We arrived in Copenhagen and had miscalculated our arrival and didn’t have a stay for our first night in the city. So last minute we booked one of the only airbnb’s still available even close to the city center. It was about an hour journey by public transport. We hopped on a metro, then hopped on an “S-train,” and then hopped on a bus and then walked a couple of blocks and arrived in a little suburb of Copenhagen called Husum. We loved that our miscalculation could end in us getting to see some outskirts of the city that we wouldn’t have ordinarily made time for. We also enjoyed figuring out the transport. It’s funny how metros and trains can excite a person so much that never uses them. I’m sure it’s the bane of many people’s existence, yet we found a lot of joy in the actual reading train maps and making sure we were on the right one.
Husum felt like your typical suburb: a family across the street having a birthday party in the yard and people walking their dogs. But it was more quaint than usual. You could tell Copenhagen is the “big city” and this area was much more quiet, lush with the greenest trees and bushes (Robbie and I saw apple trees in several yards as we walked the streets. I wanted to grab one off and eat one so badly!), and small. Most of the homes in the area were white-ish with an orange roof with flowers in the window sills. Robbie and I hadn’t really had a day of “nothing” since the journey began, so we decided that evening would be for relaxing. First thing we did was laundry. We were so excited to have clean clothes after we’d been so hot and gross in Nice! After we hung our clothes to dry outside, we walked one block to a neighborhood grocery, bought cereal, milk, carrots and (what we thought was) ranch. We took it back to the airbnb, sat in their lawn furniture in the front yard and literally ate cereal and carrots. (Honestly we only got the carrots because we knew we had not been eating healthy at all this whole trip. We kept joking that if we just kept eating carrots all night we could catch up on all the nutrients we’d been missing for two and a half weeks. haha). The “ranch” tasted really weird but we just tried not to think about it. Finally once I got on wifi, I checked the translation of “Creme Fraiche” dressing and found out we were eating some kind of weird sour cream dip/dressing. I love sour cream but this stuff was not good. But it was a funny thing to us that we continually reference now. “Oh, you want some creme fraiche with that, sweetie?” You get the point. So our cereal was called Cruesli and it was a really tender granola cereal with chocolate pieces, and it’s important for me to write that down and remember it too because we continually reference this cereal now also because it was so amazing to us (clearly we are seriously easy to please when it comes to food) that we ate the whole box that night. Robbie and I are weird and are constantly calling each other “names”– usually names of something only we experienced together, and it constantly comes up. So for instance, we’ve called each other Cruesli a lot since eating this wonderful cereal. It’s kind of our way of showing how much we care about each other. Robbie will say like, “You know I love you, ya little Cruesli.” Hahaha It makes me smile and laugh every time. ❤ This night was great for slowing down and catching up on cuddles.
The next day we followed our trail of public transportation back into the city center. We had to ask for help twice, and I must say, Robbie and I are CONSTANTLY amazed by the kindness of strangers. It’s something we have talked about a ton on this trip, that one thing we are taking away from it all is that the world is full of the kindest hearts, the sweetest souls. For instance the people we encountered this day weren’t just happy to help us figure out where we were going, they willingly wanted to go the extra mile to make sure we were not confused and not worried. One was a lady at a bus stop who showed me this Danish transportation app on her phone, showed me what I could download to help us in the future, and gave me some tips on how to remember some key words in Danish that would be useful in navigating that app and another was our bus driver who accepted a larger Danish Kroner (their form of the dollar) bill than he normally would have because it’s all we had with us (and did it SO willingly, like he made it seem like his joy to do that for us knowing we were confused tourists) and then stopped at our train stop even though we didn’t press the “stop” button on the bus to notify the driver to stop (he remembered what stop we said we were going to and made sure we got off at the right one), and then he wouldn’t let us leave until he had thoroughly explained which direction our train needed to be facing so we would get on the right one once we got down to the station! These people went out of their way to be kind and helpful, they smiled and did it with joy. We have just been inspired by the love of locals and have been challenged to stop thinking so much about the world being mostly full of grumps (because it hasn’t been the case at all!).
Copenhagen ended up being the greatest city. We loved every part of this wonderful, green, artsy city. The weather was a fantastic sunny 65-75 degrees everyday, and a really refreshing break from the 100 degree heat of the South of France from the week prior. We checked into the “Generator Hostel” which is about two blocks from Nyhavn (pronounced New-How-n), the most iconic thing about Copenhagen. This was our first official hostel we’ve done (we did stay one night in one on our way to France, but it was such a quick experience, it hardly felt like we were there). We had a co-ed room of 8 (4 bunk beds). We lucked out with a really really clean hostel that was hip and had great staff, our co-ed room had a shower room and a bathroom connected to it (which was so nice not to have to use shared bathrooms in the hallway with the whole floor like a lot of hostels are set up). Besides Robbie and me paying for two beds (you have to) yet sleeping together on one twin bed, the general cramped feeling of sharing a room with 6 other people outside of us, and the annoying feeling that you’re making so much noise with every footstep or breath you breathe when you come into the room as everyone is already in bed, we really didn’t mind the whole thing.
