Copenhagen: Leaving the Middle Ages

Posted on April 14, 2006



medieval diving suit

by  sabine behrmann

This earthshaking event will take place in the course of the next twelve months when the city’s last open sewer, popularly called The Shit Drain (Lorterenden in Danish), will be turned into a properly closed system.

Since at the present the stench can be quite severe during the warm season, making barbecue parties in the allotments along the ten metres wide and several kilometres long drain a matter of strong stomachs or a ruined sense of smell.

However, this is just a small reminder of what European cities smelled like before the introduction of closed sewer systems – so maybe there is a good reason to keep one’s nostrils open on strolls through that neighbourhood this summer.

What concerns the city council most is the fact that heavy rains make the drain flow over, and spill into a closed drain at the memorial park for the Danish resistance against the Nazi occupation (1940 – 1945), called Mindelunden. From here the raw sewage is led right into the Bay of the Swan’s Mill, or, in the vernacular, Svanemøllebugten, a part of the Øre Sound.

The beach there is quite attractive, therefore the plan is to clean the water so that it reaches a quality, which will allow people to take a dip without endangering their health. All this is a part of the project "Clean Water to Swim in" that started in 1993; this has already happened very close to the centre of town, very much to the delight of the citizens and an increasing number of tourists.

It seems as though the determination to leave the olden days behind in this case is general.