Baltics Day 1: The seven-hour Copenhagen bar crawl

Day 1: Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

Friday night I left Chicago for my first destination, Copenhagen.

I actually did get some sleep on that first flight to London, and I arrived at the Queens terminal in Heathrow a few minutes early on Saturday around 9am. I’ve never been to this terminal but it must be brand spankin’ new with all the fancy technology that accompanies it. I feel like I interacted more with automated things than I did humans.

First I had to go through security, which was overseen by people, but really operated by robots. There is a huge area for you to dispose of any prohibited materials before you enter the security line. I just received a water on my first flight that I didn’t even open yet and into the dumpster it went.

You put your stuff in bins as usual, but the conveyer pushes them along without assistance. As the tray comes out of the xray machine, a little lever pushes it into the area near security agents if it requires more rifling. If not, it comes down a little ramp where you take your things and the trays stack themselves away, rolling back on the conveyer to the front of the security line again.

The bathroom were so streamlined and futuristic with automated everything that when it came time for me to refill my water bottle at the fountain, I stood there a full minute until I realized this was the first manual thing I’d encountered at the airport. Oh, I have to press a button now.

I followed the color-coded areas (purple for me, for connecting flights) to get to the right gate. I love when you’re getting on a flight and seeing the different types of people that go to different destinations, as well as playing the game of “who is from x country?” Well, for the connecting flight from London to Copenhagen, there were lots of bone-structurally-blessed Danes, as well as a mix of other people. And everyone in line seemed like a streamlined packer, with everything contained in a simple briefcase or backpack. In the US, there are always those people with the carry-on limit but also toting loose totes, food, sweaters, coats, etc. Here, everyone has their zipped carry-on, and nothing else. I felt like the odd man out with my bulging backpack that has*gasp* a packing cube strapped to the outside.

I arrived in Copenhagen and zipped out of the airport by following signs for the train. My hostel was near the Norreport station, so I bought a SIX dollar metro ticket (my lord!) and went to the train into the most complicated train system ever. The map is dizzying and the final destinations aren’t clearly marked. Also, there’s a Norrebro station AND a Norreport station. I triple check to see which I am going to. There’s also about 300 stations on the map. I feel like this is what Tokyo train maps look like.

So, I just immediately asked the dude beside me. There’s an LED sign listing the current train and the following train, but it’s unclear if either is the one currently parked at the station or if they both haven’t arrived yet. The dude informs me that the train in front of us was going to Sweden. Good to know! When the correct train arrives, he informs me that this is th right train to catch. My ticket is never checked, but in Copenhagen the fee is about $200 on the spot for unticketed passengers. I didn’t want to risk it.

I got on the train but again, I wasn’t sure if I had to get off immediately at the next stop and transfer or if it was direct to the station I wanted. I crossed my fingers and stayed on the train and now arrived at Norreport. Success! I walk to my hostel from the train.

The hostel lobby was vibrant with hip, colorful furniture and a chatty crowd. Upon check-in, I find out that free dinner is at 6:30p, but you should get there at least around 5:45pm to get a seat. I received a bracelet that would get me discounts at the hostel bar (since the bar was also open to the public) and received my key to the room.

It was already around 4:30pm now, so after organizing my things in the room, I went downstairs with a book and sat at one of the dinner tables.

At dinner I met Tijs from Brussels and his friend Alex from Montreal, who were traveling together to several cities in Europe. Bram from the Netherlands sat next to us and said he drove here and was previously in Talinn as well as up and around Norway/Denmark. This was his final destination. We all chatted and decided to participate in the pub crawl later that night, and that we’d meet with the group when it began. TRAVEL FRIENDS! Dinner arrived and was quite disappointing as it was only a vegetable soup and some bread. It was now 7pm and all I’d eaten ALL DAY was a croissant with jam on the airplane and vegetable soup. Surprisingly, though, I wasn’t super hungry.

I had one hour to run an errand and change/get ready for the bar crawl, so off I went. First stop in Copenhagen? 7/11 of course!

As I walked to 7/11 I was grinning ear to ear. It was the same grin I had walking from the train to my hostel. It’s that Sarah Routh-esque honeymoon feeling of “YOU GUYS! I’M IN ______!!!” So, you guys, I was in COPENHAGEN! That’s a Danish building! A Danish sign! A Danish dog! A Danish candy wrapper! A Danish restaurant called ‘Cocks and cows: cocktails and burger bar. ’ A Danish 7/11!

The 7/11s here are widespread and not like the ones back home. Every pastry in the place looked utterly amazing and I had to hold myself back. This wasn’t a regular 7/11, it was a cool 7/11. The reason for my stop was to get a local SIM card that I could use on my Spanish phone only in case of emergency. I buy a card and add extra credit to it, totaling to about $15. And then I discover I don’t have the unlock code for my phone to use a non-Spanish SIM card in it, rendering the chip completely useless. Souvenir, I guess? Necklace charm? Garbage? So now I had a phone that only functioned as a clock/alarm/paperweight and I now have to be extra vigilant to not get in any trouble. No emergency hotline means I gotta just know what to do.

