*This story has been updated to correct factual errors*
For some reason I have been itching to travel again. It must be the whole month I've spent without getting on a plane. So I thought I'd turn this blog into a little travel guide for the six Nordic capitals: Reykjavik, Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, and Tallinn. Yes, yes I know, Tallinn is included in most guidebooks in the East Europe section, for some good reasons, and bad ones too. But because Lonely Planet and Rick Steves have started including Tallinn in their Scandinavian guidebooks, and because this blog is about Estonia, and because I have been to all the Nordic capitals, yet not all the Eastern European or Baltic capitals, I decided to do it, in the words of Frank Sinatra, "my way."
Reykjavik, Iceland, also known as, "Stærsta smáborg í heimi" or "The smallest big city in the world." That it is. With a population of about 190,000, is a pretty small, yet famous town. I went there in March 2001 hoping to find outrageous parties with beautiful women. Instead it was rather cold, gray, lonely, and brown. The city itself is cordial enough, although a lot of the infrastructure - like bus station - looks like it dates back to the Johnson administration, or in Reykjavik's case, the Geir Hallgrímsson administration (he was mayor from 1960-1972). The city has the feel of a fishing village, and the harbor figures prominently. The downtown is meandering, yet not that large, and the outskirts are framed by brownish green hills and painfully transplanted deciduous trees. If I could pick an Icelandic meme, it would be either death or hardship, and one place to visit would be the ancient cemetery on the southside of town. Gnarled and overgrown, it's the perfect place fto visit and you get a good view of the city too. Altogether it's a sweet place though, with lots of little shops selling expensive food and knit sweaters that cost a lot. I think the pervasive feeling in Iceland is one of frontier distance and independence. By being on an island so far away from the mainland you feel an immense weight has been lifted from your shoulders. Nobody can drive to visit you. They must fly. How perfect.
Next Stop: Copenhagen, Denmark. About 1.8 million people live here giving it the ambience of a big European city. The city is divided up into "bros" or boroughs, with the center most accessible through the Norrebro or Vesterbro stations. The center of the city builds upwards from a series of canals, and the streets are, like Rekjaviks, old and twisting, offering more knit sweaters, kabobs, alcohol, chocolate milk - all that stuff that Danes like. Saturday night in Copenhagen, or any night, is pure mayhem, as *nany* Danes are functional alcoholics. Don't be surprised to walk into the main train station at 1 am on Sunday morning to find passed out young women strewn about the entrance where their dates left them. The Strøget is the center of the city, a long series of walking streets where you'll see a lot of good looking young people wearing expensive clothing and listening to so-cute-you-want-to-vomit pop music. Of course Copenhagen also offers Christiania where you could famously go and buy soft drugs at all hours until the Pusher's Street was closed down a few years ago. My favorite part of Copenhagen was Norrebro, where there are some nice parks, record stores, and modestly priced middle eastern restaurants. It's a good place to relax in a city that has often be characterized as pure evil.