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Good Old Copenhagen


On Saturday nights, I normally lounge around in Cafe Intime, enjoying the company of other regulars. This habit is at risk now that the Eurovision Song Contest is on its way to Copenhagen, and with that an invasion of tourists. However, the following critical review will hopefully make visitors think twice before occupying our beloved hang-out.

My worries began already on the winning night of Eurovision last year. Monica, the singing cafe owner, watched the voting in her apartment upstairs and kept us informed of the scores over the phone. Immediately after the Danish victory, people flocked in. They brought their own CDs and started to play the songs of The Olsen Brothers, a disturbance that went on for hours.

I guess men in general prefer centrally located bars with space and ventilation, a little something to eat, draught beer and contemporary music. Intime is precisely the opposite: small and smoky, the atmosphere and the music nostalgic, food and draught beer non-existent, and the bar's position in Frederiksberg, a town within the city of Copenhagen, is a bit out of the way.

Happy Days

Also this particular evening, the piano music can be heard from outside, a reminder of the good old days. Deep-red walls with shelves full of knick-knacks evoke a warm homelike atmosphere inside. First-time visitors are examined curiously, which frightens off a few. Most of them stay, though, and many end up becoming dependent on Intime, thanks to Monica who is bartender, owner and singer, all wrapped in one.

To judge by the regulars, everything seems as usual. It's only 11 and still quiet. The beer conjures up memories, hidden in every nook and cranny. I came here the first time ages ago when there was a grand piano by the window, where the gnarled old fingers of Oda generated tunes of joy and sentimentality. Her heavy dresses, like historical theatre costumes, kept her warm. Oda's wise eyes revealed a well-developed sense of romance. She was actually an excellent matchmaker.

Monica, dressed in black, is beautiful proof that Danish cosiness can even be created by a Swede. Her long career as a singer has blessed her with a large repertoire, and she asks with natural confidence, "What would you like to hear?" In my nostalgic mood, I instinctively come to think of Oda's song,

"I love you
because your nature flutters
towards me
like a candle in the draught
I love you
for when I believe I've got you
then the candle goes out
and you are gone"

The conversation normally stops while Monica is singing. Otherwise, noisy customers get a sharp look or a reproving tap from her microphone. Needing a foundation for her home-made drum, which is simply an empty pizza box, she asks people to lend her a corner of their table. Monica always returns to the bar after three songs.

Burning Eyes

I turn on my bar stool and park my elbows on the bar counter again. From my elevated seat, I have a perfect view of all that is going on and a chance of chatting with Monica. This is also a good position for practicing eye contact across the room, although the choking tobacco smoke hampers my visual power. Eventually, my burning eyes can take no more and look pleadingly at the fan on the shelf; it drags itself back and forth with no effect whatever.

Cafe Intime is quite unpredictable. At times, the noise exceeds the cosiness, whereas on other nights, the happy singing goes on and on, because artists among the guests are persuaded to give a number or two, and perhaps Monica's son turns up with his double bass. Palle on the piano knows, without exception, all the melodies by heart. To brace him, the guests bring him glasses of white wine. The only predictable happening is an old-age pensioner asking his standard question, "Nature seals?" He collects money for nature conservation day and night.

A tall and high-spirited guy hurries in, followed by his partner and two smashing young ladies. Impatiently waving a CD, he apparently waits for a pause in the piano playing, and the minute Palle lets go of the keys, the guy puts his CD on and starts dancing. The winning songs of the Danish contestants over the years blare out in the room. The volume is too high for Monica, exactly as it is for me. Anyway, it's about time to leave. The next bar is some distance away, but The Olsen Brothers suggest how I could get there fast, "Fly on the wings of love, fly baby fly!"