I am usually comfortable snapping photos of the things I find intriguing while exploring the city, but in Farum everything feels more intimate. I witness a fluffy black cat peering at me through the window of a house, a man preparing food in a kitchen visible to me from the street. These tidbits of life strike me as particularly homey and private, and I refrain from documenting them with my camera. At least at first, I feel irrationally self-conscious, an intruder in a location I have no familiarity with as I wander alone through the streets neighboring the Farum train station.
It is funny, though. Although I am far from home and know little about the suburb through which I am meandering, the setting feels strangely reminiscent of the snowy arboretum on Carleton’s campus, or the woods behind my house in Indiana. Here, like at home, the birds whistle, the air is remarkably fresh, and trees tower with tangled branches. These are visions I am not accustomed to seeing in central Copenhagen.
I decide to visit Farum Sø, a scenic lake in the neighborhood. I pass by picturesque lines of houses, one sage green, then brick red, then white. The sidewalk paths have not been cleared yet, still slushy from the melting ice. As I walk, water begins to seep through the bottoms of my sneakers, rendering my socks wet and feet cold. But I am not bothered. Suddenly, the lack of noise becomes apparent to me. It is relatively quiet outside, except for the occasional shout from a playing child or the gentle roar of a car driving by. The recurrent odor of exhaust, a feature of the city I am used to, is pleasantly absent.
When I see the vast expanse of ice in the distance, I realize I have made it to the lake. I spot a half-constructed snowman (or maybe it is half melted) perched on the ice. Snowy footsteps show that humans have traversed the frozen water recently, but I do not dare try to venture out solo. Instead, I take in my other surroundings. Black, white, gray, and brown dominate the nature around me, neutral tones defining the sky, lake, and trees. The occasional burnt reddish-brown shows itself in the leaves, and the surviving grass peeks through the snow revealing green.
I walk back toward the station, strolling past several shops and cafes. No longer near the trees and frozen water, I once again feel quite foreign to my environment. Guided only by the GPS on my phone, I am rather disoriented and uncomfortably reliant on directions. When I walk past a Netto, however, I chuckle to myself. The store, a Scandinavian market scattered all over the country, is certainly a centering presence.
When I board the train to return home, I am uncertain that I captured a sophisticated impression of “the spirit of Farum.” However, the jarring contrast between the familiar and unfamiliar in Danish suburbia stands out to me, and I am grateful for the escape from city life Farum provided me if only for a couple of hours.
*This was an excerpt from my Travel Writing class, in which we were assigned a neighborhood to explore on the B line of the S-Train. Farum, a 35 minute train ride from Nørreport Station, was a lovely region to survey.