And what to do was get lost! After I dolled up for the bar crawl back in the hostel, I walked toward the anchor by the Nyhavn harbor to meet the group. The crawl started at 8pm, and it was getting dangerously close to that time. Worst case scenario I’d arrive to find the group already left, and I’d have no idea where to find them, resulting in me returning to the hostel for a lame night in.

I got my first lesson in Copenhagen navigation, which is this: you are never where you think you are. Despite having a map and a compass and well, being ME, I still found myself incredibly lost. But I didn’t know it yet, which is the worst. I came to a major road, saw a man and tried to confirm my travel. “I need to get here, so I go right, correct? Over there?” “No, you go left, over by that green fence, then turn right at the fence and it’s straight ahead” he said as he literally crossed my pointing arm with his arm in a complete perpendicular direction. Oh. What?

I jogged to the anchor, now nearing 8:15, crossing my fingers. THEY WERE THERE! Yay! I paid the $14 fee to the girl with the fanny pack, got a wristband, and took a breather. There was a group of about 30 or 40 people gathered for the crawl, all under the age of 35, I would guess. Bram told me he brought some liquor from the Netherlands that we would all have to share so he didn’t have to carry it to the bar (open containers are legal in Copenhagen), and he patted his jacket pocket. I imagined him having a flask but no, a few minutes later he pulls out a liter-sized metal bottle of sweet liquor. Jesus, dude. He passes it around but doesn’t finish the bottle as planned and needs to chuck it.

One of the three leaders of the group lays out the plan for the night: four bars and a nightclub. Our wristband grants us a free shot at the end of bar one, and two upon arrival at bars two, three, and four. They also grant us discounts at all the bars on certain drinks, but none at the nightclub…we only get free admission there. Did I note that this started at 8pm? Thus began our SEVEN-hour bar crawl.

Me, Tijs, Bram

First stop was a small pub, nothing special. Cider was $7, beer was around $6. Not the cheapest, but also very similar to Chicago, so I wasn’t too shocked. The leader of the group passes around free jager bombs as well as some bright blue shots of sour liquor. It was the start of “we’re gonna give you even more liquor than we promised you.” They brought more sour blue shots which I kindly denied, and Tijs accidentally spilled it on me, splattering it on my jeans snd leaving my leg to feel like a sticky unwashed bar floor. Luckily, those jeans are black, so despite the massive spot, it wasn’t too visible. I asked him to get me a towel. When the group guides hushed everyone in the bar, Tijs shouted over the silence “CAN I GET A TOWEL!?” Classy.

The guides reiterated the plan for the night, also adding that there were a couple rules.
  • One, if the guides hush you, shut up (good luck with that, as everyone had sour shots pumping through their veins).
  • Two, there was a dude there for a bachelor party (the dudes were all wearing kilts) so the goal was to get the groom smashed.
  • Three, if the guides walk around and open and close their hands to flash the ten minute warning, it’s ten minutes and ten minutes only. They also referred to this as a “happy boobie” gesture as it looked like someone grabbing boobs. Hey, this is a pub crawl, not a leadership conference. You play to the crowd.
  • Four, when they say we’re leaving, we are leaving. Not in one minute, not until you get the girl’s phone number, not anything but RIGHT NOW. So pour your drink in a plastic cup and take it to go because again, roadies are totally legal on the streets of Copenhagen.

The second bar we entered was called Aloha and clearly a Hawaiian-themed place. Upon arrival we were provided a sour shot and a tequila shot. At one point it was very tightly packed as it was a small bar and we were a large group. I talk with Alex about Chicago sports (look at me!) and a guy overhears. He’s on the crawl as well and whaddya know, he’s from the South Loop. Small world!

As we walk to bar number three, a guy with short hair and a red hoodie introduces himself. We say our names first, and he says “I’m big gay Chris.” “I’m sorry, what?” “Big Gay Chris. I have three names, so it’s a little longer than yours but not too hard to remember.” He talks to Alex for a bit and when he finds out Alex is from Montreal, he exclaims “I had sex in Montreal once! Let me buy you a drink.” This happens no less than three more times in a conversation between Alex and Chris throughout the night.

The third bar was more of a dance bar with a small mirrored area, laser lights and a stripper pole off to one side. There was a live DJ spinning all the cheesiest songs that you can only hear consolidated onto a bar playlist in Europe. “Tubthumpin’” came on, as well as “Everybody” by the Backstreet Boys. Upon entering we were presented with two sour shots each. I laughed when I saw the only people using the pole were a couple dudes just standing near it acting goofy, and when a girl went up to do literally the same thing (nothing sexy or special) all the dudes were cheering her on and going “YEAH!” Whenever there’s a pole present it’s more special.

