The Home of Happy People

The Danes always rank near the top of living in one of the “Happiest Countries in the World.” Frank and I were happy to spend time with two of those happy people!

We met Marie and Anne-Mette on a two-day boat trip to Vietnam’s Halong Bay,

When looking for a place to stay, I knew our first digs were meant to be — the name of the street was Bagerstræde! Although the host did not have UW paraphernalia, he did have a bunch of stuff from Ohio University and the Masters golf tournament!

Our Vesterbro neighborhood is just west of the central touristy area. It’s pretty trendy with lots of cafes, shops, bars and restaurants.

The 1930s white concrete buildings in Vesterbro’s Meatpacking District once housed huge butcher halls. Now it’s the place to go for some of the best restaurants on town.

Copenhagen is dotted with colorful streets in many different neighborhoods.

When Frank and I got back from our side trip to Norway, we stayed at Marie and Anne’s home in Nørrebro. We really enjoyed our time in this multicultural neighborhood — so eclectic with lots to see and do.

• The Lakes are three rectangular lakes in the middle of the city. The area is popular for walkers and bicyclists.
• Movies are never dubbed in Danish, although they are sometimes subtitled. Candy and beverages are self-serve, paid for at the counter. (Guests must be pretty trustworthy!)
• We saw many young people wearing captain hats and discovered they were recent high school graduates. On the weekend after graduation, each class rents a vehicle to take them from family home to family home to eat, drink and celebrate! (Liquor is legal at any age with parental permission.)
• I like the way cemeteries are utilized as quiet public parks. Assistens Kirkegård cemetery is the burial place of some of Denmark’s most famous individuals including writer Hans Christian Andersen, composer Karen Jønsson and philosopher Søren Kierkegaard.

Superkilen is a public park designed by an arts group, along with local architects.

Food, Drink and Shopping

Danish style

When we got to Copenhagen, one thing that struck me was the absence of balconies (we had seen so many in Berlin). They are, in fact, plentiful but are located in the back of the house, often overlooking pretty courtyards rather than busy streets. Once inside, we came to appreciate the minimalist lines of Danish/Scandinavian design. The sleek lines in the kitchen with the built-in refrigerators and hidden drawers created a very clean, uncluttered look. On the beds, there is no top sheet. Two comforters (with washable duvets) all but eliminate the “stop taking all my covers” scenario.

So, why are they so happy?

Colorful neighborhoods. Simple, cozy homes. Good food, drink and shopping. Healthy, outdoor lifestyle. What else? Taxes are high but Danes don’t have to worry about health care or education costs. It seems they also have a very healthy work-life balance. Many employers offer at least five weeks of vacation and employees can often work from home. This allows more time for family and friends — friends like us — who they meet and who come to visit their happy friends in this happy place called Copenhagen!

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Copenhagen

Bikes, Bikes and More Bikes!!!

When we were in Berlin, I thought there were a lot of bikes. That was nothing compared to Copenhagen! Biking here is a religion. Over 60% of people use their bikes to go to work or school. 

The Christiana Bike with the front cart was invented in Denmark. You’ll often see children, pets and everything else being wheeled around in them. I wondered about the lack of helmets on cyclists but noticed many wearing these thick black collars. The Hövding are actually airbags that activate in a fall! (Click here to see a funny video, especially around 2:30)

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em

Frank and I decided to do a bike tour. We were lucky in that we were our guide Rune’s only two clients for that day. Biking with the masses was a bit daunting at first, but we quickly got the hang of it. What a fun way to see the city!

We met up with Rune in Kongens Nytorv and rode to:
• Rosenborg Gardens, a 17th century castle surrounded by colorful gardens.
• Nyboder is a complex of historic yellow row houses that once housed marine families. The area is unique in that these homes are well-preserved and have not been destroyed by fire.
• Amalienborg is the residence of the Danish Royal family. (Did you know that the Danish monarchy has the world’s oldest lineage? Queen Margrethe II’s heritage can be traced back more than a thousand years to a king born in 958!)
• A Danish foundation donated the money for the Royal Danish Opera House, which is one of the largest in the world. The only stipulation was that they would build it on an island in direct line with the Cathedral, the Royal residence and a park (the four tenants of society: religion, monarchy, nature and the arts).
• The Church of Our Savior is one of Denmark’s most famous churches. Each year more than 60,000 people climb the 400 steps to the top of the spire (we weren’t two of them!).
• The Old Stock Exchange dates back to 1625 and is one of the oldest buildings in Copenhagen. 
• Kastellet is one of the best preserved fortresses in Northern Europe. It is constructed in the form of a pentagon with bastions at its corners.

. . . and Copenhagen’s most famous sight

Almost everyone who comes to Copenhagen pays homage to The Little Mermaid. The original story by Hans Christian Andersen (lower left) is much darker than the version by Walt Disney.

Freetown Christiana

Freetown Christiania is Copenhagen’s “alternative hippie neighbourhood.” Although we stopped here on the bikes, we got a more in-depth visit when we went with Marie and Anne. The community collective of around 1,000 people has its own flag and rules. You can’t drive cars here so there are plenty of bikes (including the Christiana bikes invented here and mentioned above). The vibrant mix of homemade houses, galleries and music venues is a photographer’s dream but you are warned not to take pictures in certain areas, especially around Pusher Street because they sell pot there! (illegal in Denmark)

Another Perspective

Our “Hey Captain” tour was a blast, complete with a fun group of people — and a couple bottles of wine! Sam took us to some off-the-beaten path sights, including UN City which houses seven departments of the United Nations and some cool houseboats.

Next up: Copenhagen — Home of the Happy People
(neighborhoods, homes, food and shopping)

Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens

Tivoli Gardens

Is it worth going to Tivoli Gardens if you’re not a “ride” person? The amusement park is always near the top of Copenhagen “must-see” lists and is just down the street, so we decided to find out.

Built in 1843, Tivoli Gardens is the second oldest operating amusement park in the world (the first is also in Denmark). I read that it “was founded by Georg Carstensen who told then King Christian VIII ‘when the people are amusing themselves, they do not think about politics.’”(!) From the beginning, Tivoli included a theatre, band stands, amusement rides, cafés and restaurants.The area was illuminated at night with colored lights and there were frequently fireworks.

It’s not much different today. There are many stages and performances are held often. Movies are shown outside, too. Evenings and weekends draw huge crowds.

The original wooden roller coaster is still in operation. The rides have a truly vintage feel with the exception of several modern thrillers. The park recently added The Demon, a rollercoaster where passengers take a VR journey through a Chinese universe with fire-spitting dragons and exploding fireworks! 

I did go on one ride : )

In addition to a Food Hall that is also accessible to the public, charming restaurants, cafes and specialty sweet shops are scattered throughout the park.

There were many areas to relax among the beautiful flowers, fountains and lakes.

Tivoli Gardens and Georg Carstensen’s quote have me rethinking my concept of amusement park. While I am not particularly “amused” by rides, I am amused and delighted by colorful gardens, fun people watching and endless food and beverage choices.  During our time at Tivoli, we did not think about anything other than enjoying a wonderful day at a truly magical place!