- In Transit’s Content Is On the Move April 23, 2015Features for this blog can now be found on the new In Transit webpage and on the Travel home page.
- A Book Fair in Buenos Aires April 14, 2015The Buenos Aires International Book Fair in Argentina will include more than 500 exhibitors.
- Walkabout: China Limits Travel to Hong Kong April 13, 2015A weekly capsule of travel news curated by our writers and editors.
- Trending: Inspired by TV, Trips an Anglophile Would Love April 11, 2015The popularity of recent television series and movies like “Downton Abbey” and “Paddington” has inspired Anglophile-focused travel.
- A Hotel Where Guests Are Pals With the Pen April 10, 2015During National Card and Letter Writing Month, the Hotel Hugo in New York City is encouraging guests to send notes to folks back home (cards are free).
- History in Bloom in Bulgaria April 10, 2015A festival In Kazanlak, Bulgaria, in June will celebrate the Damask rose grown in the country.
- Wine Study, by Barge, in Burgundy April 9, 2015The luxury tour operator Belmond is offering a Wine Academy on three Burgundy-based barges.
- New Hikes in Sonoma April 9, 2015A new trail in California will give hikers access to parts of Sonoma Mountain for the first time.
- Airbnb Offers Accommodations in Cuba April 7, 2015Airbnb, the home and room rental company, has added properties in Cuba for U.S. travelers.
- A Six Senses Resort to Open in Portugal April 7, 2015Six Senses Resorts and Spas will open a property in Portugal this summer, its first in Europe.
- In Transit’s Content Is On the Move April 23, 2015
London has fourteen professional football clubs, five of which compete in the top level English Premier League. My older son suggested that I try to see a game while in London, and mentioned that Fulham was playing Blackpool at Craven Cottage stadium on Sunday. Neither team is tearing up the league right now (Fulham’s current slogan is “Still Believe”) so tickets might be available. What better way to experience football-mad London than by attending a match?
I couldn’t manage to buy a ticket online Saturday night and so took the London Underground from Holborn to the Putney Bridge stop, which is about 1/3 mile from the stadium. I saw tube stops that were familiar from books I’ve read (Covent Garden, Hyde Park) and Dickensian others that were not (Cockfosters, Barking). There were ticket scalpers at the Putney stop but I wanted to try the ticket office first so walked along the Thames River to the stadium. From the outside the stadium looks small, and it sits in a residential neighborhood straight across from a posh row of houses. It is also old, having been built originally more than 100 years ago. It seats about 25,000.
An attendant helped me buy a ticket for £35, for a seat located behind the visitor’s goal. It was a half hour before the gate opened at noon for the 1:30 game so we chatted a bit. She said that two Americans were playing for Fulham, including Clint Dempsey. I remembered him playing well for the US team in the World Cup and said so, which was a mistake since it was Dempsey’s shot that was fumbled by the England keeper leading to a 1-1 draw and this infamous New York Post banner head. “We don’t like to remember that” she said, “But we’ve forgiven him.”
Just before the game team owner Mohamed Al Fayed unveiled a Michael Jackson statue that now mars the stately Craven Cottage grounds. As one columnist wrote, speaking in the universal, “everybody agrees that they hate the thing more than Fascism.” Al Fayed was pugnacious about his decision:
“Why is it bizarre? Football fans love it. If some stupid fans don’t understand and appreciate such a gift they can go to hell. I don’t want them to be fans. If they don’t understand and don’t believe in things I believe in they can go to Chelsea. They can go to anywhere else.”
Those are your choices Fulham fans, hell or Chelsea. (Even now rival fans must be cooking up a mocking song based on Elvis Costello’s (I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea).
There are no jumbotrons in the stadium, and hence no replays. Advertising is held to a minimum. From my seat I couldn’t even see a scoreboard or a clock. It is a sedate atmosphere that puts your attention on the match itself. Fulham won handily 3-0.
The days of English soccer hooliganism described in Bill Buford’s 1990 book Among The Thugs are over. The long route back to the tube station is edged with London cops, some on horseback. The game was played at 1:30 on a Sunday, making it less likely to attract rowdies. We were searched at the gate going in and beer, while available, must be drunk outside the stands. There are no terraces for standing, only assigned seats, and smoking is not permitted anywhere in the stadium. Signs urge fans to drive racism from football and warn that racial harassment will result in permanent banishment.
Before my evening departure I took my younger son’s advice and bussed it to Nyhavn, which I liked a lot. There is a small yellow foot ferry that I jumped on and rode around the inner harbor to the striking Copenhagen Opera House and back again. Nyhavn has many picturesque residences along its main canal and, because the sun was out, the outdoor cafes and bars were full of pale Danes and tourists.
