Posts tagged: Vesterbro
(Taken with Instagram looking out on a friendly portion of Istedgade street)
Arrived early at the Hotel Ansgar in the Vesterbro district in Copenhagen and had the complimentary breakfast: coffee, toast and jam, slices of cheese, and the Dane’s equivalent of Dig ‘Em Smacks. The same sad breakfast you might eat at a Ramada outside of Indianapolis tastes exhilarating when you have it in Copenhagen at a hotel that sounds like the place where Thor lives. The hotel is on a street shut off from traffic at either side by a dead end and a green construction wall, sheltering it from some of central Copenhagen’s more sleazy bustle—more on that in a bit.
To arrive at the hotel you have to detour around the green wall past a small roundabout. At the mouth of the roundabout is a parking lot that hosts a street fair. The sellers are mostly old men with feral beards I imagine grown “off the grid” in a cabin amid pamphlets that support the arrest of the entire European Union. Their wares are the detritus of deceased estates: defunct military uniforms, tarnished jewelry, old phones and record players, and picture frames with spooked black and white photos of frozen faced little boys and scared housewives no longer with us.
Walking away from the hotel through the roundabout you eventually cross the street Istedgade at the corner of a hollowed out gambling house in a cheap hotel district. Catty-corner to the gambling house is an ashen brown church with a congregation of addicts at its feet. Across the street is Spunk bar, which, by the way, is not Danish for “Sports bar”. Turn up Istedgade and you pass the dim bulb facades of a few sex shops promising pleasure despite heavy evidence to the contrary and past them is the rest of Istedgade, which is a lot like the rest of Copenhagen: urban and modern and clean and safe.
Speaking earlier of dead end streets, Copenhagen seems to have a lot of them. More than Bruce Springsteen could add to metaphor. A traffic sign “Ensrettet,” meaning one-way, precedes them but without knowing this you will see the sign and think “Oh, a street!” And you will make a right to try to cut across to Vesterbrogade, an avenue running parallel to Istedgade and lined with boutiques and middle-class ethnic food and hotels instead of hostels.
But there was no next block—just Ensrettet—and so I circled back onto Istedgade and stood on the corner dutifully unfolding my map in front of what I can best describe as a sailor bar without any sailors. In fact, the men inside are navigating something more extreme than the sea—Asian transvestite prostitutes. The bar is nameless, smudged windows looking in, and outside is a heavy traffic of cyclists, pedestrians, and “working” women who are out all night selling for Krone. All of them are from Africa—Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal—where Krone buys spaceships. I eventually found Vesterbrogade, and the rest of my night: the slow service at an outdoor café; the girl in her pink hijab behind the counter of the ice cream parlor; the club with postings for live rock/rap/reggae/funk/jazz/jazzmatazz/feminist readings.
Walking back to the hotel at the end of it all there was a man across the street from me with a bald, pale slab of a face, like a Gerber baby all grown-up and running his own construction company. He was dressed mannequin-like in a pressed shirt tucked into a pair of stiff jeans the cuffs of which hovered a few inches above his loafers. He approached one of the African women then they walked along, one in front of the other, until the detour at the point of the green construction wall. I took a right towards the roundabout and my hotel; they went left then fell into the shadow of the side of a building like two vampires. To think I started my day off in front of the palace winter home of the Danish Royal family.
And that is the Istedgade part of Copenhagen, or at least 4 to 5 blocks of it. Everything else in Copenhagen is beautiful, which can feel pointless to write about. But Istedgade is its bald spot smack dab in the city-center of an otherwise flowing mane.