to withdraw money from a receptacle that was meant for depositing library books.  We found a park to hang out in for a while that was nice except for that it was filled with sculpures that Adam calls “postmodern fuck-art.”  Hans Christian Andersen is Odense’s Mozart, so we saw a lot of him.  We stayed in a nice little bed and breakfast and the next morning we headed out to the island of Aero which was the reason that we came to Denmark in the first place.

Adam’s great grandparents are both from the island of Aero (although they did not meet until they came to America).  Adam had information about his great grandmother’s house in the town of Marstal, so we took a train, a bus, and a ferry to get to that part of the island.

By the time we got to Marstal, the dismal weather that had followed us all the way from Odense  had cleared up slightly, so we decided to chance it and rent a couple of bikes to tool around the island a bit.  After being questioned about Adam’s heritage by the girl at the bike rental place, we headed for the town right next to Marstal where Adam’s great grandmother’s house still remains.  We had no address or directions, only a picture, but the towns on Aero are about the size of a large backyard, so it didn’t take too long to canvas the entire town and find it.  After we had scrutinized the photo and assured ourselves that this was, in fact, the correct house, we took some pictures and…

I felt that I should include Adam’s perspective here because it was his heritage that we were exploring.  Since the muse has not yet visited him, he agreed to an interview provided that the time limit that had been set was strictly observed and certain subjects that were deemed off-limits by his handlers were not broached.

Me: How did you feel when you went to Marstal?

Adam: I felt kind of cold and damp.  But once we started riding the bikes I was warm except for when I had to wait for you.”

Me: Thanks.

Adam: No problem.

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