I quite like Luxembourg’s airport. It is small but incredibly efficient. Perhaps the longest that I have ever had to wait to clear security was 5 minutes. More often than not, my suitcases are on the belt before I arrive. While not especially “friendly”, Luxembourgers rarely are, the staff do their jobs efficiently and there are rarely difficulties. Arguably the only really “negative” thing about the airport is that there is only a limited choice of carriers. Usually, this is not a problem. Luxembourg Airlines is one of the nicer regional airlines. Usually priced competitively, they provide an excellent product to customers. This time, however, I made the slight error of choosing to take a different airline because of better flight times. That is, I flew with KLM via Amsterdam to Copenhagen.
I’ve flown with KLM on any number of occasions and they are usually pleasant, if not overwhelming. Recently, to my chagrin, they have instituted charges for hold luggage. This American-style practice is grating, and at €30 for a single piece, more so. It seems as if KLM are going the “low-cost” route in order to compete with rivals such as Norwegian, Lyin’ Air or Not-so-Easy Jet forgetting that they also need to offer substantially cheaper tickets if they are to do that. They have also stopped serving the terribly mediocre sandwiches they did in the past and now offer Dutch caramel biscuits with a cup of Turkish mineral water on their City Hopper routes or a choice of same biscuit or a bag of nacho crisps with a broader selection of drinks on their KLM Europe routes. Still, the flights were not terribly long and I survived he mediocre ordeal – just.
I arrived in Copenhagen at a good time. A few hours later, a Baltic squall struck the region delaying flights and making travel a generally unpleasant experience. Having collected my single, miniscule suitcase which could have qualified as a board bag were it not for a single bottle of schnapps after an inordinate delay, I was met by an old mate at arrivals. We’ve known each other since we were teenagers. In a most re-assuring way, he hasn’t changed a bit. He is still as blond, blue-eyed and disgustingly Nordic as ever. This, fortunately, extends to his temperament. I can, when in “certain moods”, be somewhat difficult to handle and it takes someone with nearly unlimited patience to tolerate me. Even after being sedated heavily.
That night I cooked something approximating Tex-Mex. Despite being tempted to prepare something approximating Thai, I simply could not justify buying that many special ingredients for a single meal. Everything went well and a good time was had by all. This includes his poor flatmate, another Rhineland-Palatinate Hun who suffers from lacking my innate charm, good-looks and near-Cowardesque ability to turn bitchiness into a high art form. I, being the wonderful chap that I am, introduced my mate to the joys of Edinburgh Tea & Coffee Company’s Whisky Flavoured Tea. As a result, I will post him at least three packs of the stuff from the UK when I return in April.
On Saturday we travelled to Roskilde, the ancient Danish capital and home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Roskilde Cathedral which is a brilliant example of Nordic Romanesque/Gothic architecture. Following a thorough inspection of the site and jokes about Christian 4’s unfortunate tendency to pick losing fights with the Swedes, we walked through the city centre and settled on a café for a late lunch/early dinner. The late Nordic autumn was being true to its nature and sunset came early, even by the standards of Trier. Perhaps because one of the worst two weeks of the year had just finished, the time when final essays must be read and marked (ask Araminta for more details if you dare), I was in a slightly unhinged mood and couldn’t help making comments on the dinner setting. We were sitting together by the window over-looking Roskilde’s central market, watching the sun set over Roskilde Fjord with a candle lit on the table between us. “Oh, this is very romantic, don’t you think”? Not being one to be easily thrown, my mate responded tartly “Christopher, I like you quite a bit, but not like that” to which I replied “damn”.
We returned to Copenhagen together, our friendship not damaged in any way by my congenital inability not to refrain from making asinine comments. The following morning I prepared an old Alemannic specialty – Flädle. Although quite simple to make, he had never had this and seemed quite happy with my choice. It hurt not in the least that he had an excellent Swedish plum and fruit liqueur compote to serve it with. That day we walked through Copenhagen together, to the National Gallery, through the glorious city centre, up the Rundetårn and to a pleasant 19th-century conditorie, Conditori La Glace. We went there together on my previous visit to Copenhagen and the experience was worthy of repetition. The conditorie is much as it was when it first opened nearly 150 years ago and the cakes are generally excellent – well-prepared and not terribly sweet. We worked off the calories by taking a miles-long walk through the city, ending up at a restaurant specialising in hamburgers. While not being out of necessity fond of very much, or rather, being fond of precious little that is American, a well-prepared hamburger can be quite good and the experience was a pleasant one. Between eating and walking, we had a number of discussions ranging in topic from people to themes involved with our respective careers – his in business, especially technology. In my case, the themes were frequently academic with discussions of history, linguistics and global politics. Due to our relative specialisations, our discussions at times covered exceedingly obscure topics.
I spent my final day in Denmark relatively alone. My mate having to go to work, I walked through the city without my usual minder. One frequently finds the most unusual things this way. Although my original intention was to visit Amalienborg Palace and some other structures in that area such as the beautiful, understated Marmorkirken, I initially walked in the wrong direction. I was made readily aware of this by the increase in fetish shops catering to the rather more, umm, carnally adventurous? In any event, I did not dwell for long there and spent the next few hours ambling about in the city centre before settling down for lunch at a passable imitation of a French café.
After finishing my packing, my mate saw me off at the airport. I brought up the possibility of returning to Denmark in late June after stopping off in Edinburgh for a few days after returning from the USA. As I have a few weeks free before heading off to China, it seemed a good idea to travel together in Sweden. He tentatively accepted the idea, contingent on his work situation and ability to get holiday time. He also promised, if possible, to visit Trier for a long weekend some time before I fly off to the UK in April. With this, we parted as I returned, slightly embarrassed at my poor behaviour over the weekend, to Luxembourg.
The return flight was complicated. The vile, demonic spawn of Satan, the odious, despised bastard children of Europe’s bastard country threw Western Europe’s skies into chaos and disorder. Or, more specifically, the bloody Belgian air traffic control carried out a wildcat strike which caused 600 flights to be cancelled. A number of flights affected had to be re-routed over Amsterdam, something which caused delays for much of the day as Amsterdam is generally quite busy as it is. Never-the-less, the brave and noble Dutch soldiered on mopping up the mess that their horrid “neighbours” had created. With an already late arrival time in Luxembourg, the actions of those the Dutch refuse to take and the French can only tolerate to inflate their national ego further, my mood began to resemble something akin to CO waking up one morning to see a troupe of gypsy drag queens parked in her garden. At least I finally found a purpose for Belgium – air space.