A week later, we travelled to Billund, and we stayed there three days until I took a flight to Rome.
Even though Billund is an essential touristic focus and contains Denmark’s second most important airport, there is no train station to get there. So we took a train from Randers to Vejle and then a bus to Billund. The total time was around three hours, which was nothing having Ida as a company.
The city lives through Lego. If I were the King of Denmark, I would rename it to Legoland.
Here you have Worldwide Lego’s factory (they produce 85% of world Lego), Lego Worldwide Headquarters, Lego House and Lego Resort.
The only thing that is not Lego in Billund is The Teddy Bear Art Museum, which I can recommend to you if you are dating someone. Even Billund Airport was built by Lego (however was transferred later to public administration).
Legoland was still open in November, but only on weekends. It is understandable with this weather closed to 0 degrees. It was lovely to go through Miniland with Ida and imagine an incredible world where we end happily ever after.
I even thought of having kids and raising them in Denmark. I imagined learning Danish and talking to my kids about how I ended randomly in this country and fell in love with your mother.
Ida seemed like the perfect girl on Earth: she is clever, funny, attractive and sensitive. In addition to that, she loved art, literature, nature and parks.
“Benjamin Gunst, I am not going to ask you to stay. But I have enjoyed a lot being with you these days”.
I just had the courage to say “Me too”.
“I’d love to meet you again.”
“What if we plan to meet on your next vacation? Maybe in the summertime”, I said hopefully.
“It sounds good, but do not plan it. Your life is beautiful now because it is full of spontaneous moments and unpredictable events. I don’t want to be your only event on your calendar. If we are going to meet again, you will be surprised by it”.
And then we kissed.
I still don’t know why I took that Ryanair flight to Rome.
I have to say that Memphis Mansion is worthy, as you don’t expect to have the most extensive collection of Elvis items in a humble city outside the United States.
I also had a fabulous experience at Randers Kunstmuseum. Even though it is a typical art museum of a small European city, Ida imprinted all her energy showing it to me as she works there.
The museum contains an extensive selection of arts from Denmark and abroad. They are chronologically placed from the late 18th Century (the Golden Age of Danish art) to our days showing how Denmark Art Scene has changed through the ages. As Ida did her master’s in Danish Gold Age Art, she was living the life of her dreams.
It was marvellous to see her explaining with great passion the works of names such as C. W. Eckersberg, J. Th. Lundbye, Vilhelm Kyhn that I never heard before. I got fascinated by Tróndur Patursson’s Koskisk Rum; it was the artistic highlight of the day.
So far, I haven’t expressed my interest to Ida because I feel so impure to even make her acknowledge my intentions. But I couldn’t resist admiring her at the Kosmik Rum dome.
She noticed it and smiled.
She invited me to have dinner at her place again, but I asked her to go to a restaurant. She accepted and suggested Café Jens Otto for beers. The night was going excellent until Jessica appeared.
“Come to Italy, Benjamin. I want to talk to you,” she texted.
Ida invited me to stay over a couple of days at her place so I would have the chance to relax the back and forth travelling and to experience living in a Danish neighbourhood.
“If you decide to stay one week until I am free of work at the museum, I can take you to Billund. There is a park there and also a very well connected airport.”
I couldn’t say no. My only problem was that I wanted to stay with her forever. I don’t know why I didn’t mention it.
“Where are you going after, Benjamin Gunst?”
“Maybe Italy,” my mouth said. But my mind wanted to stay in Randers. I don’t know why I needed to go to Italy, I don’t know why I bought that ticket from Billund.
“Let’s talk next week. I am flying to Rome, Jessica”.
I took advantage of the ride from Aarhus to Randers with Mariana, and we reached there in 40 minutes. I didn’t know why I was expecting a long trip (at least three hours), then I realized I was in the city next door. Anyhow, I gave Mariana money for the gas. Still, it was less than the train ticket (they are costly in Denmark).
While in Randers, Mariana met her cousin/friend Ida, and I decided to go to Randers Regsnkov, a tropical zoo in the middle of Northern Denmark.
The Randers Regnskov Tropical Zoo is a climate-controlled zoo designed to be comparable to three tropical environments worldwide. These climate-regulated zones are under three domes, The South American Amazon Rainforest, the Asian Mythical Southeast and the African Savannah.
Half of the animals are in free roaming, which was very curious to witness in a Scandinavian country.
I loved seeing a lot of kids marvelled by turtles, snakes, and monkeys, which made my trip.
After leaving the place, I headed to my cheap hotel to shower and rest a little before dinner with Mariana and her cousin Ida at her house. They wanted me to bring wine.
One more thing that I discovered: alcohol is costly in Danish bars, so drinking at home would be convenient to save money. Denmark is the only Scandinavian country without alcohol monopoly, so you can buy it in any supermarket. I passed for a REMA 1000, a popular discount, and bought two bottles of some Spanish Tempranillo. It wasn’t the cheapest but also not that expensive. I think I’d look fair choosing an intermediate option, in a country where alcohol is anyway expensive.
I met Mariana and Ida at her place in Kristup, a family neighbourhood of Randers SO. Ida was charming. To be honest, I cannot say that Ida was beautiful; she was beyond that. I have to confess that I think I haven’t seen a most beautiful girl like her.
Ida was Danish-Danish with a Colombian-Danish mother (How she is related to Mariana is super complicated to explain here). So, she has all the graceful Danish characteristics: a detailed perfect smile and nose, blue eyes, yellow-to-white hair like the first solar light of the morning. She has a gracious corporal language, similar to a formal noblewoman who trusts you with her deep secrets. Ida was like a The Lord of The Ring Elf but better. She also had something of Latina inside and didn’t feel like a cold person but appeared to have a warm heart. Physically she was more Scandinavian than Latina, but she had some Jennifer Lopez curves that flashed me when I said ‘hello’ for the first time.
