Summer Guest Blog Series: Favorite Travel Memories
I’m a strong advocate for talking to strangers, especially while traveling abroad. You never know what adventures will come from it! Allie’s favorite travel memory is the perfect blend of talking to strangers and the amazing experiences and memories you can gain from it.
During the fall of my junior year of college, when I was studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, every night out was an adventure. There was no telling what sort of dive bar we would end up at or what sort of characters we would meet. Adventures ranged from Danish rappers performing at overcrowded nightclubs serving champagne mixed with Kool Aid to Scottish pubs, karaoke bars, and late night hot dogs on the pedestrian shopping street. My best night out, however, started out with boredom.
Uninspired by the prospects ahead of us, we began our night at the bar near our school, filled to the brim with American students craving the comforts of home, like beer pong tables and 10 shots for 100 kroner. Quickly growing tired of this and seeking something different, the majority of our group went home while one other girl and I refused to call this a night. We strolled for a few blocks before walking into Heidi’s, an entirely Danish bar right around the block from Rådhuspladsen. Refusing to be intimidated by the extremely local nature of this bar, we grabbed some Carlsbergs and took a table by the window.
We sat down and began to take in our surroundings. The older Danes at the bar, clearly regulars here, engrossed in conversation with the bartenders. The group of young women, enjoying a girls’ night out. And the group of young, attractive, blond men at the table right next to us.
Maybe this night wouldn’t be as boring as we thought.
As groups of young people of opposite genders seated in bars are wont to do, we naturally struck up a conversation with these Danes, hoping to make some native friends and learn more about the culture in which we were immersed. Talking to them was more interesting and enlightening than we ever could have imagined, because they weren’t just regular Danes.
These were members of the Royal Danish Navy who happened to currently be serving as the sailors on the Queen Margrethe II’s private yacht!
Hardly believing our luck, we wanted to spend as much time with these guys as possible and hopefully wrangle ourselves a hangout the next day, perhaps on said yacht. Beer after beer was purchased, everything imaginable was discussed, and we stayed up talking with them at this bar until after 4 am. When we couldn’t keep our eyes open any longer, we bid the sailors good night. As we were rising from the table, Michael uttered music to our ears: “Hey, do you guys want to come and see the ship tomorrow?”
Now, how do you say no to that?
The next afternoon, my friend and I headed across the harbor via harbor taxi to where we knew the yacht was docked (it had been pointed out to us when we first arrived on our inaugural tour of the city, so we knew what it looked like). The sailors told us to meet them “by the submarine”, and we weren’t quite sure if this submarine would be in the water or on land. Entering the dockyards, we suddenly felt very civilian, as everyone around us was dressed up in uniform. Taking turn after turn, we realized we had absolutely no idea where we were going, and began to question everything the guys had told us the night before. Self-doubt pouring forth, we began to wonder if these guys were even sailors at all and were just using that as a good pick-up line (which we would have to give them credit for – it was). And just when we were about to turn around and head home, we found the submarine. On land.
Across from the submarine was the very ship we had been looking for. Our sailor friends (indeed, actually sailors) were standing in front of it, dressed to the nines in their naval whites. They walked us up and down the length of the ship before inviting us on board. We strolled down the decks, stood on the bow, and even got to go down below to see their living quarters. The queen’s stateroom was off limits, even for them.
We spent a few minutes being starstruck and taking all sorts of pictures before bidding our sailor friends bon voyage – they were shipping out later that day, not to return for months. This was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity that I never would have had, had I not taken the risk to visit a truly Danish bar and strike up a conversation with some strangers. Let this be a lesson in spontaneity and risk-taking: you never know whose boat you’ll end up on!
Allie just graduated from college this May and is now a grad student in Boston studying public health. Allie’s semester in Denmark was her first taste of international living and she can’t wait to get more of it. Allie is turning 23 this year and has been to 23 countries. Allie’s hope is to keep that record going. Follow Allie’s adventures at Travel Unraveled or Twitter.
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© Connie Hum 2011