Here I am, Easter weekend, 2004, stuck in Copenhagen, Denmark. I’m a third of the way through what will become a three-month trip through Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. Even before I left my home in Vancouver, my mother was fretting over the holiday weekend, that I’d be left out in the cold with nowhere to stay. “Easter isn’t the same over there as it is here,” she had warned, referring to many European cities’ strong ties to the church. But as a head strong 22-year old, I balked at her fears. “I’ll be fine. It’ll work itself out.” To appease her worries though, I booked myself into a hostel well in advance. However, in my haste to placate my anxious mother, I failed to fully consider the *Lonely Planet* write up on City Public Hostel ; “60-bed dorm room,” which I took to mean 60 beds in various dorm rooms, actually referred to the warehouse in the back with bunks stacked three high. And the kicker? The large fluorescent lights illuminating the dorm during the day are kept on all night to help the 5am drunks find their bunk.
Now I’m down the block in an unattended laundromat trying to wash the smell of three weeks in smoker-friendly Eastern Europe out of my limited wardrobe. But a very confusing soap dispenser is hampering every effort I make to improve my hygiene.
“Just gimme some goddamned soap!”
As much as I hate to admit it, Mom was right. Easter in a city like Copenhagen means stuff is closed, and by “stuff” I mean pretty much everything---stores, museums---even Christiana, the socialist social experiment and perpetual bastion of the anti-establishment spirit, is shuttered up, thanks to a major drug raid by city police two weeks prior. I think Legoland might be open, but it’s too expensive and too far out of town to really make it a viable option (cue 10-year old me kicking 22-year old me in the shins). So I’m content to sit out the long weekend here in the urban core, doing anything I can to kill time, including a battle of wills between myself and this laundry soap dispenser. “I swear to God, I will drop kick this machine if it doesn’t give up the soap right now.” Luckily the city’s bars and clubs *are* open. And after two days of ducking in and out of anything that’s open, I’m ready for some nightlife. The local alternative-weekly (not unlike the fine paper you’re reading right this minute) has a rundown of bands playing in town, and I’ll come to depend on it for the next three nights of evening’s activities. The rest of the time will be spent trying to convince others unfortunate enough to be staying in the traveller’s warehouse to join me.
Saturday night it’s Swedish indie institution Weeping Willows at Vega Nightclub. Their “emotional-rock reminiscent of Coldplay” write up in the paper was pretty right on the money, following in the footsteps of other Radiohead rip-offs like Travis and Muse. The highlight of the set was a cover of the Smiths’ “Panic” which was appropriate since the band had just spent the last 45 minutes ripping off the Mancunian band’s oeuvre. Easter Sunday brought English three-piece Keane to the same bar. Around the time they launch into future North American hit “Somewhere Only We Know,” the English girl who accompanies me to the show remembers she actually owns their CD. Finally, on Monday, my final night in this infernal town, I’m shocked to discover James Lavelle, founder of Mo Wax records and main force behind electronic act UNKLE, is giving a free DJ set. The show is the highlight of the weekend and the Tuborgs I drink at the show ensure my train to Gothenburg, Sweden the next day is painful and uncomfortable.
Finally, a woman walks into the laundromat. After a series of hand gestures, she explains the draconian system and the soap starts flowing. But after jamming Euro cents into the dispenser for 40 minutes it overflows the small container, and spills out onto the counter and all over the floor.
Ian Gormely is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Luckily for him there’s a washer and dryer in his building and his girlfriend handles the detergent duties. City Public Hostel in Copenhagen is at Absalonsgade 8, Vesterbro, and is $30 a night. Vega Nightclub is located at Enghavevej 40, vega.dk. This summer it will feature shows by Chris Cornell, Magnetic Fields, Iron and Wine, The National, The Breeders, Lou Reed and The Wu Tang Clan.