In the spring of 2019, I was still
living existing in
Hamburg, crammed into university with all the
Then, while I was busy doing nothing, a relative of mine
spontaneously gifted me with two tickets to a
Richard Stallman talk. In
Copenhagen! I thought this was a wonderful opportunity to get some
entertainment and explore Denmark, and so I
called Lars and invited
him to come with me. Being a free software fetishist, he approved.
In typical German fashion, our train had been cancelled while we
were waiting at the platform. We went to customer service and
asked about any alternatives to consider. They told us the the
next train was going to depart in three hours. Cool.
Eventually, we traveled on the now
first via train and – starting from Lolland – via bus.
Having passed a sleazy money exchange office at Copenhagen main
station, we hopped on a long and nauseating bus ride. After an
hour that felt like a full afternoon, we got off the bus in
Tingbjerg, which is
social housing project from ancient times. It consists of lots and
lots of houses in rows and rows and rows. Before seeing this, I
couldn't imagine a neighbourhood more uncomfortable than the one
depicted in Clockwork Orange, yet here we were. I could
virtually feel all the joy in life getting squeezed out of my
Luckily, our host didn't live right there. But it wasn't far away
either: she lived just across the river, and there it was just as
bad. Same Truman Show surrealness, but this time disguised as
There was a Herbalife sticker on our host's door. Cool, I
thought, and we entered the apartment. The corridor was just as
bland as the environment, but our host turned out to be a friendly
middle-aged woman. She left us her living room as a refuge, and I
started to examine our temporary home.
It was bright, a little tacky, and there was a small
balcony. Inside, there were a television set, a rather old stereo
and these strange 80s-Pop-and-Rock CDs that float around your
grandmother's house, even though you never witnessed her listening
to them. The sparse shelves were filled with lots of random
books. I could spot a Bible, a Quran, books about sushi, an L. Ron
Hubbard book, and an English dictionary.
I took a closer look. Split up over multiple shelves, there were
titles such as What is Scientology? (one copy in English,
two copies in Danish), Speaking from Experience, Based on the
works of L. Ron Hubbard, Handbog i Scientologi, and
what I assume is an art book, also attributed to L. Ron
Hubbard. Thinking that our host might be a scientologist crept me
out, but Lars didn't seem too concerned. He even straight up asked
her about it, and she took a great pride in coming out to us as a
Scientologist. Eventually, we found more and more cult garbage
floating around her apartment.
“Well, at least she will be out of the apartment soon”, Lars said.
“You better tell the truth”, I joked. “Imagine
if you overlooked something in the ad and she's going to stay here
with us all the time.”
— “OK, I'm going to look at it again. Just in case.”
His eyes wandered to the screen and rested there for a couple of
seconds. Then, he looked at me again.
We decided to go outside and get some food. There was not a single
supermarket in our neighbourhood, so we
had to walk for about twenty minutes to a dark, depressing, and
discount store. Later on, we would eventually learn that this
seems to be a standard for Copenhagen. Just
about everything is dark, depressing and expensive.
We took an expensive bus (that
looked like a vehicle
from LazyTown) downtown. The sun had already set, and the
streets were surprisingly empty for a city this big. An icy blast
was blowing through the vast and weirdly oversized spaces between
the various monumental buildings. I did not feel well, and since
hunger settled in for both of us, we started looking for a
Difficult. First, we randomly turned left and right and found
ourselves in the middle of a shopping mile. Not a single store had
been open. There were no restaurants nearby either which seemed
very odd. After twenty minutes, we eventually found one in a dark
and grimy corner of the center. It was — surprise! —
expensive, but the food was ok.
Ever have one of those dreams where you are in need of a basic
thing (some water, your phone, etc.) that you just can't seem to
get ahold of? This is exactly how finding a restaurant in
Copenhagen felt like.
With the scientologist lurking around in the room to my left and
the view on overly pragmatic social housing to my right, I could
barely fall asleep. This anxious insomnia slowly faded though, as
we tried to maximize the time spent downtown and minimize the
hours we would stay in the apartment.
Richard Stallman's talk took place at Lundbeckfond Auditorium. The
entrance was a little spartanic: there
were tiny pieces of printed
paper to guide the audience members and there was a table with
free (as in: beer) stickers. Lars and I took some.
The talk itself was not overly newsworthy. Richard Stallman
favourite topics, accompanied by cute grapics: freedom in
software, user's rights, et cetera. Interestingly enough, I felt
extremely missionary at the end of the talk and was offended by
the gaping injustices in the software ecosystem, so I guess he got
his point across pretty well. Him talking about smart vibrators
running proprietary software could have also been the cause. Or
the fact that he lotioned and massaged his bare foot while
I had my Emacs
manual signed and
tried to forget about the lotion incident by eating a large slice
of great pizza at Gastronomia
Italiana 5. Lars ordered a calzone which was also done very
Back at the Airbnb. It's the last evening in Copenhagen, and I am
glad about that. In a relaxed mood, I go to the ██████ in order to
take a ████. But when flushing, I noticed the horror: the ██████
was jammed! I started to panic: there were no tools in reach to
make that shit go away, and I did not want to wake the
Scientologist under all circumstances.
I exit the bathroom and consult Lars, but he does not have any
idea either, except for "what if we just leave it that
way and get away as soon as possible?"
In desparation, I empty my suitcase, looking for something
waterproof like a stick, and eventually find the plastic bag that
I originally wanted to use for laundry. I could wrap this around
my hand and stick it down the ███! Perfect!
Then, I noticed a fairly large hole inside of the bag. "Well, we
could put lots of duct tape on it", Lars suggested; but we
couldn't find any in the apartment. Proceeding to empty my
belongings, I get ahold of my backpack, and the Emacs stickers
We both exchange a couple of intrigued and disgusted glances and
then apply an oddly-fitting Emacs sticker onto the plastic
bag. During the application process, all I can think about is how
to justify this so I can keep on living. “This is what
Richard Stallman would have wanted”, I reckon,
“this is hacking!”, I reason.
I don't want to go into detail explaning what happened
next. Suffice it to say that:
- The sticker did not prevent any water from leaking into the
- I make a mental note to never again go to Denmark.