I think you can generally pick out your favourite things about a city within the first hour of being there, granted you are outside the airport within that time.
For me and Copenhagen it was the bakeries and the people. Later on I also added the public toilets to this list.
I didn’t even have time to consider the connection between the ubiquitous Danish eaten during many an airport stop, work meeting or pre dinner supermarket visit. There really is no connection. The bakeries in Copenhagen house delicious, colourful, decadent looking pastries, sitting stickily and temptingly inside the windows. I had to keep myself from walking into every bakery we passed and ordering another kanelstang.
It’s definitely not a place to sustain a diet or a gluten free experiment. Luckily I’d concluded the GF week before my visit.
The people other than being incredibly accommodating to English speakers and probably able to speak several other languages, were so friendly. Every person we encountered in hospitality or retail had an easy “no problem” attitude and a smile. A nice change from some other places I’d visited recently, not to mention the attitude of the Londoners.
And I must of course mention the public toilets. It’s not often you visit a city on this side of the world where the public toilets are free AND clean! When does that ever happen? I’d become accustomed to at least the little donation plate sitting outside the doors as they have in Germany. But the Danes, have something else going on.
We of course visited the notorious autonomous Christiania, known for its hippie commune lifestyle, legal drug taking and strict no photography rules. The friend I was with is no stranger to squatter’s communes as she and her boyfriend have several friends living within the various neighbourhoods throughout Berlin. But even she found it strange walking along the strangely commercialised alleyways and streets of this self-proclaimed “free state”.
It’s cannabis trade is for the most part tolerated by authorities, however, police raids are not uncommon. A certain area of the state aptly named “The green light district” had several little forts, crudely curtained off selling space muffins and less modest pouches to the gawking tourists.
The geography of the area itself is quite lovely. Venturing along some eerily quiet and destitute pathways we stumbled upon a lake side. Because it is built upon a former military base, the area is full of quirky fortifications and unusual buildings as well as quaint little shacks and restaurants. I was always surprised when walking along to see a restaurant with a fully equipped modern kitchen, dishwasher and state of the art cooking equipment. It felt at odds with the rest of the community.
There were buildings full of old stoners and dodgy looking characters, men in balaclavas selling drugs and then families pushing prams and walking with toddlers, barefoot hippies smiling happily as they walked along the dirty paths strewn with rubbish and bits of glass.
Our other mission was to the famous Little Mermaid statue in the canal. It proved to be a particularly difficult venture and after a lot of walking and an affected posture we found the quiet statue amidst a crowd of other tourists trying to photograph her from the best angles with the setting sun dictating the best images.
One of the highlights was a free walking tour we went on. Our guide was an Australian man married to a Danish woman who’d been living in Copenhagen for a number of years. The tour was three hours with several interesting stories about the buildings and sites we went past. One of the best stories was about the Nazi occupation of the nicest hotel at Kongens Nytorv and a failed assassination attempt by a Danish resistant fighter, who is immortalised in one of Ken Follett’s novels.
The other was about the high success rate of the Danish population to safely assist their Jewish population to Sweden before the planned Nazi raids. And a high number of these people were able to return to their homes after the occupation, which had been well looked after and left in almost the state they had left them in. This at a stark contrast to the Jews of other nations. This was another one of the reasons, our guide told us, that the Danes are among the happiest people in the world.
Sadly, our visit coincided with the very temporary closure of Tivoli – the world’s second oldest amusement park. I’ll have to make it back to ride on the wooden rollercoaster. After walking a painful 29,000 steps we barely resembled 28 year olds and even sadly retired to our beds to read, complaining about our aches and pains.
Next time: Visit when Tivoli is open and hire a bicycle!