It’s been a while since I published “Armenia”… And I’ve been in Berlin for over a week now. Honestly I’ve been having issues with integrating photos from my phone and camera onto the Mac Book in a way that lets me organize them the way I want, then more issues figuring out some things on WordPress. On top of that, I was getting flack for being on my computer and not being social at the hostel, so I prioritized making new friends a little bit. So this will be a lot of info at once…
For all pictures, please visit my Copenhagen Album on google photos (or Facebook, if we’re friends!)
Intro To Copenhagen
Let me start by saying that Copenhagen was amazing and I am so grateful that it was suggested by a handful of people as “somewhere (I) must visit”. As I wandered the streets of Copenhagen, both by foot and by bike, I was struck by a feeling of deja vu, like I had been there before, or recognized something about the city. Some days the crisp air smelled of sourdough yeast and the water glistened dully under partly-cloudy sky. Some moments my body was so cold I could no longer feel my fingers or toes and my cheeks were rosy red. The fresh seafood was abundant and the city was very clean. It hit me that Copenhagen sort of feels like a combination of things I love about different cities: the cold of Chicago, the water / seafood / sourdough bread of San Fransisco, the Street Food Market which felt like a Union Market from DC but bigger and fresher, the harbors much like Boston, the price tag similar to NYC, the bike-friendliness of Seattle (ok, times 1000). I could definitely see myself living in Copenhagen, and hope to visit again sooner than later. back to top
Public Health and Policy
Tobacco and alcohol use among the Danish people has decreased since 2010, and correspondingly deaths from cancer and cardiovascular disease have decreased, as well. Although according to the same report, obesity among adults has increased to around 13.5% since 2000, Denmark has one of the lowest childhood obesity rates in the world.
In 2012, a proposed tax on foods with more than 2.3% saturated fat as well as foods containing a specific amount of sugar was turned down. Likely, it’s dismissal has a lot to do with the food industry fighting the tax, but as the Danish are already taxed heavily, it is also likely that they were opposed to additional taxes on foods that they have been consuming for centuries like butter, yogurt and milk.
According to the European Portal for Action on Health Inequalities, the various regions of Denmark are responsible for treatment and patient-oriented prevention at hospitals while the municipalities for the citizen-oriented prevention and health promotion. Along with 52 other countries, Denmark is participating in the 2015-2020 European Food and Nutrition Action Plan. The plan calls for countries to act, using a whole-government, health-in-all-policies approach. Its priority actions will contribute to improving food system governance and the overall quality of the European population’s diet and nutrition status. This plan is similar to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which is also renewed every five years.
The objectives of the Food and Nutrition Action Plan 2015-2020:
- Create healthy food and drink environments
- Promote the gains of a healthy diet throughout the life-course, especially for the most vulnerable groups
- Reinforce health systems to promote healthy diets
- Support surveillance, monitoring, evaluation and research
- Strengthen governance, intersectoral alliances and networks for a health-in-all-policies approach
Although not food-related, our walking tour guide, Luis, explained that there is a shortage of babies in Denmark. This problem has become such an interest to the government that they are actually airing commercials saying things like, “Your mother is lonely, give her a grandchild”, and offering free daycare to working parents. Each parent also receives a six-month leave after the child is born, which can be taken together or separately. With fewer children being born, there will be fewer people working and earning money which can be taxed to take care of aging populations. back to top
Denmark is all about sustainability and the environment. Recycling is prevalent and easy to do, and as in many European countries, recyclables still contain a deposit in their price. When you can’t find a recycling bin for your aluminum can or glass/plastic bottle, we were told to leave these next to the trash cans so they are easier for the homeless people to gather and collect deposits. If you have few items in the check out line, no bag is offered for your purchase. There are reusable bags for sell everywhere and I witnessed many shoppers providing their own bags.
Denmark aims to be using 100% renewable energy across all sectors by 2050. The small country is already over 40% renewable energy for their power grid, and they have almost reached their goal for wind power to supply 50% of electricity consumption by 2020… In 2015, wind power supplied 42 percent of domestic electricity. To incentivize people to purchase fewer cars and to purchase electric vehicles at that, there is a 180% tax on car purchases but electric cars at least are offered free parking. Although more than 55% of Copenhagen residents commute via bike, that number stays strong at 33% of all Danish citizens using bicycles for commuting. There are more than 10,000km (over 6,200 thousand miles) in separated bike lanes + bike paths through the country.
