During my months in Copenhagen, I had a lovely host who was bent on showing me more or less the entire county. In that time, I realized that there were many things which I hadn’t realized about Denmark. The following list is based on experiences there.
10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Denmark:
(Disclaimer: 6. and 8. are practically mini posts)
1. Bakken is the world’s oldest amusement park and has been operating just outside of Copenhagen (København) in Klampenborg since 1583.
Also called Dyrehavsbakken meaning Deer Hill, it is situated amidst acres of woods and fields that are free to explore.
With nearly 3 million visitors annually, this mother of amusement parks is the second most popular attraction in Denmark. The first is Tivol…
2. Tivoli Gardens – the 2nd oldest amusement park in the world – is one of the most visited theme parks in all of Europe.
Live performances and music concerts are popular at Tivoli, but the park itself is like something out of a storybook.
Speaking of storybooks…
3. The Little Mermaid, The Princess and The Pea, The Emperor’s New Clothes – All works of Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen.
The story of The Ugly Duckling– as it is widely believed- may have been a reference to his personal life. He was much taller than the average person of his time and was described as having strange facial features and a lanky figure which is why some considered him to be “grotesque” looking. But those who got to know him developed a different impression and some may have even described him as “elegant”. Although he is best known for his children’s fairytales, H.C. Andersen was a prolific writer of novels, short stories, poems, drama and a wealth of other works but in private he was a passionate man who had probably lived a complex existence.
The Hans Christian Andersen Museum in Odense is a must see for book lovers.
4. Denmark has some of the Largest Music Festivals across Europe, featuring hundreds of local and international music artists each year.
Roskilde Festival is Denmark’s oldest, and one of the most attended festivals in Europe. Bob Marley, Bruce Springsteen, Kanye West, Prince, Major Lazer and Rihanna are a few who have performed in years past.
Skanderborg Festival is another which takes place in the middle of a birch forest and has been dubbed “Denmarks’ Most Beautiful Festival” or “Smukfest” in Danish.
5. The Food is lækker.
Smørrebrød, Flæskesteg and Othellolagkage are just a few yummy Danish Delights, but there are also some highly acclaimed gastronomic treasures, one of which is Noma – Denmark’s two-Michelin-star restaurant and four time winner of World’s Best Restaurant award.
Then there are restaurants that offer entertainment with dinner. One called Teaterkælderen is located just beneath Det Ny Teater (The New Theatre). Its old, rustic decor lends authenticity to the theatre feeling as wait staff intermittently break into character with a song or performance.
Sidenotes: A noticeable feature of Danish lifestyle is that much of their culture tends to be linked to food and the enjoyment of it. Since the majority of the colder months are spent indoors, Danes value time spent enjoying a meal with family or friends. “Hyggeligt” is the word they use to describe this special feeling of contentment and coziness. Danes particularly love giving flowers, especially when greeting the host of a hygge. They also take their coffee seriously. Kaffe (coffee) – usually accompanied with some version of Danish layercake or pastry – is essentially the hallmark of a good hygge.
6. Denmark has Dynamic Cultural & Natural History.
One of its 8 UNESCO Heritage Sites is the Jelling Monuments or Vikingekongernes Jelling. Over 1000 years ago, viking kings erected huge rune stones along with an actual ship’s setting as a grave marker.
With over 168 castles, palaces and historic ruins there is no shortage of places to explore in Denmark.
Built by the famous Scandinavian King Christian IV, Rosenborg Castle contains loads of Royal Regalia, Crown Jewels and Art Treasures.
Hans Christian Andersen is said to have been a frequent guest of Holsteinborg Castle writing several of his stories during his stays there. The grounds at Holsteinborg features beautiful landscape, a moat and a beautiful tree-lined path that leads out to the ocean.
Slot is the Danish word for castle and there are many that are open for high tea, dinner, wine tastings and lodging.
Denmark is also a pioneer of open air museums or “old towns” and Den Gamle By in Aarhus is another world’s first.
Comprised of dozens of historical buildings collected from towns all over the country, it includes groceries and shops, historical gardens, a post office, a customs office, a school, a theatre, and several other diners and workshops.
The museum staff reinact the roles of old towns people and it’s literally like stepping into a time warp. You can explore the 1700’s, 1800’s, the 20’s and the 70’s all in one day.
Andelslandsbyen Nyvang is another similar but smaller old town where you can see, smell, touch and taste your way through life in the village during the early and mid 1900’s.
At the Top of Denmark is Skagen’s Gren or Land’s End where two seas meet and there you can have the unique experience of standing with a foot in each sea.
