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Trip Recap: Copenhagen, Denmark

Surprisingly, Copenhagen has been my favourite city in Europe so far. There’s just something I really like about it… something almost magical (maybe it’s because the walking tour guide kept talking about Hans Christian Andersen).

I loved all the different neighbourhoods. The history. The people. Everything. And since I’m from Vancouver (and have a bit of hippie in me), I really appreciated the eco-friendly, green culture present throughout the city. We both agreed that if we had to choose one city in Europe to actually settle down and live, it would be Copenhagen. :)

Breakdown of Expenses:

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  • $105.29 (642 kr) – Accommodation: HostelBookers.com sponsorship at Generator Hostel (3 nights total, 1 night sponsored)
  • $114.68 – Transportation: train from Sweden
  • $81.49 (500 kr) – Food: average of $27.16/day, or $9.05 per meal
  • $3.93 (24 kr) – City Transit: metro to airport
  • $9.84 (60 kr) – Entertainment: tip for tour guide, entrance into Church of Our Saviour
  • $11.76 (72 kr) – Miscellaneous: magnet

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TOTAL COST: $326.99

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Living in Europe: The panhandlers and beggars

Almost every day I see panhandlers and beggars. Whether it’s a someone playing the accordion on the metro for spare change, an old woman sitting on a corner with a paper cup in front of her, or people sitting outside the steps of major tourist attractions with a funny – they’re everywhere, and they’re hard to ignore.

In Milan, we came across those that literally forced something into your hand – whether it was bird seed to feed pigeons, a bracelet, charm, or flower – and then harassed you until you paid them a few euros to go away. I’m not sure how they get away with that, but the police officers didn’t seem to care, and some tourists looked really happy taking pictures and feeding the pigeons.

In Barcelona, we saw a woman sobbing and begging each individual person for money on a metro line. In such an enclosed space, it was extremely difficult to look away. Especially when she was inches from your face, crying her eyes out. A few days later, we saw a very old woman enter a metro and start singing. What I assume was her granddaughter (she couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6 years old), approached everybody with a tattered paper cup. Some gave money, but most didn’t – and the ones that did give seemed to be locals.

As a Canadian, I’ve never seen such aggressive panhandling before. Don’t get me wrong, panhandlers are everywhere in Vancouver – and everybody has a different view of what to do about the situation. But I’ve never experienced crying-screaming-in-your-face begging, or people crawling on the ground pleading with tourists for a few coins – like I’ve seen all across Europe.

I think that the amount of begging (and the type of begging) in many countries depends on how much tolerance there is for beggars and panhandlers (do police sweep them off the streets? do locals and tourists complain, or do they give instead?), as well as how deep a person will sink before they resort to begging in order to survive. It’s one thing to see someone sitting on a street corner with a “spare change” sign, but what about someone completely bent over on the ground, never looking up, begging, pleading for a few cents to be placed in their open palm?

Everywhere I go, I think about these people – where do they live? How much do they really make? Does the money ever help them get out of their situation?

In Victoria, I used to volunteer at a homeless shelter, and it was really hard to see my community from that perspective. In Vancouver, people are also really sensitive to the problem of homelessness. But on the other hand, when you see panhandlers smoking cigarettes, drinking beer, or doing drugs, you have to wonder if your spare change is even going to help them for the better.

Once after a dinner out with friends in Vancouver, I saw an old man sitting on a corner had a sign that read “Hungry. Spare some change for food.” I offered him my leftovers, and he refused – asking for money instead.

Street artists can be a vibrant part of a city’s downtown culture. We often stop to watch, and I’ll throw in some of my loose change. But what about the beggars who have nothing to offer? People seem to be really divided on the topic.

“They’ll just spend it on drugs or alcohol.”

“The change I give them will help buy a bit of food.”

“Giving money only encourages more beggars and doesn’t solve anything.”

“Homelessness will never go away – my spare change is making a difference.”

“They probably make more money than I do.”

Does it make a difference whether they’re old or young, healthy or sick, male or female, clean or dirty? What if it’s cold outside, or if they have newborn baby with them, or if they are aggressive (and giving a few cents will make them go away)?

Many people would rather give their time, money, or donations to charitable organizations instead, but it never seems to be enough to reach everyone – and it won’t help the immediate problem of helping someone afford a meal. So now, I will often keep a bit of spare change in my pocket (coins less than 50 cents in value) to give. Whether I’m helping or making the situation worse, I don’t know.

Do you give money to panhandlers and beggars?

Trip Recap: Stockholm & Kiruna, Sweden

When I first totalled up the cost of this trip, I was shocked at how much it cost. But when I really looked at the final price ($926), that included 3 flights and 6 nights of accommodation. So sure, it was our most expensive country so far, but there’s no getting around it. Scandinavia will always be expensive, especially when you want to do off-the-beaten-path stuff like go hiking as far north as you can go. :)

Breakdown of Expenses:

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  • $208.68 (1,417 kr) – AccommodationHostelBookers.com sponsorship (6 nights total, reduced rate on hotel in Stockholm)
  • $391.08 – Transportation: 3 flights – Barcelona-Stockholm, Stockholm-Kiruna, Kiruna-Stockholm
  • $130.17 (884 kr) – Food: average of $21.67/day, or $7.22 per meal
  • $87.61 (595 kr) – City Transit: bus to airport, bus to Abisko National Park, bus to Nikkaluokta
  • $103.81 (705 kr) – Entertainment: boat tour in Sweden, art project
  • $5.19 (35 kr) – Miscellaneous: magnet

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TOTAL COST: $326.99

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