Copen...Hygge: From the City of Hans Christian Andersen To the City Where Fairytales Come True!
Having not given much thought to the whole thing, or not even having a basic ‘to-do’ plan, I decided to do some sightseeing in Denmark!
As a southern Mediterranean citizen, I considered countries of the north such as Denmark, full of a ‘moodier’ spectrum of natural colours and ambience.
I used to believe that I would face an unbelievably urban landscape, with hard tones of industrialism and a temperament closer to ‘late-capitalism’s style, rather than, the freedom of the Mediterranean lifestyles and ethics. Yet, the city itself wasn’t even close to my expectations and I was proved wrong. Things weren’t as I thought they would be, or even, as they looked.
My First Day in Copenhagen
The first day I arrived in Copenhagen was really surprising. I left the airport, looking for the train station; to my amazement, it was a bright, sunny day and it almost felt like the weather back home - sunny, clear, and enjoyable!
When I got to the train station (which is just a minute’s walk from the airport), I was surprised for two reasons; no, let me rephrase that, I was astounded!
Not only were the schedules on time, but the distances between places were amazingly close. Going to the capital takes only 12 minutes by train (or, to the more ‘adventurous’ people, about an hour, by foot). In the capital, visiting sights such as museums, local bars or supermarkets, can all be covered on foot. I’m specifically referring to the neighbourhood, where I was staying - Vesterbro.
Let's Take A Deep Dive Through Colours
Before visiting Copenhagen, I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of colour... But, the architecture and colouring of buildings, changed my perspective completely!
All of the buildings were as if they came out of the pages of a Pantone colour guidebook. A real sight for sore eyes was the way the buildings were built. Built side-by-side, the traditional Copenhagen way.
In Copenhagen, you will not see many skyscrapers or multi-storey buildings, cutting off the skyline like most capital cities. Another thing, that stands out, is this; Copenhagen is a place of short distances, which means that you rarely (if not never) see any cars. So, one important (and famous) factor is transportation via bicycles, which come in a variety of sizes, colours and styles.
Houses in Copenhagen
The ‘Dark Side’ of Vesterbro
Not to call Vesterbro, the “Gotham” of Copenhagen, but it’s more like, it΄s black sheep. If Vesterbro was a man, he would be a delinquent man, that comes home late at night every day. Truth be told though, would this suburb be so famous if it wasn’t for its dark and gritty side? - Probably not, since this is a staple and a part of Vesterbro’s identity.
Many drunken, “wasted” people, on whose faces you can read whole stories. Neither dangerous nor harmful; just part of this culture, pieces completing this puzzle - that is Vesterbro.
A nice mix of nostalgia, some outlandish feelings and the mysterious loneliness of the sea (depending on one’s temperament or character), you may feel like an integral part of the place, far away from the anxious, swift everyday life, or you may even hate this feeling of calm and start to feel the dire need of a fast-paced lifestyle of the capital.
One of the most usual sights is the numerous groups of friends isolated from life.
Food, Food, & More Food (& Drinks, Depending on The Mood)
Now, when it comes to food, I feel proud for not being “nutritionally biased”. Anything from fast food to local cuisine, I’m at the brim of opening a Danish bank account and have someone, deliver food to me, with a magic carpet (filled to the brim, with tasty dishes). Either way, let me tell you, about the places I visited!
I distinctly remember, the place I had the greatest burger (as in, EVER). It’s called “Tommie’s burger joint” and I think it may be the greatest, most delicious burger I’ve ever eaten and trust me, I’ve tried quite a lot!
Now on to the drinking part of the journey. I could safely admit that the local pubs and bars had an interesting variety of alcohol and other beverages, but also a wide selection of cocktails!. Most places had small groups of people enjoying their drinks and watching a game.
In the clubs though, the atmosphere and the customers were different. - Young people (mostly) enjoying the ambience of the place, together with nice drinks and chill-out music!
Finally, onto the most important part of the day. Breakfast… Without “fast” though, because the true value of mornings, start with the slow, patient enjoyment of a good dish of crusty, tasty specialities!
