I stepped into Copenhagen knowing only one thing. It has consistently been rated the happiest place to live, and I was going to discover why. That’s how I found myself on a bike, attempting to whiz through the tiny city, past colorful Danish houses, organic cafe’s and ice cold canals. That’s when I made my first discovery. Bike riding is not a leisurely activity saved for summer picnic rides or family outings. This was a new concept to me. I quickly learned that meandering wouldproduce bike jams and weaving almost caused a 3 way collision. The fact that not one person yelled at me for my less than satisfactory technique proved how good spirited these people are.
But why? Why are the Danes sooooo happy? They seem to have the ability to stay positive through any situation, (especially where their history of failed warfare attempts are concerned). But I think I’ve discovered what keeps them smiling.
1. They know how ridiculously good looking they are. Copenhagen reminded me of a mini Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, where all the women look like Cinderella and the men Prince Charming. And what do really really really good looking people like to do? They like to PARTY! Oh how the Danes can party. We had a taste of Danish nightlife when we were invited by some local friends of my sisters to their apartment for an evening gathering that consisted of beer drinking, harmonized singing, piano playing and even some good sax. It was non stop merrymaking until six in the morning when we were forced to say goodbye because, alas, they were off to work.
2. Bike riding. The surplus of endorphins MUST be a contributing factor to their cheerful disposition.
3. The food. Copenhagen is a foodie haven and is home to Noma, the number one rated restaurant in the world, 3 years running. The restaurant is known for their innovative Nordic cuisine which means an emphasis on seafood and veggies, techniques such as pickling, smoking, fermenting and curing while using local ingredients like wild grasses, moss, or gooseberries. Recently they developed a dessert that mixes ant paste and blueberries. Yes, ANT paste. Unfortunately I was not given the chance to dine at Noma as reservations must be booked 4 months in advance. However, after learning of their recent tinkering with ant goo, it may have been a blessing.
The food is light and fresh with an emphasis on healthy items but what really shocked me was the bread. I knew the Danes were famous for their pastries but I had never heard anyone mention the delicious whole grain breads that are a staple in Danish cuisine. This was another culinary surprise to me. Once I tasted their whole wheat sesame bread I was hooked and made it my daily staple.
4. Legal Marijuana. Well sort of. Freetown Christiania is an alternative commune that is partially self-governing, self efficient and has developed their own set of rules, independent from the Danish government. They have their own postal service, community housing, theater, restaurants, a soccer field and the selling of cannabis is “tolerated”. If you’re having a bad day and really need a spliff, bike on down to Christiania where the options are plentiful.
5. Tivoli Gardens, an amusement park that opened in 1843! These people had their priorities straight. While American preacher William Miller was predicting the end of the world, Copenhagen was finishing work on the second oldest pleasure garden ever to be built. And the best part is it still as quaint and delightful as it was 169 years ago! As Tivoli’s founder, Georg Carstensen put it so eloquently to King Christian VIII “when the people are amusing themselves, they do not think about politics” Case closed Copenhagen.
– Danish Bread & Butter from Kødbyens Fiskebar in Copenhagen