Friday, September 25, 2009

Sticking to a Budget

These last twenty four hours have not been good for sticking to a budget.

I hear the words my mother once said thirteen years ago. How do I know it was thirteen years ago? Because I distinctly remember them being said while a commercial for Tales From the Crypt: Bordello of Blood was playing in the background. This fact is completely unrelated to everything – but still important for chronological purposes. She said, “sometimes you need to spend money to have fun.” And this is true. This is what I keep telling myself when I go over budget. I'm staying in hostels for a reason – so I an afford some of the better things in life.

I met two girls in the hostel sharing the same quad as me. I'll explain more about this when I talk about the hostel lately – just assume that they're roommates, more or less. After watching MTV with them for two hours (Cribz, Gs to Gents, Hogan Knows Best – two episodes) they suggested going to the pub. Problem – the pub was half an hour away, by the central station. Solution – they rented two bicycles. Sure there were three of us, but hey, they could be like the locals and try to sit two people on one bike.

So jumping on the bikes, headlamps secured to our foreheads for safety, and potentially legal, reasons we headed off. Biking in Denmark? So different from biking in Toronto. Not once did I fear for my life. And that, that was a good thing.

At the pub I decided that I needed to have a pint of Guinness, seeing as how it was the two hundred and fifties birthday of the beer. Sure I was in Denmark, but two hundred and fifty years. How can you fight that?

So there I was at the bar, enjoying my drink, listening to the live music, and it really hit me just how strange it is to be in a foreign country, where English is not the local language, but still being able to reasonably expect to enjoy music in that language anyway. If I spoke any language other than English, travel would be so much more difficult.

After having one inebriated gentleman try to “twist and shout” with me I was saved by one of the girls I was with. Apparently she's a tango dancer back in the real world, and it was quite impressive. Nothing like the Icelandic events.

And then we were biking back, across the city, once again without fear of being run over, once again with headlamps strapped to our foreheads, and returning to the confines of the hostel for yet another night of sleep.

In the morning it was decided that we should head to the Carlsberg Brewery here in Copenhagen. Why not? So off we headed to return the rented bikes, and then to central station to grab a a four dollar bus to the plant. Of course we couldn't find the right bus stop so we grabbed a train instead. Same ticket, no worries. Checking the map, though, I noticed that the train station was a kilometer from where we wanted to end up.

Jumping off at the station, the word Carlsberg in giant letters was clearly visible from the station, no more than fifty meters away. Why would the map have it showing as a kilometer? That did not make sense. Step, step, step, and we were there. Standing at the gates – but these were not the pedestrian gates, oh no. These were the gates for the trucks, and the workers, and the – well the not us-es. But not one to be deterred we headed in anyway. Certainly if we kept walking we'd find or way eventually, correct?

In the course of out kilometer walk (of course, so the map was right) we ran into two other men searching for the same thing. “Look for the two elephants” they told us. It was assumed this was a language barrier. Their accent was rather thick, and they couldn't quite possibly mean -

Ohh look, there were two statue elephants guarding the entrance. Very well then. Good for them. One of them had a swastika on its side. Man, the Nazi party really made it awkward for anyone who used that Indian symbol of luck as a logo. I wonder how many companies were forced to alter their logos after the forties?

The brewery was a guided tour that took us through the history of Carlsberg, without showing the actual plant. The location where the magic happens is still a mystery to me though I feel I got a good look at it already, walking in the back way.

There was a video that Carlsberg made in the thirties as a commercial for their beer that they had running on endless loop. It supposedly showed the history of brewing. The casual nudity was quite shocking. I can't imagine North American commercials, today, including such things – let alone seventy years ago.

The little mermaid was also there. I definitely did not sign the whole song. And the two people I was with, did not join in to keep it going either. It could have been worse. I could have been doing it on a water taxi in the Caribbean, trapped with twenty people I didn't know, not using my indoor voice.

The tour terminated with a foosball table, and then stairs leading up to the bar where you could claim your two drinks free with entry. Two drinks for sixty kroner might just be the best deal in town. I wonder how many people just make their way to that bar, rather than anywhere else in town.

Just as a note, if you plan on going to a brew tour, make sure you don't do it on an empty stomach. And then make sure you don't go with girls who don't want to drink their beer, and as such have you clean it up. And then make sure you don't order the eight percent beer, just because it has banana in it (banana's are good.) Results may vary.

Taking the bus back into town we found a buffet. Tap water? Three dollars. What fun! But the food was plentiful, and once again I am full. So all in all a good experience.

Back at the hostel, I said goodbye to my two Toronntonian bunkmates, as they were leaving Denmark on the same train I'll be taking tomorrow night. And then it was out to meet a friend from back home.

I do not have a cell phone. I didn't think I'd need one. I knew where to meet, and when to meet. Things did not go well.

Forty minutes late, I was finally able to track down a pay phone. I had used three previous, without success. I dialed the number and waited. And waited. Then Danish text came up, and my money was returned. Did I dial wrong? Was he not there? Did I make another mistake? Who could say. On I went to another phone. It also didn't work. Then I asked people if I could use their cellphone for a local call. In Canada I've let people use my cell before – it's what you do. You help people out. Not here.

Finally, I tried calling the eight digit number without the two previous. All that could be heard was the same weird sound – busy signal mixed with, I don't know what. Right as I was losing hope, it connected! Many apologies were expressed, and I made my way back on track. I was only five minutes from where I needed to be.

And then good times were had. Despite my feeling foolish at getting lost in such a small, collected, city. Such is life, I guess. Nothing like a nine dollar pint – but, in all fairness, the beer is better here. Not nine dollar better, but better. It's a cultural experience. That's what I'll tell myself. Anyway, after the two dollar pay phone call, nothing can possibly seem expensive!

Tomorrow I shall wake up, check out, and head to the train station. Amsterdam (and lower prices everywhere) here I come. Scandinavia, you've been a blast, but it's time to finally move on.

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