September 10, 2014
Believe it or not, this is the name of a book by Patrick Kingsley. It was actually his first book although he was a writer for The Guardian for several years before that. This book was resting on the living room coffee table. I thumbed through it while Mormor was getting a manicure and her hair done at The Danish Home beauty shop. She sure loves this fun perk!
How To Be Danish was written in 2012, a time that being Danish was preferable to nearly anything else. After all, The UN said the Danes were the happiest people in the world… Noma was named the world best restaurant for the third year in a row. Danes were the presidents of the EU and they were famous for their attention to the environment.
The Danish film industry found international favor as well with productions of The Killing, Borgen and The Bridge. The first female Prime Minister of Denmark was Helle Thorning-Schmidt and their welfare state was in a fine state of utopia! Like all Danes, I was quite proud of my heritage.
Kinglsey devoted an entire chapter of How To Be Danish to cycling. The Danish cycling culture was unrivaled in 2012 but in 1900, Chicago claimed that title. There was clearly no doubt that Chicago was the bicycle-building capital of the world back then since about two-thirds of the country’s bicycles and accessories were manufactured within 150 miles of the city. At that time there were 54 bike clubs with 10,000 members.
Carter H. Harrison II attributed one of his five mayoral win (1897 – 1905) to carrying the cyclists’ vote and rewarded them with a splendid bike path along Sheridan Road from Edgewater to Evanston.
While cycling in Denmark has always been considered a safe and popular way for all people, young and old, to get around, here in Chicago it was creating quite a commotion in the late 1800’s. Chicago cyclists were blamed for declining theatre attendance, railroad and horse riding not to mention dozens of accidents and injuries. To the positive, chewing gum sales went up!with a splendid bike path along Sheridan Road from Edgewater to Evanston.
Chicago women caused a terrible scene when they donned trousers to ride bicycles. Shunning cat calls and pulpit declarations of impending sin, women continued to break the boredom of house-wifery and male dominance for a set of wheels and a pair of pants. The bicycle trend lost its luster with the social elite around 1904 perhaps due to the availability of a new set of wheels, the automobile.
Cycling in Demark is integrated into the national, regional and local train services. It is both recreational and utilitarian and like the Netherlands, is considered a bicycle nation. In fact, there are 11 Danish National Cycle Routes that extend more that 7,500 miles. They enable residents and tourist to enjoy the beautiful Danish countryside.
So I ask you: “What does it take to Be Danish?” I’d say: “Start with a bicycle!”