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  • Frances Schwabenland

Copenhagen: First Impressions

Updated: Jan 23, 2023

According to the World Happiness Report of 2021, Denmark came in second place with a score of 7.62. stated, "The World Happiness Report is an annual survey by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations. It looks at the state of global happiness in 156 countries, ranking countries using the Gallup World Poll and six factors: levels of GDP, life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom, corruption and income."

On my very first visit and my very first day in Copenhagen, I was greeted with howling winds and teeming rain. I didn't get too many pictures from that day because of the weather but I certainly did get many impressions as to why Denmark may have garnered that auspicious title. First off, no one complained about the weather but seemed to flow with it. According to the World Economic Forum, there are approximately 675,000 bikes and about 41% of the population use pedal power to get to work or school. People were flying past me with rain ponchos flapping behind them in the wind and children were covered up in the large bike baskets. I was so impressed with their stamina, health and taking it all in stride. I vowed to enjoy the rain more!

For all those not riding bikes, the government has placed metal stripping into the streets for those who are blind. The circles show where an entrance is and the small rectangles mean to continue forward. These can be felt with a cane and can provide a bit more awareness of directions. Just one way the leaders are in touch with the needs of the Danes.

As I was walking down small winding streets that held mystery and possibility around every turn, I loved the colorful houses and buildings interrupting the grayness of the day.

Hygge is a term to describe the Danish lifestyle of creating warm and inviting moments, enjoying being with friends or alone with a good book, taking afternoon breaks and realizing how special the small things are in bringing great joy into one's life. There was a flower stand right by the apartment I was staying in. Rain or shine the vendor had all the flowers and plants out for people to enjoy and take home. One aspect of the Danish lifestyle is to be surrounded by nature... going out into the many parks and bringing home many plants.

In the states we have Amazon and prime delivery. While it definitely has its wonderful perks especially during covid, it is so sad that many independent bookstores have had to close. Here in Copenhagen though, small and large books stores are thriving. (It would be important to relate that all covid restrictions had recently been lifted). The book stores I saw were spaces of warmth and comfort to just get lost in words that inspire, transport and intrigue. I was told the Danes love to read and totally immerse themselves into a good book...either from a cozy chair in the store or in the comfort of their own home under a blanket with candles glowing...hygge moments!

Last but not least on this first day, I was told that if I wanted to really feel the hygge spirit, I should visit a bakery for coffee with a pastry and a cheese shop for something to return home with. Both shops I was told to visit had the distinction of the oldest and the very best in Copenhagen. On this rainy and cold day, I was all about getting as much hygge as possible not to mention a delicious break from the rain.

Sankt Peters Bageri dates back to 1652 and I only wish my camera could capture the sweet and yeasty aroma of the fresh baked cinnamon rolls or that I could bottle it and take it all home. My senses were on excitement overload! There were raspberry, chocolate and lemon tarts, croissants, breads just taken from the oven and beautifully decorated cakes. It was very inviting with flower wallpaper, chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, velvet chairs and statues of saints looking over the constant flow of Danes and tourists alike. I have to say that the coffee was the perfect accompaniment to the cinnamon roll with vanilla icing dripped over the top but I have to say to anyone just can't have one! This would definitely be the spot I return to on DAY 1 of another visit to Copenhagen...and then day 2, day 3 etc. It is not to be missed!

The Ostekaelderen Cheese Shop was established in 1888. I also wish my camera could capture the sheer variety of pungent smells that hit me when I walked into this basement shop and hear the sounds of my shoes shuffling along the sawdust floor. I was with a friend and we literally spent an hour here and learned so much about Danish cheese. We tasted and bought. We tasted and bought and we tasted and bought some more! This amazing young woman who was working the day we visited, just radiated and it was so obvious she loved sharing all her incredible knowledge. I hope she works on commission too after our purchase!

As I sit here back in Philadelphia on a cold and rainy day, I am longing to go back to Copenhagen or at least bring back the beautiful simplicity of my first day there. I wish there were many more independent book stores here...thriving havens for those who love to read. I wish I could easily walk to a bakery filled with the most beautiful and fresh pastries and breads. I wish there were inviting and small intimate cheese shops "where everyone knows your name" and leave with the most delicious and interesting cheeses from around the world and then invite friends over to share in this find by the fire. I walked for hours that first day in the pouring rain because the Danes were so inspiring. They commune with nature and draw stamina and health from it! I need to be much more conscious of being in nature more often. If there is anything I learned about hygge, it is to appreciate all that I have around me and creatively create warmth, health and beauty, and deliciousness with all that I have been blessed with on a daily basis. Thank heaven that the sense of smell is right next to memory in the brain so I can treasure these memories for a very long time and I can continue to travel to experience all of these special differences.

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