Tourism. S and I spend most of this week in my homeland’s idyllic capital, and I want to keep the account of the highlights of that week as short and sweet as possible. Moving to Copenhagen for university (and a fun, challenging, exciting, mind-expanding, grown up, sort-of-independent life:)) straight after high school, I lived there for five years, right until I finished my master’s degree and moved to London, and the city means so much to me – it was the first home that I chose, and a sweet one as well, from the charming architecture and nature-filled infrastructure to the exciting cultural vibe to the bunch of close friends inhabiting that pretty little place. It’s the first time S experiences it, and, I think, we manage to keep a good balance between show and tell and current happiness. I love the city, and I love how it stays relevant – old favourite spots are still fresh, while new ones keep popping up. It’s wonderful to experience it with someone who’s interested, impressed, happy to be here, attentive, perceptive, energetic, generally up for anything and everything I suggest and who gets along really well with my friends, chatting engaged to everyone he meets. The week follows a pattern of free time during the day to experience on foot, drifting along at our own pace, and then dinners and drinks with friends in the evening. No rush; not stretching over too much – saving lot of sights and a lot of people for future visits. Summertime’s in bloom, luckily – the streets and parks are buzzing with happiness during the day, the nights are light, everything is so natural, so beautiful, so harmonious. Receiving a kiss for every time S says, ‘oh, this is a cool design/shop/vibe,’ I’m appreciating all of the well-known goodies with a mix of a newcomer’s perspective and a returnee’s sweet memories, experiencing it with my love, for the first time ever.
Laters, Jutland. Before crossing the country via train to get to the capital, we spend the first bit of the week in Jutland, hanging out with my mum, who takes us for a stroll through the pedestrian area of Horsens, buying us a cup of coffee in that one good cafe, where my brother used to work, the three of us browsing through small galleries and homeware shops, S getting a good old solid shave in a small no frills barber shop, me getting a pair of silk shorts and a pair of denim shorts in my mum’s all-time favourite boutiques, the sales assistants knowing loads about me, seemingly, which is very sweet – ‘aw, how lovely it must be to have your daughter home,’ they all exclaim, beaming at her. Growing up here, I was always longing to move away, and once I did, I’ve never dreamed of moving back, but looking at it now, I feel much kinder inclined towards Horsens – it’s neat, clean, well-kept, quaint even. We pick up my grandmother and her boyfriend from her flat (where we spot a huge photograph of ourselves smiling down from a prominent spot above her laptop, the sole purpose of which is to communicate with us via email and Skype) and take them for lunch at the yacht club (well, they treat us to lunch), another spot full of meaning to my family, who are all enthusiastic sailors. There are several old photographs of my grandparents and my uncle on the walls of the clubhouse, which served as a second home to most of us and was where we went for everything from summer barbecues to after-regatta beers to Christmas parties – to my grandad’s memorial service. Back in Juelsminde, we pop by the pottery, the fish monger’s and the supermarket for green peas and strawberries, go for a long walk on the beach, throwing pebbles in the water and strolling out along the slim, brightly painted jetties, talking about how special, fresh and cosy this little place is. I would happily live here, in one of the pretty summerhouses. We spend the evening hanging out in the sofa, the three of us reading magazines and snoozing (my dad left for their office in Germany in the afternoon). Fuelling up for our train ride on Tuesday morning, we munch on my mum’s homemade chia pudding made with coconut milk, scrumpy dried medjoul dates, soy yoghurt with fresh mango, apple, passionfruit and blueberries and green tea with rhubarb. Coffee on the balcony facing the beach. And then we’re off, my mum hugging me goodbye on the train station in Horsens for the first time in over six years.
Farm Life. Headed towards Copenhagen, we make a stop in the countryside on the northwestern tip of Zealand, where one of my best friends and her husband are treating us to a lavish lunch at their farm. He caught the trout last night, she picked the veggies from the garden, we wash the goodies down with organic elderflower juice and a bottle of chilled Riesling. They got married last October, and now she’s pregnant with a girl, the due date being just a few weeks away. They exude wholesome and harmonious happiness, and the conversation is lovely and relaxed. Knowing each other from high school (she’s also from Horsens), she and I really became tight in our college years, when we both lived in Copenhagen – that is, when she wasn’t working or taking semesters in California, South Africa, Zambia, China or Melbourne. They still travel a lot, are very curious about the world around them, while at the same time finding peace and calm here at their beautiful estate. After lunch, they show us around the massive garden – nifty beehives with taps allowing you to retrieve honey just like that, a new huge greenhouse complete with rose bushes, fruit trees and romantic garden furniture, hilly beech forest with lakes and mushrooms, beautiful rape fields and lush hydrangea bushes filling large lumps of the lawn spreading out behind the stately white main building.
