I’m not gonna lie, when I thought of the European cities I HAD to visit while living in Spain, Copenhagen wasn’t high on the list. Berlin, Amsterdam, Budapest? Definitely. Italy? Without a doubt. But Copenhagen? It didn’t really rank.
That was a mistake, and one I’m SO glad didn’t stop me from booking the tickets when Gareth mentioned how much he wanted to go. I’d been to Iceland before, another trip that I was excited for for personal reasons but wasn’t expecting too much from the place itself, and Iceland is now my all time favorite country to visit.
On the flight over from Madrid, everything was announced in Spanish, and then in English. On the way back it was announced in Danish and English. This speaks to the overwhelming privilege English speakers have, when a flight going to/from non-English speaking countries leaves one of those languages out in favor of English. It was also the first time since arriving in Logrono, that I felt like I understood 100% of what was going on. Oh there will be turbulence? Not a problem, because I know to expect it! Drinks service coming around? Don’t mind if I do!
My plane ride was super fun–I was sat next to two girls from Burgos who knew some English, and in a mix of our two languages we chatted throughout the flight. I’m going to visit them when I go to Burgos! About halfway through a man came on the speakers singing a really lovely song in Spanish, and he proposed to his girlfriend! It was so so nice and really romantic.
When I landed Gareth was there waiting for me. I’ve gotta say, nothing will be as hard as LA to London long distance, but seeing each other every few weeks is its own form of torture. We are constantly saying goodbye, and that is really hard! I used to hate people who complained about distance when they could see each other every few weeks, and while I would NEVER go back to what it was before, I will finally admit this version can suck too. That said, if the way we get to see each other is by meeting up in random cities every few weeks, we are so, so lucky.
Our airbnb was a bit outside of the city, but on the main metro line connecting Copenhagen to the airport, so it was incredibly convenient and much cheaper than it would have been had we stayed more central. We only had to ride that one metro the entire time. And much like our trips to Portland and Seattle, we bought a transport pass and then proceeded to walk unchecked onto every train/boat/bus we rode.
The first night we dropped off our bags and headed back into the city. After a few wrong turns and an extra 45 minutes of walking, we ended up in a really hip area our host recommended, and had a delicious dinner and shared a bottle of wine. The whole evening was so nice–the fact that we got lost meant we walked along the canal for ages, checking out the swans and the lights–because Europe doesn’t have Thanksgiving, everything is already decorated and ready for Christmas! It was freezing but everywhere we went was warm and had such great ambiance. Though much like Iceland, Copenhagen was insanely expensive. That romantic dinner? Over $150, which is the most I’ve ever spent on a meal in my life. We decided to not worry about it, and started a system where we kept track of our spending in the krone, so we wouldn’t have sticker shock after every purchase. (Just once at the end of the trip, much better.) Back in our airbnb our host had gone to bed but left us mint infused water and candles lit everywhere. Not too shabby.
The next day was unseasonably warm, meaning it was around 33 degrees. Because of the nice weather, we decided to do all the activities near the canals. We walked to the Little Mermaid statue, and checked out Kastellet, an old (but still functioning) army fortress. Then we took the riverboat metro to Nyhavn, which was my favorite part of the trip. The houses were gorgeous, there were tons of little Christmas market stalls set up, and mulled wine everywhere. Heaven.
We wandered the area for a bit, and I bought gloves, a Christmas ornament, and we got a magnet to add to our collection. Then we crossed the bridge, and went to Copenhagen Street Food, a market with tons and tons of food stalls. It was insanely busy, and I was super overwhelmed because there were so many different options. I LOVE the food in Spain, but there is no variety. It’s all Spanish food, all the time. I wanted ethnic, and suddenly there were about 100 different kinds. I made us check out each booth while Gareth tried not to kill me, before settling on the first one we saw–BBQ pulled pork and curly fries. Delicious.
After eating we had to decide–would we go to Christiania? Christiania is a self proclaimed autonomous region right next to Copenhagen. People basically took over an old army barracks and town in the 1970s, and decided it wasn’t part of Denmark or even the EU. It has its own laws, and has a long history of fights with the Danish police, but it’s also a progressive, artistic, hippy area. We had been going back and forth for a few days. G really wanted to go, I had heard it was seedy, dangerous, and didn’t live up to expectations. We asked our host and she said if we went through the main gates, yes, we would find the seedy side. It’s where all the pot is sold, and it the more sketchy part of town. But if we went in a side entrance, we’d be going into the actual parts of town where people lived. Not tourists looking to buy drugs, but homes and shops and bars. She convinced me, and by pure luck we happened upon one of the side entrances, and we were very suddenly and very obviously no longer in Copenhagen.
Everyone was smoking pot. I don’t smoke and because of a past experience don’t love being around it, so this put my guard up a bit at first. But G got a beer and I (who was freezing) got a hot chocolate, and suddenly I felt so much better. There were families and dogs and everyone we talked to was so, so nice. It was a very laid back, hippy sort of place, and if you relaxed a bit, it was easy to get caught up in the vibe.
