Queen Magrethe's Tribe
What diverse aspects are within the selfsame person? The cheery rosy-cheeked handsome Danes bicycle across gracefully arched bridges over sparkling canals, their waters shimmering burnished gold, sunshine orange, leafy fern green, past the splendid tall and silent apartments that line the old cobbled streets. They pedal on, past cherry red post boxes fixed neatly to public buildings. Yes, artistic and issued by the government, bearing simply a crown and a bugle with a tassel and the word Post.
They pedal on, stopping happily at the light to chat and then proceed in the generous bike lane past Tivoli Gardens, containing childhoods since 1843.
I do not bicycle. I walk. Slowly, very slowly past the vertical iron bars that have interrupted my long stretch of tall brick, or at least taller than me. This solid wall separates street life from what lies beyond. I cannot go on. I stop gripping the bars hard, shaking them. How can my childhood be suspended there behind bars? Jailed.
I want it back. Let me in. What is around that bend behind the vines and in front of the roller. coaster descending there, just barely above the bog before the lily pad pond where trolls must live. I want in now.
I stride hastily to the corner. The iron gate, too tall to scale in a long wool coat is padlocked.
It is January and the sign indicates no open days soon. Not in a travelers’ time frame. One should not stroll in bracing wind or linger under somber skies. Summer with its pleasant winds and promise of sunshine is the time to dwell, not now. The winter sun is peckish. Watered down and angry. Frugal.
Simply watching small birds pick in the marsh and large swans gliding out to the waterway to feed where the woman in the blue coat with fur collar tosses bread crumbs from the bridge, is too much time to stand about dreaming. The hands freeze.
Still, I am halted here. Back at the opening where I can see more deeply through a broader expanse. I cling to the cold bars, searching among nightingales, mermaids, vines and ferns - how is it lush? How do these fragile flowers bloom?
Searching greedily among the absurdist statuary, cartoon giants in bright, primary colors, their thick enamel paint chipped in odd places: the corner of an ear, a fingertip, a thigh. They give one peculiar looks and carefully follow your motion with their gaze.
Now look, here is the roller coaster again. The tracks rise clear to the moon. In summer the wobbly cars will in fact ascend over the moon (jumping cows beware) and then they will descend at a maddening speed.
Perhaps clear down to the doors of Hell.
If Pluto allows and only if Pluto allows, you churn slowly back to the platform.
Badly shaken, you will lift one strange leg after the other, focusing on balance.
Your friends and your adrenalin tell you this is glee and in a communal spree you jump off the platform to find the next adventure.
But today Tivoli Gardens is empty and silent. All the better.
Greedily, I search. I am here somewhere.
A dragonfly whirs back and forth in front of me, alternating personalities between fairy and dragon, zipping into the gardens and back to the barred window, unable to communicate a single intelligible notion.
The place would have to be broken into.
Lips pursed with intent, I walk. Odd to be plotting a crime while inhaling the sweet thick aroma of pastries from the bakeries. Little wonder Copenhagen’s crime rate is low.
Still, it is my childhood and no son-of-a-bitch has a right to keep it from me.
A chubby child in a pink snowsuit waddles past looking only inside the air, her blue eyes the stuff of pure diamonds, her aura opal. She cannot see the small curly-haired dog at the old woman’s heel or the suited runner who lithe as a gazelle weaves between the dog and child.
The lost art of seeing inside the air. Cooking baked beans over a fire in the cave next to Robbs’. Teeter-tottering with my sister. These things are there in Tivoli Gardens.
I give up. I go north to Roskilde to see the Viking ships.
One who seldom bothers with a guide book, my breath draws short to come upon this cathedral on a back street. Medieval, grand, ornate. No coffer spared, its spires attenuate into Heaven.
The cathedral sprawls with chapels built over eight hundred years, exquisite alabaster interiors housing a melee of coffins and corpses. I study the stained-glass windows.
And then I come to the fucking scary part. And I am talking about after seeing coffins through the windows.
It is the entrance. A pair of black metal doors, soldered and bolted in Norse carpentry style against what, is unclear. The entrance is generous enough for giants to come worship. And they may well have for all I know. The Viking descendants I spotted among the populace of Edinburgh were certainly heads above everyone else. These more interesting tales are not in travel books, so why bother?
That door haunts me still. Its engravings in full view of the city pedestrian are terrifying. As you are standing there in bright daylight a skeletal wraith is bending tango-like over a smaller, struggling corpse, yes, a corpse still struggling because the other thing is violently sucking out its soul. Not a time to give up.
You can actually see the soul being siphoned from the victim’s mouth to that of the victor. Not an endearing picture.
Among other atrocities, mutilated body parts and sharp murderous implements float within reach of any of the morbid cast of characters depicted here.
Exhausted, I stroll downhill toward the laconic waterside where the agile Viking ships are moored. I am convinced now that this loveliness is a ruse of the rosy-cheeked Danes.
That and the charming little cottages.
Where the yards all twitter with birds ducking in and out of bushes that grow popcorn.
Don’t you want to see the birds? All the different kinds you’ve never seen before? Linger.
Such anomalies are the stuff of fairy tales though, aren’t they? And that is where the Danish excel, in portraying the diverse aspects of the selfsame person.