Copenhagen has been on my bucket list of cities to visit for a very long time. When Marco left Doodle in Zurich for Spotify in Stockholm, an opportunity presented itself to add another scandinavian capital to the list. The birthplace of LEGO is in Billund, Denmark. So I figured I could visit the 3 places in a single trip1:
As I’m trying to fly less, I thought I could do this trip by train. Besides having a smaller ecological footprint, there are other advantages to traveling by train:
- you arrive in the pedestrian city centre
- there are no security checks. You can bring your regular toothpaste and douche gel. And any food or drinks you want. Imagine that.
- you don’t pay extra for luggage, and the overhead compartments are actually quite big
- you can charge your laptop and phone at any time
- you have 4G internet pretty much everywhere
- you see more than just clouds. Admittedly, on some segments, all you see are anti-noise walls, or trees.
- you get a real sense of the distances you travel. It’s not this semi-teleportation feeling that flying gives you. But there’s an obvious disadvantage: time.
Friday July 12
Rico invited me to his 40th birthday party in Winterthur on Friday night. It had everything: great food, live bands (!) and his sister Andrea. I used the opportunity of being in the Zurich area to give my trip a tiny 2 hours head start.
Saturday July 13
After a short night, I got up at 5:20 to catch the 6:00 train from Zurich to Hamburg. Due to a technical problem, a replacement train was used between Zurich and Basel. What a reassuring way to start my trip. Seat booking was not mandatory, so I did not get one. And consequently had to change seats 4 times, eventually ending on the floor. My first neighbor was an older Chinese man who sounded a bit nervous on his phone, talking Chinese. Suddenly he handed me the phone. I was a bit puzzled, but obliged. At the other end was his son, speaking German, asking me the train number and where it was headed. It turned out his dad was on the wrong train, and not able to speak a single word of German or English. 3 different people, a Chinese lady in the same carriage, the train controller, and me through his son tried to explain to him where to get off to catch the right connection, but he still almost went off at the wrong place. At this point I would have let him. The second neighbor was a Tunisian lad, who spoke to me in French. He too asked where the train was headed, and it seemed he would have been happy with any answer. Then he dashed away.
Hamburg was kinda boring. All I saw were the surroundings of the train station, and a lot of fat Germans. I changed my plans and took regional trains to Denmark, with no reservation required. The landscapes were nice, including a cool loop near Rendsburg where you basically circle a town 360º while going down a couple of stories.
I was surprised to see diesel trains in Denmark. Entering Denmark would be the only time I got a passport check. I arrived in Vejle around 21:00, dropped my stuff at the hotel, and went for a little walk around town. It was completely empty, but looked fancy.
Sunday July 14
I didn’t buy a LEGOLAND ticket in advance (because I wanted to make sure the weather would be ok) so I got up early enough, around 8, to avoid lines. In typical Manu fashion, I was too cautious and got there too early. I was in the same bus as a lot of LEGOLAND employees.
As the weather forecast was a bit better for the afternoon, I went to the LEGO House first. But also got there too early, by 10-15 minutes. It was a great experience. I would actually recommend going early to avoid kids, and not to go alone. A lot of the multimedia experiences would have been more fun if shared.
LEGOLAND on the other hand was a bit of a letdown. It’s really focused on kids (which is alright, of course). I only did 2 rides, and probably spent most of my time looking at Miniland.
Monday July 15
While waiting for the train to Copenhagen Airport (then Stockholm), I was reading the wikipedia page of Vejle. It turned out it was home to the Stimorol chewing gums, and the place Tony Rominger, a Swiss cyclist I remember from childhood, was born. Oddly enough.
On the (most sober looking) SJ X 2000 train ride from Copenhagen Airport to Stockholm, I shared seats with 3 Japanese ladies who seemed to have a lot of fun. The destination exceptionally was Stockholm Södra (= south) so I had to first take a connection to Stockholm City. I was surprised at how deep underground the pendeltåg and metro were.
