Something’s awesome in the state of Denmark

Our friend Wendy is something of a world traveler, and when talk turned to a European visit, there were very few places she hadn’t actually been. High on her list and ours: Denmark, a country famed for its happy people and high quality of life – and specifically, Copenhagen. A trip to Scandinavia in the middle of winter? Sure, we said!

Happiness apparently begins with the shape of their electrical outlets.

Before we get started… let’s survey what we know about Denmark. Quality schools, check.  Big dogs: yep, those are from here (didn’t see a single one our whole time in Copenhagen, though!). Butter cookies in a round blue tin – definite “yum.” Bikes? Yep, Dreamer reads that blog. Little Mermaid? Copenhagen’s got that.

In the most recent season of South Park, Doer – a devoted viewer – had seen the Danes portrayed trying to hunt down Internet trolls to make the world a better place. Bet you didn’t know the song they used in those episodes was real, eh? Here now, some music with which to enjoy the rest of the blog post…

Episode here. Explanation of song here.

Yes, Copenhagen was cold, like, the entire time. Windy, too, like back home in Nebraska during the height of winter. And in five days, we never saw the sun (locals said this was normal). But we also learned about the Danish concept of hygge (pronounced, “HOO-geh”), which is a word that does not have a direct translation, but means something like comfort in all aspects of your life.

Trying to stay warm during three-hour walking tour.

With a cozy Airbnb as our home base, it seems safe to say that we all felt the hygge: though it was cold outside, inside was always warm and well-appointed, with plenty of warm blankets on our beds under which to snuggle. This concept also held sway in every odd coffee bar and restaurant, too: the Danes are great at making you feel like you’re at home.

Typical Copenhagen city housing.
Tulips in February? Now that’s hygge!

Hygge even extends to public restrooms – Dreamer remembers Copenhagen’s with longing each time she have to go in the Castellón de la Plana train station.

Hygge: free.
How elegant! And yes, we swear this was taken in a public restroom.

Danish is a fun language and we couldn’t help but make comparisons to English as we went along. There is the requisite, “tak!,” which is how you say, “thank you.” Greetings are super easy: “hej!” means “hello” except it is pronounced, “hi!” Seriously. Goodbye is, “hej hej.” Combined with the aforementioned hygge, we also learned øl (“earl” – beer) and “skol” (cheers). Some other stuff was pretty easy to guess, too.

They actually named the defibrillator a “heart starter.” Where is the Swedish Chef when you need him? (not in Denmark, obviously)
Who doesn’t want to eat at Jensen’s Bøfhus? Has a better ring to it than “The Sizzler.”

We definitely were craving some hygge after starting our trip with a very chilly Copenhagen Free Walking Tour. By the way, if you haven’t tried a free walking tour, we highly recommend it! It’s a great way to learn historical and cultural background as you see some of the most important sites. At the end of the tour, you give your guide a tip if you enjoyed the experience. We’ve done it in Sofia, Copenhagen, Toledo, and Valencia so far.

Rådhus (City Hall).
Christiansborg Palace.

Nyhavn – where Hans Christian Andersen made his home.
Keep reading to see this canal scene show up later, in a very unlikely place. . .
Monument honoring Danes who fought and died during World War II.

Amalienborg Palace.

Changing of the Danish Royal Guard at Amalienborg Palace:

Although there are many beautiful and interesting buildings, monuments, and neighborhoods, from time to time the weather encouraged us to seek out some indoor activities, including the Copenhagen Amber Museum. Located in one of the oldest houses in Copenhagen, the museum – home to the largest piece of amber in the world – details the history of amber.

World’s largest piece of amber.
Pretty objects made of amber.
Street view of museum.

One thing crappy weather could not ruin: Doer’s enthusiasm for a construction site. They are building an entire new metro line under this old city.

I can go in?!

Obligatory cardboard cutout shot.

Speaking of construction, Denmark is the birthplace of LEGO. Leg got is Danish for “play well.” Sadly, their base of operations is in Billund, about an hour away, and Legoland is closed this time of year, anyway. So we will be saving that for a future trip.

Big builder still found a little Lego store in Copenhagen.
LEGO cyclist.
Hey – we saw this on our free walking tour! LEGO version here.
Dreamer loved the tiny LEGO croissants.

We’ve seen these guys before, too!
We’d like to commission Hunter & Gatherer to create a LEGO mural in our home someday.
LEGO mural.

Because design is a very important part of Danish culture, we made sure to visit the Danish Design Museum to understand how a sense of hygge can be achieved.

Though perhaps not the most comfortable to sit in, this chair is designed out of a single piece of wood.
Doer wants one of these pianos in our future home.
Face dress
Even technology was featured, like this Olivetti typewriter (we’re sensing a theme, here…)

Even the Danish sign for “Place of Interest” is well-designed… and famous, thanks to Apple. Recognize this from your command key?

The Little Mermaid (aka Den lille Havfrue) is just beyond this sign… Can you contain your excitement?

You might think the photo below merely shows a collection of bikes, but it speaks to how well even Danish trains are designed: these are special holders that latch on to the back wheel and hold everything in place, while allowing the front wheel to pivot when the train turns (also quite a sight).

Dreamer would love to see this on Spanish trains.

There is no shortage of museums in Copenhagen, and we didn’t even begin to scratch the surface with the few we visited. There also are a number of interesting museums outside the city, and we took a train just like the above to one of them: the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, in Humlebæk.

Grand staircase
Colored orbs everywhere.
Ladies eventually Doer alone to take a selfie. People were waiting.
Deserves one more photo.

