Dispatch from Denmark #2 – Tour Start Date

After months of planning and replanning and correspondence from our global colleagues at the institutions we are visiting the tour is finally about to begin. I think only two people have not yet checked in. We know one is already here, but just can’t find him. He will show. The weather continues to be great – as beautiful late summer or early autumn as we could ask for.

Those who arrived early have two stories in common, well actually four, but they are connected:

  1. Hotels in Copenhagen do not necessarily care if you have just flown transatlantic and are exhausted. Rooms are ready when they are ready. This is connected to point two:
  2. We do not walk enough back in Canada. I have not met anybody who hasn’t walked miles and miles and miles looking at things while their hotel rooms were being prepped. I had four hours yesterday and covered at least 10 km. It has me thinking about urban quality of life and some of the issues we face in Canada and how we might be addressing them or not.
  3. Cost – nobody expected Copenhagen to be cheap. However, you have to see it to believe it. I had a chat with our esteemed former Chair from Regina. He has the current story of highest paid sandwich. I thought he was talking 50DKK for an open face sandwich and tea (that is $10 CDN). Turns out he meant 250DKK or $50 CDN. I did find a grocery store and found the prices there are more in line with “normal” or at least what we know. The backside of this story is a number of folks who commented on their pre-tour hotel room being expensive and not so satisfying. There is everything here for sure.

What else happened today worth discussing:

  • Architects have cool cameras. David Premi (Hamilton) and James Youck (Regina) immediately connected and James was flashing photos from his tour around. I hope our guides here in Copenhagen are on their “A-Game”. These guys have done their homework and really, really are going to be a neat mind-stretching component.
  • Today was FREE public building Sunday I gather. Museums and other cultural institutions open up on Sundays.
  • Culture is Community. At least here in Copenhagen. Their public space abutts their cultural space and vice versa. There is a huge commercial component too. The pedestrian zones are animated by the private sector stores, but they bisect all the public squares. Doesn’t hurt that in all of those squares are outdoor cafés eager to get you a beer or something to eat. Vancouver has the seawall, Toronto has parks everywhere, Oakville, Burlington, Whitby and others have great access to the waterfront; Halifax has the Harbour and the walkways along it. Copenhagen has tried for all right in the City Centre. Considering how old it is it does make you wonder why our young cities struggle with how to keep the public space, public.
  • Bikes. Let’s talk more about them. The spin-offs are obvious – little congestions; no vast parking lots above or below ground to handle the masses; and the huge one of health. People ride everywhere. They have simple locks on the back brake that just get “set” and they have a key to release. There is a mindset of respect and it all seems orderly. All the hotels rent them too. There are some paths; some are separated with a small cement barrier; and lots with a paint line too. It is a way of being and while our climates, in some cases, are not as conducive, I also know that theirs is not always either. But coupled with a good transit plan (looks like four times as many stops and lines as the TTC in Toronto) it sure makes for a Livable City.

Can’t wait to finally meet Susy Tastesen from the Copenhagen Public Library. She has been endlessly patient with us and has handled all of the local logistics.

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