Thursday, May 5, 2011

Weird Easter Vacation

About six days before Easter, it occurred to me that there was a REASON why all my walking buddies were all going away for Easter break.  I had completely forgotten that Switzerland literally shuts down for four days.  I mean, it’s like four Sundays all in a row.  When Mr. Big got home from work that night, I started my subtle “I Want To Go Somewhere Next Week Campaign”.

Me:  Mr. Big, how many days off do you get for Easter?

Mr. Big:  When is Easter?

Me:  This coming Sunday.

Mr. Big:  Well, in the US, I used to have off on Good Friday, if I remember correctly.  Here, I don’t know, probably the entire month of April.  Why?

Me:  Because we will be the only two people left in Switzerland next weekend.  Everyone else, except for the farmers who are going to be busy releasing their cows into the spring fields, is going “en vacances”.

“En vacances” is a state of being in Europe.  You have to say it way up in your nose like this:   Ahhhhhh Vuhcahhhhhhns.  Les vacances are taken very seriously here and trivial things like work (unless that work involves cow maintenance) should never be allowed to interfere with something as important as leisure time.  That’s what Americans do and that is completely gauche and um, American.  (Isn’t it nice to be an adjective for a whole other continent?)  Seriously, Euros think Americans work ridiculously hard.  They find it amusing, but they are also glad SOMEBODY is working hard to keep the world’s economy going, just so long as it isn’t them.  It goes along with their whole perception of Americans.  They think we are adorable in the way that puppies are adorable.  We are annoying, loud, untrained and if you don’t keep your eye on us all the time, we just might go pee behind the sofa.  Yet, they love our spontaneity, our boisterousness and our unpretentiousness.  Like puppies.  See?

Back to my pending vacances.  After blindfolding Mr. Big, spinning him around and pointing him toward a wall map of Europe, he picks Copenhagen.  Copenhagen is up there in those confusing countries/cities that I always get mixed up.  Is it in the Netherlands?  Sweden?  Denmark?  Holland?  Is Holland even a country?

Thanks to Wikipedia, I now know that Copenhagen is a city in Denmark.  The people are Danes or Danish.  Holland, on the other hand, is a mere region of the Netherlands, which is a country.  The city of Amsterdam is in the Holland region of the Netherlands.  All of those people are Dutch.  It’s very confusing.  Where does the “Dutch” come from?  Shouldn’t they be Netherlandians or Hollanders?  I have no answer to these questions.

Just to make me crazy (like I haven’t achieved that all on my own), Mr. Big tells me that he absolutely has to be in Tel Aviv, Israel no later than the Tuesday evening following Easter for work.  He is such a diligent American workerbee!  Well, I want to go to Tel Aviv also because I’ve never been there AND it would be my first trip to the middle east, albeit, the only non-Muslim country in the middle east, but it still counts in my book.

The plans evolve into a Laurel and Hardy comedy routine whereby we will fly to Copenhagen on Thursday.  We will fly back to Lausanne on Sunday (Easter) morning to REPACK, (remember, it is still chilly in Copenhagen but it is hot in Israel), fly out again the next day to Tel Aviv on Monday morning and stay all week, basking in the sun on the Mediterranean.  This was the plan.

OK.  Copenhagen.  Because this all happened so quickly, I didn’t do my homework.  I checked the weather and I checked exactly which country I was going to.  That was it.  So, operating only on my preconceived notions of Copenhagen/Denmark, we arrive.  I was expecting windmills, tulips, wooden shoes, dikes and canals.  I got a big, dirty city with lots of homeless people, tourists, graffiti and prostitutes.

I think somewhere about, oh, say, 1985, the government officials in Copenhagen threw in the towel.  I can just imagine the meeting in the bowels of City Hall.  “You know, Hans, we cannot keep up with the city maintenance.  It is just getting to be too much work.”  “OK, Sven, then let’s concentrate on the four or five main streets where the bulk of the tourists hang out and let the rest go to hell in a handbasket.”  “Gut idea, Hans!”

Those four or five streets are very picturesque, semi-clean and packed with throngs, and I mean throngs, of people.  Go one block over, however, and you won’t be able to take a picture because the graffiti covers every square inch of every building, park bench, sidewalk, etc.  Even the bronze statues have had their eyes filled in with red paint.  I’ve never seen so much graffiti, and I lived in Los Angeles for more than 10 years.  It’s really bad.

For example, Copenhagen is a city surrounded by water.  There are canals on both sides.  Hans and Sven obviously decided, back in 1985, that only the canals on the right side of the city were manageable.  Those on the left, well, uh, you people who live around there will just have to fend for yourselves and do the best you can. 

Unfortunately, if one is a tourist and is looking at a map, one cannot tell that Right Canals = good and Left Canals = bad, right?  Guess where we went strolling on Morning One looking for a coffee shop and bakery?  Of course, the left canals.

Y’all, there was a bloated DEAD DUCK peacefully decomposing in the water.  Disgusting!  The mama swan had made a nest out of TRASH.  Literally.  Her nest was composed of garbage bags and coke cans.  The water was only about 3 feet deep and you wouldn’t believe the mounds of debris you could see through the murk.  Bicycles, hub caps, car batteries, etc.  It was gross.  In Switzerland, in Lac Leman, if there was even a sick duck or maybe even a duck with just a slight head cold, let alone a dead duck, the coast guard would have been called to scoop that sucker up faster than you can say Not In My Lake You Don’t, Daffy.

Hans and Sven also must have been under strict orders to keep up on the maintenance around the palace.  Yes, just in case you haven’t overdosed on enough royalty this week what with the Grand Nuptials of Wills and Kate, I will post some pix here of the Danish royal residence in Copenhagen.
THAT front yard was pristinely clean and guarded by the Danish Royal Guard against, I don’t know, random marauders, wayward prostitutes and spray-paint wielding Picasso wannabees. 

By the way, their (the Danes’) royalty misbehaves just as much as the UK’s.  The headlines in the paper while we were there were commenting on the fact that the Crown Prince was spotted out clubbing with a woman who was NOT the Princess who also happens to be the loving mother of his four children all under the age of 8, two of whom are newborn twins.  I promise you, if Mr. Big would have left me alone with 4 kids, 2 of them barely out of the womb, to go out clubbing with some hootchie mamma, he would have had to have his crown surgically removed from his ass the next morning.

Don’t get me wrong.  Copenhagen is a GREAT city if you are single, in your early twenties and want to stay out partying all night.  If you are the kind of person who thinks dreadlocks look great on white guys, you should definitely book the next flight.

We arrived back in Switzerland on Easter Sunday and, of course, it was closed up as tight as a drum.  I’m surprised they got the air traffic controllers to work on Easter.  We scrounged up a baguette, some cheese and some sausage at the convenience store in the Geneva airport and went home to repack.  After a nice, long nap and a shower that helped us recuperate from the slightly scummy feeling left on our skin from Copenhagen, we caught up on our taped episodes of American Idol and got ready to go to Tel Aviv.  Which I will leave for the next blog post.  Ha!

1 comment:

  1. Oh no! That's too bad you had a bad feeling of Copenhagen. My family (2 young children) went to Copenhagen last August and had an amazing time. I felt the city was clean as a whistle and didn't notice any graffiti either. Strange! Maybe they spruce the city up for the summer months and tourist season? We LOVED Copenhagen and had a great experience. No clubbing involved ;)