Coming in from the Cold

From Copenhagen to Vienna
July 2009 to September 2011

An Epistle

Dear all,

There is a famous quote about Denmark by an important English writer who did a lot for British theatre and the world’s understanding of Italian romance, and it starts with “Something is rotten…”. Marcellus, who spoke those words, could not have meant the real Denmark, for we found little there that is so rotten it needed to be immortalized in a play (and Shakespeare was famous for a somewhat shaky reference to real-life localities, such as when he placed Bohemia near the sea). However, we did find some things we’d love to change. And some we simply loved.

It is a while since my last epistle from the Nitzsche Creatures. One can either accredit this to “not much to say” or “not enough time”. In fact, it was a mix of both. Since we left Iran and settled in the Nordics, we have spent a good deal of time learning new things, both about Scandinavia and ourselves. This letter is too short to explore all the depths of these experiences, but suffice it to say that we realised better who and what we are, and that we definitely weren’t born to live up North.

Denmark has a rather frigid reputation. For one, it is considered a generally cold place (only partly true – we had a couple of scorching days there). Its inhabitants are also renowned for giving foreigners the cold shoulder (comes a bit closer to the truth, but generally does not hold up at the long run). Finally, it sports “cool” design. Now there, we wholeheartedly agree.

Danish Winter, one has to say, was a pretty cold affair, in both 2010 and 2011. But as in Iran, we apparently witnessed coincidentally the hardest winters for more than 40 years, with much more snow than the average middle-aged Dane would have experienced at home in any year since out of nappies. It was a startling experience for us, since everyone told us there would only be rain, and then more rain. The standard national house features a flat roof, which means that the white stuff was piled up all around us for several months, including on top of our heads.

Neither this, nor the darkness that descends onto the North from October to April was, however, a hindrance to the most widely adopted Danish pastime (other than devouring a daily hot dog, paying taxes, and crossing national borders to buy and drink large amounts of alcohol) of fitness. No weather condition is averse enough to push a Dane off his bike. No rain hard enough to stop a Dane from running. No cold cold enough to prevent a Dane from having a dip. In fact, the very next day after the first year’s heavy snowfall – about half a metre overnight – the first neighbours appeared on the streets with sticks in hand and small wooden planks strapped under their feet – an attempt at cross-country with mini-skis. Needless to say that we didn’t join them.