One of the first things Marco said when he
saw heard me was that my Swiss accent got stronger. I hate it so much when people say that, and then the accent just gets worse. Somehow my accent is also worse when in presence of native speakers.
We walked back to Marco’s apartment to drop my things. And then we metroed to the old town to eat at this medieval restaurant. The only vegetarian plate was covered in goat cheese. I was quite annoyed. But the hydromel helped wash it away.
Tuesday July 16
Marco suggested I should visit the Vasa Museum. I was a bit skeptical at first: a museum about a sunken ship? How interesting could that possibly be? Well, they made it super interesting. Everything was very well and thoroughly presented. One thing that still baffles me was how they could forget where the ship sunk. It only sailed a couple of 100 meters into the Stockholm harbour. And 300 years later, nobody knew where it lay.
After the Vasa Museum I started the first of many randomly-walking-around-in-an-unknown-city adventures. Maybe “adventures” is over-selling it. I liked the layout of Stockholm, with its islands, and everything nicely connected by public transport.
The weather was kinda unstable so I went shopping for a super light raincoat (which I own none of, not that I forgot to bring one on the trip). I got lucky and found a nice old school original K-way at 70% off, so about CHF 30. After some more walking and sitting around, I met with Marco who showed me the nice view from the Spotify HQ rooftop.
Finally we went to eat at a cozy Indian/Persian restaurant. Then the plan was to head to Gröna Lund Tivoli and watch a Weezer concert. But we only saw the last 2 songs. Fine by me, I don’t know them anyway. Then beers.
Wednesday July 17
The second day in a city is always a bit less busy. Marco recommended I check out some of Stockholm’s artsy metro stations. I’ve been to the rainbow at Stadion, the pixel art at Thorildsplan, the lightning at Odenplan. By coincidence I walked past the city hall. In the afternoon, I walked a bit farther south, and visited 2 nice bike shops: Urban Bike Wear with a lot of Chrome bags and And The Revolution building custom bikes. I joined Marco back at the apartment and we went for pizza in a nice place in his hood. And then some beers. I think I caught a cold that day, somehow.
Thursday July 18
I met up with Marco at the Spotify HQ to hand him the apartment keys. Then I took the train to Copenhagen, with a change in Lund. I went to the Reffen street food area a bit before sundown. The first impressions I got from Copenhagen were really good! Really really good.
Friday July 19
Today’s fixed goals were: visit the Design Museum, go to the Omnium and Bullit shops. I left the hotel a bit early, around 9, and the museum was closed. So I headed to the Omnium shop. About an hour later I got there, and it was closed too because of holidays. I randomly realized I was next to Superkilen park, so I hung out there for a while. On my way back to the city centre, I came past the Bullit store, closed too, but with no justification. So much for having plans.
The rest of the day I decided to random around a bit. I did eventually visit the Design Museum. In the evening I went to grab a vegan pizza at a nice little restaurant right next to my hotel.
Saturday July 20
On today’s menu: meatpacking district and Christiania. Sprinkled with a lot of sitting around on benches listening to music and podcasts.
Sunday July 21
I decided to start my third day in Copenhagen with a tourist classic: the boat tour. The emphasis was a bit too much on the Danish Navy, but it was interesting, and at least I can say that I’ve seen The Little Mermaid statue.
Then I visited the National Museum, but skipped the whole prehistoric and viking part. Not interested! After getting my backpack from the hotel, I went to the Tivoli amusement park, people watching. At 23:00 I took the train back home, via Hamburg, Mannheim, Basel and Bern.
Monday July 22
On the night train from Copenhagen to Hamburg, I sat in a 4 seat compartment with a French couple, also on an Interrail trip, and some dude. After a couple of hours the dude left, and a cute Danish girl took his place. Except that she was high on something. She was talking very loudly, in Danish, despite me answering in English, and getting a bit annoying. I was still trying to fall asleep, hunched over the table, when she started to caress my back. I told her to stop. She did. Then later she started smelling my arm in a very unsubtle way. I did not react. She was really weird… but harmless. Eventually she got off the train and I dozed off for a couple of minutes. All the while, the couple was making comments in French, and I didn’t show them that I was understanding what they were saying. It’s always fun when people comment, thinking nobody understands them.