Copenhagen, by Area:
Vesterbro. On the first night in town, I drag S through the least charming street, Istedgade, full of prostitutes, porn shops and dirty old pubs, as it just happens to be the direct route from the train station to the beautiful house in one of the very charming streets in that neighbourhood where we’re invited for dinner. A couple of my friends from London has just bought the place and moved into it a few days ago, and we’re celebrating the happy reunion with a lovely home-cooked meal, great wine and wonderful conversation in very scarcely furnished rooms, lending a splendid view to the classic herringbone parquet and shiny white walls. // The following night, we’re back in Vesterbro for tapas at Toro with more of my favourite people from London, a whole group of girls, with whom I used to either live or just hang out on a weekly basis for years, walking & talking, exercising, laughing, partying, exploring and supporting each other in the big city. I love all of them so much, both for the memories and for how wonderfully we still connect despite the geographical distance, and, haha, I’ll try not to repeat this in every paragraph and just let this refer to all of the meetings this week: it’s great to introduce S to them and vice versa.
Frederiksberg. From Tuesday to Friday, we’re staying with a friend who lives in Frederiksberg, with whom I studied Spanish. I often stay with her, and love how chilled she is. We do yoga on her livingroom rug each morning while watching Go’ Morgen Danmark on tv and chatting about everything and nothing. From the balcony there’s a great view of the relatively low red roofs of the city and all of the greenery framing the houses. A great point of departure for our sightseeing days. // On Wednesday morning, we stroll down the elegant Frederiksberg Allé, the white Parisian-styled luxury buildings and tall poplars lining the boulevard seemingly haloed by sunlight below clear blue skies. Breakfast at pretty Granola in Værnedamsvej, one of the cosiest streets in town. Flower shops, exciting boutiques and small wine bars dotted all the way down it. From here, we walk along the Lakes, stopping to take in the sights of blooming wisteria hanging above the white benches along the water and the big colonies of swans swimming across it. // On Wednesday morning, we start the day with a cup of coffee from Ipsen og Co (great decor and ambiance; not the greatest cuppa) to take on our walk through the poppy-dotted Landbohøjskolens Have. Poppies are just one of the most amazing flowers. It’s so fragile. I like that it almost loses its leaves as soon as you pick it – as if it’s trying to tell you that it prefers living in nature. // On Thursday night, we meet another couple of friends from London at the Frederiksberg branch of the popular food cooperative Madklubben, for another lovely catchup – and to meet their gorgeous newborn son. After a perfectly tasty dinner in classic charming surroundings, we move the party to their beautiful small flat around the corner from the old station building that houses the restaurant, for a few of the dad’s homemade espresso martinis. S is rocking the baby on his lap all the way through the yummy cocktails. // On Sunday night, we’re back in the ‘hood for a hungover dinner at my favourite Danish Thai restaurant, Wokshop. Minimalist decor, reliably well-prepared food, quick service; just what you need when you’re in absolute need of all of the energy you can gain from the visit.
Nørrebro. Everything in this post is an absolute highlight for me, but it’s hard not to play favorites… and taking in Jægersborggade and Elmegade as well as the Assistens Cemetery in clear summer sunlight with S is very wonderful. The general relaxed and creative hipster vibe. The thousands of bicycles. Breakfast in the sun on wooden benches outside Grød. Coffee at the huge newly opened branch of Coffee Collective perched up against Nørrebroparken. Watching S eat his first real Danishes in the shape of freshly baked cinnamon swirls from Meyer’s and Lagkagehuset. Taking a nap between the ornamental graves of the lush, romantic cemetery, before seeking out Kierkegaard’s and H. C. Andersen’s resting places. Shopping for cool sunglasses and browsing through rows and rows of cool minimalist clothes, coffee table books and ceramics in the hip boutiques. Grabbing a banh mi from … Banh Mi … and eating them by the Lakes… mmm. // On Sunday night, re-energised by the Thai food, we meander through the sleepy residential lanes connecting Frederiksberg and Nørrebro, for a glass of wine at Manfreds, where S also gets a bowl of the most summery dessert imaginable, kærnemælkskoldskål med kammerjunker, and for a hipster beer at the modern bierstube Mikkeller, the Singaporean sister branch of which we love, before trotting back along half-dodgy Nørrebrogade and across the iconic Dronning Louises Bro to catch a metro.
