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Fairytales of the North

Copenhagen is about waterside setting, evocative history and cutting-edge design dens. Read on to know the fact file about this picturesque city which seems no less than a fairy tale.

india Updated: Sep 29, 2010 01:23 IST
Geetika Jain

The statue of The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen’s harbour was tiny, but it evoked a rush of memories of growing up in India, reading fairy tales from an illustrated Hans Christian Andersen book. The Little Mermaid’s tale, along with Thumbelina, The Princess and The Pea, The Snow Queen and a host of others, had captured my imagination. This was as good a pilgrimage spot; paying homage to a truly influential writer came easily.

Copenhagen, a charming, prosperous city basking in a harbour with masts of ships framing its picturesque gabled homes, seemed no less a fairytale. The Danes are athletic, adventuresome, and deemed to be the tallest people in the world. They have a lot to be proud of; their capital is one of the greenest cities on the planet, and it aims to become carbon neutral by 2025. The Danes don’t just host world summits on the environment; they step up and make a difference — a lucrative sum of money is being paid to the Guyanese as an encouragement to not fell their rain forests. Their capital city has a good sprinkling of monuments, museums, restaurants and nightclubs, and can be easily negotiated on foot. They are forward thinking, multi-lingual folks with great attitude; “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” To be Danish is to cherish the concept of hygge, or cosiness. “Det var hyggeligt” is often the compliment paid to hosts after a dinner party.

Cutting-edge design
In the past centuries, the Danes have shown their prowess at exploration, they’ve been skilled seafarers and traders. “We were more boat craftsmen and anti-pirate security for our traders than the pummelling, plundering Vikings the world imagines” said Hans True, a local Historian. Today, they are mainly proud of Danish cutting-edge design. Arne Jacobson’s architecture, furniture and objects are renowned over the world. Finn Juhl and Ida David are also luminaries in the world of design. In the central City area, design shops such as Illums Bolighus, Hay, Georg Jensen, Casa and the Danish design Centre are some of the hallowed shrines of innovative household décor.

Stroget
Although Stroget is the main pedestrian street that meanders across the heart of Copenhagen, I found exploring the quieter side-streets much more interesting. Ved Stranden along the canal is by far the most picturesque. This is the springing-off point for canal tours, where you sail into the hidden waterways that surround the city. Laederstraede has a pick of eclectic restaurants and just north of Stroget, Pilestraede and Gammel plunge you into the central area, Indre by’s local charm. I joined some local friends one evening in a cobbled square packed with cafés, where we huddle around a table laden with bottles of beer and smorrebrod, small, open sandwiches piled high with delectables such as sliced salmon, egg salad and avocado mash. We talked late into the night with the gas lamps casting a mellow glow, about the Dutch East India Company’s early arrival on the South Eastern shores and more. It felt good to experience some of that special Danish cosiness, hygge.

Face File

Stay at: First Hotel Skt Petri (Krystalgade 22) +45 33 45 9100

Visit: The Louisiana Art Gallery

Eat: Smorrebrod- A selection of open faced sandwiches

Lunch At: The Royal Café between Illums Bolighus and Georg Jensen stores

Dine At: Noma (Strandgade 93 in Christianshavn)

Read:Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Hoeg

Change in name: Copenhagen carries its history in its name. The original Danish name meant “merchants’ harbour”. The popular name Copenhagen is a result of German translations

Landmark The Little Mermaid statue is Copenhagen’s most famous landmark. In 1837, Danish author Hans Christian Andersen published a fairytale about a little mermaid. About 70 years later, a Danish brewer attended the “Little Mermaid” ballet and commissioned the waterfront statue

Environment Friendly: Copenhagen has repeatedly been recognised as one of the cities with the best quality of life. It is also considered one of the world’s most environment friendly cities. The water in the inner harbour is so clean that one can swim in it, and 36 per cent of all citizens commute to work by bicycle. Every day, they cycle a total of 1.2 million km