A Danish Heist

Copenhagen, Denmark • May 2018 • Length of Read: 5 Minutes


Going to Copenhagen and not visiting Tivoli Gardens is a bit like visiting Paris for the first time and not seeing the Eiffel Tower; a complete travel faux pas that you don’t want to make. Opened in 1843, Tivoli is the second-oldest operating amusement park in the world and the fifth most-visited in Europe. Situated right in the heart of the Danish capital, directly opposite the train station, the park has attractions for all the family, and as the summer sun shone high in the sky Ieva, Iza, Jason and myself spent the day riding roller coasters, licking ice cream cones, and lazing about on the lawn of the pristine gardens as peacocks wandered around nibbling on leftover lunch scraps. It felt like we were kids again; full of excitement, carefree, naïve and innocent (until proven guilty).

Leaving the park after a lovely, chilled-out day, the girls retired back to the apartment whilst a ravenous Jason and I went in search of some dinner. Stumbling into a Hard Rock Café, more out of logistical convenience than anything else, we ordered a couple of beers from Anna, our Icelandic waitress, and opted for her suggestion of the Jack Daniel’s infused beer burger. A far cry from the traditional Danish smørrebrød cuisine, but sometimes you just need to fill the hole in your stomach.

I noticed something fishy about the two guys at the table parallel to ours as Jason and I clinked pint glasses and reminisced about the good old days, their loud and argumentative dialect the first indicator that they were rather drunk, the empty shot glasses and half-finished plates of food on their table the second. Conversing in Danish, I couldn’t make head nor tail of what they were discussing, but from their frequent glances towards the window behind us, I took a guess that they were itching for a cigarette.

My suspicion was soon confirmed as they got up and burst out onto the narrow balcony through a catch-window which just looked in no way like it should be opened; neither by staff, nor patrons. Anna came rushing over, her Scandinavian blood beginning to boil, and ushered them back to their seats with a stern warning. It was clear that they had been a handful ever since arriving in the restaurant. In retaliation to this, as soon as our waitress had departed to attend to another table they legged it down the stairs and out of the restaurant.

“Have they just done a dine-and-dash?” I gasped towards Jason, who laughed in agreement. One of my favourite ‘doing a runner’ stories is told by my best mate’s father, and occurred whilst he was on a gentlemen’s golfing holiday in Spain.

The twelve ‘Divots’, as their tour group was self-titled, had received the cheque for a rather lavish and boozy meal only to find themselves in the uncomfortable predicament of being unable to afford it. Before any suspicion amongst the staff arose, a Chinese whisper was quickly sent around the table indicating that, on the count of three, they would all get up and do a runner. When the call was made, however, eleven of them hustled out of the restaurant whilst the remaining member of the group, perhaps misinformed of the plan or perhaps out of sheer stupidity, ran straight into the male restroom, trapping himself. Only after spending the rest of the evening washing dishes in the kitchen did the maitre’d eventually allow him to leave.

“Unfortunately, for those two guys, however, they’ve left something rather important behind,” said Jason, lowering his tone and snapping me back to the present. “What’s in the bag?”


A Hard Rock Café-branded gift shop bag sat propped against a leg of the abandoned table, clearly having been forgotten in their haste to leave. Kicking it across to our table, I opened it to find three Copenhagen-designed souvenir white t-shirts and a credit card receipt for 650DKK; an amount far greater than what their meal would have cost.

“Let’s take them away,” said Jason without hesitation. “It serves them right and they will make great gifts for the girls.”

“Who do you think you are?” I chuckled. “Robin Hood?”

“A modern-day version,” chuckled Jason. “There’s a receipt, so who’s to say that those guys didn’t gift them to us?”

We deliberated the morality of the situation for a while as a few of the tables around us caught wind of what we were planning. “A heist in which the good guys win,” I reasoned. “It is great when the good guys win.”