I happened onto a restaurant called Told og Snaps on Toldbodgade in Nyhavn that was full of Københavner on a Friday afternoon at 2 pm, and enjoyed a warm welcome from the staff. They serve artfully prepared and presented smørrebrød, beer brewed on site and homemade snaps. “Snaps” is basically akvavit flavored in various ways. The British author of the unhelpful 1903 book Danish Life in Town and Country bemoaned the Danish working man’s affection for snaps. I ordered the smørrebrød with excellent amber beer and lemon snaps, which was poured into a small flute from a bottle that was ice cold from the freezer. Nobody was in a hurry to get back to work, and many of the tables were taken by groups of well-dressed older women enjoying a prolonged lunch with multiple rounds of beer. A group of four of them recruited me to take their picture toasting each other. I liked the restaurant a lot and was sorry to have discovered it on my last day in town.
I shared the train compartment out of Copenhagen with two worldly Indian men in their 20’s, engineers by training, who were working in sales for an Indian firm that safeguards intellectual property in the software industry. They were both whip-smart, funny, and interested in music and books. One of them was reading The Grapes of Wrath. Both were excited about Saturday’s Cricket World Cup match between India and Sri Lanka in Mumbai, and were carefully planning where they would be in order to watch the historic match. (I later saw that India won “by six wickets,” although I regrettably don’t know what that means, but I was glad for them). They brought several tall cans of Carlsberg with them along with Indian curry and rice, all of which made them sleepy. One of them was married and the other was reconciled to the idea that he would eventually be part of an arranged marriage back home in Mumbai, although he expressed a general preference for the women of Stockholm. Definite Team America material.
In the morning I was again up early and found coffee in a small dining area on the train. While I was settling in a Dutchman almost exactly my age, who was travelling with his cat, moved his seat next to mine and talked about his past and future hip surgeries. He was clearly lonely, having lost his Polish wife to cancer a couple years previously. The cat had scratched his hand up; it seemed like a nasty animal to me, although he doted on it.
The Eurostar train from Brussels to London is fast and comfortable, although I was too tired to care much. It is either remarkably understaffed or they just hide out somewhere on the train. Although the train is expensive there is no one to help with bags or seat assignments. The first worker I saw was when we were within 15 minutes of London’s St. Pancras Railway Station. He checked my ticket and asked me to take an electronic survey regarding my experience. I was in London by 10:30 am, in all about a 16 hour trip.
I decided to walk the mile from St. Pancras to my hotel, a Doubletree makeover of an old London hotel. It is in Bloomsbury, just a couple blocks from the British Museum. It was a glorious Spring day and I got my second wind, and so spent the afternoon in the museum and the small neighborhood parks. (The museum has a sign up announcing a – you guessed it – Picasso exhibition in the near future). The hotel wants £ 15 per day for Internet access but I found a shop that sold a 3G mobile broadband dongle for less than half what that would cost over 4 days.
I have been getting around flat, compact Copenhagen on foot for the most part. I haven’t bothered learning the public transportation systems because most of what I have wanted to see is easily reachable on foot from the Vesterbro area where I’ve been staying. I toured the Parliament buildings and the Royal Reception Rooms at Christiansborg Palace. The Rooms were interesting to me because of a series of 17 modern tapestries woven in France to mark Queen Margrethe II’s 50th birthday. They are truly original and beautiful. Reportedly it took 60 weavers 10 years to complete them, just in time for the Queen’s 60th birthday.
The Danish Supreme Court is nearby and I thought it would be interesting to see what that looks like. I was intercepted by a receptionist as I walked in the door and told that it was closed to the public entirely. She did, however, provide me with a nice pamphlet which I haven’t read. It isn’t a matter of security as there is none at the door, other than the dragon lady. Keeping the public out of your highest court is likely more convenient for the justices but is nonetheless a mistake.
Today I took the train to the Louisiana Modern Art Museum in Humlebæk, about a 30 minute trip north from Copenhagen. It is located on the shore of the Øresund in an attractive setting that tries to use both interior and exterior spaces for its exhibitions. The museum is featuring a Picasso exhibition and I am beginning to wonder what the deal is. When I left Seattle there was a Picasso show at SAM. There was a Picasso exhibition in Florence and one at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Perhaps it is a testament to his stature and productivity that four separate museums I have visited are featuring works from various stages of Picasso’s career. I think though that a lot of what I have seen at these various museums has not been his best work, although each has some singular pieces. I was pleased to see The Charnel House at Louisiana. The Museum also has an impressive sculpture garden with several Henry Moore works, and works inside by Lichtenstein, Warhol, Rauschenberg and a large Grand Canyon painting by David Hockney. I liked an Audubon-influenced etching done by American Walton Ford.
To get to the museum you walk from the Humlebæk train station to the museum, which takes about 10 minutes, and allows you to see a bit of the sleepy little town.
