Often, when I go travel, I go alone. I don’t coordinate with friends, it’s usually for business, and I am often left to amuse myself. I find walking around to be the best mode of transportation, ending the day with sore feet, a full belly and a calm mind. It’s a nice enough way to navigate, but I missed traveling with someone - something I hadn’t done in many years.
This time, I went to Europe and met up with my partner. He’s a seasoned traveler to the continent and knows Denmark, our destination country, quite well. So, I hopped on my flight and landed with someone to greet me at the airport. It was quite nice to see a friendly face after nearly a day of travel.
Where I might have walked around a bit and been too nervous to rent a bike (even as a daily biker in California), having him with me meant I had no excuse. So, we biked all up and down København (Copenhagen). I took the trains rather than the expensive taxis. We ate cheap and delicious eats, and we made the most of each day, since his prior knowledge spared us the hunt through travel guides and lost time due to missed trains and translation errors.
I got to see nearly everything - including the architecture museum and I learned what “havn” means (harbor), and I ate more than my fill of pastries (which I kept wanting to call danishes).
I got to see so much more of København than I could have ever seen alone. More importantly, I got to know him better. He often talks about city planning and streets. He knows far more than he’s shared with me, since I often roll my eyes whenever he points out a well-placed bollard, roundabout, or bicycle lane. But being in Denmark, I see now why he’s so passionate about it.
A well-planned city — one in which everyone subscribes to the rules of the road — is, indeed, a happier place to be. Navigating Denmark, especially as a cyclist, is pretty easy, since the markings are clear and everything is very, very clean. (Compared to San Francisco, honestly, København is spotless.) I could see what he had been talking to me about for years. The roundabouts actually do improve a road system, elevated bike lanes with street parking between the road and the bike lane makes me feel much safer as a biker, and well-paved roads make any trip more pleasant.
Beyond the bike lanes, roundabouts, and clean streets, I was struck yet again by the fact that you can never really know another person. You can get glimpses into their mindset or gain a bit more understanding of how they see the world, but people are infinitely deep. I could take a thousand trips to Denmark, or read up on city planning until I’d memorized every book, and yet this person who showed me his not-so-tiny corner of the world, would still be a mystery to me. He always will be, and that’s perfect.