Sunday, November 13, 2011



I arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark this morning to participate in an ActionAid training on our Human Rights Based Approach to Development model that starts tomorrow morning. I've never experienced Denmark before. So, after a 4 hour nap at my hotel, I hit the streets eager to explore. What a great first day. I walked over 7 miles by the end of it! Copenhagen is a beautiful city, with a myriad of public parks, water front walk ways and an incredible melding of old and new worlds.

I started off walking down Frederiksborggade and into a new gourmet indoor food market called Torvehallerne...what a wonderful overwhelm for the senses! Tons of cured meats and fish, fresh fruits and veggies, pastries (including danishes or 'weinerbrods';) galore, the most beautiful chocolates dyed exotic blues and purples and multi layer chocolate pastries like castles or modern art pieces. I sampled a fish cake...delicious! And some chocolate hazelnut dipped almonds. Yummy. I should have had a danish right there, but didn't want to spoil my appetite for a famous bakery that I had read about and had my sights on. (but which I never ended up finding! Oh well, I still have 6 more days for danishes;)

The gourmet indoor 'Torvehallerne' food market near my hotel

Then, I walked through the older part of the city and saw the beautiful university and those narrowly winding, picture perfect streets I had heard about. I popped into a cafe for a legitimate Danish sandwich on their famous rye bread. (I actually liked it! very surprising. Not as sour as I thought it would be. Very full, hearty taste) and a warm chai tea. I consider myself somewhat of a chai connoisseur. This was one of the yummiest, warmest, most frothy, delicious chai's that I've ever had. And with a consistent low 40's temperature and chill in the air coming from the harbor, it hit the proverbial spot.

Next, I headed to the Rosenburg royal gardens. Beautiful! A renaissance castle built in 1604 by Christian IV as a summerhouse, but later inhabited all year round due to the King's love for it, it is a good reminder that the monarchy is still alive and well in Denmark. The castle sits on a lush, green, open park with large, full branched trees and beautiful trellises with cascading greenery and red fruit.. The castle is at the center of it all, surrounded by a small moat. After meandering for a while through the small gardens and looking on at a reenactment of a court knight dueling for a young group of children, I headed across the street to another public park, with a beautiful river-creek that ran through it. The late day, misty, shady with dappled sunlight weather filled the park, water and trees with this ethereal and mystical glow. 

Rosenborg Castle and the Royal Gardens
Then I headed north to the Kastellet...another public park. It's a huge ancient fort surrounded by two moats in the shape of a star. A prominent historical site where Copenhagen defended itself during the Napoleonic wars, it also fell into the hands of the Nazis during WWII. You can climb up high on the ridge once you cross the bridge into the fort and get a great view of the city. It's next to the harbor on one side, so you can see the massive, old ships coming in. And on the other side you can see the castle and cathedrals. I was sitting down on a bench next to a preserved cannon, soaking in a magnificent sunset. There's this cold, strange sense in the city at that time of day...half way between feeling slighted haunted and slightly mystical...and very Scandinavian. Just then, a huge explosion across the harbor shook me from my revelry. A reenactment of some kind is what a local explained. Sitting next to the cannon, it felt surprisingly real indeed!

An aerial view of Kastellet
I then headed down south along the harbor as the rosy sunset colors faded, and had a spectacular view of the royal opera house...a modern, beautiful, larger-than-life building that almost looks as if it's sitting on the water . I ducked into a free little sculpture exhibit of replicas of some of the most famous pieces. Then, I continued by the Queen's castle and courtyard, saw the guards outside changing positions, and down to the royal theater and walked through an exhibit on innovations in the world of development and social change. Last, but not least, I headed up the Nyhavn or 'New Harbor,' a long, romantic quay along a water canal that goes inland. It was decorated to the nine's at dark,with holiday lights and plenty of intoxicating smells to peak your interest: outside vendors selling waffles, chocolate, fried dough balls and glog (rum spiced cider, I believe. Lots of outside cafe's, pubs and restaurants with heaters and people heartily eating...outside vendors selling christmas gifts, winter wear, Danish goods and the famous Danish pulsers or 'sausages.' I had a sausage with the works, which consisted of pickled herring, sweet pickles, mustard, ketchup and fried onions. I loved it, even with all of the interesting toppings! Then, I had a waffle with bananas and chocolate for dessert (bananas make it healthy, right?;)

Copenhagen Opera House

Pleasantly content eating my bohemian meal at the end of the quai and start of the colorful, lit up public square, I paused for a moment and tried to ignore the fact that the temperature was going down. Finally, the chill got the best of me and I headed back along a pedestrian only road, filled with colorful store front windows. I bought some warmer gloves at perhaps the only Copenhagen store actually open on Sunday nights, realizing the ones I had were just not going to suffice. I picked up a few essentials at a local grocery store (including more rye bread...will wonders never cease) on the way back to the hotel. And now, I'm ready to plop into bed and try to trick my brain that it really can go to sleep at 10pm, even if my body technically thinks that it's only 4pm. Hopefully those 7 miles of walking will have worked their magic.

New Harbor (Nyhavn) in Copenhagen at Night

In closing, I want to leave you with just a few fun, though rather surface level observations about Copenhagen, after only having spent about 5 hours exploring it. EVERYONE bikes here. Almost half of every single road is made up of huge biking lanes, with some people slowly meandering by with multiple children attached to the back or whipping by quickly on their way somewhere. (I learned the lesson real quick after almost being clobbered by an oncoming bike twice that you DON'T walk in the bike lane and you definitely look twice before even thinking of crossing it.) Sunday seems to be a day where almost every store is closed except for farmers' markets and grocery stores and pubs and cafes. Everyone has these modern old school strollers...like moving cribs that look ergonomically modernly enhanced, that they push babies and multiple kids around in. People love coffee! At least two thirds of the population is blond (felt very at home;) People of color and immigrants are scarce (at least in the city center.) Families love to spend time in the parks on Sundays...even if it's cold...and just seem to dress their children up in uber parkas. And last, but most importantly, Danes seem to LOVE pastries and overall sweets, as evidenced by a vast array of bakeries and restaurant dessert signs. God Bless them!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing such detailed and sensory observations. Copenhagen sounds amazing! The pix are awesome - I'm assuming stock photos or did you take some too? Be sure to fit in some of those Danishes! Love you, Christine