Tuesday, December 15, 2009


When I was a poor student in Paris, my friend Tove invited me to spend Christmas in Copenhagen. It was all a bit last-minute and rushed, I tossed some things in a SportSac and raced to the Gare du Nord for the train which, like all French trains left exactly on time. And it was packed.

Apparently, the entire world had decided to spend Christmas in Copenhagen. Not only were there no more couchettes available, but no more seats either. I would have to stand all the way from Paris to Copenhagen. Bof, I thought not easily daunted, there’s bound to be a tiny corner for me to sit in. Besides, how hard can it be to stand all the way to Copenhagen?

Pretty damned hard, it turned out. And pretty damned cold. Minus 13 degrees Celsius. The coldest I'd ever been in my life. And there was no tiny corner to sit in. We were packed like frozen sardines in the train corridors. All night I shivered and stood at the icy window looking out at the dark. At some point near dawn, the train went on a bridge or a tunnel or something interesting and everyone rushed to the windows to see it. I rushed from the window to someone’s freshly vacated seat in a nice warm compartment for a few minutes’ sleep and never saw what was so interesting.

Tove met me at the station and we taxied through rooftop-high snow banks and green copper towers to her family home built into the hillside for warmth. Faint with fatigue, I was received in a glowing house smelling of apples and spices and wood and candles and shown to my room. I slid gratefully into a soft white down envelope and fell instantly asleep. Like sleeping on a cloud.

The next day, I awoke to exotic foods, fireplace flames and a fragrant Christmas tree decorated with white paper ornaments and warm, friendly people.

We did a lot during my visit, saw the Royal Danish Ballet, visited friends from Paris, ate a lot of æbleskiver, ebernødder and drank a lot of gløgg and akvavit.

It was the most exotic Christmas ever, but the thing I remember most, with the most appreciation and enjoyment, was sinking into that warm, white, feathery cloud of a bed at the end of the frozen train ride.


Glynis said...

How horrible yet lovely! My friend flies from Copenhagen tomorrow night and said it is freezing.

Nora Lumiere said...

Scandinavians really know how to handle all that snow and ice and cold with panache and lots of akvavit.
Not me, I prefer the tropics, but the trip was lovely and worth all the shivering.