Day Trip to Møns Klint

It was a trip several weeks in the making! The plan to make a day trip to Møns Klint was an exciting prospect, from the car ride to the picnic to the hike itself. Signe, Emmelie, and Caroline, our Danish flatmates, had the inspired idea to travel to the scenic overlook, and Nikki and I were enthused to join the journey.

The excursion was about a two-hour drive to Borre, a town south of Copenhagen. Fortunately, we were able to borrow the car from the parents of one of our flatmates. I sat in the shotgun and monitored the directions. Caroline made a collaborative Spotify playlist so that we could listen to a variety of peoples’ selections, which ended up being a catchy assortment of American oldies music that we all gladly sang together. It was a pleasant car trip and lovely to see some of the Danish countryside that I had not yet beheld.

Once we arrived, we hiked to the topmost point where we could enjoy the scenic overlook of the rock faces and the Baltic Sea. The cliff we admired was majestic, with shockingly vibrant aquamarine water hitting the rocky beach in gentle waves. After taking lots of photos of the natural beauty (at a certain point the various angles we captured all began to look the same) we made our way down an extremely long flight of stairs to the bottom of the cliff by the sea.

A portion of the long staircase down to the water

We soon found the perfect large boulder to lay out our picnic spread. Signe had generously baked fresh buns, so we used them to prepare delicious veggie sandwiches with hummus, avocados, spinach, and red peppers. To drink, we each downed a cup of elderflower juice. We all agreed it was super cozy and delightful to eat by the water.

Afterward, we walked further down the beach for a while, pausing occasionally to climb on the rocks, take photos, and admire the scenery. When we decided to begin our return trip, the climb up the long staircase to reach the top was quite the workout! It took some effort while climbing, especially because they were very steep. Once at the top, we took a small break and then proceeded through the wooded area. We scrambled up various hilly patches of the forest until we finally found our way to the parking lot where we had started. Despite the overcast weather, the sun, at last, began to peek through the clouds and illuminate the surrounding trees, water, and sky.

Walking along the rocky beach of the Baltic Sea

We indulged in some vegan banana bread as a snack before our journey home. Made from oats, it was a dense, sweet treat that was perfect to power us for the car ride home. Upon our return to the Kollegium, we were all pretty exhausted but satisfied by a delightful day trip adventure with fantastic company. The perfect escapade with friends to get a breath of fresh air outside of Copenhagen, I couldn’t recommend an afternoon in Møns Klint enough!

*Signe made us warm knit headbands! Emmelie, Nikki, and I wore them.

Field Study in Farum

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. 

Farum’s proximity to 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.

The frozen lake, visible from behind someone’s house

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.

An Outing to Dyrehaven

“The air is so fresh here!” exclaim our flatmates. We’ve just exited the train station, accompanied by three of our flatmates who generously offered to show us Dyrehaven, a famous deer park.

A short train ride from Frederiksberg gets us here, to the beautiful forested park just north of Copenhagen. I imagine in the spring and summer months, lush greenery occupies every inch of the environment, but on our visit, the landscape is filled with hues of cool blues from the sky, and gleaming white from the thin blankets of snow covering the ground. The snow is striking to the eye and reminds me of Carleton’s vast arboretum in the winter, perpetually characterized by thick white carpets of precipitation.

The weather is refreshing, though chilly. Upon arriving at the park, we stop at a small coffee stand where we indulge in hot cocoa, chai tea, and coffee. While strolling through the park, we encounter many horse-drawn carriages. Horses prance by, pulling bundled up adults and children in their tow. Blissful dogs trot alongside their owners, happy to be outdoors and among the fresh air, just as their human companions are.

An empty ride

We pass through “Bakken,” an amusement park located within the Dyrehaven woods. Notably, it’s known as “The World’s Oldest Amusement Park,” a venue visited by people seeking out the area’s natural springs in 1583 because they were believed to have curative properties. Now, it’s empty, made barren by the pandemic. Colorful roller coasters sit in disuse, only taken in by the eyes of passersby like ourselves wandering through.

A recreation of the set of “Matador”

Coincidentally, Nikki and I notice a recreation of the set of the iconic Danish television show “Matador” (Monopoly, in English) within the amusement park. We watched an episode or two of the show for our class titled “Glued to the Screen: TV Shows, Norms, and Culture,” and it’s intriguing to see a model of the fictional town in real life.

