I am not new to bus travel, specially the ones that span hours and hours. But usually a part of it is always in the night and the travel doesn't seem that long. This was the first time that I was gonna travel 13 hours in a day, from Groningen (Netherlands) to Copenhagen (Denmark) via Germany.
On a freshly washed morning in Groningen, the Eurolines bus arrived right on time. What followed was a bit unexpected and a bit unreal. While I was settling down, the driver (one of them) picked up a verbal fight with one of the passengers. Reason - the passenger wanted to get down for a smoke while the new passengers were boarding. While the driver was firm - "this is a boarding stop, not for food or smoke! If you want to get down, please do so with your luggage and have all the smoke you want!" Cultural shock for me. I am always used to seeing passengers bullying drivers with their connections and getting things done their way. Well an interesting start to the journey for sure.
Having no cash on me (my VISA card didn't work in Groningen) and an early morning bus meant that I was waiting for the breakfast stop to grab a bite. As luck would have it, the first stop didn't have an ATM and the card machine at the cafeteria wasn't working either! That meant a few more hours of struggling with hunger. The absolutely silent co-passenger beside me was not helping divert the attention either! (talk about bad luck). So a few hours of travel on the autobahn and we finally stopped for lunch. A place where they did accept cards! 2 big sandwiches wolfed down in a matter of minutes and armed with a bar of chocolate in the pocket, I now felt comfortable enough to focus on the rest of the journey and the landscapes around.
As we crossed over into Germany, we passed by a familiar city - Bremen (Sister City of Pune). What followed seemed to be an incident straight out of a Bollywood movie - A beautiful lady passenger boards the bus. The driver clears a special seat for her (which till now he had refused to do, despite being asked ). The lady is worried about making it to the airport in time for a flight, from an airport which is almost 3 hours away. The driver assures her, she will make it, and then the sane, sedate driver suddenly transforms into "The Transporter". The bus zigzags and weaves it's way in and out of traffic, trying to reach it's destination well before time, but then there has to be a twist. A roadblock and a traffic jam put a spanner in the driver's plans. Our hero doesn't bat an eyelid, as soon as the jam clears, he puts the pedal to the floor and ensures that the lady reaches the destination with some time to spare. The only thing missing probably was the end scene, where the lady gets down, hugs the driver, gives him a peck on the cheek and says you are my hero!! Well, I think God still wanted me to come back to India and be a product manager....so he/she may have refrained from tempting me to apply for a driver's position on Eurolines. !! Alas!
Back to the journey - we then boarded the bus, the bus then boarded a ferry and the ferry then sailed on the sea towards Denmark. A 45 min cruise, with a deck to catch the sun and strong winds, a cup of hot chocolate and walk those legs of yours. Back in the bus you start hurtling towards Copenhagen, but something has dramatically changed.
The landscape has changed, to beautiful sunkissed meadows dotted with tiny villages in between. I try in vain to capture a few photographs through the windows of the bus. Fortunately, they are clean enough so as not to hamper my photos. The driver was still in his Transporter mode and we reached the destination an hour and half early.
I had two things to look forward to in Copenhagen - I was meeting Rikke, a Danish friend of mine after 5 long years and also my travel companion for the rest of the journey, Aniket, in Copenhagen the next day. Rikke, Tommy and Zenia played the perfect hosts and we ended up discussing various issues from education, employment to best countries to travel and earn money (Denmark, Iceland topped the list). We talked about cameras and adventures that we have been on and finally when we retired to bed, it was decided that India is the best place to live coz you can hire a househelp at really cheap prices!
The next day while everyone else left for work, I caught up with Aniket at the Norreport market (great place to hangout if you dont wanna do much yet need a place to sit and have something cool to eat. In the evening it becomes even more prettier). An hour and half later we decided to move out and explore Copenhagen.
The tour of Copenhagen started at the Little Mermaid ( huge disappointment; although the anecdote where someone had beheaded her seemed interesting). From there we took the boat tour giving most of the generic attractions a skip. Cristian haven seemed interesting enough and we went to explore. A rustic village set up right in the middle, which does not follow EU norms, with a thriving market for trinkets and stuff in case you wanna buy it, all you see is people lining up to see the graffiti and smoke up. Within 15 min of entering it, we were on our way out. The other attractions like the shopping mall etc didn't find our fancy and the only place we got down after that was Nyhavn. This was the place to be. Good music, outdoor cafes, by the sea side, and loads of sitting space. We spent an hour lazing around munching on some icecream and then proceeded back to Rikke's place to pick up luggage. Till now Copenhagen had been just a normal city, but then something happened and our perspective changed completely.
Around 5 pm, we were on the road, crossing one of the bridges and all we could see was a barrage of people driving all types of cycles back from work/college. While some of them were on their way back home, most stopped on the bridge, got down from their bikes, joined their friends on the side walk and sat down to enjoy the evening with a bottle of beer. Yep! Right there on the road at 5 pm. While most of Europe is known for it's work life balance system, Copenhagen literally follows it to the T. No Wonder it is one of the happiest places in the world.
Everyone here is fitness conscious, you see people running / cycling in the morning and evenings. It is also the city with maximum number of cycles in Europe and the residents take pride in that. We spent the evening again at the Norreport market grabbing a quick and tasty Thai dinner.
We still had some time to kill before our flight, so we went to the nearby skating rink. While most of the young kids were trying to learn a few tricks on the skateboard, there was this young toddler with his small cycle who was trying to ride the slopes of the rink. It was a great experience watching him, no fear of falling down and a never give up attitude. He used to push the bike with a lot of effort up the slope, but never once did he ask his mother to help him out.
As evening set in , Copenhagen wove magic around us. The city seemed to grown on us and we definitely made it a point to come back sometime here and spend more days and explore the city in more detail!. The time for our flight to the next destination was closing in and we bid adieu to one of the best cities I have seen so far!