Peter Høeg, Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow (trans. from Danish by F. David; Harvill Press, 1996 , 129-30.
I take the train to Enghave station. From there I walk. I’ve had a look at Krak’s Map of Copenhagen at the library on Torvegade. In my mind I have an image of a labyrinth of winding streets.
The station is cold. A man is standing on the opposite platform. He’s staring longingly towards the train that will take him away, into the city, into the crowds. He’s the last person I see.
Right now the inner city is like an anthill. People are crowding into the department stores. They’re getting ready for theatre premieres. They’re standing in line in front of Hviid’s Wine Cellar.
Sydhavnen is a ghost town. The sky is low and grey. The inhaled air tastes of coal smoke and chemicals.
Anyone who is afraid that machines will soon take over should not take a stroll in Sydhavnen. The snow hasn’t been cleared away. The pavements are impassable. Along the narrow, ploughed tracks now and then enormous articulated lorries with dark windows devoid of any humans move. A blanket of green smoke hovers over a soap factory. A cafeteria advertises potato fry-up and sausages. Behind the windows, red and yellow lights shine on lonely deep-fat fryers in an empty kitchen. Above a pile of coal and slush a crane moves aimlessly and restlessly back and forth on its rails. From the cracks in closed garage doors there are some bluish glimmers and the crackling of arc welders, and the jingling of the illegal money being earned, but no human voices.
Then the road opens on to a picture postcard: a large harbour basin surrounded by low yellow warehouses. The water is iced over, and while I’m still taking stock of the view, the sun appears, low, white-gold, surprising, and lights up the ice like an underground electric bulb behind frosted glass. There are small fishing boats at the wharf with blue hulls the colour of the sea where it meets the horizon. On the outer edge of the basin, out in the harbour itself, there is a big three-masted sailing ship. That’s Svajerbryggen.
We’re staying in the suburb of Westerbro, a gentrified working-class area with lots of lovely red-brick apartment blocks like the one below. Just down the road from us is Enghave station, the first stop on Smilla’s journey in the extract above.
Strøget is the main shopping street in Copenhagen. It opens out onto a little square featuring this delightful stork fountain. There are posh department stores nearby…
…featuring these kinds of fashion posters. Happily, I can confirm that this is still an *unusual* look for Danish men in the capital.
Here’s the famous Nyhaven, an unfeasibly photogenic harbour right in the heart of the city. The harbour that Smilla visits is much bigger (and now much more developed) than this tourist attraction.
Nyhaven is also one of Copenhagen’s main cycling arteries. Pretty much everyone seems to get to work or school by bike, even in the rain. Small kids go in the barrow on the front.
A new bridge now connects Nyhaven and the area of Christiania. This photo looks south; Smilla’s library (on Torvegade) lies on the right-hand shore.
For the foodies: here’s the open prawn sandwich I had for lunch yesterday. It was divine.