After my missing seat reservation mishaps on my way to Denmark, I decided to book seats on the German trains on my way back. Only to see the reservations canceled for “technical reasons”. But at least I got a seat.
- from the start, Interrail’s website was a pain in the ass to use. I have a habit of visiting travel websites in private browsing because I once heard there were price hacks going on based on your browsing history. My browser also has a tracker blocker. Both private browsing and tracker blocker make the Interrail website malfunction. The login form for example is not loaded because some script is blocked. There is no user-visible message, the form just does not show up. So I went with Chrome.
- the Interrail ticket is paper. They guarantee a delivery in 10 days, so plan ahead
- once I semi-figured out how to build a multi-day journey, I tried using the Interrail website to book reservations on the trains that require them. First, depending on where you look on their site, the same train can have mandatory reservations, or not. Then, you have an obscure choice between 2 reservation systems. One sends you paper tickets, the other works all online. Or should work. 3 days in a row, I tried booking my seats, in various combinations: all trips at once, only the first trip. After a not very useful back and forth with customer support over WhatsApp, I finally figured out that all bookings worked, except the one for the first trip. I was consistently getting a useless “Oops” error
- at some point the DB Navigator app also failed at making a booking, with no useful error message
- the Apple Clips app I was using to record a souvenir movie of the trip lost all 67 movie clips on the last day of the trip. As I had never used the app before and wasn’t sure about its stability I made regular exports of the end result, so I lost only the clips of 1.5 days: footage of an ultra fancy bike store/café broadcasting the Tour de France on a big screen, Freetown Christiania, the boat tour and the National Museum
- not related to anything I experienced, but the electric scooters are a fucking plague!
- in most of Denmark, you have to enter your PIN twice when paying. Not sure it adds any security, and it’s quite annoying
- on my first train ride, before leaving the country, I visited my cell network operator’s roaming portal in order to buy a couple of GB of data. To my surprise, they now offer an “unlimited” option for CHF 20. This is totally changing how I will travel from now on
- once you understand that you should just give up on trying to use the Interrail website, except for ordering the actual Interrail pass, things work out fine. Just download the app of the national railways for every country you’re visiting, look the timetables up and make bookings from there
- I talked to exactly 0 strangers (except obviously train controllers, waiters, cashiers…). I had several people in the past tell me that if you travel alone, you strike up conversations with strangers very easily. I was kinda doubting it would be the case for me, and this trip just confirmed it.
- everywhere I go, I try way too hard to fit in, not to give myself away as a tourist. I have this preconception that everybody hates tourists
- people always ask me for directions. 2 people in Germany asked me for train connections, 1 lady in Billund asked for the bus schedule, 2 groups asked for directions in Copenhagen. And the weird thing is that most of the time I could help them
- except in Stockholm when eating out with Marco, I spent every evening (like, after 20h) in my hotel room
- in Copenhagen, I wanted to rent a kayak, but was too lazy to ask
- I got served a dish variation containing chicken after I ordered the vegetarian version, but did not complain
- not refusing to buy a pastry after realising my mistake and seeing it was actually 10 times bigger than I thought (not exaggerating, see video)
- at LEGOLAND, I put 30kr. into a vending machine with an out of order sticker on it. The sticker was quite visible, but why didn’t they tape/cover the coin slot?
- a couple of days after returning from the trip, I got a new debit card. While skimming through the terms and conditions, I noticed that they charge 1% at every cashless payment abroad, with a minimum of CHF 1.50. Oh noes. I went through my debits done during the trip, and it turns out 100% of my 33 payments during the trip were below 100, meaning UBS cashed in 33 x 1.50 = 49.50 bucks. One payment (CHF 1.40) was even smaller than the fee (CHF 1.50). Ridiculous.