As we cautiously make our way across the icy paths, I observe lots of young kids tugging on clunky sleds, accompanied by their parents. Denmark isn’t a particularly hilly country, but within this park, the topography is great for sledding. It’s a fantastic recreational activity, and to get a taste of the fun the children are having, my flatmates and I take turns trying to slide across the icy paths by getting a running start and coasting down small hills on the bottoms of our sneakers.

Finally, we see the Hermitage Hunting Lodge far in the distance. The sun is perfectly angled and shines directly on the majestic building as if showing us the way to our destination. Originally built in 1734 for the royal family to host banquets and hunting trips, it looks remarkably well preserved. Imposing and grand, its teal rooftop complements the color of the vivid blue sky.

We pause for a brief snack break and enjoy the homemade pizza we prepared the night before. The pizza is piled with thinly sliced potatoes (a new concept for me!), zucchini, onion, mushroom, pepper, and vegan cheese––the perfect portable treat. After we finish, we head back in the direction of the train station. It’s a pleasant, leisurely stroll, and the bright sun filters through the branches of the trees that line the paths we walk on.

We only see one deer on the jaunt. It’s far off in the distance, slightly obscured by the foliage, delicately grazing. Too far away to capture in a photo, I simply take in its presence. It is a deer park, after all, and I’m glad we saw at least one of the creatures responsible for the setting’s namesake.

On our way home, we pick up some fancy vegan pastries at the bakery I’ve come to frequent, called “Naturbageriet.” Nikki and I select a variety of baked goods for the flat to try later, and once home, all of us dig into our tasty haul. It’s a delightful way to end the trip, and I’m appreciative for the outing, company, and special treats.

Our delicious Naturbageriet assortment

Freetown Christiania

“Don’t buy anything there,” quips our flatmate, when we inform her we’re headed out to explore Christiania.

Confused, I probe for clarification. “What do you mean we shouldn’t buy anything?” I query, prompting a chuckle from someone else.

“Well, there’s a lot of weed there,” she informs us. “Buy a souvenir, but don’t bring anything else back!”

We laugh and bid our farewell, stepping outside our apartment and into the streets of Frederiksberg, at once on our way to take the metro to the neighborhood of Christianshavn.

The walk to Christiania from the station is brief. It’s clear that we’ve reached our destination when the vivid blues and greens of a mural covering the side of a wall capture my attention. Fantastical and mesmerizing, the scene features a broad tree populated by delicate fairies, a flaming dragon in the background accompanied by mushroom cap houses dotting the hills. I pull out my phone to snap a picture when two locals call out to me.

“Do you need help?” one shouts from the sidewalk. “The entrance to Christiania is further down the street.” Another man, separate from the other, speaks to me in Danish before switching to English, conveying his willingness to offer directions.

I assure them that I’m in no need of navigational help at the moment, thanking them for their concern. Made sharply aware of my Americanness, I suddenly feel self-conscious of my identity and whereabouts. “It must be obvious that we’re tourists,” I joke to Nikki, as I slip my phone camera back into my pocket.

As we meander toward the entrance of “Freetown Christiania,” we’re confronted by multiple pieces of graffiti art, proudly signaling the presence of marijuana in the neighborhood. Such images are suitably paired with a strong, smoky, herbal aroma that hits my nose with frequency. It doesn’t bother me, but it certainly doesn’t permit me to forget where I am, my surroundings far from the likes of central Copenhagen.

Upon entering Christiania, I immediately feel as if I’m intruding on someone’s private property. Small houses are scattered within the commune, an area that’s open to anyone who wants to stroll through. It feels intensely intimate despite its public locale. A community of about one thousand people who live partially autonomous from the Danish government, they’ve intentionally distanced themselves from the conventional way of life. I can’t help but be intrigued by the mystique of the setting. The fragrance of the fresh, lush greenery contrasts with the neon walls of graffiti art that emit a potent smell reminding me of nail polish. The walls, either glistening from rainwater or the newly applied spray paint showcase artists’ masterpieces competing for space, cartoonish figures fighting for prominence, large bubble letters overlapping.

