Copenhagen has been a city of my imagination for a very long time. Hearing stories of my dad's years living in Copenhagen as a young man in his 20's, finding the odd picture or two of him from that time, and thinking about a life he lived in this place completely separate from me. Denmark was one of these places I had many, some potentially unrealistic, expectations and pre convinced visions of it's stylistic characteristics and recognizable atmosphere. The Scandinavian style, one of simplicity, functionalism, modernism, and yet with a remarkable sense of luxury, opulence, and satisfaction, is one I feel I have grown accustomed to being surrounded by in my home. My parents, the source of most of my stylistic influence and inspiration, expressed this style in many ways through the presenting of their home, my dad no doubt carrying some of his Copenhagen experiences with him in his creative expression (something we all do of course, our cultural experiences can shape who we are). I wasn't more or less surprised by the atmosphere, and clear way of life in Copenhagen. We had two lovely hosts, who I had never meet before but were connected to me through one of these somewhat obscure degrees of separation in this "small world". Having their lovely home to return to every day, a reliable bed, shower, breakfast every morning with good conversation and advice on how to navigate Copenhagen.
The biking culture in Copenhagen took me by surprise, just in the sheer volume of bikes that lined the streets, and the clear sense that this mode of transportation dominated all others for men, women, children, the young and old. Unfortunately for us the weather did not seem to want to let us experience this classic way of exploring the city, as our first morning of sunshine and an illusion of warm weather quickly turned to a flurry of hail and rain storms that persisted on and off for the two days we had in this lovely city. Of course coming from Scotland I have learned to not treat weather as the deciding factor on whether or not you will have a good time, as it is just too unpredictable. Instead you have to learn to just take every unexpected change in your travels as an opportunity to learn, or appreciate a place in a different light, so to speak. So with layer upon layer that we could muster up to cover our bodies with, my thin rain coat, and very cold ankles (I apparently decided to drop the ball on my sock packing) we explored the city of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Danish cuisine was something I had sparse experience and familiarity with before arriving in this country. I remember growing up always holding such a resentment towards my dad's weird rectangular, seedy, rye bread that he always insisted on eating, myself being completely dedicated to a life of crusty sourdoughs and peasant loaves. Something as seemingly healthy and earthy as the classic Scandinavian rye bread would have been on my food radar as a child as being one of the number one things to avoid. Having an interest in baking and cuisine has introduced me to alternative forms of ingredients, grains and wheats specifically, and not just for their potential to provide an alternatively healthy option for us as consumers but also for their sustainable qualities. So I was very excited to experience a new kind of bread, something that is a staple in many diets, in such an alternative, and ultimately healthier form that what we are used to and is mass produced back home.
A classic Danish and Scandinavian dish is the smørrebrød which is an open faced sandwich, using usually a slice of the rye bread as the base and piling on top a varity of ingredients, such as a slice of smoked fish, cheese, light greens, radishes, and for example a very Danish dish, chicken salad with smoked bacon and pickled cucumbers. Danes, and most Scandinavians practice a lot of fermenting in their food, which is practical considering the climate; pickling and fermenting allows for the preservation of foods over long periods of time, which is useful in the face of long, seemingly never ending northern winters. Despite our short stay in Copenhagen, Onni and I managed to dine at some pretty delicious and authentic spots during our stay. Look below for some information on where we ate and what we saw!
Where to eat:
Granola - This restaurant is located on Værnedamsvej which is like the busiest and trendiest shopping street in the Vesterbro neighborhood. This place has a very 50s dinner vibe and is clearly something of a local favorite as it was packed with Danes, families, couples, and groups of friends all enjoying their very traditional Danish dishes. I had the chicken salad with mushrooms, pickled cucumbers, and smoked bacon on rye bread.
Copenhagen Street Food Market - Never fail to locate a city's food markets. This one is located on Papirøen (Paper Island) and features a plethora of mixed cuisine classic street food dishes. It has a cozy atmosphere, with fire places you can sit in front of with friends while enjoying your meal. It also has outside seating areas that overlook the Copenhagen city sky line -beautiful!
Mirabelle's - Totally obsessed with this bakery located in Norrebro. With a very stylish yet simple Scandinavian interior, Mirabelle's is one of the up and coming sourdough bakeries of Copenhagen. We thoroughly enjoyed their fresh pressed apple juice (so good!!) and their danish breakfast (pictured above).
What to see:
Vesterbro - Neighborhood in the city that, of course, attracts the cities hipsters for its trendy boutique's, flower shops, cafes, and attractive architecture. We wandered around this neighborhood, discovering shops and getting a bite to eat.
Norrebro - Another trendy neighborhood that sits above Vesterbro and is across from the Copenhagen botanic gardens and the National Gallery of Denmark. Reminded me a lot of Williamsburg (maybe a few years back).
Botanic Gardens - The botanical gardens of Copenhagen's University are gorgeous, as is the surrounding park, especially if it is a nice day (which it fortunately was when we visited).
Christiania - Weirdest place I have ever been. Worth the visit.