Excited for the next leg of my adventure I woke up with a spring to my step. It was cold and rainy, but given my mood, I found it more invigorating than anything. I’d picked up a cheap youth ticket for 693 NOK (about $110 at the time) via the regional budget airline Wideroe. While I had initially hoped to make the trip from Bergen to Copenhagen by train, what ended up being a two hour flight would have taken me closer to 15 hours by train and cost about the same (possibly more).
From the hostel I made the 5 minute walk to the bus stop for the airport express and found a marginally dry bench. Once there I leveraged years of experience, and settled in for one of the things I’m famous for – a quick cat nap. From there it was a quick bus ride to the airport, during which I had a delightful conversation with an older Canadian couple, before catching my flight.
The trip from the airport to my hostel was easy. A straight forward metro ride to a major stop, and then a quick walk to a funky hotel/hostel. I wasn’t thrilled about the place, it was a hotel which had converted its 3 story basement into a hostel. Despite its general lack of character, and inflated price, it did offer decent facilities and a prime location. I tossed my bag on my bed and set out – it was time to explore the city and rustle up some food.
The first thing I noticed about Copenhagen was the people. The Danish have repeatedly been ranked as some of the happiest people in the world. It’s hard to describe but there’s an energy throughout the city which truly reflects their ranking. They’re just down right friendly, happy and active. I’m sure it didn’t hurt that a massive, city wide jazz festival was also going on, which meant that there was stages set up in all of the small squares and musicians everywhere.
In addition to being an extremely friendly city, Copenhagen (København) is also a spectacularly beautiful one. The architecture is a delightful mix of international styles, the streets are clean, well groomed/repaired and the city itself a mixture of streets and parks crisscrossed by the occasional canal.
Copenhagen also boasts a fantastic amount of foot traffic. Something which while initially surprising started to make more sense once I learned more about the culture. As it turns out the Danish government imposes a 180% tax on the purchase of new vehicles. As you can imagine, that goes a long ways towards encouraging pedestrian traffic and the use of public transport. The locals also are prestigious bikers. The only other city I’ve ever seen that came anywhere close was Amsterdam, and though it’s a close tossup I’m tempted to say that Copenhagen may be the bicycle capital of Europe. Everyone has one, and there are bike parking areas every block which consist of literally hundreds of bikes lined up in rows. Some are chained to something, most are not.
As I wandered through the city streets I couldn’t help but be impressed. Granted, the size of Copenhagen makes biking/walking a feasible option, but can you imagine if the US tried something similar? A 10% sales tax is grounds for excessive complaining, let alone 180%! There would be riots. Yet the Danes take it in stride and are happier, healthier, and better off for it. No doubt there’s an important lesson to be learned there.
I mentioned that the city was a beautiful mixture of architectural styles. The eclectic roof line int eh photo above highlights this slightly. You definitely get a feel fairly quickly for Copenhagen’s rich history. A few minutes walking around the old city leaves one with a solid insight into the centuries of wealth, power, architectural and intellectual might that define Copenhagen.
As I wound my way down the main market street I couldn’t help but feel my mouth water. Every block or so there was another food stand offering delicious looking wares. From dried apricots to Danish hotdog stands. With a chuckle I quickly realized that in Denmark the go-to street food isn’t kebabs, it’s hotdogs. But not just any hotdogs…
…Danish hot dogs. Though there were a variety of options one of the most appealing (and healthy…obviously) were the bacon wrapped hotdogs served with sweet ketchup and a bucket full of mustard all washed down with a good ol’ cocacola. Other options included big brats served up with pickled relish-like cucumber and sprinkled with dehydrated/breaded onions.
I picked up one…or perhaps two? Hotdogs and made my way towards a small stage set up in the middle of the square. Once within sight of the stage I found an empty set of cobblestones and settled in to enjoy my snack, people watch, and enjoy the sound of live music bouncing off the ancient cobblestone streets and multi-colored walls of ancient storefronts.
From there it was time to explore a bit further before heading back to the hostel. I was in desperate need of a nap, and had made plans to connect with a friend I’d made during my Central America trip earlier in the year. I was eager to catch up, and to get a local’s insights into the city. It promised to be a good evening.
On a final note here are two quick bits of information I found fascinating. The city of Copenhagen, despite being a capital city and home to several of the largest shipping companies in the world, sports an inner harbor that is so clean, you can swim in it (and people do regularly).
Remember how I mentioned that the city was incredibly bike friendly? An estimated 36% of locals commute to work by bike. Amazing!