Saturday, July 25, 2015

Copenhagen Travelogue Nr 7: The Danes 2/2


I consider my current stay in Copenhagen a second level experience. Twelve days were enough to get to know the city a bit better, collect memories and get a deeper insight into the life here. These are still impressions on the surface but already somewhat deeper than those from the time of my first short stay.

If I should summarize what I like in Copenhagen the most the first answer would be that it is full of design and the second that I really like the people. There is a group of Danish people who dress very well as if they would have stepped out of a high end fashion magazine. It is not the elitist elegance of many other places, it is a more fashion-lover, brave and edgy-minimalist style. You can see interesting shapes and materials, mostly in dark and monochrome colors. The hairstyle is also somewhat typical: it is a straight cut hair as if the hairdresser would have used a ruler while cutting it. Men of this style have usually half shaved hair and often beard and tattoos.
Although this is not the 'all Danish style". If you go to Nørrebro or other parts of the city you will realize that there are many Danes who do not follow this style and dress more average just as people in other European cities.

It is nice that in a medium sized city like Copenhagen two weeks are enough to become acquaintances with the staff at places you return to, to recognize familiar faces on the streets and develop memories connected to different parts of the city. The place becomes more yours.
Among all now during my longer stay I had a chance to be more close to Danish people.I could see how they are partying, how they behave among friends or when they are dating. I went to different neighborhoods of Copenhagen and experienced what a crazy vibrating mess the inner city is on a Friday night.

If you visit Copenhagen I really recommend you to rent a bike. This way you will not only be able to move around in the inner city faster but you can also visit other, less touristic neighborhoods.
This was one of the reasons why I rented a bike too. I went to Østerbro and Nørrebro for example and also to Fredriksberg shortly when I got lost once.

Østerbro is a more residential area and mostly it looks like any other working class area elsewhere in Europe. Nørrebro was interesting but also eye opening. They call this neighborhood multicultural and buzzing but I tended to recognize the same trend as in other Nordic countries here. The historical welfare system is showing fractions and the gap between different social classes is continuing to grow. There was not a depressed atmosphere in Nørrebro but at certain parts of the neighborhood you could really see the difference even on the bikes what people were riding and there were more socially deprived people. Other streets on the other hand had only a hipster charm compared to the downtown but had the same style historical buildings and the same kind of bars and coffee shops.
After all my favorite city parts in Copenhagen were Vestebro (where I stayed) and the inner city.

I had mostly only short interactions with Danish people but I will keep also those as good memories from this summer. I really liked when we were at a concert of a rising Danish band in Christiania and there were mostly Danish people in the audience. There was no trace of the so called Scandinavian coldness. You could see people dancing and singing around freely with their friends. In front of us there was a young couple sort of getting together. It was fun to watch how distant the Danish style is from the Latin culture for example. During half hour the young couple exchanged only two very short kisses and hugged each other shortly. Other than this I had the feeling that Danish people might be a bit reserved at first sight towards foreigners but among themselves they are just as any other people elsewhere in Europe.

It was true what that woman told on the bus: Danish people like to make the first move and when they can do so they are really easy-going and fun. I experienced this in cafes and shops where I had short but pleasant conversations with people. In one shop we even talked about the famous Finnish mythological novel Kalevala with one of the shopkeepers.
There was this woman who I met on the way to the skating event, this girl who helped us to find the concert, the other two girls whom I met at the skating event for a short time. The guy who I asked the direction from when I got lost in Fredriksberg. And an other who we had a short conversation with at the shop when I bought Jakobsberg beers for my Dad and my brother and he saw it and turned back from the cashier to get one for himself as well when he saw the bottles. Compared to Finland it was interesting that people here say hi and goodbye and many times also "Have a nice day" in shops and cafes.

In the last evening I decided to drink a mojito to say goodbye to the city. I had a lot of fun here and there was a good reason to celebrate. I got what I came for: I could see a bit more of the city and live here for two weeks without the stress of having to check the must to see sights or keeping deadlines. The city on Friday night reminded me of my first experiences in Kuopio. When I moved there I was amazed how different everything and everyone looks when the weekend arrives. The otherwise well-behaved and reserved citizens run around drunk loud and crazy almost as if it would be some kind of magic taking over their minds.

I also saw a sad incident: there was an African man collecting bottles and from one of the terraces a Danish guy threw a beer can after him shouting something and then the whole group of people burst out laughing. It was sad to see this but I think it is ok to be realistic and see also the bad not just the good when traveling. Copenhagen is not an exceptional paradise either and although there are many things to love here there is also racism, prostitution, homelessness and poverty in traces just like in any other city.

The night ended well though. I met an American girl and a half Danish half Finnish guy and we talked a bit about Finland and Denmark, the common things and the differences and at the end we drunk a round of typical Danish shots.

Today when I have to leave from here my heart is aching a bit just like it was in the autumn. But I also know for sure that I will return again. It would be nice to get to the first level connection next time: to know at least couple of Danish words and sentences and spend some time with people who live here. I recommend Copenhagen for travelers who like design and fashion and also for people who like history and arts because there is a lot to see here. It is not a cheap city but many restaurants have lunch buffet offers and if you want to shop Danish clothes and design items at the end of July you can find real good deals with 50-70% discount. Many hostels are of a very high quality and if you trade your comfort a bit for a shared bedroom and book your stay earlier spending two weeks here will be quite affordable. There is Lidl, Netto and Fakta which are the less pricey options when you want to buy groceries and cook lunch or dinner sometimes instead of eating out. And you can travel around on the island where Copenhagen is located with a 24h tourist card for 130DKK. 

The thing what I like the most in Danes is the way the live. Many of them make clothing an art of self-impression and like to surround themselves with beautiful things. It was also nice to see how deliberate they were at the concert. I think this was the hygge what is mentioned so many times when talking about Denmark. To me Danes represent a deep-rooted carpe diem feel covered with a hint of Scandinavian aloofness and this mixture is why I like to return here from time to time.

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