All of a sudden we see some familiar company. One of the same men who’d offered us directions passes us again within the commune and gives us a nod, acknowledging that we’d followed his guidance and successfully reached our destination. It’s a nice gesture, and comforting to know that someone was kind enough to look out for us.

And I suspect that’s what the residents in Christiania do for each other. Christianites look out for themselves and their neighbors. Signs on concrete walls alert me to the fact that on Pusher Street, taking photographs is not tolerated. Though the area is barren today, usually it’s occupied by stalls engaging in the clandestine business of weed distribution, affairs that locals do not wish to be captured on camera.

I get the sense that privacy is valued by Christiania’s inhabitants. Their home is a popular tourist destination, and I imagine that the notion of respect for the privacy of the residents is one that goes over the heads of many visitors. I doubt it’s pleasant to be a spectacle to the inquisitive eyes of a constant stream of sightseers, and I wonder how the Christianites generally regard the tourists passing through.

Christiania Art Gallery

When I return home, I read that Christiania was established in 1971, when, according to CNN Travel, “a group of hippies, junkies, oddballs and outcasts” created a permanent anarchist commune that refuted state control. Since then, the commune has lived in relative harmony with the surrounding areas of Copenhagen. Yet, in recent years, police raids, tourism, and gentrification threaten the ethos of the commune that originated as a determined statement of rebellion against authoritarian governance. I’m partly to blame, I realize, for this outcome. It’s because of people like me, tourists eager to witness the stunning artwork and mysterious atmosphere of Christiania, that this “hippie paradise” is being tarnished. I don’t regret my visit, but I’m driven to do some self-reflection, coming to terms with my identity as an English-speaking American tourist in Copenhagen.

A Snapshot of Nørrebro

It’s a rainy day. Overcast and cold, too. As a result, there are few people out and about, but somehow that doesn’t damper the lively energy of Nørrebro. As I daintily navigate the pools of water that have accumulated on the sidewalk, I catch a whiff of sautéed garlic that is rapidly overpowered by vehicle exhaust. I pass a shawarma restaurant, then a pizza joint, then a sushi place. Bright graffiti catches my eye, made more vivid by the drizzling rain that soaks it. I gaze into storefronts showcasing eclectic clothing styles that I wish I could browse if only I could enter. Perhaps the most interactive part of my exploration is the playground I encounter. Unlike any I’ve seen at home, its aesthetic is accentuated by graffiti-style spray paint. Easily diverted by the colorful playscape, I inspect the artwork and climb the wooden planks. The installation is playful and eccentric––perhaps best encapsulating these known qualities of Nørrebro.

The area adjoining the playscape– featuring a stone frog, climbing wall, and various other wacky pieces of art

Another feature of the trendy spirit of Nørrebro is conveyed by the storefront of a stylish t-shirt shop, the walls covered in cartoonish figures in an appealing color scheme. Passing by, I pause to stop and examine the outside of the store. I peer in at the t-shirts displayed in the window and realize the colorful graphics on the wall served their purpose well: they caught my attention and drew me in. Except now, ironically, the pandemic prohibits me from going inside.

The t-shirt shop storefront

I loved strolling through the Assistens Cemetery a week ago. I imagine that many of the walkers and runners I saw there are among the same demographic inhabiting the Nørrebro district that I’m touring. I’m fond of how the people here use the cemetery as a gathering place where life is celebrated in the same place that death is mourned, and I equally appreciate their presence and influence in this vibrant neighborhood. I glance at the people who pass me, and while many are indistinguishable from the civilians I’ve seen in central Copenhagen, I notice several individuals who look like myself. Known for its multiculturalism, diversity, left-leaning politics, and acceptance of immigrants, I immediately take a liking to the area and those living in it.

I’m listening to a podcast about Nørrebro as I walk, hearing stories about the neighborhood while I take it in myself. The podcast tells me about the many bikes and cars that traverse The Queen Louise Bridge, a landmark I coincidentally find myself at as the narrator mentions it. As if on cue a group of bikers whizzes by, wheels a blur. I strain to hear the podcast over the humming motors of cars and the gentle chatter that comes in waves as couples brush up against me on the street. A speaker in the podcast criticizes Nørrebro for becoming more tame, more gentrified, more mainstream. And while I take to heart their conviction, it doesn’t curb my enthusiasm as I scope out the area, promising myself that I will soon return.