Sunday, December 14, 2008

Venturing out of Ubrique

Every year, on the 6th of December, Spaniards celebrate Día de la Constitución (Constitution Day). It is a day to commemorate and celebrate the passage of the constitutional referendum of 1978, when the Spanish public voted in and approved the Spanish Constitution (Spain's movement towards a more democratic society after decades of rule under Franco's dictatorship). Depending on what day the 6th falls on, Spaniards usually end up getting several days off of work or school, and sometimes are fortunate enough to celebrate a long weekend. This year, Andalucians celebrated Día de la Constitución with an extended weekend from Friday, December 5 to Tuesday, December 9. Although there were some local festivities in celebration of the holiday, I decided to take the opportunity to travel to Copenhagen, Denmark to visit a friend.

While I couldn't be more in love with Ubrique, it does have one (and yes, only one) flaw: traveling to and from Ubrique to the next nearest airport (whether Sevilla, Jerez, or Malaga) is quite a challenge and an adventure in-and-of itself. For example, although my flight was not until Thursday morning in Malaga, I had to leave Wednesday afternoon at 3:00 pm in order to catch one of two daily buses that go from Ubrique to Malaga. Then of course, I had to spend the night in Malaga...then leave for Copenhagen in the morning. The same challenges awaited my return as well - I flew in on Tuesday afternoon, but not in time to catch the bus back to Ubrique. So, yet again, I had to spend the night in Malaga, and catch the 10 am bus home Wednesday. I might also mention that by car, Malaga is only 1 hour 45 minutes away. In bus...it is a full 4 hours.

However, once I arrived in Copenhagen, I didn't have much trouble getting around. There is a good metro system, but I chose to walk most everywhere (save money, get exercise, see the sights...). Copenhagen is a beautiful city, and quite different than anything I have ever seen. Several things stood out. First of all, I have never seen so many bike-riders in my life. Having gone to college in Portland, OR, one of the most progressive and environmentally friendly cities in the US, I never again thought I would be surprised to see someone commuting to work on their bike. But believe me, Copenhagen takes the trophie for this. Not only do they have designated bike lanes (with signals and everything), but they have the right-of-way. And yes, it is almost more dangerous to cross the bike lane, than run across a lane of traffic. It is quite an impressive site - especially since all the Danes ride with style as well. Who would have thought you could ride a bike in stilettos, fur coats, and/or flowing dresses? Well, now I know for a fact it is possible. Aside from the heavy bike traffic, Copenhagen has several other fascinating aspects. For instance, the architecture is incredible. There is a wonderful dichotomy of new/contemporary and old/traditional buildings lining the rivers, and surrounding beautiful, large town squares/plazas. Most of the older buildings are quite colorful, or constructed with brick and copper (a beautiful contrast!). Then, there is also a random "city" (more like an autonomous community) within Copenhagen, called Christiania. Apparently Christiania is not entirely governed by the Danish Monarchy, but instead has its own mini-government that allows the legal buying and selling of marijuana within the boundaries of the community. It is one of Copenhagen's most commonly visited tourist spots. While I did wander through the community, I didn't think it was anything too exciting. However, everyone in Copenhagen seems to love it. I suggest googling it if you are interested, it is neat to check out. Perhaps the oddest thing about Copenhagen has to do with their restrooms... There is absolutely no separation between the shower and the rest of the bathroom (toilet, sink, etc). As such, when you shower, you flood the entire bathroom. And when you aren't showering, and you use the toilet or sink, you are technically walking (in your filthy street shoes) in the shower. It is very random, and I've never quite seen anything like it. But hey, I have a new found appreciation for "normal" bathrooms with divisions. And last, but not least, it is true that all Danes are tall, slender and blonde. To be honest, I have never seen such an homogenous society. As Copenhagen is a fairly large city, it surprised me to see such little diversity. Upon talking to various people, however, I learned that Denmark has a very strict immigration policy, and that in general, does not want/accept immigrants too openly. While they truly are beautiful, and seemingly quite happy people -- they are a little "too perfect" and closed-up for me.

One of the 5 days I was in Copenhagen, my friend and I did venture across the Oresund bridge that goes from Copenhagen to Malmo, Sweden. We only spend about 5 or 6 hours in Sweden, but even in that short time, we were able to see a lot of Malmo. There are several castles, gardens, parks, mansions, and town squares that are just beautiful. And only about 20 minutes away in train from Copenhagen, it was a perfect day trip.

I enjoyed seeing two new countries, and am very fortunate to have had the opportunity. Yet, while Copenhagen and Malmo were both beautiful cities, it is good to be back in Ubrique. I feel I am home :-)