Sjælland, Denmark – Part One: Copenhagen
Matt and I have taken two trips to Denmark since living in Sweden, and both times we got to stuff a friend in the backseat of the car to listen to us bicker the entire drive.
What?! Just kidding. Actually, not really, we’re still learning how to road trip well together. Matt and I. (I’m a raging backseat driver, poor Matt.)
Anyway! Our first trip to Denmark! Copenhagen, August 2012!
My friend from D.C. came out to visit and we decided a quick trip down to Copenhagen would be the easiest/cheapest get-away to another country that we could manage. The capital of Denmark is a 4-hour drive away, and capped off with a crossing of the magnificent Öresund Bridge.
Our trip was spent laughing over our friend’s incredible recitation of the most appropriate Big Bang Theory scene:
Sheldon: You’re in luck, this is an easy one. In a world where mankind is ruled by a giant intelligent beaver, what food is no longer consumed?
Leonard: Uh, a BLT where the B stands for beaver? I don’t know.
Sheldon: Leonard, be serious. We’re playing a game here.
Leonard: I can figure this out, let’s see. Um, well, beavers eat tree bark. The only tree bark I know that humans consume is cinnamon. So, I’ll say cinnamon.
Sheldon: Incorrect. Obviously, the answer is cheese Danish.
Amy: In a world ruled by a giant beaver, mankind builds many dams to please the beaver overlord. The low-lying city of Copenhagen is flooded. Thousands die. Devastated, the Danes never invent their namesake pastry. How does one miss that?
Brilliant! Also, it became our mission to find and consume a “cheese Danish”. Obviously.
It was a quick trip; we drove down on Saturday morning and drive back Sunday afternoon. We booked a cute little apartment through airbnb.com, came up with a vague idea of what to see and do, and set off!
The summer of 2012 shall forever be known as “The Summer We Didn’t Have A GPS”. Our previous rental car came equipped with one, and we hadn’t yet paid for and downloaded Europe maps to our personal GPS. I had printed out Google Maps directions and coupled that with a crappy map of Copenhagen that is included in our Swedish road atlas, with the hopes both would get us where we needed to be. Of course, once we got into Denmark, straight off the bridge, there was road construction throwing off where we needed to exit. Luckily, it’s not that confusing at all, and we quickly made it to the part of town we stayed in: Christianshavn.
The apartment was tiny, but adorable. I believe the neighborhood used to be housing for the dock workers way back when, so the apartments are tiny and efficient, and this one was re-done by the owner and I was seriously impressed with how well he used the space. Our apartment host gave us a quick run-down on the area. Christiania was a block away and he casually mentioned one could buy pot there, which threw us off a little, but he also suggested we look through a big coffee table book he had about the place. It’s basically a one-time “social experiment” turned permanent place where people work and live in a community where each person’s unique contributions support the whole group. They have their own set of rules apart from the Danish government, and it’s an autonomous place. Hence the freedom to acquire and smoke pot – however, I’m not sure if just anyone can go buy it (?) because we didn’t try. Sorry y’all.
If you are into the idea of a free community, definitely go check Christiania out. Despite being so close, we didn’t have the time to explore inside the neighborhood, but it’s still on the must-do list for Copenhagen.
This part of the city immediately felt gritty…for our Swedish mindsets, but after 10 minutes of walking around, we really warmed up to it. Linköping really is a very nice place to live, but everyone dresses and looks the same here, so being dropped in a place I could compare to Berkeley was a bit of a culture shock. That being said, it was AWESOME to feel like we could belong (or get along) without having to look the part.
After we dropped our stuff at the apartment, we immediately set out to explore. We found a corner restaurant, Cafe Oven Vande, with a ton of outdoor seating and promptly grabbed three beers.
While sitting in the sunshine, sipping our beers, a man rode by on a bicycle that had speakers built into the front of it. He was playing dance/trance music, I believe…and he stole my heart. I think he’s a regular in those parts, so if you go to Christianshavn, look out for him.
After drinks, we set off towards the center of Copenhagen. I had an idea of where to walk to see some of the sights: Amalienborg Palace, the Marble Church, Nyhavn, and generally the entire Indre By (or, Inner City). All three of us needed to pick up a something to make our trip more comfortable (sunglasses, tee-shirt, etc), so we stopped at one of the few H&M’s along Strøget – the pedestrian/shopping street – first.
While we were there, Copenhagen fashion week was also happening. I worried that I’d be mistaken for a model, and forced to walk in some fabulous show…but alas, that didn’t happen. Much to only my dismay.
We made our way to Nyhavn, where it seemed like we were in a dream. Those colorful buildings! The ships in the harbor! The people just sitting everywhere enjoying the sun and beers and friends, it was ahhhmazing!
