Aalborg + Copenhagen: Day 6 & 7
To our absolute delight, our drive to Aalborg was doused in more sunlight than we had seen in all of Denmark. I always felt a little guilty about dragging my family to North Jutland, what with it being so far away from Copenhagen and all, but the moment we saw the sun everything seemed to thaw a little, warm a little, become that much more beautiful.
And boy, was Aalborg beautiful. Or, rather, more beautiful than I initially thought it would be. All I had read of the industrial region was just that: that it was industrial, industrial, industrial, with — oh yes — a bit of student life mixed in. But on that late Sunday morning, in the haze of sleepy quietude, Aalborg proved to be the stuff of poetry. I was lucky enough to have a friend, Emil, show me around the place he knows infinitely better than I ever will. As we walked across the main parts of the city, four hours passed by in a breeze, and so did the many places we visited: the ‘Singing Trees’, the harbour (where we sat beside the Limfjord), Emil’s school, Nordkraft (an old power plant turned cultural hub) and more. What I found most admirable about the city was its capacity to recreate the ordinary into something new, wonderful and worthy of thought. Who knew the bare, peeling walls of an old power plant could one day house a music hall and cinema? Who would’ve thought of giving trees — ordinary, gangly trees — the power of a voice belonging to the people who planted them? Aalborg is a city of rebirth, and on that Sunday morning I felt that I, too, was able to do a lot of reflection myself, not least due to the long conversations I had with Emil on a myriad of related, and unrelated, topics.
So I was inevitably a little sad when it was time to leave. After parting ways with Emil, I re-joined my family and together we visited Lindholm Høje, a Viking burial site situated a little above the main city centre. In the sun-soaked expanse of green grass, it was a little surreal to think of the vast field as a cemetery. Yet I overheard a fellow English-speaking visitor capture the strangeness perfectly: there’s a co-existence of the dead and the living, he said. This is a cemetery, yet there is life in the greenery, which in turn gives life to nature. As he was murmuring those words, a herd of sheep (probably wild) was milling around, slowly chewing the grass, watching the visitors (namely us) with the cool stares typical of all hoofed things. Yet again Aalborg and its surrounding regions had shown us the possibility of starting anew.
That night, as I sat in our Airbnb home in front of a window overlooking the darkness, I ended up doing a lot of writing. There were so many things to write about — on what I’d seen, felt, experienced — that time, yet again, seemed to fly by very quickly, until it was very late and I had no choice but to sleep, for the next morning we had to wake up very early to make our way back to Copenhagen.
We departed to Copenhagen at 7AM on the dot, which merited another ungodly wake-up time. Yet it was the necessary sacrifice we had to make if we wanted to spend some time exploring the capital city, hopefully with less rain this time. For four hours we lolled about in the car, half asleep, half intrigued by the changing weather, all the while chatting, or not chatting, eating, or not eating, so on and so forth, in the lazy way car rides often pan out. At one point, our in-car conversation became a discussion on whether or not we should open a window to release a fly that had joined us on the ride to Copenhagen. As my mom was giving a very convincing and heart-wrenching speech on new beginnings and the wonders of city life, my dad (being the person he is) opened his side of the window and the entire family watched as the fly was whipped into nothingness. (My dad, being the person he is, then proclaimed the fly to be Robinson Crusoe, forever condemned to live alone on some godforsaken island.)
Once we arrived in Copenhagen, we ended up doing the usual round of things one does in Copenhagen: a) visit the Little Mermaid, b) visit Tivoli, c) eat. Frankly, we were all too tired to be fully engrossed by the many things Copenhagen had to offer — which was a shame — so we ended up calling it a day pretty quickly. I’d like to say wonderful, poetic things about Copenhagen, but I think I’ve caught a bad bout of traveler’s blues; nowadays I’ve begun feeling a little more lethargic in my observations, and the drizzly feeling in Copenhagen was more exhausting than inspiring. All I wanted to do was curl up somewhere cozy and preferably far away from city life to continue writing, writing and writing, as I had been thinking all day about personal things. So it was certainly a relief when we got onto the train back to Stockholm… only so I could spend the entirety of it (all FIVE hours) utterly and deeply asleep, with no consciousness whatsoever of time or my surroundings. When I opened my eyes for the first time and realized we were in Stockholm, I couldn’t help but feel a little angry at myself, because time spent on trains is always great, productive, creative time and I’d missed it all. Oh well. To compensate, I stayed up very late our first night back in Stockholm, doing the obvious: writing.
And now for the sad, sad truth: one more full day left in Stockholm and then we’re back in Hong Kong…