It rained today and Copenhagen is pretty ripped up from winter and from multiple large public maintenance and construction projects on three of the public squares. People don’t drive much here, but are demon bicyclists. The main street in front of my hotel, Vesterbrogade, is never clogged with cars, even at what would be rush hour elsewhere.
I didn’t make it to Christiania, the squatters area that takes its cues from Amsterdam. The newspapers are full of stories about the biker gangs that allegedly run it behind the scenes. That and 3 year old Holger, “the little Dane,” who survived a night in the woods after ditching his parents who had cruelly put his coat on backward.
Added April 4: Here is a picture from the Life archive of King Frederik IX of Denmark, the current Queen’s father. I am including it for no reason other than the fact that it shows a sitting monarch taking off his shirt, sucking in his gut, and proudly displaying his numerous tattoos for magazine cameras.
If I had to be saddled with a monarchy, this is how I would want them to behave.
In an effort to understand the reasons that impelled my great grandfather Jens and roughly 400,000 other Danes to emigrate to America between 1880 and 1920, I read Danish Life in Town and Country by Jessie Brochner. The book was published in 1903, the same year Jens came to America, and is in the public domain. Unfortunately it is in the nature of a breezy discussion of Denmark in general terms and not really given to hard fact and observation. I did learn that Denmark had compulsory military service in 1903 but the country was not at war and conscription had by then been in place for more than 30 years. Brochner doesn’t raise the subject of emigration. Denmark was and is a small country and I was hoping the book would address the factors that led 10% of the entire Danish population to emigrate, mostly to America.
The Danish government’s tourism website suggests that the primary motivation was simply economic:
The major reason for Danish emigration was the search for a better standard of living. The promise of free or inexpensive land, better wages, and the possibility to create a better life for themselves and their children made Danes leave Denmark to move to the US.
In the early 1880’s, the Danish population increased rapidly, unemployment grew and wages were low. The eldest son inherited the land, and younger children had little hope of owning a farm. Industrialization also made many traditional jobs obsolete. Overall, it was very difficult to earn a living and for young people to earn enough money to start a family.
In the United States, on the other hand, any immigrant could claim 160 acres of unoccupied government land, homestead it, and earn title in five years in accordance with the Homestead Act of 1862. Wages were also higher, making it possible to save up and buy a farm or piece of property or create a business within a foreseeable number of years.
Jens was young, single, and had a skilled trade. Why not relocate to America where the wages were higher and westward expansion ensured that tradesmen would be in increasing demand?
In America in 1903 the Wright Brothers obtained a patent for the airplane, the Ford Motor Company was incorporated, and Cleveland’s Nap Lajoie, furious that an old black ball was put into play in the bottom of the 11th with the Blues at bat, threw the ball over the grandstand and forfeited to Detroit.
According to the Danish Emigration Archives:
Following a number of scandals in which unsuspecting emigrants were conned by Danish emigration agents, The Danish parliament passed more stringent regulations on May 1, 1868. According to the new law, The Copenhagen Chief of Police was to approve and monitor all emigration agents in Denmark and authorize all overseas tickets made out in Denmark. This was to be done whether an emigrant would be traveling directly from Copenhagen to the United States or indirectly via another European harbor for destinations overseas. As an extra measure of control, all the information from each ticket was copied down in ledgers, and thus became the Copenhagen Police Records of Emigrants.
I was able to locate my great-Grandfather Jens’ record in the online database. It shows his age as 21 when he registered with the Copenhagen police on July 10, 1903, and his occupation as “Smed” or smith, as in blacksmith. His birthplace is listed as Ginnerup and his destination was New York. The record doesn’t show the name of the ship on which he sailed, but rather shows an entry for “Indirekte,” meaning he intended to transfer ships somewhere after leaving Copenhagen.
The Ellis Island Foundation’s database shows that Jens reached New York on July 22, 1903, which would have been about a 12 day crossing in total. His ship was the Oceanic, and he got aboard in Liverpool, England. The manifest for the Oceanic’s July 15th sailing, also available at the Ellis Island site, shows he had $17 with him and was planning to live with a brother-in-law named Louis.
The ship’s “List or Manifest of Alien Passengers for the U.S. Immigration Officer at Port of Arrival” has columns for each of the following inquiries:
Ever in prison or almshouse or institution for the care and treatment of the insane, or supported by charity? If so, which?
Whether a Polygamist.
Whether an Anarchist.
Condition of Health, Mental and Physical.
Deformed or Crippled. Nature, length of time and cause.
The manifest shows that he sailed with other Danes, Norwegians, Finns, and Swedes, both male and female. Their “Callings or Occupations” include labourer, servant, bartender, wife, and steward. Jens was the only blacksmith. I don’t know what drove him to leave Denmark nor how, with $17 to his name, he got from New York to Tacoma, Washington where he settled and started his own blacksmith shop.