Joel likes to say that every time he thinks about Copenhagen, money slips out his back pocket. This is a good summary of our time in Denmark and perhaps our most lasting memory…however pulling out the photos I was reminded that this charming old town had more to offer than a credit card crisis!
We spent some time in the Danish capital in August 2011 (yes we are behind in the blog). It was a city that had always intrigued me, and with the rest of Europe headed for some sun, we thought it would be a good opportunity to check it out before Joel started his full time job in September. We stayed in a very cute little Danish cottage with an apple tree about a 15minute ride from the centre of town. Danish design is definitely unique and it was lovely to stay in a house that illustrated this so nicely, and really added to the experience. Sadly we were not able to purchase any Danish design for ourselves which was a little heartbreaking having wandered through many design stores coveting every second item! The Danes live by the rule of simplicity and I believe it is a good lesson for so much of our consumer culture.
Our first port of call was to ‘do what the Danish do’ and secure ourselves some bicycles. Joel and I were big fans of the custom made bike lanes on every road. When we got back to London we were disgusted to have to ride alongside the traffic once again! There are bikes everywhere in Copenhagen. Nobody is exempt. We saw business men in suits riding to work, as well as girls dressed up to the nines in high heels riding in the rain to the city for a night on the town. They sure do embrace the bike with everything! This was our transport and we only caught the metro once or twice.
Needing a swimming fix we headed to the harbour where they have built a pool and it was surprisingly clear water given it was a city harbour. We later found out the authorities lined the whole bottom of the harbour with some kind of material to keep it clean…well congratulations authorities, ’cause it worked.
Copenhagen city has beautiful architecture, warming colours, cute waterside restaurants (Nyhaven), old stone and a lot of culture. The bars at night were hidden away in alcoves, basements or spilling out into little lane ways. For some reason I don’t understand, it was ridiculously expensive, and having just moved to London and being on a budget was not helpful as it excluded us from most of what the city had to offer. Had we have known this we may have chosen another destination. After going into a few clothes stores, we gave up altogether, with tshirts starting at $100aud and a simple dessert – a slice of apple pie costing nearly $20. I think we priced a Mcdonalds meal at $20aud. We gave up trying to eat out and opted for the supermarket where we were equally as shocked, with a loaf of bread being about $5 and a bottle of softdrink around the same price. Yes we did lose weight over the 5 days as we resorted to instant soups and banana on toast! Whilst speaking to the local people we discovered their wages are extremely high and so is their tax. But education is free, in fact they pay you to go to university, along with many other benefits that ease the cost of living in Denmark.
We enjoyed the gorgeous green parks and sweeping lawns of estate buildings. We learnt much about Danish history in the excellent National Museum of Denmark where they had the most extraordinary display of dollhouses. Joel and I rode so much, we knew the town like the back of our hands in a few days. We climbed the Round Tower for expansive city views which was one of our favourite things, being an amazing piece of architecture with its continuous sloped spiral to the top. One day we watched the traditional ‘changing of the guards’ ceremony and tried to find Princess Mary in one of the many castles and palaces to no avail. Mary must have been hiding from us….
An unexpected highlight was attending church with Ann (a friend of a friend) who was exceptionally lovely and swung by on her bike to take us to a little church in the city which meets in a nightclub on a Sunday morning. Our friend Hannah had arranged a translator and that was a cool experience to hear Danish, then an english whisper in our ears. The message and way of church struck a chord with us and all of a sudden the city felt a little bit more friendly. The church are really revolutionary in their approach and I think maybe break every rule in the book of how ‘church should be done’ but we loved it! The pastor even gave us a (much appreciated) discount admission to the ancient theme park, Tivoli. Which brings me to our second Danish highlight…
Tivoli. This word still brings a smile to our face today! You walk into this beautifully manicured theme park and you would be forgiven for having thought you stepped back in time…it’s so old, yet the rides are seriously impressive for such a small and quaint park! We had an absolute blast dashing from ride to ride, laughing our heads off and I think in that moment we might have forgiven Denmark for being so expensive! We have certainly not hit maturity yet that’s for sure.
Having exhausted Copenhagen of its goodness in rain hail and shine (we even paid the coastline a visit in the pouring rain…us northern beaches kids miss the beach!) we decided to head to Sweden. This sounds impressive but it was only a 50min train across the pond. As soon as we got off the train we loved Sweden. Then we went shopping and discovered clothes were affordable, and we loved Sweden even more. They are passionate about their Nudies – Joel was wearing his pair that his mum and I have stitched and patched up many, many times and still they insist on ripping. As soon as we entered the store, the assistant’s jaw dropped and he promptly circled Joel in awe, finally stammering out ‘your Nudies are beeeeaaautiful’. Needless to say I was stifling my laughter in the corner over his outward display of passion, and Joel was immensely pleased and purchased a new pair of nudies to thank him for his appreciation. We enjoyed a lovely stroll and meal in Malmo before returning for a date with Ann to introduce us to the wonderful world of Danish pastries.
Before I end this blog, I have to share one of the weirdest things I have ever seen – Christianshavn. This is a self-governing city within a city. They literally have their own laws and they are this bizarre outcrop of oddity which have somehow convinced local authorities to let them rule their own neighbourhood. The result is this type of hippie commune with dreadlocked people in bright colours puffing away on bongs, oblivious to the stream of tourists who come to witness this crazy idea. Think Nimbin on steriods 20 years ago. They have their own weird stores and cafes, and a stretch of lane where they openly sell hash to anybody who cares for some. The smell was revolting to me…but I hate the smell of marijuana. So weird was this sight that at the end of the street I took a photo of Joel and was immediately accosted by a massive stoned man with pupils the size of Mars demanding I delete the photo. Apparently one of their ‘laws’ is no photos (wonder why). At first I said no and put the camera away, until he grabbed me viciously by the arm and started yelling and calling his cronies for back up. He literally forced me to get the camera out and scroll through all the photos to ensure I deleted it. I was far from happy and demanding him to get his hands off me. He was double our size and I thought he was going to smash our camera. It was not pleasant at all. Shows what becomes of society when they are allowed to be above the law and govern themselves, there was nothing right about this neighbourhood and we were left feeling really low and violated. Luckily we didn’t give up on Copenhagen and discovered the brighter side of city the rest of our stay!
So, that’s Denmark for you! Will attempt to catch up on the blog over the next month or so for those who are interested!
L & J xx