Working Trip to Copenhagen

To my regret, I visited this beautiful city on a work trip and didn’t get to see as much of it as I would have liked but I definitely know that I want to go back and explore it in more detail one day.

My first impressions of the country were how clean, safe, organized and architecturally beautiful it was. Modern, four or five-story buildings, tiny canals interlacing the city like miniature spider webs, not much traffic and bikes… Thousands of bikes like drops of water that can’t be told apart, parked all over the city sidewalks. Mostly black and utilitarian; some had more girly attributes like pink baskets to carry the groceries home. What was fascinated about this sight was the fact that none of these bikes were locked. First of all, how do they tell them apart and remember exactly where they left them? Sadly, if this was Bulgaria, the gypsies would have sold all of them for parts in no time. It is refreshing to know that in some parts of the world you can leave your property unattended, without fear of losing it as soon as you turn around.

Denmark, in general, has a very low crime rate. Word on the street is, mothers leave their babies in strollers unattended in the wake of winter as they shop in stores. I didn’t personally witness this but I can believe it. It is also believed that exposing little ones to the cold air from a young age makes them healthier, as it increases their immunity to illnesses. The strollers I did see, however, were quite fashionable. You could say they were the Rolls Royce’s of strollers; large, luxurious and sturdy. The weather was simply beautiful towards the end of November; it hardly ever went down to 40° Fahrenheit. The city is perfectly walkable but a bike may do you justice if you regularly cover larger distances. Since there is no wind, riding one in the cold months isn’t a problem.

Probably the best thing about Denmark from a visitor’s point of view is how widely spread the use of English is. Everyone knows English and I mean everyone. Hotel staff, cab drivers, restaurant staff, police, ticket booth operators, really everyone. It is more than a second language in Copenhagen. The country may be a different story but I imagine the influence has spread all over bigger cities.

The famous Scandinavian knack for modernism, minimalism and simplicity could be easily spotted even on the exterior of most newer buildings. Scandinavia is certainly ahead of the trends in architecture, interior design and the green initiative. They have made great strides towards an environmentally sustainable and responsible way of building and living. The Danes certainly don’t keep things around that they don’t need. How many of us in the U.S. can say that? They manage to lead very happy and fulfilling lives in apartments that are one fourth of most American houses, with no walk-in closets, double-stall garages, yards, mowers, patios and laundry rooms. Minimalism is even evident in the way they dress. The typical Dane’s uniform includes high-end items made out of durable fabrics, is mostly black and simple, yet chic. There is something to be said about the appearance of this great race. Both women and men are very easy on the eyes, tall, slender and often fair. Combined with the cute Danish accent, you will be easily disarmed.

The cuisine is rather diverse and features plenty of world fares. I tried the Danish versions of Thai, Indian, sushi and French cuisine and was rather pleased with their authenticity. We also had more traditional, Danish food, which consisted of potatoes prepared in versatile ways and some kind of a fish. Sometimes the fish was a bit fishy for my taste and I couldn’t help but think of lutefisk but I imagine that is how the local flavour of it is. The restaurants we visited were excellent and very lively. They were rather small establishments that were packed full of patrons, with lots of noise and small, intimate tables. Very, very European.

Some of the more famous areas we visited while not at the conference were Nyhavn (“New Harbour”) and Tivoli Gardens. Nyhavn is an area lined with many bars and restaurants facing out to a picturesque harbour and a canal between two stone paved streets. In the summer, you can eat at the tables outside but some braver types also sit outdoors with beers and blankets (provided by the restaurants), breathing in the fresh, crisp air. We had dinner at a traditional Danish place there and the food/service were outstanding. One word of caution about Copenhagen is that it isn’t easy on your pocket. In fact, along with Japan it is likely one of the most expensive countries I have been to, when it comes to food or services. As a token of comparison, I once paid USD $8 for a cup of espresso! Like everything else, the Danes got the espresso right but wow… and I thought a grande Starbucks latte cost more than it’s worth. Salaries are also higher than most European countries but I imagine you would need to be rather budget-conscious to live here.

Tivoli Gardens is the famed amusement park in the middle of Copenhagen’s downtown and is known to be the first such establishment in Europe. It is nothing like the size of Six Flags or Valley Fair but it is charming and fairy tale-like. The park features a plethora of old-fashioned and more modern rides, some posh restaurants and decoration/souvenir shops. It felt magical going through it on a less busy week day, as the merry go round melody cut through the November chill. I wish I had more time to hop on the Ferris wheel or the bump carts and perhaps indulge in some cotton candy. Next time…

Although I was in Denmark for less than a week and worked most of the time, Copenhagen and the Danes managed to steal my heart and convince me that this small, relatively unpopular country is worth exploring further.

Next time I make way to this Scandinavian gem, I will have a map with all the castles on it, would like to explore some of its more traditional, older neighbourhoods and will take the mandatory picture with the Little Mermaid statue by the harbour.