It took about three hours before I felt right at home among the Danes, in the happiest country on earth* (in 2016). København (Copenhagen in English) is the capital of Denmark, a piece of Scandinavia just north of Germany. Walking along the clean, upscale looking streets, my first impression was not of a country that flaunts wealth and luxury on the surface. People don't walk down one of the most expensive streets in the world dripping in jewels and fur coats. They are much too modest to outwardly display having one of the highest standards of living in the world, but ask a local and they'll eagerly tell you about how great things are. Healthcare, unemployment, education all provided by the government and there if you need it. (and at a tax rate not so different from that of the United States)
The capital seems relatively small but in my experience cannot be properly experienced in just a few days. About 9 days revealed a Copenhagen as a labyrinth for pleasing the senses made up of basement hipster dive bars, world class restaurants and a concentrated grouping of cultural arts in a variety that is impressive.
In KBH, the bars don't close until the last person leaves. That could be at 5 am or 9 am. The weekends are a sight to see with people flocking to the nightlife in boisterous groups. After a night of partying, the patrons that have abandoned the bars stumble down the streets, wandering and playing their own music on portable speakers, outside a 7-11 perchance (yes they have those in Denmark) at 6 in the morning. You can make your own party whereever you feel like it as long as you are respectful to the sleeping neighbors.
Most of the bars in Copenhagen allow smoking inside. While the tobacco smoke is overpowering and suffocating, I stuck it out and enjoyed such lovely high class establishments such as Bo-Bi Bar and The Moose. Here, the term high class is used ironically, but sometimes you just need a comfortable yet grimy night out.
At the international street food market, there is a bar with a shimmering gigantic cow statue decorated in a reflective mosaic tiles, resembling a bovine disco ball. The genius that invented Discow Bar is a legend of a human. I worship this concept. Well done to you. I'm jealous I didn't think of it first. I encourage those wannabe entrepenuers around the world to establish their very own Discow Bar in their home city. Who wouldn't be on board with that?
There is really something for everyone here, whether you are a Norwegian farmer escaping the high price of alcohol in your home country or a tourist curious about Christiania, a rather famous district that is almost like a tiny country within a city. The law there does not extend beyond the boundaries of this privately owned, collectively governed slice of Woodstock in village form. What a concept! "You Are Now Leaving the E.U."
The local authorities tried to kick the hippies off the land once operated by the military by setting a selling price to privatize the land thinking the squatters wouldn't be able to raise the funds themselves. It took them all about two hours to come up with the funds required to buy it outright through online donations. It is now forever a beloved alternate reality that exists in harmony within a bustling modern city. Perhaps direct democracy keeps things going in this neighborhood that sells alternative smoking materials and offers a refuge from the outside world of oppressive capitalism and policies criminalizing the green things that Freetown Christianians love so dearly. It is not a clean place, but it certainly is a fascinating thing to visit. (there were no photos allowed)
Some of my favorite moments in Copenhagen involved walking through the parks in the rain. After becoming too wet, I would head to a cafe to do some reading or writing. My favorite spot is the Paludan Bogcafe (book-cafe). In Paludan, books line the walls and the atmosphere is perfect for inspiring creativity.
The entire city is dotted with hidden gems and good vibes. The energy of København inhabitants comes off as a comfortable and hyper awareness of the state of the world beyond, yet also having the ability to relax, sip a beer, and light a cigarette without worrying how late it is, or if work in the morning is fast approaching, merely enjoying the hygge (something nice, cozy, safe and known) and intellectual conversation.
Late one evening in the nippy winter wind, as I was walking along, I observed a staff chef that worked at NOMA (once awarded the title of best restaurant in the world) biking in a short sleeve white shirt, no jacket, holding a tree branch more massive than his bike in one hand and balancing with the other. He was returning to the restaurant after scavenging for this hunk of a tree, an ingredient for dinner no doubt. To eat here requires a lot of money and a reservation many months in advance. I wasn't able to eat there this time, but it's on my bucket list!
So many enjoyable days here and it was hard not to enjoy the city no matter the weather. On one of my last days, I visited the inside of Rosenborg Castle, strolled through botanical gardens and read for a bit in the Palm House, an enclosed white painted metal greenhouse. For lunch I devoured smørrebrød (Danish open faced sandwich) from Torvehalle, a public market of specialty food stands and restaurants.
I can recommend a visit to Copenhagen and stay for a while, get comfortable with some hygge and try to discover the local side of things. The underside of the city is just as captivating as its tourist attractions and grand palaces, my heart was made happy by all the bicycles and gardens and happy people.