THE DANISH CAPITAL

ACROSS the great expanse of Kjoge Bay, Copenhagen first became visible
as a group of factory chimneys under a firmament of smoke. We approached
it rapidly upon smooth water, and ran into the narrowing bottle-neck of
Kallebo, with the main island of Sjælland to the west and the appendant
island of Amager to the east. Copenhagen stands on both, straddling over
a wide connecting bridge which carries double lines of electric trams
and all the traffic of a metropolis. When a yacht, even a small one,
wishes to enter the harbor, this bridge is cut in two and lifted into
the air, and the traffic impatiently champs its bit while waiting for
the yacht.

[Illustration: 0174]

Apparently they understand yachts at Copenhagen, as they do in Holland.
At the outer harrier of the harbor we were not even requested to stop.
A cheerful and beneficent functionary cried out for our name, our
captain’s name, our tonnage, and our immediate origin, and, his
curiosity being sated, waved us onward. The great bridge bisected itself
for us with singular promptitude. Nevertheless, the gold-buttoned man
in charge thereof from his high perch signaled to us that our burgee was
too small. We therefore, having nothing else handy to placate him,
ran up a blue ensign to the masthead; but it looked so excessively odd
there, so acutely contrary to the English etiquette of yachts, that we
at once hauled it down again. No further complaint was made.

We were now in the haven, and over the funnels of many ships we could
see the city. It was all copper domes and roofs; and we saw that it was
a proud city, and a city where exposed copper turns to a beautiful green
instead of to black, as in London. Splendid copper domes are the chief
symptom of Copenhagen. After all the monotonous, tiny provincialism
of the peninsula and of the islands, it was sensational to find a vast
capital at the far end of the farthest island. We thought we were coming
to the end of the world, and we came to a complete and dazzling city
that surpassed, for example, Brussels in its imposingness. We turned
westward out of the main channel into the heart of the town, and in a
moment were tied up to a smack, and the red-and-green bourse was
leaning over us; the rattle and ringing and stamping of horses, lorries,
tram-cars, and taxi-cabs deafened us on three sides; and a bridge
trembling with traffic barred our way.

Towers and spires rose beyond the bridge; crowds stood to gaze at us;
steamers and warehouses filled the prospect to the north; and under our
bows the petrol-engined gondolas of Copenhagen, each holding a dozen
passengers or so, continually shot. We were in the midst of a terrific
din, but we cared not. We had arrived, and we had arrived in a grand
town; we knew that at the first glance.

[Illustration: 0179]

In something less than half an hour one of us had gone forth and
returned with grave tidings: “This is a most exciting city. I’ve already
seen lots of beautiful women, some with lovely tow-colored hair.” The
charm of distant Esbjerg was at last renewed. I went forth myself, into
a very clean, fresh-looking city, with simple and lively inhabitants. In
a trice I had gazed at the Thorvaldsen Museum (which I had no intention
of entering, Thorvaldsen being for me on about the same artistic plane
as the inexcusable Ary Scheffer of Dordrecht), the Christianborg Palace,
which had an austere and kingly air, the very modern and admirable
town hall, the old railway station, which has been transformed into
the largest kinema in the world, the floating fish shops and fish
restaurants (made out of old smacks and schooners), the narrow,
thronged shopping streets, the celebrated Tivoli establishment, and the
yacht-like steamers that from a quay, which might almost be called the
gate to Sweden, in the very middle of the town, are constantly setting
sail for Scandinavia. From Copenhagen you go to Sweden as thoughtlessly
as in New York you go from Forty-second to Sixty-ninth Street, or
in London from the Bank to Chelsea, and with less discipline. If the
steamer has cast off, and the captain sees you hurrying up the street,
he stops his engines and waits for you, and you are dragged on board by
a sailer; whereupon the liner departs, unless the captain happens to see
somebody else hurrying up the street.

An hour in the thoroughfares of Copenhagen was enough to convince my
feet that it was not a city specially designed for pedestrians. I limped
back to the yacht, and sent the skipper to hire a carriage. He knew no
more of the city than I did, less indeed; he could no more than I speak
a single word of Danish; but I felt sure that he would return with an
equipage. What I desired was an equipage with a driver who could speak
either English, French, or Dutch. He did return with an equipage, and it
was overpowering. Rather like a second-hand state carriage, it was
drawn by two large gray horses, perhaps out of a circus, and driven by
a liveried being who was alleged to speak French. I shuddered at the
probable cost of this prodigious conveyance, but pretended I did not
care. The ligure named was just seven dollars a day. We monopolized the
carriage during our sojourn, and the days were long; but the coachman
never complained. Possibly because he had no language in which to
complain. We learned in a moment that his ability to speak French
was entirely mythical. Then some one said that a misunderstanding had
occurred at the livery-stables, and that German was the foreign language
he spoke, But he did not speak German either, nor anything else. He was
just another of those strange creatures met in the course of travel who
are born, who mature, and who die without speaking or comprehending any
language whatever.

From the height of his spacious and sedate vehicle we gazed down upon
the rushing population of Copenhagen–beautiful women, with lovely
tow-colored hair, and simple, nice-gestured men. The driver only made
one mistake, but it was a bad one. We wanted tea, and we asked him to
go to a teagarden, any tea-garden. He smiled, and went. He took us up
an interminable boulevard, with a special strip for cyclists. Thousands
upon thousands of cyclists, all fair, passed and repassed us. He went on
and on. One of the horses fell lame, but it made no difference. We could
not stop him. And repetitions of the word for tea in French and German
had no effect save to make him smile. We constantly descried what seemed
in the distance to be tea-gardens, but they were not tea-gardens. We
saw an incomprehensible colony of doll’s houses–well-kept suburban huts
exteriorly resembling houses–in a doll’s garden. We could not conceive
the nature of this phenomenon, but it was not a tea-garden. Presently
the carriage was stopped by a man demanding money. He wore no uniform,
but conveyed to us that he was an official of the town of Hillerup, and
that strange carriages had to pay forty-eight ore in order to traverse
Hillerup.

It seemed a lot of money; but as it only amounted to sixpence, we paid.
The man may have been a highwayman. We looked at the map for Hillerup,
and found it miles away from Copenhagen.

We were now in serious need of tea, and helpless. The driver drove
on. He conducted us through half a dozen seaside resorts on the quite
unjustly celebrated “Danish Riviera”; he came actually to the end of
the tram-line, and then he curved inland into a forest (more to pay). We
were now angry and still helpless. The forest had no end, and the roads
in it no direction. Desperate, we signaled to him to turn back. He would
not. He informed us on his lingers that he would be arriving in twenty
minutes or so. When he did arrive, we solved the mystery. He had
confused the word for tea with the word for deer, and had brought us
to a well-known country resort called the Deer Park. A few miserable
tourists were in fact drinking cold, bad tea on a windy terrace
overlooking a distant horizon, far beyond which lay Copenhagen. We
swallowed the tea, the driver swallowed beer, and we started hack. We
had no overcoats, and the Baltic evening was cold. Trams overtook us
flying at a tremendous pace into Copenhagen, and we were behind a lame
horse. In the dusk we reached once more the desirable city, whose women
never seemed more fair to us than they did then. This adventure taught
us that the yachtsman must be prepared for any adventure, even the
wildest.