København K. Meandering through one of the most orderly, sensuous and quality-aware food markets in the world, Torvehallerne. And through the small colourful, cobbled streets with all of my favourite Danish design boutiques – Stig P, Day, Malene Birger, Designers’ Remix, Stine Goya, Hay. Showing S where I used to live – in my own penthouse flat in a charming little yellow-painted building in Boltens Gård, right by Kongens Nytorv, and in the 400-year-old historic navy barracks (my boyfriend at the time was a naval officer), Nyboder, also painted yellow, over by Kastellet. Now he’s literally seen every Danish house I’ve lived in. Strolling through touristy but inevitable and very charming Nyhavn. Drinking bubbles at sleek and formidable The Standard. Lunching at even sleeker Sticks ‘n’ Sushi. Hanging out in the pretty renaissance garden, Kongens Have, among lush greenery and flowers, playing kids and small and large groups of picnickers of all ages, most of them with an acoustic guitar player performing in their midst. Meeting the graphic designers and editors-in-chief of the bilingual botanic magazine, BLAD, of which I’m the translator and S the English proofreader, for a bottle of cava and a conversation refreshingly sparked by a common interest, by one of the central canals. Along the same lines, visiting my friend who works for VICE at their cool office for a tour of the elegant old building and a presentation of some of all of their creative projects. Very chilled atmosphere, as you’d expect, incl. three office dogs. // The reason why we’re in Copenhagen exactly now is that one of my best friends is getting married on Saturday, and on Friday night we meet the wedding party for casual outdoor pre-wedding drinks at Den Vandrette by Nyhavn. That night is almost surreal. A summernight by the water in Copenhagen with a lot of my most favourite and most missed people in the world. The bride is glowing from nerves and joy, hugging her small daughter in her arms as she chats politely with her guests. Our other best friend literally just landed from California with her little daughter. Apart from almost weekly FaceTime calls, I haven’t seen her since I visited her in January. S and I escape the party for an hour’s time to meet one of my oldest friends for a quick chat on the steps in front of the Opera House, just across the harbour from Nyhavn, as he’s starring in Macbeth at that grand stage a few minutes after our meeting. We then grab a quick falafel at Copenhagen Street Food on Papirøen, munching on the stuffed flatbread with our legs hanging down from the pier in the evening light. When we get back to the party, our best Danish friends from Singapore, who moved back here a few weeks ago, are having dinner at the very same spot. What a coincidence. It feels so homey in such a strange and yet such a natural way to catch up with them when the first party ends – we share a bottle of wine and walk home along the water together as their flat is just across the water from where we’re staying.
Islands Brygge. For some strange reason (delayed jetlag, excitement, ?), we wake up at 5:30 on Friday morning, and instead of trying to fall asleep again, we get up and head out to the calm and pretty residential area across the harbour from the centre of town, just next to Christianshavn on Amager. Islands Brygge is where I went to college; where the Faculty of the Humanities resides. A good mix of old and new, close to the airport and close to the city centre, and with a nice big public lawn leading down to the harbour, in which you can actually swim without getting sick or run over by a boat, it’s really a nice area. One of my best friends from high school lives here with her boyfriend, and it’s their breakfast we’re crashing on this early Friday morning. They’re having soft-boiled eggs and Greek yoghurt; leaving our bagage in their guest room, we just have a cup of coffee while catching up with them. They’re also going to the wedding on Saturday, so I figured it would be great to lodge with them over the weekend. // On Saturday, we all have breakfast together (she’s remembered to buy soy yoghurt for me, so sweet) before I head out to fulfil my role as bridesmaid. // On Sunday, S and I stagger over to another couple of friends, from London (she’s from Moscow; he’s from Denmark; they met in New York; we overlapped in London for three years; they then spent two years in Singapore and decided to settle down in Copenhagen just as I decided to journey east), who, conveniently, live in the same co-op as our hosts, for a lavish brunch spread, S playing with their two small sons while I help prepare the food. We’re all a bit sleepy, but the warmhearted nature of especially the mum of the family paired with the calm, good-natured patience of both her husband and S make for a very cosy start to the day. // The last night in town for now, Sunday, I only get to sleep a few hours before getting up at 4am to catch the first morning plane to London like so many, many, many times before.
