It’s on the opposite side of the earth from Sydney, the language spoken is very different, and it’s much colder in autumn. But Copenhagen is an amazingly liveable city. We felt surprisingly comfortable there, and were impressed by this city during our brief visit.
There were 18,000 doctors visiting the city for a cancer conference, so we were lucky to find reasonably priced accommodation. Some of the medicos stayed in Sweden and commuted by car across the bridge joining the two countries. Hotel Nora, recommended by Trip Adviser, was comfy and relaxed. Admittedly, my visit was short, but here are some first impressions of the city and its people:
The city is flat and cyclists fly along the streets along dedicated bike paths, sharing the space with pedestrians and cars. Helmets are not prescribed by law. There are two bicycles to every person in the city. Cars are fewer and smaller than in other cities. As a result, noise and carbon pollution are much less. Motorists must give way to cyclists, and the latter to pedestrians, in the final analysis. Only one taxi driver felt that motorists were unfairly treated by the laws.
A Caring City
We saw evidence of small refugee children being expertly cared for by middle-aged Danish women, almost certainly on a volunteer basis. The Danish babies were well looked after too, as evidenced in the photo above.
Aesthetically pleasing. There’s a seamless mingling of old and new, with evidence of expert architectural input at work down through the centuries. I thought of our Sydney Opera House, an iconic building that had been designed by the Danish architect Jorn Utzon. And I thought about how, as a young nation, we hadn’t been quite ready to benefit fully from Utzon’s expertise for the interior of the building.
Food and Entertainment
We had lunch in a Copenhagen cafe, and ordered a traditional open rye sandwich called Smorrebrod, with cream sauce and seafood. Our friendly Ethiopian taxi driver had told us that the Danes only enjoy one outing per week; he was still missing the dance/music culture of his native homeland, thirty years on. It made me wonder about the multicultural system in Denmark by comparison with the one that we have here in Australia.
They seem happier than the citizens in many other countries. This reminded me of my sister’s thoughts on the people of Bhutan. In Buddhist Bhutan Gross National Happiness (GNH) is used as a measure instead of gross domestic product (GDP). I wondered if Denmark had been influenced by this idea. At the same time, the work ethic in Denmark is very strong, and citizens are proud and patriotic. This was evident at a glance.
Many of the drivers we met were from Ethiopia and other African countries. They were able to discuss cultural differences in a sophisticated manner, indicating their easy assimilation into the society. The only problem for one of them was not being able to fall asleep easily in summer, when the sun is still up until 10 o’clock at night.
The Royal Family
“We love her,” people said when questioned about Princess Mary, originally from Australia. “She learnt the language so quickly and adapted to our ways”. She also gave birth to four children, heirs to the Danish throne.