They also find multiple uses for land, including courtyards built into many buildings and are planning to use the diagonal roof of an upcoming trash processing plant for a ski slope, open to the public. back to top
Food Culture and Traditions
Polse – Hot dogs wrapped with bacon, commonly served with mustard and fried onions. There are many stands around the city and they are pretty cheap. On the “healthy” scale, I would give these a 1. Processed meat wrapped with processed meat on a processed white bun with fried onions… The plus for the polse? The mustard.
Smorrebrod – open face sandwiches made with buttered rye bread and a variety of toppings to chose from. Fish, eggs, meat, veggies, combinations of all the above… While they may change in flavor profile, it’s a safe bet that the fat content of these small meals will leave you full for hours. While the “healthiness” of Smorrebrod will kind of depend on your choice, it’s fair to say that they all offer rye bread and butter (which is a natural source of vitamin E and calcium), and are usually made with fresh, often local, ingredients. If you stay away from deep-fried toppings, I’d say that any variation fits into a healthy diet. Make sure to get a smorgasbord of Smorrebrod when you visit Denmark to round out your diet!
Glogg – mulled and spiced (typically red) wine meant to keep you warm as you peruse the Christmas market, or as you walk down the street. Red wines contain resveratrol, a potent antioxidant, and the spices used (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, etc) are considered warming spices that help with blood pressure, joint pain, and anxiety among other benefits. Rum is an add-on option, and it’s one I suggest; it adds subtle sweetness and gives a little more fuel to the fire when you’re fighting to stay warm (although it is a myth that alcohol helps to physically keep you warm).
- Bratwurst and currywurst, which are traditional to Germany, are also popular at the Christmas markets
Fondness for street food:
- Street Food Market on Paper Island offers popular dishes from many different countries and cultures, with separate stands for beer / wine. Think Pike Place Market from Seattle meets Union Market from DC, set in a trendy living room.
- Kebab – these brick and mortar stands are sprinkled all over the city and offer affordable meals when you’re not feeling the need to sit down and be fancy
- Pan Asian: Vietnamese, Thai, and Ramen options everywhere
- Pizza – from Dominoes to traditional Italian and everything in between (below: Pizza from MadenItaly at the Street Food Market) back to top
Sunday 11/13 – After landing and navigating my way from the airport, through the sea of bundled up and smiling Danes, to the city (about 12 minutes on the metro), I checked in at the Generator Hostel (conveniently located a 5-minute walk form Nor Havyn). Immediately in my 8-bed room, I met a couple awesome Chicagoans. After introductions, a shot of Frisk, and “how ’bout that election” banter, we all went to Paper Island Street Food Market for dinner. There were too many good options to choose from, and I was especially hungry because I hadn’t eaten since the airport in Dusseldorf at noon. I settled on the fish n chips, and they were honestly the best I’ve ever tasted. Perfectly seasoned, the breading was crisp and not too greasy, and the cod was very fresh. The meal came topped with a mountain of vegetables, and way too many “chips”. My 2-piece fish meal was ~$60DKK (around $8 USD).
Monday 11/14 – I went on a morning walking tour, which hit most of the touristy sights (many of them closed because it was Monday). With cold-numbed fingers, it was difficult to take pictures after the first hour outside; I couldn’t even feel my hands. In the middle of the tour we took a break and I had a cheesy focaccia bread from Holm, a traditional Danish bakery. Our tour guide, Luis, was very informative and engaging. I enjoyed him so much that I joined in on the afternoon walking tour through Christianshavn and Christiania. The Chicagoans joined for this one, too, and we purchased beers before we took off, at the encouragement of Luis.
