June 9, 2016
As I left off last week, I arrived at cousin Annelise’s door in Northern Copenhagen with loads of hugs for her and her family, as well as loads of luggage. We were so excited to be meeting again that I forgot several bags outside on the cobblestone walkway. Talk about jet lag and excitement! No worries though, (to my surprise) they were still sitting there when I went back out to retrieve them, along with the (many) bikes of neighbors (unchained) that were adorably leaning against the brick stone houses or waiting for their owners at the crowded bike rack.
Aside from the picturesque storybook setting of her neighborhood, I began realizing over the next several days that many bikes are left unlocked on the street. Additionally, many other items are innocuously left out. One example, the cozy blankets at nearly all outdoor restaurants, cafes and bars offered to patrons who dine al fresco. How thoughtful! I was beginning to understand why Scandinavians are continuously ranked the happiest people in the world. Indeed, I was feeling happy!
As for a typical Danish home, I hate to generalize, but Annelise’s hus was just what you’d expect. It was surprisingly devoid of clutter, despite her family of four. It was small by American standards, but very cozy and personal. As she told me, it is very expensive to live in Copenhagen and in Denmark you can pay up to 70% in taxes! That may sound insane to us, but many people in Denmark, from waiters to students to business executives, expressed that the Scandinavian welfare model allows citizens access to “free” healthcare and education, including higher education, which encourages students to obtain higher degrees (as one student told me). Along with high taxes come high standards, and most people I spoke to (in Sweden as well) expressed, well, happiness about it.
The next morning we were off to the Storytelling Streets and Authentic Shops in the Old City. As we strolled along the picturesque Rådhussstræd (Town Hall Street), I could picture H.C. Andersen doing the same two hundred years before. Lured in by the beautifully colored printed textiles, we stopped into Blå Form and spoke to the very kind shopkeeper who told us about her craft. Then it was on down Kompagnistræd (Company Street) to Lars Jensen, described as ‘probably the only handmade wooden toy maker in Denmark’. The whimsical wooden toys, painted with non-toxic paint (as children’s toys should be, in my opinion) are handmade, unique and so fun! Another example of that Danish design.
Our playful side in check, we decided our chocolate side needed some attention, so we made our way to Kronprinsengade (Crown Prince Street) to pay a visit to the beloved Summerbird Chocolaterie. There we enjoyed some 100% organic chokolade, and the trip would have been meaningless without sampling the famous flødeboller. I am not saying that I traveled over 4,000 miles for a chocolate-covered marshmallow from heaven, but I can’t say I won’t do it again!
After a bit of overindulgence, we found ourselves strolling down Strøget, the world’s oldest and longest pedestrian street. As the story goes, with increasing traffic in the 1960’s the decision was made that a car-free walkway was needed. Today it features restaurants and cute outdoor sidewalk cafes, specialty shops, art galleries, souvenir and gift stores, department stores, street entertainment, beautiful fountains, theatres and museums. You can stroll the 3.2 km from the fanciful Tivoli Gardens all the way to gorgeous Nyhavn, enjoying the beautiful architecture and most fashionable people watching you can imagine!
Tune in next week when we arrive at the end of Strøget. From there we take a canal tour from Nyhavn, meet Den Lille Havfrue (The Little Mermaid) and explore the wonders of Tivoli! And if you are itching to celebrate a bit of Danish tradition stateside, mark your calendar for June 26th when The Danish Home of Chicago hosts their annual Summerfest!
Don’t forget to enter our giveaway for Tea For Two at The Drake in Chicago!