That said it was freezing. And it was time to make our last decision. I had asked our host if she had any saunas she could recommend, knowing we’d be walking in the cold all day. She said the best one was in Christiania. That it was all nude, and coed, but it was a place people went with their kids. I think at first I was all for it and G was more reserved, but then as Gareth felt more and more comfortable in Christiania, he was definitely down to try and I was more hesitant, faced with the actual decision. The fact that I was freezing won out, and we headed over.
It wasn’t what I expected, but fit the town perfectly. At first, it was all dudes. Just totally naked dudes. I had to try so hard to look only at their eyes, whereas I never felt like anyone was looking at me where I wouldn’t want them to. It was on the first floor and the windows didn’t have curtains, so people outside could see right in. No one cared. There were people shaving, and showering, and apparently the sauna is used as a community bathing space, especially because some people work in town but live out in Copenhagen, too far from convenient showers, I guess.
We were given a paper bag to write our names on and put our valuables in (the people here obviously trust each other a lot more than I trust the people at my gym at home). G kept giving me chances to back out, and I stripped down to my underwear before realizing no one thought this was weird but me, and as soon as I was naked I stopped feeling weird about it at all. I did something like this in Istanbul, but it was all women and I think I might have kept my underwear on, though I can’t remember. Here you had to be naked. We showered and went into the sauna, where there were other women, some people doing yoga, some people smoking, and other just relaxing. It was REALLY nice after walking in the freezing cold all day, and we stayed for about a half an hour until the heat got too much. When we came out there were kids playing in the pools. It did feel like a community space and not uncomfortable at all.
When we left, we were totally ready to face the cold again. One of the guys who might have worked there, or might have just been a customer, was talking to us about energy and chakras, and it made me sad that Christiania gets such a bad rep. We walked out through the main gate, and passed all the stalls selling things to tourists and I’m so happy we came in a different way and that wasn’t our first impression of the town. We had a great time there.
We went back to Nyhavn and sat under a heater and drank mulled wine and just talked and hung out. It was a really, really nice day. We finished it with hot dogs from 7/11 which sounds gross but oh my god is 7/11 so much nicer in Copenhagen than it is in the states.
The next morning we packed our things and I tried not be sad that the weekend was already over, but excited about the fact that it had been so good and we have plans to do so many more trips like this in the coming year. Our host let us leave our bags and we went up Christiansborg Palace and the Round Tower. The former was free and the latter was I think 2.50 euros, but we both enjoyed the Round Tower more. It was so cool–to get to the top, instead of stairs it’s a stone ramp that you walk all the way up and all the way down. There was a lot more to see here, and the place was well marked with historical info and papers in both Danish and English. Also I caught a squirtle on pokemon go which has been a goal for a really long time.
Afterwards we decided to go back to Nyhavn and have more mulled wine and just chill a bit before leaving for the airport. At the start of the main street, among all the stalls, was a hot dog stand. DO NOT GO TO THIS HOT DOG STAND. Please note this was the weekend after the election and I had been having a really hard time feeling any sort of happiness at all. This trip was an escape from the depressing reality my country was now in. Anyway, we decided to get hot dogs. The menu was just pictures of different hot dogs with no descriptions of what they actually were. So I asked him what three different ones were and ordered two of them. He only got out one bun, and as there were some pictured on the menu sans bun, I asked if we could both have buns on our hot dogs. Apparently this was a HUGE INSULT and the guy went off. He really rudely asked me if I was okay with him toasting the buns one at a time, and embarrassed I had offended him so much, I was like, “Yes of course, I was just making sure you knew what we wanted.” He huffed at me and turned to Gareth and started a REALLY sexist and sexual rant about women. It was horrible. We were both so shocked, and then he turned back to me and asked what I would allow him to put on the hot dog. I was so frozen. I think if it had happened two weeks earlier, I would have yelled back. But I was already feeling so defeated and hopeless. I stood there in shock for a moment, said we didn’t want them anymore, and walked just far enough away so he couldn’t see me and burst into tears. Now I wish I had the name of his stall so I could post all over the internet to never give this man your business, but I didn’t plan that well. It was the only hot dog stand on the street. He was a grumpy old man with a runny nose. Those are the details I remember.
UPDATE I found a picture of the stand!
Anyway, after that we decided to just head to the airport. We got in early enough that we were able to get dinner there and play some cards. And though the trip ended on a sour note, it was actually SO lovely and such a nice time, and the mean hot dog man didn’t ruin the trip at all. I highly, highly recommend Copenhagen, and really hope I can go back some day. I think we had the perfect itinerary for just two days, but I’d like to stay for longer. I’m also feeling really motivated to check out Norway, Sweden, and Finland now too!