A while ago when I was cocktailing at a Tiki bar in Bahrain, there was a flock of not so pink flamingoes tooling around in the shallows. Where they came from? I have absolutely no idea, and actually it doesn’t matter, but it lead me to thinking about the wonders and hassles of life on the road. Just like a bird in flight, it’s just not feasible to schlep an awful lot around with you at any one time, it tends to weigh you down. So instead a trail, at first barely noticeable, soon becomes very fucking apparent over time, by virtue of the untolled bags and boxes of crap you leave behind with various friends, family, and storage houses along the way. I recall on one such road trip hanging paintings up in the trees of laybys in the four countries that lie between the UK and Denmark in a bid to cut back on the junk we we’re schlepping. There has to be a better system.
- On a napkin I began mapping out what will always be a vague outline of a pod, a Portal Object Destination. Due to my considerable loss of not being a well-funded Richard Branson and my abject lack of insight and education in Quantum Mechanics as well as spooky action at a distance. I am what you’d call a “Layman”. Which is why I took the sabbatical in Bahrain in the first place – more sun than London and free from distraction to learn about physics by writing a novel, which in its course covers concepts of physics in a fictional context. The book – Shameless promotion coming up – is entitled “The End of a Moment”.
- Anyway the idea behind the napkin scrawl was that you could keep all of your worldly belongings in a collapsible space that can pop up, in the form of a door / portal anywhere, (but not anytime, because then that would be a TARDIS, and far more complicated). Maybe made of Baryonic particles, hiding out in Dark Matter. The portal could be anything from an actual door to maybe a well placed briefcase, a mirror even. Either way, the inside would be inversely larger than the outside, so more like ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ I suppose.
There was a god after all – a god of bicycles, and I was in its Valhalla
- It also made sense, in my hypothetical reasoning, that if you were to put up a portal in Tokyo say, then you would have to real world travel there first to set up that travel / portal link before using it to step back into your pod. Which I guess is a little like hearthstoning in WoW.
Anyway, the long and the short of it is, that I failed in meeting an evil genius who could design said pod for me. Instead I ended up getting hammered on “potted parrots”, leaving a pile of junk behind in Bahrain, paying a shit-tonne in excess baggage as usual, and ruing that I am inherently incapable of ever being a Minimalist… that is, until I came to Scandinavia.
Their sense of uncluttered, un-Victorian style means no excess, everything in its place and everything being almost nothing. Nothing seems to surpass the value of light and space, which makes me think that perhaps the POD should be made of Baryonic matter within an exoskeleton of Dark Matter, mebbe that would work? Love! And so those elegant Scandis then took it one better – crafting a sort of pod on wheels to schlep your small pile of ‘nothing’ around in. There was a god after all – a god of bicycles, and I was in its Valhalla.
Forgetting the rest of Scandinavia for a moment, there are just so many different types of bikes in Copenhagen alone that I’m going to have to separate them out into categories to cover them all. Today we’re going to look at the category of schlepping stuff around on 2 wheels (transporters). Now the current capital of Denmark is an old city made up of a zig-zag of tiny back streets and the “5 Fingers”, which are the 5 main roads in and out of the city. These fingers are where you’ll also find bicycle highways. Which is, quite frankly, an awesome idea. Well done Denmark.
- In the morning when everyone is piling into the city, the traffic lights of the 5 Fingers are aligned to green, to ease the flow of traffic. And, naturally, the same applies in the afternoon when everyone is madly exiting again. The lights are geared up for a cyclist riding at around 20km/hr. Peak hour, btw, is from 8:30-9:30am and 15:00-16:00pm. The Danes do like to finish early, but don’t think this is down to laziness – that’s one thing the Danes are not! It’s all down to the kids’ daycare hours. Denmark stops for children, it’s all about the anklebiters here … and bikes. Oh yes bikes, now where was I? That’s right, those tiny bike-friendly back streets of Copenhagen. As a result of these crazy little back streets, Copenhagen is where you’ll find the most frequent incidences of shit being piled on a bike.
The reason being of course, is that even if you’re moving house, it’s just not worth the hassle of navigating these streets (often one-way, just to add to the frustration), in a car. Total nightmare on wheels.
- A happy eventuation of this is that a lot of different shapes and sizes of bike have been born from the necessity of hauling various forms of crap around on 2 wheels. And I mean a real variety of stuff, some of it you wouldn’t believe unless you saw it with your own eyes. Distortion never fails to attract a bevvy of
Christiania – a bastion of free love, free will, and pretty cheap hash
In addition to this we have the Free State of Christiania – a bastion of free love, free will, and pretty cheap hash. When the hippies took over an old army barracks in Christianshavn, back in 1971, they declared it a free state and a car-free area. Indubitably it was bloody soon after that declaration was made that the Christiania bike was conceived. And meanwhile I’m still looking around for a friend who’ll give me their right arm so I can have one.
While there are a bevy of other transport bikes: the Bullit, the Shark-Pool, the Grocery bike, the modified Sorte Jernheste, the Suicide Chair and the Delivery Mule to mention a few; it’s the Christiania (barrow) bike that is by far the most popular.
Just last month I helped a friend move her whole flat from one side of town to the other using one of these beauties. Not to be shy of a bit of exercise, the Royal Post of Denmark tend to deliver most of their mail by bike. But not just any bike – theirs are motorised beasts and most über. Hell their logo is a crown balanced on a wheel with wings – apparently no-one was on acid when they came up with that one, which I find very, very hard to believe.. and something else to behold