Tag Archives Denmark

Christmas in Copenhagen

Nisse elf for sale Det Gamle Apotek CopenhagenChristmas is kind of a big deal in Denmark. In Copenhagen giant wreaths adorn formidable wooden doors, twinkly lights border shop and restaurant facades and add sparkle to trees and foliage; wishes of “God jul” (Merry Christmas) in ornamental fonts cover storefront windows, and the requisite Christmas fir trees dot the town. On Strøget, a man with an accordion plays melodies that would make the perfect musical backdrop to a romantic comedy.

Every Christmas season, Tivoli, the second oldest amusement park in the world, transform their grounds into a majestic Christmas wonderland making it a perfect destination for families, friends, dates and tourists alike.

Copenhagen begins to quiet down during the week of Christmas. We took advantage of the calm and boarded a train for a 45-minute ride to the city of Helsingør. The city’s most famous attraction is Kronberg Palace, known also as the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The expansive grounds are magnificent and the atmosphere serene (aside from the occasional piped-in recorded sounds of incoming Calvary). The surrounding town offered its own bright charm.

Keisha on train to Helsingør

Had we done a bit more advanced planning we might have joined the ranks of the Danish and tourists filling the city’s restaurants for Christmas Eve dinner. Every restaurant we contacted was booked for the evening.

We stumbled around the nearly soulless streets of Indre By looking for signs of restaurant life. We found our oasis in the form of Sultan Palace and soon other hungry, reservation-less diners joined us for the Turkish buffet.

Christmas morning we awoke to a super gift: snow! A fun treat on our last full day in Copenhagen, especially after endless rain.

This city and its people showed us a great time and we’ll miss the more relaxed pace of life and sense of calm. Now it’s on to the next country’s adventures!
Friends in snow Kongsten Have Copenhagen

Exploring Copenhagen’s Beauty & Culture

Despite the cloudy skies and ever-present rain, Copenhagen is still quite beautiful. We spent our third day in the city exploring stunning views of the city and some of the art culture it offers.

Just around the block from our hostel we found plenty of architecture and design to marvel over.

Almost everywhere you look the scenery is beautiful.

Seeing Copenhagen from above was a must-do, so we visited the 110ft+ high Rundetaarn (“round tower”) and climbed the unusual spiral passage to the observatory.

 

After seeing the magnificent Copenhagen cityscape we ambled over to the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, an impressive museum filled with paintings, sculptures and ancient artifacts.

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek

Often our excursions took us down Strøget – one of the longest pedestrian-only streets in Europe – the Fifth Avenue /
Champs-Élysées / Bond Street of Copenhagen with a splash of Melrose Place. Up and down Strøget are shops, restaurants and boutiques hailing from many countries ranging from the most upscale like Gucci to more wallet-friendly options like Zara: a shopper’s paradise. Side note: the Danish are really tall; at 5’1″, I feel like a toddler clumsily climbing onto stools that are too high and ducking the flailing hands of passers-by in conversation.

 

For dinner that evening, we opted for a Danish meal at a restaurant within the freetown of Christiania, Spiseloppen. To say that the restaurant’s location is sketchy would greatly understate the level of anxiety we felt as we climbed each narrowing step, rising higher and higher away from safer ground, bypassing a group of thuggish-ruggish looking twenty-something men I named the “Danish Get Fresh Crew,” one of whom whistled at us as we passed by. Happily, we avoided our own Law & Order: SVU-type tale when we opened a heavy-wooden door to a perfectly respectable-looking restaurant with an affable host/server and warm and comforting dishes.

At the end of our meal, our server informed us that it was the last night the restaurant would be open until January 17th. “We’re taking a much-needed break for the holidays.” I told my friend I couldn’t imagine a restaurant in the United States closing for almost a month to give everyone time off. We’re opening up shops on Thanksgiving Day now for goodness’ sake!

In honor of the occasion he comped us free pints of the Danish seasonal holiday beer, Tuborg Julebryg, along with a traditional Danish Christmas dessert or rice pudding topped with a cherry sauce. Tuborg, isn’t my favorite. I must admit, I prefer German and Belgian ales and lagers, but the gesture was kind nonetheless and a lovely way to end a great day.

 

Tuborg Julebryg Beer Copenhagen | The Girl Next Door is Black
Tuborg Julebryg, seasonal Tuborg brew

Adventures in Copenhagen: New Friends, New Food & Secret Neighborhoods

Standing in rainy Copenhagen  | The Girl Next Door is Black
Brrrr! It is chilly and rainy this time of year in Copenhagen. It’s been on average low- to mid-40s, with a bit of a wind and rain everyday.

The Danish guide from the walking tour we took earlier in the day, Magnus, also led that evening’s four-bar pub crawl. The group of about 15 included a few familiar faces from the earlier tour and represented several nations including England, Australia, Columbia, Trinidad, Peru and, of course, Denmark.

Also in our group: two progressively drunker American dudebros. Later in the night, one of the dudebros stumbled in front of a politi (police) car and started to give them lip, which they didn’t find amusing; neither did I and neither did Magnus as he warned, “They don’t like that.” Sigh.

 

Friends at the Saloon Bar Copengahen, Denmark | The Girl Next Door is Black
Fun Times!