Alex turned to me and said when he and Tijs were in Cambodia, he could tell the latter to do something and he would just do it, no questions asked. He then turned to Tijs and said “Hey Tijs, go on the stripper pole,” which Tijs immediately did without even blinking. After putting on a show for not just us but a bar of people, he came back and informed us that the pole should be at least a few feet farther from the wall to allow proper 360-spin. Alright, Tijs.

When we left for the fourth bar and gathered outside, we noticed it was raining. I wasn’t prepared for this, but I used my coat to protect myself from the drizzle. As we walked, the South Loop guy told me that it’s unfair these guides were leading us drunkenly around the city and making us lose our sense of direction. Tell me about it…and I’m sober right now.

The fourth bar was up on the second floor of some building, and appeared to be more of a lounge-club than a bar. It was dimly lit and the fog machine pumping the room with smoke wasn’t making it easier. The welcome shots were a sour shot and an irish coffee shot with whipped cream.

One of the bartenders in this bar looks like a child so I ask Alex how old he thinks he is. “HOW OLD ARE YOU?” Alex immediately asks. The guy didn’t hear, so it’s forever a mystery. I’d guess 19. Then we sit down and there are some baby Danes next to us. “How old do you think these kids are?” “HOW OLD ARE YOU?” Subtle. The kid answers 18, as you must be 18 to drink hard liquor. For beer and wine, you only need to be 16. Yikes.

Also in this bar some guy asks where I’m from then says “Chicago! Cannabis is from there.” I was like “Weed isn't legal there. Do you mean Denver?” “No, the rapper, Cannabis.” He kept repeating to my frozen confused stare until I realized he was saying “Kanye West.” But he pronounced it “Kinyewis,” so I was understandably confused. No idea where he was from.

Finally we leave and head to the nightclub, RUST. On our way we pass by a few late-night restaurants like pizza joints and kebabs. By now it’s around midnight and I still only ate that croissant and veggie soup. I could eat. Of course, the suggestion of food lights everyone up, so we first follow the group to the nightclub to find where it is, and then we immediately head back to the food area.

Our small group is now Tijs, Alex, me and Anna, a Ukranian girl who currently lives in Germany. Alex suggests 7/11, which I wouldn’t mind in Copenhagen (as I said earlier, their food looks actually good here) except the one we go to ends up being more like USA 7/11, so Anna and I both pass. We all eventually agree on some middle eastern restaurant that sells kebabs and deli-style side dishes. Anna and I get pesto pasta salad and some sliced bell peppers. Who knew late night munchies could be so fresh and healthy? Of course the boys get some football-sized gyros loaded with tzatziki. To each their own!

We head off back to RUST. Our tour guide, back when we were with the guide, she had mentioned the club was multiple floors and had several rooms, so you should definitely explore. Thus, when we arrived, we did. All the way upstairs was a quieter bar/lounge and separate smoking room with long communal tables of people chatting away. In the basement was a light-up dance floor facing a DJ on a platform spinning reggae and off-beat R&B music. There’s a bar in the back with a limited menu, as the majority of drinks are on the main floor. On the main floor, there’s a regular dancefloor facing the DJ stage. It smells disgustingly like BO up front by the stage, but the odor is absent by the bar, so we stay over there. This room is larger and playing more mainstream rap and R&B music from Pitbull, Rihanna and Kanye West. At this point I made a new friend in Anna who was saying some hilarious comments. “You must be very drunk because I am not very funny.” “No, I’m very sober right now, and you’re just killing me.”

We’re dancing this whole time but I really get into it when “Golddigger” by Kanye West (full circle?) comes on. I also want to point out there are tons of dudes here that are very good dancers, like poppin’ and lockin’ and doing some sweet coordinated moves. It was a cool place for sure.

By the end of the night, had I accepted all free drinks provided to me as well as purchased one drink at each bar, I would have had no less than…
  • 5 purchased drinks
  • 2 jager bombs
  • 10 sour shots
  • 2 irish coffee shots
  • 2 tequila shots

Or, 21 drinks in seven hours. Not bad, since it’s a lot of time, but my lord. I made some key water-drinking decisions throughout the night and was completely fine by 3am.

Around 3am we leave for the hostel and since earlier we’d passed the main square with the metro station (where I exited the train from the airport and went off to the hostel), I was able to successfully navigate back to that landmark, and then to the hostel from there. WITHOUT A MAP! However, if you showed me a map and asked me where the nightclub was located, I guarantee I would point in a very wrong direction. I can only walk these blocks, not identify them.

There were tons of people out on the streets at this hour in the night, since bars close at 5am here. Everyone is on foot or on bike, and no one seems hammered, as they’re all moving in straight lines. Amazing. The hostel bar was HOPPING when we returned. I decided to get a chocolate muffin, to which the bartender said “it’s funny, because I just put all the muffins away, since I thought no one would want them at this hour.” I replied, “yeah, what kind of crazy person orders a chocolate muffin at 4am?” He happily got me that muffin and a blueberry cider, my bedtime treat.

After hanging out at the hostel a little longer, we headed off to bed. I had a day of sightseeing planned for tomorrow!