The conversation was fluent. However, they weren’t surprised by my trips (I don’t think any European will be). I learnt more from South America from Ida as she had lived in Medellin for 2 years (but she was born and raised in Denmark). Mariana and Ida mentioned the Red-footed Tortoise were very common as pets in Colombia. I was marvelled by it since I took many pictures of them in Randers Regsknov because I found them exotic. They laughed about it. I felt great.
We spent the night chatting about turtles, Randers, and Colombia while they made fun of my awful Spanish. It was an unexpected night full of brightness and unexpected feelings.
Nonetheless, I realized that even though I love this travel and working lifestyle, I think it cannot be forever. I believe there might be a place outside for me. A place where I will fit like a piece of a puzzle that disappeared a long time ago. I believe that there is a place where everyone is waiting for me to come to find some kind of meaning.
I don’t think I am going to buy Tempranillo anymore.
Before saying goodbye, Ida invited me to show me the city the next day, and I was happy because I thought I liked her. But life is strange, and sometimes when you feel your life is going in the right direction, a new challenge appears.
“I know you might be mad at me. But I still think about you. Come to Rome and meet me. I will be present this time”. Jessica texted during my last sip of wine.
I said yes to Ida. It would be a mistake not to go out with that woman. I don’t know what to do with Jessica, and I don’t want my heart broken again.
The second city of Denmark is different in many ways from the cosmopolitan Copenhagen. Aarhus has a smaller population of around 350,000 people, and it is the youngest city in Denmark. As it is a university city, many young people are part of its demographics.
So you can feel the juvenile vibe around, with events in bars, shops, and most importantly, cafés. “City of Café” is Aarhus’ moniker, as there are a bunch of specialty coffee shops all over the town. On my first day, I consumed the whole afternoon working from an Iraqi-led cafeteria with delicious Arabica coffee. The next day I spent the morning in an Italian-Danish coffee and pastry shop. I didn’t know how I was going to be able to be fit here.
When I reached Aarhus, many people criticized me for going during the autumn as most Aarhus fun happens in the summertime. However, coming from friendly Canada, I enjoyed the fall here, as indoor activities connected me with more people than I expected. I spent two days in a row having friendly conversations in local bars. During that time, I met Mariana, Kristina and Julianne.
Mariana was born in Colombia to a Danish father and Colombian mother, but after the Covid crisis in that country she moved to Denmark. She met Julianne from Geneva, Switzerland, Kristina’s husband, and fell in love with him. Kristina from Kolding has been married to Julianne for 6 years, and she is a psychologist focused on couple behaviour. She had heard about polyamory thanks to his clients and helped them go through it. Still, she never experienced it in life until Julianne confessed to her his love for Mariana.
Kristina, whose self-esteem is as high as Mount Everest, asked Julianne: “Do you still love me?”.
He replied, “yes, I don’t still love you. I love you more than anything in life.”
After that, they decided to continue together, and Mariana and Julianne started a loving relationship. Later, Mariana met Kristina and then they became friends. In the beginning, was arduous, but with time they shifted toward being best friends.
Mariana was driving to Randers the next day to visit her Colombian-Danish cousin Ida. As I didn’t have any plans, I decided to go with her, and she only asked me to share the gas money. Giving money to your friends when they offer you a ride is a cultural custom in Denmark. It is a nice one, knowing that this country has the most expensive oil prices globally.
I spent my last day in Aarhus visiting a park. It was freaking cold, but coming from the North Pole was nothing. I enjoyed the colours of the last days of the autumn, the gray of the sky and the hot coffees on the street.
I took a photo of a tree and sent it to Jessica via WhatsApp. I didn’t know why I did it. When I decided to delete it, it was already late. She replied, “So you are not in Iceland anymore; it is wonderful to know about you.”
They started talking about going to Luxembourg to visit Noah’s mom because she was sick. But suddenly, Katarzyna asked me how I met Jessica, and I said I met her travelling, probably the same way you guys meet her.
-By Tinder? -Said Noah from Luxembourg. Katarzyna hit Noah’s leg so strong that I understood her discomfort. He had just revealed that Pietro and Jessica met on the Internet. So Jessica was looking for a companion while here.
After that, I just laughed uncomfortably and focused on my work. Everyone understood I was hurt after acknowledging that.
15 minutes of silence later, I didn’t see the point of remaining at the table. So I stood up and said goodbye heading to my hostel.
Two minutes later, I found Katarzyna running behind me and yelling my name:
“Benjamin, Benjamin, Benjamin Gunst!” I stayed still until she reached.
-I have to tell you something, she said.
-What? That Jessica is living the happiest life with some random guy that met on Internet? and I am here running away and finding her anyways?
-No, precisely -she said- Pietro is dangerous, Benjamin. He is a liar, and he is worst than her ex-fiancee. Jessica is too innocent to find it out, and she believes in fairy tales.
I felt sad and empty, so I breathed and said with a lump in my throat -I can’t do anything, Katarzyna. She has already made her decision.
-Of course, you can, Benjamin Gunst. She loves you.
So I went straight to downtown Copenhagen to be inside an actual Fairy tale at Tivoli Gardens.
For those who don’t know, Tivoli Gardens is the third oldest amusement park in the world. It was open in 1843 and still features the Rutschebanen, a wooden roller coaster available for the public since 1914.
It looks like Tivoli Garden tries to maintain its fairy tales essence with performances inspired by romantic theatre, academic music, jazz, Chinese and Danish classic tradition. Even though Tivoli is in constant evolution, including attractions now with Virtual Reality lenses, it keeps the magic among many amusement parks worldwide that makes you feel you are in the future. In Tivoli, you are not just in the beautiful past but also in an enchanted town.