Polishing off our food and beer in an effort to remain inconspicuous, we then asked Anna for the bill and she recommended we go to a bar called No Stress for some post-dinner cocktails. Thanking her, we arose to leave and as Jason picked up the contraband she gave us a sly grin. “Have a good night, boys,” she chuckled, giving our table a wipe. Having previously abstained from clearing the two drunk guys’ table, an attempt to confirm her false belief that they had genuinely gone out for a smoke and would at some point return, Anna was happy to play the Maid Marion in our little Sherwood Forest routine.

We headed up the street in the direction of No Stress and, lo and behold, stumbled upon the very two dine-and-dash dudes. They were standing outside a bar and in the middle of a heated, but spirited debate about ice hockey, the Swedish national replica tops of their opposition indicating that they had travelled over to Denmark for the Ice Hockey World Cup that was currently taking place. Keeping our heads low, Jason tucked the Hard Rock Café bag under his arm and we marched on past.

No Stress was a cool, underground, Norwegian hangout, and as we perched atop a pair of bar stools and ordered some fruity cocktails from the islands I looked around and took stock of the environment. A group of guys were huddled around a box TV and playing Mario Kart on the Nintendo 64; squads of young people from diverse nationalities sat around high tables, chatting in their common language; and the DJ in the middle of the room set the atmosphere with chilled-out beats. It had been a wonderful three-day city-break to Copenhagen with Jason; catching up with old friends, recharging the batteries, and planning future escapades. And to top it off, we’d pulled off a heist and got away Scot free.

Pour me something tall and strong, make it a hurricane before I go insane. It’s only half past twelve but I don’t care, it’s five o’clock somewhere.

Freetown Christiania

Copenhagen, Denmark • May 2018 • Length of Read: 4 Minutes

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Feeling a bit ropey, Jason and I left the girls in bed and took the metro downtown. Taking a pew at a trendy open-aired café, we ordered a Caesar salad to share and proceeded to lazily sip on cortado coffees whilst taking in the hustle and bustle of the metropolitan city centre. It was a sunny Thursday morning in Copenhagen, and as the summer temperature began to rise the Danish capital came to life; it’s beautiful, tanned, well-groomed and effortlessly cool residents going about their day-to-day business in a manner that had me pining for a return to such lifestyle.

In addition to the chino and shirt wearing masses, groups of dapperly dressed youngsters also began to weave their way through the square, tuxedo-clad guys looking Scandinavian sharp and the girls on their arms glowing in traditional billowing dresses. Bringing us the bill, our waiter informed us that it was Norwegian Constitution Day, ‘Syttende Mai’, and that a number of prestigious parties were being held around the city in celebration.

The hilarity of our escape from the Jailhouse the previous evening was still fresh in our minds as we stretched out our legs and wandered down to Nyhavn Harbour; dozens of brightly-painted boats lining the canal paths and upmarket seafood restaurants spilling out onto the cobbled streets. En-route, we passed numerous gangs of ice hockey fans in Nordic game-day tops, the Ice Hockey World Cup in full swing and busloads of supporters making their way across the Öresund Bridge to support their national teams locking-horns in the historic and fierce on-ice rivalries.

Reaching the end of the pier, Jason and I got some Aperol Spritz from a pop-up bar and chilled on a couple of deck chairs overlooking the widening waterway, chatting about life, the Universe and everything in between as we watched dozens of kids diving in and out of the murky river.

Ever since Jason and I had met on a bus in New Zealand eighteen months previously, a bond of trust and honesty had been created that I hope will last in perpetuity. You know that feeling when you just ‘get’ someone? And they ‘get’ you? He has since become my go-to guru for advice, concerns, ideas, knowledge, and everything in between, and I his muse in return. At the dock we sat for hours, bouncing about ideas, regaling stories from a wilder youth, and trading tales of success and failure. It was bliss.