- I forgot food on the bus to Billund
- I ran for a train twice. On day zero of the trip, I almost missed my train from Lausanne to Zurich because I underestimated traffic for the bus going to the station. Then the same night, I wrongly assumed trains would be running from Winterthur to Zurich all night long, resulting in me running 1.5km to the last train
Overall, it was a great trip. I saw a lot of neat stuff. Many experiences would have been even greater if shared. I found that by traveling alone, I’m way too efficient. I walked 120km over the course of 9 days. I visit many things in a short amount, not really leaving time to process and talk about what you experienced. And eating alone at restaurants is utterly depressing. All of this makes me think that I’m not ready at all to go alone to that one final destination on my bucket list: Japan.
- 0:00 train timetable at Zurich HB
- 0:03 no seat reservation can mean sitting on the floor
- 0:04 Hamburg train station
- 0:08 preacher in Hamburg. How would people react if this was a muslim dude?
- 0:12 beginning of the train loop in Rendsburg
- 0:18 cute smokers parking space
- 0:21 Vejle ghost town with a very original concept
- 0:28 oversized pastry
- 0:30 LEGO House entrance
- 0:36 the new Stranger Things LEGO kit at the LEGO House shop
- 0:42 inside LEGO House
- 0:48 wicked LEGO T-Rex
- 0:53 inside LEGO House
- 0:59 microscale Copenhagen city centre map made of LEGO
- 1:07 banana man eating bananas
- 1:16 pizza tree!
- 1:21 awesome LEGO logo
- 1:30 museum in the LEGO House, with some of the first LEGO bricks
- 1:32 the museum curators’ pick of the 1984–1988 shows a lot of models my sisters and I have
- 1:53 we have less of the 1988–1991 models, but I remember all of them vividly from going through the paper catalogs over and over again
- 2:15 interactive city building
- 2:24 interactive rescue mission where you control a robot car
- 2:30 another gigantic LEGO T-Rex
- 2:36 result of my limited to 10 minutes stop-motion movie making
- 2:40 LEGOLAND Billund, the original
- 2:46 LEGO firemen exercise
- 3:10 some German city in LEGOLAND’s Miniland
- 3:20 another city, sponsored by Coca-Cola
- 3:29 and another city
- 3:40 train from Vejle to Copenhagen: people sleeping with their mouth open will always look funny to me
- 3:43 train from Copenhagen to Stockholm, over the Øresund bridge and Drogden tunnel
- 3:48 how they would pick trees to build ships in the 17th century
- 3:52 how ships were bolted together
- 3:55 great packaging
- 3:58 randomly came across this Bianchi café & cycles in Stockholm
- 4:02 Stortorget square
- 4:05 random cute street near Monteliusvägen
- 4:07 rainy panoramic view from Monteliusvägen
- 4:14 exhibition I did not go to because it had not started yet. I just liked the flyer with the iconic Terminator head
- 4:17 Marcolino showing me the Spotify HQ rooftop view
- 4:29 the end of the Weezer show, with what I call the Windows 95 song
- 4:44 rainbow in the Stadion metro station
- 4:49 pixel art at the Thorildsplan metro station
- 4:59 lighting lightning in the Odenplan metro station
- 5:03 Stockholm city hall (Rådhuset)
- 5:08 Kungsträdgården
- 5:12 I randomly came across this bowl in Södermalm
- 5:15 Copenhagen: love at first sight
- 5:17 skate plaza at the Reffen street foot area
- 5:22 Amalienborg
- 5:25 Superkilen park
- 5:30 world’s biggest vertwall?
- 5:32 sadly, the Omnium store was closed
- 5:35 flyers for interesting music shows
- 5:39 at the Design Museum
- 5:41 Dieter Rams design
- 5:43 interesting modular couch design
- 5:45 intriguing book
- 5:48 I was very tempted to buy this and share my bike love, but I think it would be underappreciated
- 5:50 vegan pizza takeaway
- 5:54 super old and weird gambling game at Tivoli
- 5:58 Mamma Mia 2 screening
- 6:04 places I’ve walked to
- 6:06 I walked 120km over 9 days