The museum was featuring an exhibition of pieces by Louise Bourgeois, famous for her spiders.

Loved all her pieces, but this is all Doer could think of with this one.
“What’s that man in the rock doing with the lady in that rock?”
Danish design strikes again: even the coat hangers were well-designed. The chain goes through the arm and locks back to the hanger. Put in a coin and take the key out – voilá, nobody can steal your coat.
Gerhard Richter.
Yves Klein.
Andy Warhol.
Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset. Hard to see because it was such a gray day, but the diving board juts through the window pane, overlooking the sea.
Alexander Calder.
Joan Miró.

Also Danish? Carlsberg beer, now an international brewing conglomerate comprising many well-known brands. Started by a man named Jacob Jacobsen (remember, that’s pronounced, “YA-kohb YA-kohb-son” in Danish). And we swear we are not making that up. Jacob named his brewery after his son, Carl, who was nice enough to repay his father by creating a family split. Carl started his own brewery and only after his father’s death brought the two businesses together to form the modern Danish brewery we know today. Sounds like a few family businesses we know, too!

Dreamer outside the old brewery gates.

Artwork depicting some workers at the old brewery.
“Yeah, that elephant has a swastika on it. Means good luck. So what?”

Interestingly enough, all the modern Carlsberg marketing has removed the swastika they were so proud to display in the first half of the 20th Century.

Guinness world record for number of different unopened bottles of beer is here. You can see what the count is up to.
The bottles are organized by country and are in desperate need of someone to come dust them. Unfortunately, no member of the public can be trusted to enter the room without disturbing or drinking its contents.

Unlike previous animatronic brewery tours we’d been on, this one had some actual history to it. Everything is housed in the old brewery, which you can walk through on your way to the museum, tasting room, horse stables, etc.

Basement used for malting barley

Grain elevator

Break room and showers

The museum had some interesting pieces, too.

Before yeast was understood and grown in labs, this wooden wreath was transferred between batches of beer to aid in fermentation, even if brewers didn’t really understand what was going on at the time.
A Brewer’s Star to counteract that swastika earlier, we guess.

Exhibition on aromatic compounds in beer. Dreamer found vanilla and chocolate most pleasing, which was unsurprising because she prefers dark beers.
…or, again, you can choose Doer’s alternate interpretation of the exhibit: “Here, inhale my beer burps.” Perhaps a more talented artist should have been consulted to convey the message they were going for here.

Just like Budweiser has its famous Clydesdales, Carlsberg, too, maintains a stock of good-looking horses for pure show.

…and a few antique Chevys to round out the history of beer delivery.

The Carlsberg family were the donors of the famous Little Mermaid statue to the City of Copenhagen. Alas, we will have to make do with this replica (and Doer’s very lifelike impersonation) for now. If you want to see the actual little mermaid, you’re going to have to keep reading, or at least scroll down…

Before we move on to the cuisine of Copenhagen, we should work up an appetite first by mentioning our visit to Christiana, a self-proclaimed autonomous neighborhood known for a . . . shall we say, green type of tourism.

We did not take photos of any of the cannabis- or hash-related activities we witnessed, as it is expressly prohibited.

Apparently residents of Christiana don’t consider themselves members of the E.U.

Christiana makes somewhat of an aesthetic contrast to Christianshavn, the posh, canal-lined neighborhood that surrounds it.

The spiral staircase to the top of the Church of Our Saviour can be climbed to for some great views of the city. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it up there.

We did, however, visit the Christiansborg Tower overlooking the whole city. Remember earlier when we said we didn’t see the sun this whole trip? That put a bit of the damper on the view.

And… we saw absolutely nothing!
Exhibition of old statues in the tower, and a cheeky projection of pigeons behind them. Dreamer really feeling the weight on her shoulders, like the guys behind her.

At last, on to the food!

Smørrebrod are a typical Danish lunch: dense rye bread spread with butter (smør) and various toppings added. Also pictured in tasting glasses: akavit, brandies made from a variety of ingredients. Wendy is laughing because we may have ordered too much food. Again.
Eating Döner Kebab at the famed Kebabistan, an institution serving quality halal products from three Copenhagen locations. Yeah, they were as yuuuuuuge as this photo makes them out to be.

By far, our favorite eating experience (which merited a rare repeat visit on the same trip due to the immense variety) was Copenhagen Street Food, a converted warehouse full of small vendors, each specializing in a particular cuisine.

Getting ready to eat some street food, indoors.

The warehouse wasn’t terribly warm – luckily, hygge can be imported with a few well-placed heaters.

FEEL the hygge…
Feel it.

We skipped the famed Noma in favor of new Nordic cuisine at Höst, and it did not disappoint. Every course on the tasting menu was great. And we smelled the second course the moment we walked in.

All of the food we ate on this trip was spectacular, really.

Even the place where Danes buy their food is fun. We’re seeing… Scottish Terrier carrying a shopping basket?

Toward the end of our time in Copenhagen, we bookended our visit with another tour – except this time, it was a boat tour.

Doer hunting trolls on our boat tour.
Narrowest façade in Copenhagen.

Our boat tour guide was one of the best tour guides we’ve ever had. He turned what could have been a boring stretch through a dark tunnel into an opportunity:

You thought we forgot about Copenhagen’s most famous attraction, didn’t you? In 2010, she was sent away and replaced with a video feed, disappointing many tourists who failed to look this up ahead of time. She’s been back ever since, delighting visitors of all ages. Brace yourself, we’ve finally arrived.

Europe’s #2 most disappointing tourist attraction.
Apparently she has been victim to a number of vandalisms, including decapitation.

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