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Danish Traffic Jams...and Jellies

October 27, 2014

Denmark is amazingly clean, beautiful, and extremely well organized, unless you’re on a bus in Copenhagen on a Sunday. Mrs. C. and I were headed to see the world famous statue of the Little Mermaid, donated by Carl Jacobsen of Carlsberg Breweries and placed at the harbor’s edge in 1913, now arguably the most visited site in Denmark.


We sat in a crowded outdoor amphitheater and stared at her for a few minutes before heading back to our bus. The location was jammed with dozens of tour buses and our driver had difficulty steering us away from the congested tourist area. No police were on hand to control traffic. Our driver decided to try a small alley between warehouses now gentrified into chic townhomes.


The cobbled street was barely wide enough for our bus, but again we weren’t alone; several buses blocked our path ahead, and it wasn’t long before buses blocked our retreat. We were trapped in the narrow passage. The drivers of the buses leapt out and began screaming at each other.


A few minutes turned into twenty…and then thirty while the drivers continued shouting at each other. Up until then, Danes had struck me as being extremely calm and polite. A pear-shaped woman with white hair sat on the seat across from us, her face buried in a book. She looked up when I said to Mrs. C., “I wonder what they’re screaming about.”


She spoke perfect English with only a hint of an accent. “They’re shouting at each other over the best place in Copenhagen to find great sandwiches and pastries.”


I was shocked. “Why would they be arguing about food?” I asked. “Why aren’t they trying to figure a way out of this traffic jam?”


She shrugged. “The traffic issue is frustrating, but it will resolve itself. To alleviate their frustration, the drivers argue about food. Look over there.”


I followed the direction of her finger to a Danish flag flying atop a building.


“To most people it looks like a white cross on a red field of color, but to Danes it’s a knife and fork crossed over a red tablecloth. Discussing food is a national pastime in Denmark.”


Frustrated at being tangled in such congestion I blurted out, “It’s absurd to argue about food at a time like this!”


I recognized my discourtesy as the words came out of my mouth. I was a guest in Denmark and in no position to criticize. After all, I’d been in worse traffic jams in cities all over America and should have held my tongue.


I realized the Danes were on to something when instead of giving me a tongue-lashing for insulting her country, the woman diverted the subject away from my rudeness.


“You’re from the United States?” she asked.


I nodded.


“So how good are pastries in America?”





The Little mermaid photographed from a harbor boat.






"So how good are pastries in America?" "Prune Danish? Not so much."
By: Al Penwasser on October 27, 2014
I think studies have concluded that the Danes are amongst the happiest people on Earth. They have a great attitude to life.
By: Botanist on October 27, 2014
Honestly, a fat man could go on and on about pastries. My favorite is a "danish"...
By: Michael Offutt on October 27, 2014
passing the time by arguing about food. too funny!
By: TexWisGirl on October 27, 2014
I think I would love Denmark. :)
By: Hilary on October 27, 2014
I don't get the big deal about visiting that statue, but the story and the culture is very funny. Our pastries are wonderful, my favorite is a Danish!
By: Cranky on October 27, 2014
And i hope your reply was, "Not as good as yours!"
By: mimi on October 27, 2014
Seeing that statue was one of the biggest disappointments in my life. It is so small and out of the way that it seems a bit pointless.
By: Brighton Pensioner on October 27, 2014
Great use of the words "congestion" and traffic "jams" - whether intentional or not. This one provides food for thought on cultural norms. I hope you have great pastries there.
By: Robyn Engel on October 27, 2014
I could definitely become a Dane. I did share my house once with a couple of Great ones. Love the attitude.
By: Akansas Patti on October 27, 2014
Leave it to the Danes to stoically tolerate traffic congestion.
By: PT Dilloway on October 27, 2014
Sometimes we don't know how lucky we are with the traffic system we have. Well, maybe I shouldn't say much when I live in a city with a population of 100000
By: red on October 27, 2014
How odd. On the other hand, there are few things in life I love more than Danish pastries, so for that invention alone, they deserve my respect!
By: Lexa Cain on October 27, 2014
I'm not really interested in going to Denmark, but I'm sure it has many good points. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on October 27, 2014
I like Denmark, I got married to my ex-husband there.
By: Pixel Peeper on October 27, 2014
Well...thank goodness nothing was rotten there.
By: Val on October 27, 2014
“So how good are pastries in America?” Classic and diplomatic way to turn the conversation.
By: Jimmy on October 27, 2014
I like the title to this post... clever. It seems that some think size matters.
By: Daniel LaFrance on October 27, 2014
brilliant post as usual Stephen. brilliant way to turn the conversation around too. great attitude. :) i've been reading your posts but have been so busy lately i haven't been commenting much. hope you are well. :)
By: Fran on October 27, 2014
So, do they regularly have a DANISH with their coffee there in Denmark? Sorry, I just had to.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on October 27, 2014
Ah, yes, all throughout Europe breads, pastries and much food is so much better than here!! Even the packaged food I buy at IKEA is better! Great vignette and I never realized how crowded that place can be!
By: Tabor on October 28, 2014
Did you tell her about our traditional American breakfast pastries called Danish?
By: Mitchell is Moving on October 28, 2014
oh hahahah What a calm woman! and what better way to wait for the traffic to unstick itself than talking about food! My favorite pastry ismost likely a sticky bun hot out of the oven! Especially if I make them ! YUM!
By: Kathe W. on October 28, 2014
oh hahahah What a calm woman! and what better way to wait for the traffic to unstick itself than talking about food! My favorite pastry ismost likely a sticky bun hot out of the oven! Especially if I make them ! YUM!
By: Kathe W. on October 28, 2014
Great story!
By: John on October 28, 2014
Oh, my. Well, if nothing else, it could lead to a good conversation... Except, knowing me, I would start to get hungry... Cat
By: Cat on October 28, 2014
Can we count cheese blintz? I would also add beignets from Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans. Could you get away with Crispy Cremes?
By: Tom Cochrun on October 28, 2014
Ha! Great story - & now I want a pastry...
By: The Bug on October 28, 2014
Now see, I am so jaded by US rage drivers that I would have thought she was cuckoo if she thought those bus drivers were arguing about food. But again..arguing is arguing..
By: Coloring Outside the Lines on October 29, 2014

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