A late-afternoon stroll took us to the universally-unique district of Christiania. Right in the heart of Copenhagen sits a former military barracks that lets off a heavy whiff of marijuana. Taken over by hippie-squatters in 1971 as an anti-governmental social experiment, Christiania became a self-governing collective operating under its own rules and principles. Following a dark era involving hard drugs and murder, this anarchistic micro-nation has now cleaned-up, and its 850 residents are currently deliberating an offer from the Danish government to outright purchase the 34 hectares of land they live on.

One of Christiania’s most famous sons is Lukas Forchhammer, lead singer of the pop band Lukas Graham, who, in an interview with Rolling Stone, spoke about growing up in this community led him to learn “how to mix a Molotov cocktail before I knew how to mix a Long Island iced tea.” He has also reminisced about the police presence was so pervasive that a fear manifested itself within the children of the rough neighbourhood and it wasn’t uncommon for this anger to be vented at the authorities. He concluded, however, by describing Christiania as a ‘utopian place to grow up if you’ve got parents living together and working regular jobs. There’s just this sense of community. Everybody knows everybody. Everybody helps everybody. You know the names of your friends’ parents.”

Leaving behind the Freetown, the setting sun shining with an even brighter intensity than it had all afternoon, Jason and I picked up the blaring noise of techno music from a distant set of speakers and, following it, stumbled upon a family-friendly canal-side party; DJ, a bar, and tattooed dudes flipping burgers whilst everyone chatted away in a jovial manner. A couple of cold ones and a few dying rays helped crown off what had been a fantastically-relaxing sightseeing way to shake off our hangovers from the night before.

A Night in the Jailhouse

Copenhagen, Denmark • May 2018 • Length of Read: 6 Minutes


The security line at Edinburgh airport weaved its way like a caterpillar around the roped queue, grumpy holidaymakers becoming impatient as they shuffled along at an insect’s pace. There was a guy in a full kilt about a dozen places in front of me; Bonnie Prince Charlie jacket, waistcoat, knee-high socks, sgian-dubh, laced shoes, the lot. I would have bet my house on him setting off the security scanner, but as I got trapped behind a group of face-tattooed foreigners he emptied his sporran and strolled through the checkpoint without so much as a second glance from the officers on duty. I guess that’s why I don’t yet have a mortgage or place of my own.

The previous day I’d gone to the cinema by myself to see Avengers: Infinity War Pt. 1, the most recent release in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Why certain people think it’s weird to go to the cinema alone is beyond me. You’re sitting in a dark room, watching something you’ve paid to see, and where it’s a social faux pas to talk. Writing this, I’m struggling to think of many other activities or events better suited to doing alone. There had been some scenes in the movie filmed in Edinburgh. At one point, Scarlet Witch and Vision are having a romantic heart-to-heart in the cobbled Old Town, when a laminated sign on the window of the late-night fast food shop that they’re standing in front is brought into focus to display a pixelated saltire with the notice ‘We’ll deep fry your kebabs’ printed underneath. A warmth swelled up in my heart, so proud to call myself Scottish.

I was heading to Denmark for three nights to visit some very close friends and following a rather peaceful, albeit cramped, flight I exited Copenhagen Airport and took the metro to DR Buyen station where I then chilled out on the grass and waited for Jason, Ieva, and Iza to arrive. It had been two-and-a-half years since I’d made acquaintance with the girls whilst on a New Year’s getaway to their hometown of Vilnius, Lithuania, and although I’d spent a lot of time with Iza during her interim six-month university exchange programme to Glasgow, I hadn’t seen Ieva since. When I’d suggested a reunion in the city where they now resided, they were quick to agree, and it didn’t take much to get my travelling companion Jason immediately on-board. His flight had landed a fair few hours ahead of mine, and he’d sat in the airport bar drinking €9 pints before realizing it would be cheaper, and more sociable, to drink cans of supermarket lager in the girls’ student digs. And that’s when I saw them…

It was hugs and smiles all round as we embraced one another, a million questions being fired about as we sauntered our way towards a nearby park, my neck catching the last glimmering rays of the setting sun. For better or worse, Ieva hadn’t changed a bit, and upon graduating from university back in Lithuania had immediately relocated herself to be with Iza. Despite being the elder of the near-inseparable pair, she looks up to Iza as an older sister for advice, security and confirmation, and the independent Iza lovingly accepts this adopted role.