The next morning jet lag hit me hard. We gave in to the Danish spirit of “hygge” and slept in before starting the day. On the agenda for our afternoon: a free walking tour of the neighborhood Christianshavn and the very unique “freetown” Christiania.

Before the walking tour, we stopped for lunch at a fantastic indoor market, Torvehollerne, the largest food market in Copenhagen, where vendors sell food and goods from around the world.

Open-faced sandwiches, or Smørrebrød, are popular in Danish cuisine. It’s not just the taste that’s important with these buttered, rye-bread based sandwiches; presentation matters, as well.

When we met up with the tour group, we noticed the Columbian girls from the previous night’s pub crawl and greeted them. Magnus, the wonder guide, led this tour too.

Scenes from Christianshavn

On our way to Christiania, a freetown within Christianshavn, Magnus explained some of its history. Christiania is like a hippie commune; the less than 900 residents live a bohemian lifestyle with few rules. One notable rule: no cars allowed.  Magnus warned us that by appearance you’d think it’s the kind of place one might avoid: dilapidated buildings; people wearing disheveled, stained clothing; graffiti-covered facades; overgrown flora and an overall sketchy vibe. There are also shops, restaurants and an annual Christmas market within Christiania. Magnus assured us “it’s safe”; probably one of the safest areas in the city.

Within Christiania you’ll find the “Green Light District,” also known as “pusher street,” a small area where dealers openly sell marijuana and hash; no questions asked and no harassment or involvement from law enforcement. As long as no hard drugs are involved, everything is copacetic. Anyone caught with hard drugs has the option of either  going to rehab or permanent banishment from the town.

I didn’t take very many photos in Christiania, partly out of respect for the culture and partly out of fear of being kicked out embarrassingly. Photos aren’t allowed within the Green Light District at all.

We were still in Christiania by nightfall when we got caught up in sudden rainstorm that sent everyone scurrying for cover. Once the rain ended, we carefully found our way out of the sparsely-lit, creepy-in-the-dark, maze of Christiania.

Our evening concluded with a French-influenced dinner at Grill Royal.

Mussels / Moules at Grill Royal Copenhagen Denmark | The Girl Next Door is Black
My big pot of mussels

 

15 Things I Learned About Denmark On A Walking Tour

We arrived in Denmark yesterday afternoon and took it easy our first evening, after a grueling 9 1/2 hour flight. I look forward to one day being able to fly first class on the regular; flying economy on long flights is the pits. Sleeping is more like a series of stiff, fitful and not quite satisfying naps.

Strøget in December, Copenhagen Denmark | The Girl Next Door is Black
Strøget, is one of Europe’s longest and oldest pedestrian streets. It’s lined with shops, eateries and bars.

For dinner, we dined on hand-crafted burgers at Halifax, a gastropub in Indre By.  I once belonged to a burger club, so I’ve tried my fair share of burgers – Halifax makes a respectable burger. We noticed the Danes around us lingered for awhile after their last bites, enrapt in conversation. The staff appeared nonplussed by this. Tipping isn’t a custom at restaurants.

Scandic Palace Hotel Copenhagen, Denmark | The Girl Next Door is Black

This afternoon, my friend and I took a free 3-hour walking tour of central Copenhagen. Our tour guide was Magnus, a true Dane with blonde hair, blue-eyes and a strong jawline (along with a slightly sarcastic sense of humor). He shared his knowledge of his home country and I learned the following:

1. For years Denmark has held the title “Happiest Country.” Magnus seemed pretty happy, I must say. Certainly proud of his country.

2. Interestingly, Denmark has one of the highest divorce rates in all of Europe.

Denmark is known for its Pølsevogn or sausage stands where they sell hot dogs and sausages with toppings like mustard, ketchup, diced onions, pickles and a remoulade.

3. It also has one of the highest individual tax rates in the world at an average of 55%.

4. Taxes pay for things like college education, which is free for all citizens up through the PhD level. In fact, you get PAID to attend college. The money can be used for rent (you get more if you don’t live with mom and dad), books, food or even beer if you like.

5. The Danish greatly value the concept of “hygge” (hew-ge), which loosely translates to a feeling of being relaxed, satisfied and unhurried.

6. There is no minimum wage. The average hourly rate is US $50.

7. The standard workweek is 37 hours.

Friends Selfie in Copenhagen | The Girl Next Door is Black
Copenhagen selfie!

8. Danes get minimum five weeks of paid vacation!

9. Copenhagen is one of the world’s most livable cities with biking a popular mode of transportation.

10. Life in prison in Denmark means 25 years. Prisoners get rooms with beds and are allowed TVs. Once released, the government helps reintegrate former inmates into society.

Baresso Hot Chocolate Copenhagen Denmark | The Girl Next Door is Black
Hot Chocolate with light, dark and white chocolate and cream from Baresso was perfect for the chilly, rainy day.

11. Denmark is also one of the safest countries in the world.

12. It’s legal to drink on the street in Copenhagen.

13. The Danish like being on time, but not early.

14. The Prime Minister, Vice Prime Minister and Queen of Denmark are all female.

15. Denmark has a whole lotta pigs so pork is a very popular dish.

Frederik’s Church

I don’t know if it’s the air, the sense of chill or just being on vacation, but my friend and I both agreed that we are really happy today. We like Denmark so far!

Black girl in Copenhagen | The Girl Next Door is Black