Skagen is also the location of Europe’s largest migrating sand dune, Råbjerg Mile
An actual dessert that is in perpetual motion due to winds, and moves across Skagen at a rate of several meters per year.
Among the islands in the South Funen Archipelago in Faaborg is one called Lyø which has a history that dates back to the Stone Age.
It is a quaint, charming settlement with a sense of humor.
The famous picturesque scene of colorful Copenhagen townhouses lining the canal is actually as awesome as it looks.
With bustling restaurant, cafes and bars, Nyhavn is one of the most popular places in Copenhagen.
A controversial neighborhood made up of former military barracks, is home to hundreds: a mix of hippies, squatters, collectivist and anarchists. It the self-proclaimed “Green-Light District” of Copenhagen.
Christania is considered to be the fourth largest tourist attraction in Copenhagen.
In closing this number, I’d like to express appreciation for Copenhagen’s cultural phenomenon of ridiculously good-looking, bare-backed-bicycle-riding daddies (babies in tow and all). We have never seen anything like it.
And while on the subject of aesthetics
7. When it comes to home-design, decor and fashion, Danes have mastered the art of
“less being more”.
Bo Concept is a popular one but there are several other mentionable names in Danish design including: Gorge Jensen, Holmegaard, Kay Bojesen, Arne Jacobsen and MENU.
Magazine, the best Danish department store ever, offers great deals on clothing designers like By Malene Birger, SAND Copenhagen and Samsøe & Samsøe. (But since I’m “downsizing” I’ll steer clear. I don’t trust myself.)
8. Danes pride themselves on being forerunners in Environmentalism, Equalitarianism and Humanitarianism.
I can only speak about my own experiences here:
On my first day out and about in Dk, I noticed the absence of security cameras in shops and stores. Later while in the country-side, I would see little, wooden stands in front of people’s homes with fresh berries or potatoes for sale but no-one actually selling them, just a jar or container sitting there for payments to be dropped inside. I was astonished… What were they expecting – Honesty?
In fact, Yes. Apparently, the Danish system operates on a great deal of “trust” and with the even more surprising outcome that it has worked. Or it used to for the most part, but I won’t go into that.
Then, while at various outdoor events across Denmark I would notice people- young, old, average, migrant- walking around picking up trash, even competing for it like it was some big game. Denmark’s incentivized recycling initiative pretty much cancels out the need for hiring clean-up crews for events there. And whatever nonrecyclables people may leave behind, volunteers would often come in to help sort and clear.
Finally, when on one occasion I had to see a doctor; In I walked, received a nearly immediate consultation and was sent out the door with a “Have a nice day” while still rummaging around my purse looking for my card to pay. Flash back to a few years earlier as a student in NYC when I had waited for what seemed like hours and the physician barely looked my way before announcing that I needed to return with a referral, and then billing me for $250 a few days later.
In Denmark, I observed something resembling an understanding of integrity and social responsibility. And whether the result of having a strong social safety-net or narrow wealth gap or a combination- I can’t say- but it does appear to the onlooker as though everyone is on the same playing field. It seems as though the doctors in their offices are regarded no better or worse than the cashiers at the supermarkets. Speaking of which…
If you ever need a shopping cart at a Danish supermarket, you would have to insert 20 Kroner to release one. But it is redeemable and pops out again once you put the cart back after using it. And if you don’t take along your (preferably reusable) shopping bags, you would have to purchase them- 1 Kr per plastic bag- as a disincentive.
I could go on about their renewable energy and sustainability solutions or their prison system which could be considered “luxurious” by comparison to others, but I’m trying to avoid making this even more of a marathon post.
Even though their taxes are some of the highest in the world, one might easily conclude that there is something special about the Danish system. The truth is, however… while Denmark is exceptionally progressive in many ways, like every other country in the world, it is not immune to its share of problems but I don’t touch politics so on to number 9 we go.
9. The Invention of Lego’s, Bluetooth, The Loudspeaker and several other devices originated in Denmark.
A full list of other Danish inventions here.
Finally, one last thing which you may not expect…
10. Danes do Dance.
One of the first things I did on arrival was look up places to dance and was happily surprised to find that Copenhagen offered a few.
And if the dancing in Copenhagen isn’t enough, they are basically a stone’s throw away from Malmø, Sweden which hosts several dance summits throughout the year.
( A Special Thanks to Chris – probably the most thorough guide of Denmark.)
HC Anderson/ Tivoli – Roman Bellus- http://www.romanbelus.sk