Then we made our way to Amalienborg Palace
and up to the Marble Church, where there was a wedding or something happening, so no going inside.
While standing at the front of the church, and watching some beautiful girls walk down the street, Matt declared he’d be buying me “shoes like she has on, the one’s with the red soles.” What a darling boy! He wants to gift me Louboutins! Don’t tell him how much they cost, mmmkay? 😉
At this point we were pretty ready to eat some dinner and rest our tired walking feet. We weaved our way around a few more blocks and decided on a small corner pizza place. After dinner we popped into a corner grocery store to pick up a couple of Danish beers and anything else we might wanted for the evening. This was a fortuitous stop because I spotted one of the things we were missing most that we hadn’t found in Sweden: Sriracha Sauce! Score!
We spent the evening winding back through the city, with a quick stop for another beer at a floating bar/restaurant on one of the canals, and then reading up on Christiania and enjoying some ice cream bars back at the apartment.
The next morning we decided to maximize our time by catching the first canal tour of the day, then going over to the Carlsberg Brewery for a tour, before heading out and back to Sweden. The first canal tour was at 9am, so we set off earlier to find a bakery.
Since we were only there for about 24 hours total, I can’t confirm this…but the bakery we went to, Lagkagehuset, on the corner of Torvegade and Overgaden Oven Vandet (in Christianshavn) might be one of the best in the city. I mean, I don’t discriminate a good pastry, but this place was packed and certainly didn’t disappoint in any way. Yes, I would HIGHLY recommend going here if you ever end up in Copenhagen.
We each bought a “cheese Danish” (Weinerbröd) and coffee, and then Matt also bought a savory sandwich. It was hard to decide what to order, since they have so many amazing pastries, but one must go with the traditional weinerbröd first and foremost. We ate our breakfast treats next to the canal and it was truly a beautiful morning. My favorite part of the canals in Copenhagen were the local boaters that traverse them. The day and evening before, there were boats of families and friends, just people enjoying a nice Saturday cruising around, and this morning there were just old men cruising along, smoking and enjoying coffee, making the first ripples in the still waters.
Basically, when I grow up I want to live well in Copenhagen.
The canal tour was great. It went from Indre By, down past Nyhavn and Amalienborg Castle, over into Christianshavn, and then around the island of Slotsholmen to finish. Definitely worth going on. Of course Scandinavian architecture, old and new, is amazing, and I was in heaven taking it all in by boat.
We also passed “the little mermaid” statue:
After the tour, we walked back to the apartment to pack up – my friend retrieving another pastry and savory treat from Lagkagehuset on the way, for later – and we set off for the Carlsberg Brewery.
Did I mention we didn’t have a proper GPS? And our cell phones were turned off since we don’t want roaming charges from being in another country, so we followed un-detailed maps in our attempt to find the brewery across town. After a few missed turns, we did manage to finally find where the brewery…compound (?)…was. Making our way to Husbryggeriet Jacobsen (Jacobsen Brewhouse), we bought tickets for the self-guided tour around the old, historic brewery and stables.
You are entitled to two beers with the purchase of a tour ticket, and they offer you your first one right away. Pleasant way to start a tour if I do say so myself! The bar area had their old poster advertisements hanging on the walls and I wanted each one of them.
After our beers, we walked through the stables and met some of the draught horses. I also wanted each one of them to come home with me!
The tour is pretty great. There is a ton of information and history to absorb and I’d have to say it’s really one of the best brewery tours I’ve ever been on (and I’ve been on quite a few – Colorado girl here, remember). In the old Brewhouse, there is the world’s largest beer collection (amazing) and another part that has the history of beer right from the very beginning. It’s incredible how much information they put together for that part of the tour alone.
Once you’re finished with the tour, you can enjoy your second beer, eat some snacks if you want to buy them, and then stop back into the gift shop to buy some nice quality Carlsberg goodies. Matt and I actually picked out the same shirt to buy for ourselves, so now we can match if we want to be totally weird like that.
Word of warning – everything shrinks! So buy a size up if you can 🙂
It was sad to have to leave Copenhagen so quickly, but for such a quick trip it was pretty great. Like I said before, it was wholly refreshing to be in a place where people were all different from one another in looks, style, mannerisms social status, etc. yet all co-existed harmoniously together. Sometimes Sweden can feel bland and predictable…and a little too conforming. I don’t want to stand out, necessarily, but if I want to wear a hoodie sweatshirt, or flip flops, to the grocery store I’d like to feel OK about it.
Our second trip to Denmark, more recently to the northern part of Sjælland, made us feel the same way again and only confirmed Matt’s and my love for the country.
That post coming up soon!