Flying into Copenhagen

I arrived in Copenhagen close to midnight. Immigration saw the eagle and “United States” and waved me through. But really, it seemed that this is a place where everybody gets waved through. Small and nice and quiet. The airport could describe the country. Funny how that often works. JFK (faded glory) HKG (beautiful efficiency) PEK (grandiose ambition) SFO (growth outpacing infrastructure) etc.

The last flight from London was not full, but many of the passengers were businessmen. Perhaps, you could commute. With such a short two hour flight, it might barely make sense. Then again, that sort of person might be a rarity. Rich enough to commute, not rich enough to fly private or simply buy a great London flat (well, who is rich enough for that anymore?)

The flight was almost all white, mostly male, and relatively preppy. Well dressed, affluent men. All the Danish passports, a common bond in a small country. How often would a Dane encounter someone he knew on a flight like this? In some ways, going to Copenhagen felt less like going to a country and more like going to one large, pseudo-exclusive club. A country club of another sort.

We picked up our luggage and waited in line for a taxi. All Mercedes, we rode in an E-Class wagon. In the States they start at $60,000. It was smooth, but configured as a taxi, was not as luxurious you might expect. It was strange to me to consider a country exclusively using such an expensive brand for taxis. In one way it made Denmark feel rich. In another, it made Mercedes seem less luxurious and more practical. Maybe they need them for the Danish winter.

We arrived at our AirBnB, which was a tasteful mix of moody art coupled with large numbers of photos, souvenirs, and, interestingly, an extraordinary amount of perfume bottles. The owner, we discovered, works in fashion.

After much overdue sleep, I woke up and visited a nearby bakery with my father. A Dane recommended a cranberry walnut loaf:

“It is out of this world.”

He knows that expression.

Everyone began by speaking to us in Danish, but they switched in to English easily. You could feel at home here and know very little Danish.

We next went on a beautiful boat tour of the canals around Copenhagen. It was touristy, sure, but beautiful and well worth the time.

Copenhagen Boats

Over the next few days, we saw several sights, but a few really stood out. One was Forloren Espresso. I thought that forloren might be the rough Danish equivalent of ‘forlorn’ and perhaps meant single– they do pull single shots, after all. However, the truth was more interesting as “forloren” is a word in Danish which has fallen out of use. The owner explained how he often sees potential customers walk by, stop, and then do a double take at the name.  I have sadly forgotten the slightly complicated explanation of its meaning, although a Swedish friend told me he thinks it means “lost” or “false.” Anyway, the owner had told me that it was somewhat untranslatable.

Forloren Cafe

The man you see in the photo was the owner and, apparently, the only employee. Forloren Espresso really is a good example of the Danish artisan culture. It seems there are lots of small shops owned by one or two people. Crucially, they are focused on high quality, limited edition goods. They are fighting commoditization with unique experiences. The owner was very knowledgeable about coffee and offered several exotic beans he personally selected.e

We walked to Christiania, and on the way stumbled into Per Bo Keramik. The brightly colored ceramic cups and plates acted like a million multicolored lights flashing. If they could talk, they would have been saying “Come in!” (but probably in Danish)

Per Bo Ceramics 2

Per Bo himself.

Per Bo Ceramics

These beautiful bowls are made by a friend of Per Bo.

Per Bo Ceramics 3

My favorite cups, sadly not available in the inbetween size I wanted. Sometime I hope Per Bo and Anne Junsjo can meet up–it seems they would have a lot to talk about.

Copenhagen Trail

Several newly purchased cups later, we left Per Bo and continued to Christiania. We took a route by the water, which was pleasant, although it also smelled like marijuana. Supposedly this is the only area in Denmark where the drug can be pseudo-legally smoked or possessed. We stopped at a pretty good vegan cafe. Strong hippie vibes.

Christiania Entrance

The entrance–of a sort– to Christiania. Fun fact, some residents consider this a separate country from Denmark, and there is a small independence movement.

Copenhagen Food Market

We soon left and moved to a large cafeteria on the water. With a diverse array of food, it was a true treat. Finding vegetarian food was possible, and a wide variety of cuisine was represented, including Korean, Japanese, Indian, Italian… The list goes on.

Copenhagen Cars

It would be difficult for the most hip brooklyner to out hipster this.

Copenhagen Pizza

Seating was outside, and it had a party atmosphere. The abundance of people outside despite the relative cold suggested the harsh winters that Copenhagen goes through.

Copenhagen Summer

When I took this photo, I believed that I was capturing an early summer picnic. Instead, I have a record of a scene which now raises more questions than answers. Who is this girl? Why isn’t her animal walking with her? Where are her sunglasses? Has she finished her babyccino?

Copenhagen DJ

The DJ outside must have been saying “Denmark is too cool for you,”  but in such a nice way that you feel welcome anyhow.

Tiger Copenhagen We left and hit Tiger, which is a quirky chain that has great home goods, toys, and clothing. Sort of like Muji, but younger and more fun.Life Advice Copenhagen

Particularly good advice.Copenhagen GeeseThat evening we walked to the Kastellet, which is a star shaped fort. Very interesting to see what was once a secure, fortified position, whose only purpose now is as a tourist attraction and walking trail. Technology really changes things. For Americans who are interested in military history but don’t want to or cannot fly to Denmark, the US has a similar site called Fort Monroe, in Virginia.

Copenhagen Church  A Beautiful church at the edge of the fort.Copenhagen Moat

With views like this, and the knowledge that cool markets, shops, and restaurants are all nearby, I can begin to understand why Monocle Magazine ranked Copenhagen as the worlds most livable city for two years in a row. As much as I liked Copenhagen, however, there are still some questions which need to be answered.

How is the winter? Would it start to feel small? Could you earn enough to truly enjoy the city?

It was a bit chilly in the summer, it didn’t seem that large, and prices were high. Yet, it was also undeniably an extremely livable city. From the few days I spent there, my verdict on Copenhagen is pretty simple. It is a great place to live, and probably an ideal place to raise children. That said, those looking for an adventure may be better served in a larger city, before the move here to settle down.

Check out the other cities we’ve visited:

And don’t miss Brandon Belknap’s stories about Tokyo and Iceland.

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