We were on the plane to Copenhagen and my husband, suddenly, in disbelief, asked, “Is that a pink UNICORN llama?” “Of course,” I responded, not sure what it was he was really asking. I mean it wasn’t like he was William Shatner and this was the Twilight Zone. Everyone could plainly see the pink unicorn llama sitting on the tray table, staring maniacally with its beady blue eyes. My husband shook his head and went back to reading. Sometimes you just have to accept things that happen in life. Like the appearance of pink unicorn llamas. With sparkle fur.
I’ve been learning to accept things as they happen, too. Like more often than not, Goose will get car sick, or airplane sick. Or that no matter how much I plan, we always end up doing one thing and then spend the rest of the time either wandering around the city, or just hanging in the hotel. And I’ve made my peace with that.
In fact, I was hoping that on this trip to Copenhagen, I’d learn more about finding peace and I might be able to absorb what makes Denmark one of the happiest cities in Europe. The kids, of course, were more interested in vikings.
The vikings sailed from Denmark to pretty much all of the world, laying waste to wherever they went, their ships and shields bedecked with imaginary animals. And when we stepped off the plane, pink unicorn llama in hand, and I smelled something so horrible, I feared that we were about to lay waste to Copenhagen, starting with the airport toilets. “I need to go to the bathroom,” Goose said, from her perch on her dad’s shoulders. “Can’t you wait until we get to the hotel?” he asked her. “No. Now,” she said through tiny clenched teeth.
As my littlest began to feel relieved, and chatted at me sweetly for several minutes about the shapes and sounds of poop (Yes, we discussed the sounds of poop), I began to wonder if the Vikings didn’t just get a bad reputation. I mean, back in the 8th and 9th centuries everyone was kind of an asshole with all their pillaging and rampaging. Maybe they all just needed more fiber and a little mommy time.
In fact, what I learned at the Danish National Museum the next day was that not all vikings were warriors. They were farmers and craftspeople who made beautiful jewelry, intense chain mail, and intricate ships.
Sure the vikings invaded Britian, but as I watched my children run willy-nilly through the interactive childrens’ museum there, touching everything, tossing it aside and going on to the next thing, I wondered if maybe the Viking just didn’t know how to take turns, or ask politely for things.
And I couldn’t help but think, as we continued our way through one of the largest museums I’ve even been to, the kids stomping and then whining their way through the Romans, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Intuits, Japan, China and even South American tribes, that maybe the Vikings were just really overwhelmed by their voyages. Maybe, they had a leader, like we did, who insisted they keep going, and as we got hungrier, and more tired, as we stomped through exhibits of Denmark in the 1600s, in the 1700s, ithe 1800s, in the 1900s, it happened. We were too hungry, too tired, and we were ready to pillage everything in our path, including all familial relationships.
But luckily our leader found us food. And not just any food but all you could eat and drink where they actually served you! No sneeze guards here! Everyone’s moods instantly improved. And then we went back to our hotel to sleep.
In Copenhagen in December, the night settles in around 4pm in the afternoon. The sky goes from a brilliant pure blue to a type of darkness that light doesn’t penetrate so much as pinpoint, as if to say there is no way to change it. And when you stop trying to make the day last longer and just give into the thick darkness, there is a sort of peacefulness that can be obtained.
Like the peacefulness of watching a movie together. Or enjoying how much the kids wanted to draw and write. Squirrel worked really hard on her numbers up to 100, and Goose wrote me a “song,” which was eerily similar to the Viking runes we had just seen.
And maybe because the day ended so soon, we were able to enjoy the daylight hours on this trip. We were grateful to be outside in the fresh air because we knew the day was short.
At night we went to Tivoli gardens and enjoyed the rides, the light show and the laughter.
By day we rented a cargo bike and the kids laughed hysterically because at every turn they could be dumped. Other cyclist passed us, laughing, because the girls were belting out “Oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh” as their father pushed and panted and worked through the pain of going up hill. And then he got a beer for the courage to continue.
We didn’t see all the sites. We didn’t do everything on our list. But it was one of most enjoyable trips we’ve had so far. And in fact, we spent our last night in Copenhagen at the hotel instead of seeing more. Nearby were two tense couples, spending more times on their phones, and the other planning their next itinerary minute by minute. The kids played a game called “Uhhhhh” which is what they yell when they push opponents pieces off the board.
The game was born in Barcelona when we discovered that the hotel checker game was incomplete. Instead of getting upset at what they couldn’t do, my husband taught the kids a new game with what they had and they made up the rules. As we played the game, and enjoyed our food, I realized that we had finally figured out how to travel together.