Unlike in the UK, where there is a party or event taking place near on every night of the week, the bars and clubs of Copenhagen tend to restrict their opening days from Thursday to Sunday. With it being a Wednesday night, our options of drinking establishments were therefore drastically limited. Ieva was able to do a quick search on her phone, however, and identify that a place called the Jailhouse was within walking distance of their flat and open for business. The fact that it was a gay bar did nothing to dissuade us from this proposition.


With the windows barred up, the booths replicas of holding cells, and the sign hanging above the door designed to be like that of a penitentiary, we entered the street level bar to find a line of male barflies perched atop wooden stools and staring into their pint glasses whilst a gentleman dressed in a fancy-dress-shop policeman’s uniform, and looking like he’d come straight from a Village People concert, poured them their medicine. A gay bar that had every stereotype completely ‘locked-down’.

The policeman’s eyes lit up as we entered and quickly became transfixed on Jason, a dude blessed with the model like looks of Thor. A sharp blow on his whistle and suddenly every punter in the place was looking at him.

“Take your top off for a free drink,” he yelled in a camp and seductive manner. “And that is a law enforcement order.”

Always in good spirits, Jason removed his t-shirt without hesitation to reveal a tanned and ripped personal trainer torso that sent the policeman-bartender into overdrive with hot flushes. He maintained enough composure, however, to grab Jason by the hand and march him round to the staff members’ side of the bar.

“Choose your poison,” he said, absolutely loving this novel treat. “There’s a wide selection on the top shelf,” he continued, taking up a position directly behind Jason. “Or, if you’d prefer to bend over and see what’s on the bottom shelf, then be my guest.”

“The tequila from the top shelf will be suffice enough,” laughed Jason, happy to play along with the joke as long as it remained a joke. The handcuffs hanging from his belt looked to be a prop, but I wouldn’t want to second guess that he’d used them on an un-expectant patron before.

“Very well,” said the policeman, tipping the brim of his cap. “Four tequila slammers coming up for yourself and the three girls,” he grinned, nodding in the direction of Ieva, Iza and myself. In the eyes of a gay man, apparently I’d just switched genders. Whether I should have been relieved or displeased by this, I’m not too sure.

“If I take my top off can I also get a free round?” I asked the policeman as he came over to pour our drinks.

“Sorry, but you’re too ugly” said the policeman with deadpan sarcasm, as Jason searched around for his t-shirt.

“Hey, where did my t-shirt go?” queried Jason. “I don’t want to remain topless all night.”

“Well, somebody wants you to,” laughed Iza. “A guy came over whilst you were behind the bar, snatched it, and then scampered off into the staff room round the back.”

Somewhat panic-stricken, Jason headed round the back and after a bit of searching breathed a sigh of relief. His t-shirt had been put on a hanger on the wall. The guy has been bold enough to steal his t-shirt, but gay enough to not want risk it becoming creased.

We danced around to camp pop hits for the remainder of the evening, cracking jokes with the policeman, who we found out was actually the owner of the bar, and reliving the good old days from when I’d been partying in New Zealand with Jason and snowy Vilnius with the girls. The policeman was an absolutely charming man and seemed to genuinely really appreciate us for having brightened up his mid-week graveyard shift. As closing time neared, one other heterosexual couple and ourselves the only remaining patrons, the policeman gave us some free mint shots for the road and we staggered back to the girls’ apartment.

They had done their best to make room to accommodate their guests, but as I laid down on the hardwood floor, wrapped in a dog blanket, I couldn’t help but imagine that some prisoners probably had more comfortable sleeping conditions.