NYE in Copenhagen

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At 11 pm local time on 12/30/18, I hopped on a plane in Ft Lauderdale and began the journey to Moldova. As luck would have it, the most affordable route would include an overnight layover in Copenhagen, and on New Year’s Eve at that.

Tivoli Gardens seemed like the appropriate destination for the evening. It’s the second-oldest operating amusement park in the world, opened in 1843, and it’s a popular family-friendly destination for locals and tourists alike. It’s in the center of the city, and it had a spectacular fireworks display planned. And it had what seemed a very reasonable entrance fee of about DKK 120 (roughly $18) considering the rather high prices overall in Copenhagen.

The rides were shut down, but that didn’t keep the park from bursting at the seams with visitors. It was a very festive and jubilant crowd, a great many of whom wore colorful party hats, something I assume is a local or regional tradition. Everyone milled about, taking pleasure in the company of friends and family, and enjoying the carnivalesque lights all around. As a classic introvert, I’m not particularly fond of large crowds, but this was a fun atmosphere, and everyone was having a good time without ruining it for those around them.

Speaking of crowds and lights, this night at Tivoli was a reminder to me of how far I’ve come since my stroke. Two of the results of my brain damage are that I can’t process excessive stimuli very well, and that I have no vision on my right side (my field of vision is only straight ahead and to the left). These limitations can make navigating a chaotic crowd difficult, to the point that sometimes I forgo large events altogether. But in this case I took an easy pace, and I was able to find my way through the throngs without too much trouble. I didn’t bump into too many more people than the norm for this kind of crowd, and my senses didn’t get overwhelmed by all the bright flashing lights and barrage of noise hitting me from all directions. I had a functionality equivalent to a moderate drunkenness, which meant I was probably operating at or above the level of a good many of those around me.

The pop-pop-pop of fireworks had been constant from the moment I entered the city, and my instinct had been to wonder how people back home would handle this. I could picture the Facebook complaints flooding my newsfeed about how this baby or that doggy was disturbed by the noise, and how it was so excessive, and how the celebrations started too soon or extended too late, and on and on. But then I learned that in Denmark, fireworks are only legally permitted on six days out of the year, so it’s a controlled sort of chaos, and people who aren’t fond of fireworks just deal with it. They set aside their individual pet peeves for the sake of the community at large. It’s an accepted exception to the daily routine, and it’s a chance for the city to come together, and for bedtimes to be ignored so that kids and parents alike could let loose and be awed.

I also appreciated the police here. They were working to keep people safe by blocking off roads and keeping vigilant on the sidelines, and they otherwise just let people be. They were serving their community, not looking for opportunities to exercise their authority or bully people who annoyed them. They weren’t trying to break up the party, they were simply making sure no one blew themselves up or drove drunk.

But back to fireworks. All evening long I could see or hear evidence of them all over the city, but at 11 pm, Tivoli put on its own show. And what a show it was. It was no tightly choreographed work of art, but it was exactly what a crowd would love–lots and lots of explosions and sparks and colors and rockets–and it was all directly overhead. The entire park came to a standstill for it.

Much of the crowd left after that, but I stayed. It wasn’t midnight yet, and I didn’t know where else to go. I don’t think they went far, though; the skies just past the taller buildings at the park’s edges began to come alive. By the time midnight struck–a group near me counting down in Danish–the skies on three sides of me were alight with fireworks, and they remained that way for some time. I held my ground and watched the heavens blow up around me for probably forty-five minutes or more before the pace of explosions slowed to something I could turn away from.

At that point I departed the park. Outside the drunkenness and revelry was more extreme, but it didn’t feel dangerous, not like it seems sometimes in the U.S. where you can’t help but wonder how many guns are in the crowd, or if the cops are gonna harass someone they’ve decided they don’t like.

Being quite jet-lagged, and having slept little on the plane, I opted to sleep clear up until it was time to leave for the airport. But I certainly hope the time will come when I can explore Denmark, further.

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