I've just recently come back from Copenhagen... and sure there's been quite a bit of hype around the city and the Scandinavian way of life as of late. Hygge, anyone?
I expected it to like it. What I didn't expect, was to fall hopelessly in love with Copenhagen. I'm talking about the kind of love that makes you re-think your way of life. And actually, that seems to be the common thread for this trip. It made me think. A lot. Mostly, it made me ask myself why it felt so different than other countries in Europe, and why I waited so long to experience it.
If you have not yet been, picture this: everyone rides everywhere on a bike, which coupled with rather liberal alcohol laws, makes it feel like one quaint playground. The whole city is designed to human scale – which of course is desperately missing in New York, the city I currently call home. It is quiet, yet lively. Parks are perfectly imperfect.The Danes seem honest to a fault. It's common for parents to take their babies outside to nap, as Scandinavians believe it’s healthy for babies and children to be exposed to cold air for a few hours a day. Strollers are lined outside cafes and restaurants, with babies bundled up and soundly sleeping inside them, while their parents socialize inside.
Oh and this must be said. I did not see one Danish girl who didn't look utterly chic while riding her bike. Disheveled is not a concept they seem to be familiar with, cold wind and all. As much as I hate the phrase "effortlessly chic", it seems it was invented to describe the way Danish girls ride their bikes on their way to work, with a just a few Pico hair accessories holding them together at the seams. Trust me, I tried. Definitely an acquired skill.
And if hygge is partially defined as a feeling of contentment, then yes, that may very well be the Danes' secret sauce. Forget about reaching for what others have. They seem too busy watering their own grass to wonder if their neighbors' is greener. And by the way, that is quite literal when it comes to the food scene in Copenhagen. The Danes have a current obsession with farm-to-table (I know, not a new concept), but consider this: some of the trendiest restaurants in CPH at the moment have their own farms, butcheries, you name it. Talk about vertical integration. I had some of the best beef tartare, raw clams, and lumpfish roe I've ever tasted. I also have a newfound love for biodynamic wines and salted licorice – which means I've just become a little more high maintenance. For some culinary inspiration, stop by Kadeau, Manfreds, or Mangia.
And yes, I know what you'll say, Denmark isn't exactly the sunniest destination. And that's exactly it. I fell in love with it despite that! Isn't that something...?
So like any love affair that is worth pursuing... this is to be continued.