Christianshavn. On Friday morning, we walk along Bryggen to meet a Danish friend from Sinapore in her natural element, quaint old Christianshavn. We have breakfast and coffee on rickety wooden chairs in front of Sweet Treat (quite possibly the best coffee in town) before heading over for a tour of Christiania and a trip up the spiralling tower of Frelserkirken. The best kind of sightseeing 🙂
Team Bride Prepping. Meeting at Magasin to pick up the bridal bouquet and our own smaller bouquets, the other bridesmaid (my friend who lives in California) and I walk down the busy side lanes in København K to get to the happy couple’s place. She’s a bit stressed when we get there; he disappears after a few minutes; S is with us, but leaves after a few minutes with my mum, who just passes by to say congratulations (they head down to a bakery for a cinnamon swirl, before my mum goes shopping and S goes back to the flat to get ready and join the party with our hosts). The first half hour or so seems a bit chaotic, but then things start to take shape – the babysitter arrives to take care of the baby; my best friend and I down a bottle of champagne on the rooftop terrace; the makeup and hair artist arrives to do her thing; we all have sushi; the bride practices her speech and makes everyone else cry and laugh in all the right places; we all get dressed. We all take a few minutes to just enjoy the fantastic moment, or rather, to let images from all of the years of our friendship and youth until now rush through our heads and then smile at the fact that we are right here right now.
Chalup. Glowing of excitement and happiness (and from wearing three completely amazing outfits, haha), we carefully creep into a taxi and head down to the Black Diamond, where an old smooth wooden royal chalup is waiting for us in the harbour. The two people managing the boat are so sweet and welcoming, ready to give us a very good time as they take us through the harbour to join the ceremony and party on an old sea fortress north of the centre of the city. We’ve got champagne. There’s not a single cloud in the sky. I’m with my two best friends, and one of them is about to get married. We pass by all of the well-known sights and places of a city we love and know so well, people cheering us from other boats and bridges and piers.
Trekroner Fort. Arriving at the small grassy crescent of an island, we’re met by the proud and teary father of the bride, who leads us into the concrete fortress building, on top of which all of the wedding guests are standing, smiling at us, clapping, cheering, waving. Walking out on the roof one at a time, we join the party, and the beautiful civil ceremony starts, violins playing softly in the background. Then there’s the happy congratulating, S and I hugging for the first time in hours and me being very reassured that he’s having a good time, more champagne, a magnificent dinner in the red building at the entrance to the fortress, with a beautiful view of the city through the wide windows, chatting, speeches, the bridal waltz, me catching the bouquet (which she throws directly at me), dancing all night (I’m hopping along as much as my injured knee allows), the whole party being picked up in one boat at 3am and leaving the fortress together, sunlight in the horizon. Sitting on a bench by the royal theatre where we’re dropped off, waiting for a taxi to take our sleepy bodies home, the newly-weds, S and I watch the red rays of the whitsunday sun perform a graceful dance on the dark water. What a day and what a night.
Love. Best line in the bride’s speech to the groom: ‘You have taught me that life’s too short for bad red wine; I’ve taught you that life is long enough for more or less valuable tv shows.’
My Speech. I always knew I wanted to say something, short/sweet/personal, but I just didn’t know exactly what – until it suddenly came to me at 7am on the wedding day, when I quickly typed it all into my phone’s notepad in bed. I was the last speaker (well, apart from the happy-drunk great aunt who spoke unannounced just before midnight), which meant I drank less during dinner to stay on top of my game but still had enough red wine in me to stay calm (I’m not a great public speaker). Here it is:
The first time I met you was on a bus ride down through Jutland headed towards the Emil Nolde museum in Germany. We had just joined the same German class in high school. I don’t recall exactly what we were talking about that day, but we quickly became friends and spent that entire year dreaming about travelling (further than to northern Germany), growing, learning and developing. I remember thinking you were cool because you’d already left home and lived in your own flat downtown Horsens.
The next chapter in our friendship started after your year as snowboard bum in Switzerland, surfer dude in Cornwall and pilgrim on the Camino in France and Spain, when we were both studying in Copenhagen. Four long years of long walks through the streets and parks with coffee and deep conversations – and long nights with cocktails, dancing and even deeper conversations.
We then learned what it means to be friends despite and enriched by long geographical distances. You wrote these incredibly long, incredibly sharp and incredibly witty emails from your semester abroad in New Orleans and your internship in Benin, in which your fantastic perceptiveness came to expression and flourished, you visited me in London and I visited you in Copenhagen, where I always have had a safe and caring place to stay with you, in your own flat in Nørrebro and later in your and Anders’ flat in Badstuestræde.
You introduced me to your husband 3 years ago in New York, at our friend’s wedding, to which you brought him along after having known him for just 3 months. Seeing you 2 together made complete sense, a feeling that’s only been growing, and which I last experienced when the two of you and your sweet daughter visited me and S in Singapore earlier this year. If travelling is a common denominator for our story, it’s a completely new sense of journey that defines the current chapter, wrapped in new kinds of love. I love you and your family and look forward to many more chapters of our friendship, tied together by travels, by growing and developing, always in directions that continue to interlace.