My quoting Luis became a theme of the week as I did more sightseeing with other tourists as well as locals. Upon leaving Christiania, the Chicagoans and I headed back to the Street Food Market at Paper Island for coffee to warm up, then stayed for dinner. I had some pretty mediocre Pad Thai and wished I had selected something else. Over beers by the fire we were questioned by a pair of local women about the election and how politics work in America. They wished us luck. Strolling up Nor Havyn on our way back to the hostel, we stopped for glogg from one of the kiosks on the sidewalk. It was delicious, and the lady kept giving us more rum to keep us warm. They’re very friendly in Copenhagen 🙂 We decided to check out some bars and went first to BoBi, a very small and smoky bar in a basement. Everyone was smoking… Even the bartender was lighting up! All the seats were full and we had to stand and hold our coats (you can imagine how chokingly warm it was in there). On to the next place: Not really worth mentioning, except for that I was able to show the Chicagoans how terrible I am at Foosball. We took a cab to the third place, which was somewhat smoky, but much larger than BoBi and had a terrific jukebox. So we stayed there for a bit enlightening the locals with Queen and David Bowie songs before going to the last place: another joint where even the bartender was smoking, except we were the only ones in the place, so that was fun…
Tuesday 11/15 –
After the typical boring breakfast of yogurt, fruit and toast at the hostel, I took the day to attend to some work on my computer (including the Armenia blog post). When I had asked Luis how much Fitness DK costs (the gym next door), he told me that it was cheap to stay fit in Copenhagen. They don’t overcharge for gym memberships… So I learned when I went there and got a three-day pass for $150 DKK (~$21 USD). Plus Fridays are free there, so really I got four days in! Fitness DK feels like any American gym, with a spin room, group exercise room, cardio equipment and free weights. Their monthly memberships run anywhere from $150-250 DKK (~$21-$35 USD) depending on what amenities you use. After my workout I cleaned up and went back to the lobby to get more work done. I had a burger and fries for dinner (not worth taking a picture of) because the oven was broken and it was either that or a fried chicken sandwich. A little later in the night I took a walk and stopped at the Irish Rover for a pint of Guinness (ok… two).
Wednesday 11/16 –
After a quick sprint / circuit / stretch session at the gym, I headed out for a day of walking around with another tourist. After stopping for a coffee and croissant at Atelier September, we walked from the Rosenberg Castle past the Art Museum to the Kastellet. Then we continued down the canal towards the city, stopping to take pictures in front of the Opera House, the Kissing Bridge and Nor Havyn. Across the shopping district, we stopped for lunch at Bistro Royal, which was surprisingly affordable given its location. This was also day 1 of 4 that I had put my name on the wait-list for lunch at NoMa. (Spoiler alert: I never got in). The waitress recommended the pork belly sandwich with pickled cabbage and apple slaw. It was delicious, though too rich to finish and came with way too many pommes frites. After lunch, we stopped by NoMa to make sad faces through the windows as we walked to Paper Island and stopped for a coffee and a conversation with the architect group in charge of transforming Paper Island into its future vision: a square of interesting luxury townhouses with a courtyard in the middle. Don’t fret… The Street Food Market will still be there!
Because the other person had not been to Christiania, I was down to go through there again. From what you hear about the “Freetown of Copenhagen”, you’d expect it to be a slummy sort of ghetto; but, it was actually quite nice. We stopped into a woman-owned blacksmith shop and I fell in love with all the interesting wrought-iron tree-shaped candelabras. As much as I would have liked to buy one, shipping cost and current “not living in my apartment” status held me back. Maybe someday. Upon re-entering the downtown area, we stopped for a rest and a glass of wine at Ravage, a lovely little place right by Nor Havyn with a great wine list, and again affordable considering the area. After that, we checked out Maven (a wine bar with a tasting menu in what used to be a church) for a glass of wine, then I had the best Negroni I’ve ever had in my life at Ruby. They use coffee bitters and it was AMAZING. Perfect night cap.
I rented a bike and joined over 55% of the Copenhagen population in using the bike super-highway. I have a friend whose sister is a correspondent for NPR and she wrote an article about the bike super highway, which you can read here! I ride my bike at home for both commuting and for exercise, and I often feel as if there is nowhere in the world I would rather be than on a bike. Seems I fit in pretty well with the Copenhagen crew. It did take a bit to get used to the rental bike, which had those brakes where you pedal backwards to stop, so trying to coast was a bit embarrassing. The bike situation in Copenhagan is a little out of control. There are bikes crowded so many places, it’s impossible that all of them are actually being ridden. I was talking to a local about it and they said that at some point, the city will have to take action, but it’s hard to identify a bike that’s been abandoned out of all the bikes that are being used. I’m interested to hear how they will be addressing this issue in the future.