But beware…Tourist traps, like “famous” bakeries are everywhere and they mostly end up, being a failure. One of my personal choices, was “Sankt Peders Bageri”, a small local bakery, hidden in a place, near Stroget.
Tommi’s Burger Joint
The Northern Face of Copenhagen - Nørrebro
On the other side of Vesterbro, there is a large area, another suburb in fact; called Nørrebro. - A place where fast-paced and hurried people are everywhere. You can stroll, in its big boulevard and you will meet a huge amount of people, on bikes or running in a hurry to get to their chosen destination.
Here you can see many different things. People going to work, people watching and feeding the ducks by the sea, and people lost in their discussions or thoughts. The sun reflecting on the structures also reflects the vivid vibes of the place.
Hygge: A Conventional, Non-Conventional Thought
In the minds of the Danish, there is something they call “Hygge”, which roughly means “acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cosy, charming or special”. I would call it “modus vivendi”.
It’s a special point of view in life that proves if anything inside is negative, it resides a positive element/aspect and in the Danish culture, it is a way to deal with the circumstances, met in northern countries. This leads to a creative, happy and enjoyable lifestyle, that differentiates these people from the rest of Europe.
Cultural Heritage & Points of Interest
When I was thinking of travelling to a Scandinavian country, all I could remember hearing was “nothing interesting to see, nothing memorable to experience”. Now, I can safely dissolve this argument.
So, “don’t believe, till you see”. I visited places like the “Amalienborg Palace” - or palaces (since they are four). I also learned that when the Danish king is in the complex, the flags wave high on the poles.
I also visited another spectacular sight, called Frederik’s Church - a protestant church of Rococo architecture and made of marble. Its protestant ‘identity’ is reflected by the way it simply, and humbly stands on the road.
Another monument and extremely nice place to visit is the aforementioned Stroget str. There you can find many shops on both sides of the road and also the Rundetaarn, a beautiful tower, which offers (as its name suggests) a 360° view of the city!
Other Reference Points
If you are a fan of boating and the dark water doesn’t scare you, grasp the opportunity to take a short trip to the Baltic Sea.
From the first moment, you will see the royal library, known as “The Black Diamond”.
l notice from afar, the Amalienborg Palace and the marble church standing in the middle. No, it's not an illusion, but the temple is so big that it seems to stand between the buildings.
Another point of interest that we have to take into consideration, is The Little Mermaid statue - of a mermaid sitting with a swan swimming around her. Yes, it's small, the rumours are true. This landmark can be found on the waterside at the Langelinie promenade. Built in 1909, the statue has been the centre of criticism, by many people. Best I left it to the end.
Nyhavn - a port that is similar to many others, yet it remains unique.
From Bergen to Amsterdam, you will see many Nordic places that have a similar aesthetic.
Although, Nyhavn has something that makes you forget everything. Plenty of colours - each one is different from the other, yet so perfectly combined with the grey sky above. Every building in the port has something to say. From the earliest morning till the darkest night, you can spend hours losing yourself there, listening to gulls in the distance.
If I could describe this port, somehow shortly, it would be “the birthplace of hygge”.
Do Beautiful Things Cost?
I'm sure we all have heard that Scandinavian countries cost an arm and a leg. And they do - plus their national currency isn't Euro. And then you realize, that if you don't have a calculator, things start getting bad. But if you know where to look, you will not spend a fortune.
Well-advertised shops are usually expensive and their products aren't something to remember. If you search a little better you will find great shops where you will get what you pay for - from small hotels and hostels to food and tickets. Make sure you have done a good amount of research before travelling.
My Final Statement From My Journey...
Unfortunately, 5 days was not enough for me to visit “Christiania” - a strange place for some, but for others, it is a state of calmness and tranquillity of mind. A place where no governmental power has access.
After all these stories and outstanding scenes from my visit, I realised that one trip to Copenhagen is just not enough!
It truly is a place of fairytales with no end...
Written by Maria Politi