Highlights of Copenhagen for us include King’s Garden, Nyhavn, local coffee shops, Paper Island, The “Meat District”, and the best bagel sandwiches we’ve ever had.
King’s Garden really used to be the royal gardens of the king dating back to the beginning of the 1600’s. It spans a couple of blocks on all sides, is just a few blocks from the ocean right in downtown, and was used primarily for pleasure and supplying the royal family with fruits and vegetables back in the day. Now it’s the most stunning and lush park with amazing open spaces with shady, tall, full trees, statues, fountains, basketball and tennis courts and huge sections with roses and other florals along with the old castle hidden in one far corner. This became Robbie and my sanctuary during our time in Copenhagen (and it was clearly the same for many many other people, as it was this wonderful space where tons of locals rode their bikes in, sat in circles with their friends in the sunshine and talked and picnic’d for hours!). We came here each day, would read our Bibles, eat, talk, and even napped on the lawn one day on accident in the sun. 🙂 It’s a great memory for us. On our last morning in the city before we had an evening flight out, we grabbed bagel sandwiches from a local Copenhagen bagel shop called “The Bagel Co.” and brought it to King’s Garden. It was such a beautiful day out, the kind of day where the sky is so blue, the sun is strong but the light breeze is perfectly paired with it to even it out, and the birds are singing loudly and happily. You must know Robbie and I are obsessed with bagels– we have a running joke with our friends Miki and Dustin back home that we are going to open our own bagel shop one day– but these were top notch, easily the best ones we’ve ever eaten and I think they would truly give a New York bagel a run for its money, no doubt. I remember sitting there after our picnic on our last morning there, looking around at all the bumbling activity in the park, watching Robbie lay in the grass and read and just felt such contentment and such a strong sense of knowing how much I was going to miss Copenhagen when we left it. It may not be a “perfect” city (but what city has everything you’re looking for), but it was a location for us that felt like a home kind of a place.
Nyhavn didn’t disappoint. The iconic tall, skinny colorful smooshed-together buildings along the harbor were beautiful and we could easily have sat there for hours people watching and observing the boats going in and out. The bike riders cracked us up here. A majority of the bikes had like wheel barrow looking carts attached to the front of their bikes and many people would tote around their children in them or oftentimes we’d even see people “driving” around their spouse or friends in their front carts! Hilarious to us! I can’t not mention how wonderful finding free clean bathrooms around the area was a major plus for me after coming from Nice where it cost 50 cents each time you had to use the bathroom. We are finding that Robbie loves figuring out the currency in each country we visit (doing the math about what the exchange really is) and I’m always so confused by it and am constantly like, “48 Danish Kroner for a sandwich?! That’s outrageous!” and then Robbie enthusiastically reminds me that it’s only about 7 dollars. haha and on the other hand, I myself am so enthralled with language at every stop of our journey. But funny thing is, we’ve found I’m way more interested in the Scandinavian languages than I was with French. I find so much satisfaction in translating everything, remembering as many words as I can and knowing what certain things say when we’re out and about. I loved Danish in particular. The sound of it was wonderful to my ears. I enjoyed even listening to the automated voice on the metro tram. 🙂 (one funny and immature fact for you is that the word for “Speed” in Danish is “Fart” and so we saw Fart written on the sides of busses and on signs and we stupidly laughed every time. Particularly when we saw “Fart Kontrol” which means “speed check” hahaha).
Paper Island is this little island you walk across a bridge from Nyhavn to. It’s an old paper factory converted into this enormous space with a million different street food vendors. It sits right on the water, of course, and has tons of outdoor seating, live music, and recliner chairs you can pull right up to the water front and view downtown Copenhagen from. It’s attached to an art museum too. The weekend we were there happened to be Copenhagen’s Art week, so there was a special outdoor art project designed by Yoko Ono called the “Wish Tree Garden.” Essentially it was a bunch of potted trees in which anyone from anywhere who viewed it could write their greatest wish on short white slips of paper and tie it to the trees. I’m such a sentimental person, so this sort of thing is so beautiful to me. Even Robbie thought it was lovely and we thoroughly enjoyed spending way too much time wandering the trees and branches reading so very many people’s greatest wishes. Most, of course, were for world peace, for people to “all get along” or for everyone to have good health. But some were very personal, and those were my favorites. One said, “For my son to stop having asthma attacks, because then I’d be the happiest mom in the world.” I got to write my greatest wish down, and I considered getting super personal, but ultimately I really just thought about if I truly had one wish and one wish only, the biggest desire in my heart is so obvious– for everyone to know the hope and love and peace of Jesus. For Robbie and me, it was special to get to tie that wish to the tree, hoping someone, with thousands of tourists walking in and out of that space in the coming weeks, would see it and maybe think about it twice. ❤
We loved paper island. We ended up finishing two different evenings there because it was such a fun, hip place with such great food choices– everything from Turkish street food to Mexican food to ostrich burgers. I’ve come to find Robbie loves being where people are, and this is where the people are for sure. 🙂 We made friends with the workers at this place called “Spoon” that had panini’s that they called “toasties”. We talked to them for a long time, talking about our trip, how much we loved Copenhagen, laughing about how insanely cheap rent is back home in Omaha compared to the common cost of rent there in the city. They were blown away that we were paying $680 for a whole one bedroom apartment that had a “private” living room, kitchen and bathroom. They said they’re paying 4200 dkk (which is nearly the equivalent to what we were paying) but it was for their bedroom only and then a shared space in all other rooms of the apartment. They said they don’t even think about rent in terms of a whole apartment. Rent always just includes a bedroom. Crazy! Anyway, the second time we went to Paper Island we shared this enormous bbq pulled pork sandwich from a local Copenhagen Bbq restaurant vendor (amazing!) and sat outside at the waterfront until sunset, with our feet kicked back and listening to the DJ’s tunes and then as the night got chillier and dusk settled in, they lit several campfires and we warmed up next to one, talking and laughing for a long time. Perfection!
One afternoon we decided to take the metro out of downtown and into an area nicknamed “The Meat District” (an area, like Paper Island, that used to be a big slaughterhouse/warehouse that’s been converted to hip bars and restaurants. Our Belgian friend, Thomas, who we met in the Faroe Islands, told us to check this place out!). We had a great time wandering the area, although we discovered a lot of things didn’t open until later, so we have a feeling it would have been much more interesting at night. But we grabbed a couple of Danish beers from a tiny shop that only had a walk-up window to order from and sat at their outdoor picnic tables in the meat district for a couple of hours just talking and talking. Robbie and I loved this afternoon together. I’ll never ever tire of just sitting and enjoying his company. That night we ended up at a place near Paper Island called “Christiania”. We had been warned by our “Spoon” restaurant friends that Christiania is a “free state” in the middle of Copenhagen, run by hippies. That means they’re sort of exempt from the law, or at least police and the government have decided to not enforce certain laws over there. You should seriously google this place. We didn’t know what to expect until we arrived there. It truly goes from a beautiful pocket of the city to sketchville, USA in a matter of one block. The whole area of Christiania is tucked away behind large greenery almost as a fence or barrier around the land. There’s graffiti everywhere and the homes of the people living there are run down and gross. We turned a corner and saw about a dozen marijuana dealer BOOTHS! Just selling it like it was popcorn! I mean, we hadn’t seen something like this before. In addition to all of this weirdness, they have a few strict rules set up in Christiania– no running (i’m serious. They do not want you running in this place because it makes people nervous), no picture-taking at all (they know that their weed selling still isn’t legal, although technically is being allowed, but they’re not interested in people documenting this), no violence or guns (that’s good!), and absolutely no hard drugs. Anyway, needless to say, we were not fans of Christiania and got out as quickly as we went in.
A couple other things worth noting were our daily stops at “Espresso House,” a local coffee shop where we were beginning to be recognized by the ladies that worked there. That always makes us happy. The people of Copenhagen were people we loved, people we would want to spend more time with– there was a general sense of community there. You could just feel that locals were happy, enjoyed life, and were taught to be kind. We enjoyed our conversations with the cashiers about life– it usually starts with me complimenting someone on their English (always blown away by it! Some of them don’t even have accents. So I’ll always say, “Your English is amazing! Are you Danish? How did you learn to speak it so well?” or something silly, but people really love the compliment and it usually starts a nice conversation about where we are all from and what we are doing with our lives). Robbie and I love these discussions with strangers, and we’ve come to welcome them in plenty on this adventure. We have no time schedule, zero agendas, and very open hearts for whatever interactions may come to pass. The interactions have impacted us so much that we find ourselves now, a month in, still referencing conversations with strangers that happened weeks ago in the Faroe Islands or in France. I know that the trend will continue and we can only hope that we can impact others just as much!
We left Copenhagen with the fullest hearts, a love and appreciation for language, a genuine faith in humanity and the kindness of it, and an excitement for slower city life. I wasn’t ready to leave, but we escaped to Norway next with such eagerness.
A small snapshot inside of Paper Island. The building went really far back with street food vendors. 🙂