Anyways, I biked around, just enjoying myself, then went back up through Church Hill Park towards the Little Mermaid statue. After saying hello to her, I biked over to the Christiansborg Castle so I could go to the tower and take a few pictures. You can see all the way to Sweden from up there! (Don’t be too impressed, it’s not that far away). More leisurely biking and up the road to Carlsberg brewery for a sample beverage. Then I went to Fredericksberg neighborhood and just walked around for a bit. Getting back in the saddle, I rode around looking for a Polse, but could not find the place that Google Maps suggested. So I stopped at the Norrebro train station and found one in there. Healthy? Not at all. Delicious? I wasn’t that impressed. Maybe next time, Copenhagen.
In the evening I returned my bike, did laundry, and met a local for drinks at Dahl and Dahl. I ordered the “Passion Love” cocktail, which was made with vodka, lime juice, vanilla syrup and passionfruit puree. This was a delicious cocktail and the marshmallow made for a very interesting accompaniment. I will definitely be trying to recreate this at home (along with negroni’s made with coffee bitters).
I hadn’t had much to eat that day, so my friend and I went next door to the Vietnamese restaurant Tonkin. We shared a pitcher of Tiger beer and I enjoyed this lovely rice noodle dish with spiced beef and salad. Healthy? Yes. Chili peppers contain capsaicin, which accounts for the spiciness and has anti-inflammatory properties, as well as antioxidants including vitamin C and carotenoids, which might also help improve insulin regulation. Beef is a good source of iron, which is involved in red blood cell development and the delivery of oxygen to cells. The the herbs and citrus juice used in the marinade are loaded with antioxidants and other nutrients. Delicious? Oh yeah. The heat was the gradual kind that builds on your taste buds and surprises you when you least expect it.
Friday 11/18 –
After my morning gym visit, I decided if I ever own a gym there will never be a “free day” for non-members who are not guests of actual members. There were teenage boys everywhere and no one put their weights back. These boys were literally hoarding weights in the corner. I got sick of waiting for equipment and hopped on a treadmill to do some tabata sprints, then finished with pilates, a little yoga, and some meditation in the mat area. I spent the day booking my hostels in Berlin and trying to integrate my photos onto my Mac Book. Sometimes technology and I don’t get along as much as I would really like us to. That evening I was treated to a home-made meal of duck tossed with a kale and apple salad. Fresh baked bread and South African Cabernet to boot, I was a happy camper.
Saturday 11/19 –
An afternoon canal tour was suggested for a good daytime activity. It was a typical canal tour and about 50% of the information was sort of a repeat from the walking tours on Monday. Still fun, but a little chilly on the water. Lunch this day occurred after trying multiple different restaurants for smorrebrod. On the 4th try, we finally found a place that could accommodate diners for lunch at 2pm! I enjoyed this liver pate with bacon and mushrooms while my friend enjoyed boiled herring with salad.
Tivoli Gardens was on the agenda for the evening, and thank goodness I got tickets through the desk at the hostel because the line at the ticket booth was one of the longest lines I’ve ever seen. (The longest line I’ve ever seen was in Vancouver, BC at the Winter Olympics in 2010, and the second longest occurred at the Copenhagen airport security line when I flew to Berlin). Glogg, Christmas cheer, and joyfulness abounds at Europe’s second oldest amusement park during the holiday season. It’s fun to partake even if you don’t do the rides; a non-ride entry ticket costs ~$15 USD while the entry ticket with access to the rides is ~$40 USD… WAY cheaper than any amusement park in the US!
Sunday 11/20 –
I packed my bag and dropped it at the desk since my flight was in the evening. I spent the day taking pictures at Rosenberg Castle and exploring the art museum, then took one last walk through the pretty shopping districts and the different Christmas markets that dot the road. I stopped for a bratwurst and considered buying a souvenir, but didn’t. Back at the hostel, I charged my phone and Skyped with my family, then headed to the airport. After a 50-minute wait in the security line (NO CLUE why it was so long), I arrived at my gate just in time for boarding to Berlin. Although multiple locals told me I was not missing anything, the only part I regret is that I didn’t take any day trips. If you find yourself in Copenhagen, here are the sites outside the city that I’ve heard are good for day trips: