In another amazing #VendorWeek story, we hear from Henrik about his very personal bicycle tours of Copenhagen.
Henrik sells the Danish street paper Hus Forbi, and is known as Popeye because he used to be a sailor. He has been homeless for many years but now lives in a small apartment in Copenhagen. For the past five years, Henrik has lead bicycle tours across the city for Hus Forbi readers. His tours start out at Hus Forbi’s headquarters in the city’s Nørrebro District and end at his favourite spot in town – Christiania [an autonomous free town within Copenhagen, often likened to a hippy commune].
Henrik’s tours also visit spots that are meaningful to him, such as abandoned houses where he used to squat, the place where got hit on the head with a frying pan and his favourites places to sell Hus Forbi. Henrik looks back on his final, anniversary bike ride. His closest friends also joined him on what was to be an emotional outing.
By Henrik (aka Popeye), Hus Forbi vendor
Over the past few years, I have said that once I reach 100 bicycle tours then I will stop. But it was great to have friends and acquaintances, many from Christiania, on my last trip.
I have been doing these bike trips for five years now. That should be plenty. I had fun. In fact, I am the one who gets a tour every time!
When I do a guided tour on my bicycle, all my daily problems go away for the two hours it takes. I have to concentrate and see that everyone is still following the group. I have to be very careful that I remember to say the right things at the right places. I have to remember what to say and keep an eye on the traffic.
All the things that I otherwise worry about are gone for two hours. My daily problems seem to be forgotten.
“When I do a guided tour on my bicycle, all my daily problems go away for the two hours it takes.”
There are even people who have taken a tour with me twice. The first time it was a couple from Jutland, the continental part of Denmark. On the second trip with them, I showed them my homeless housing and where I grew up in Valby [a south-western district of the city]. This was not part of the tour. But they should not experience the same thing twice. We ended up going a cup of coffee.
One of the permanent stops on the tour has been a formerly occupied house in Baldersgade [a street in the northern Nørrebro district of Copenhagen] where I was a squatter when I was much younger. I had not been inside the house for 20 years. But the man who runs the bicycle repair and sales in Christinia knows a resident there, so we were invited to see inside. It is the only occupied place in Copenhagen where squatters were finally allowed to remain.
I would like to say a huge thank you to the bicycle repairman from Christiania. They drop everything to repair my bike if it needs fixed because they know how important it is to me. My bicycle is the most repaired bicycle throughout time in Christiania!
During the guided tours in Copenhagen there has been only one puncture. It was not me. It was a lady. It happened at an early stage of the tour and she lived nearby so she could just walk home with her bike. Otherwise, there have been no accidents on the trips for five years, except that we have had to get a bit of air in the tyres at various bicycle repair shops.
I do not know, how many people have come touring with me. There have been many trips with two persons. I have had larger groups too. I do not like to do guided tours in English. I have been a sailor for many years and I know the most important phrases but I am not really able to tell my stories in English. I have tried with a Danish-American couple and with two Australians. Suddenly I have to use some word that I otherwise not use.
After 100 tours I have been guiding people from all over Denmark through Copenhagen. The biggest tour was with 14 people. In 2015, my first trip was with a group of eight politicians. They learned something about being homeless.
Thanks to all of you who have been part of my guided tours: this has been nice.
Friends and readers discuss taking part in Henrik’s guided tours of Copenhagen
Morten Tang, chef and friend of Henrik, on his anniversary tour through Copenhagen: The dear sailor asked me to meet him in front of Hus Forbi’s office shortly after noon. The presence of those who are Popeye’s nearest friends meant the trip became more emotional than usual. He has some tough stories to stand and tell his nearest and dearest. It is something of a balancing act for Popeye. But as we start the tour and begin to move through the city, I can tell that this tour means a lot to him. It is an education, and I am grateful to be among these wonderful people on a hazy Sunday afternoon, as we move through the beautiful autumnal colours of Copenhagen’s streets.
Gitte, tour participant: Thanks to Henry for a great experience on the bike. It was a lovely trip. You are such a sympathetic person. I wish you well. –
“Each of the ten stops came with its own, vivid story… an exciting and enlightening tale of a life of good and evil.”
Gerda, tour participant: Just a word of greeting and thanks for the ride, Henrik. An interesting and nice trip through Copenhagen, namely Henrik’s Copenhagen… an exciting and enlightening tale of a life of good and evil. Each of the ten stops came with its own, vivid story. Beautiful, Henrik. The very best wishes to you in the future.
Richard and Hanne, tour participants: On Friday we went on a great bike ride in Copenhagen. The guide on the trip was the Hus Forbi vendor Henrik. From Hus Forbi’s office in the Noerrebro District we went around the city, where we had about ten stops. Last stop was Christiania. In every place Henrik had a story to tell. In a very empathetic way he talked about his childhood and his adult life – a life which has certainly not been ‘boring’, but then again – a very tough life. No doubt that he has emotionally reached a lot of people with a big heart, like himself. An experience highly recommended. Thanks to Henrik.
Back INSP’s work supporting opportunities for vendors like Henrik by donating today.