Do you know the Danish term “hygge”?
It is a lifestyle whose credo is well-being, coziness, enjoying the good that life brings. Hygge is not just about candles, a crackling fire in the fireplace, a soft blanket, and a hot cup of cocoa. It’s about the art of enjoying ordinary things, about the art of seeing the good in people and the art of spreading a pleasant atmosphere around you.
The Danes are simply a happy nation. They have happiness in their blood, or, as the CEO of Happiness Research Institute Meik Wiking said, they have it encoded in their DNA.
I was in Denmark, more precisely in the capital Copenhagen, in May 2019. And after a few hours, I fell in love with it. It’s not hard either, because of hygge radiates from everything here. Here you are some Copenhagen’s highlights with some extra info if you happen to travel there in the future.
Den lille havfrue
The statue of the Little Mermaid on the Langelinie promenade is the most famous symbol of Denmark. I don’t know why. It was cast in bronze in 1913 by sculptor Edvard Eriksen, fascinated by the sad story of H.CH. Andersen about the unfulfilled love of a mermaid for a beautiful prince.
The statue measures 125 cm and is surrounded by tourists throughout the day. Many from them are disappointed at how inconspicuous it is.
Now, in the era of selfies and smartphones, the beautiful sea girl has become one of the most photographed fairy-tale creatures in the world.
The model for Edvard Eriksen was the prima ballerina of the Danish Royal Ballet Ellen Juliette Collin Price de Plane, who danced the role of a mermaid. However, the statue has only Ellen’s delicate face and head. Ellen was very shy, so the sculptor’s wife became a model for the naked body of the fairy. The statue was funded by philanthropist and art lover Carl Jacobsen, one of the owners of the Carlsberg brewery.
Interestingly, the Little Mermaid has two other statues – in Monaco and in Sicily. But they are not so popular at all.
All roads lead to the port of Nyhavn
Whoever visits Copenhagen, the port of Nyhavn (New Port) simply will not miss. It is lined by colored 17th and 18th-century houses, bars, and restaurants. At a time, when it was full of fishing boats from which fishermen’s catches were processed and sold in the nearby Kongens Nytorv square, it was famous for its good beer and women of light manners. Writer Hans Christian Andersen lived here for 18 years. The house he used to live in is not even marked, but I heard, it is the dark red one. After all, it is depicted on every magnet.
After World War II Nyhavn orphaned, cargo ships sailed to other ports. The port was revitalized in 1977 and adapted to evolving tourism. Today, this icon of Copenhagen is full of tourists. Sitting here with the glass of Carlsberg beer and watching the sunset between the masts of the ship is just hygge.
Christiania – hippies and marihuana
Christiania is a very strange, scribbled place. It is an autonomous community of settlers (or more aptly a mixture of hippies, squatters, and anarchists) in a 19 acres area of abandoned barracks founded in 1971. They are governed by their own laws, independent of the Danish government. The rules prohibit theft, violence, weapons, knives, bulletproof vests, and hard drugs. However, marijuana is sold quite openly on Pusher Street.
In its 50-year history, despite its peaceful laws, Christiania has experienced many evils – drug murders, resident uprisings after police intervention, a grenade blast at a Nemoland cafe, a shootout and the deaths of two police officers, violence caused by Hells Angels…, and that’s not all.
But to balance this, various interesting cultural events take place here. Concerts, open-air festivals, theaters, talk shows. In addition to cannabis, you can buy a lot of colorful hippies clothes, accessories, jewelry, handbags.
It is not allowed to take photos in this area, but I could not resist it. I photographed until the stout guy scream “NO photo!” at me. Then we heroically fled Christiania away. 🙂
Kastellet is one of the best-preserved fortifications in northern Europe. Today it is used as a barracks, several hundred employees of the armed forces work here. The area is really large and photogenic. There were fewer tourists, we just got involved unwittingly in small cross-country running races. We didn’t win unfortunately 😀
The fortification began to be built in 1626 by the Danish king Christian IV because it was necessary to better protect the royal city. The construction of enormous dimensions was completed by his son, Frederik III. On October 28, 1664, the first soldiers ceremoniously entered the fortress. This is the day when the birthday festivities take place here every year.
The walls have the shape of a pentagon, length 1750 meters with a bastion in each corner. There is a church in the complex, built-in 1704, opposite it is a prison and many other buildings. The biggest attraction is the mill from 1847.
Smørrebrød – bread with butter by Denmark
It is a traditional food. It is actually an open sandwich with butter, sausage, or most often fish specialties. Copenhagen is full of street food markets with dishes from around the world. But the open sandwich is top.
There are many variations of smørrebrød, such as this one called Veterinarian’s Midnight Snack: a piece of dark rye bread, butter, liver pate, layered with a slice of salted beef and a slice of aspic. Garnish with onion rings and garden persimmon.
Stjerneskud – falling star: white bread with butter, a piece of stewed white fish on one half, fried plaice on the other half. A pile of shrimps on it, a drop or two of mayonnaise, red caviar, and a slice of lemon.
Kastrup sea bath
On the way to the airport, for example, reserve about three hours for a short trip to the coast. In the suburban part of Copenhagen – Kastrup -there is an architectural pearl – a circular sea swimming pool, also called “snail” by locals. The best way to get here from the center is by overground subway. The sea swimming pool is right behind the yachting and canoeing club.
The wooden pier leads to the construction of the swimming pool, which gradually rises and ends with a 5-meter platform. The building stands on slender pylons one meter above the water level and the whole is made of African Azobé wood. This exotic wood excels in remarkable longevity and resistance to seawater.
The circular shape protects visitors from the wind and concentrates the sunshine. The construction is illuminated to provide a visual experience during an evening swim. The White Architects group has won several world awards for its project.
It was lively on the platforms during my visit. The sun was a little jagged in the afternoon and the temperature was around 15 degrees. A young mother in jacked was dressing her little daughter in a swimsuit, two sportswomen put on a wetsuit and went for a swim, some warmly dressed visitors sat and just relaxed, and the old couple, grandfather and grandmother naked and without hesitations walked down the stairs into the cold water. Everybody was completely natural. It was a demonstration of the Danish high tolerance rate for me.
Øresundsbroen – Øresund Bridge
The bridge connects Copenhagen with Swedish Malmö. It is one of the longest bridges in the world. 4km is a bridge over the sea, on an artificial island it turns into an underwater tunnel with a length of 8km. We went to Sweden by train, you can also take a regular bus line. Cars pay tolls.
I was looking forward to driving on the bridge, but the train was going over the bridge so very fast that I saw almost nothing. But I highly recommend a trip to Malmö.
I could write a lot more about Copenhagen, but probably no one would read it anymore. I did not mention anything royal – neither the palaces, nor the surprisingly long change of castle guards, nor the churches and temples and the amazing canals full of houseboats and ships. Not even an expedition to Kronborg for Hamlet. I only spent five “hygge” days here. I can say that I probably never felt as safe and comfortable as here. Go to Copenhagen!
For all the pictures from this trip, click on Trip to Denmark in my photo-spective. There are enough of them, but they are nicely thematically sorted into albums.
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