When I first arrived in Scandinavia, I didn’t know what to think. Northern Europe meant, I don’t know, skiing and saying “Jah!” enthusiastically after agreeing to chow down on encased meats. It also meant cold weather, something I definitely wasn’t looking forward to after a hot St. Louis summer. I’ve been to Southern Europe, France, and England, and I’ve been pretty satisfied, enough so that I plan on studying abroad somewhere in there for a year.
Then I spent two days in Copenhagen, followed by another day two weeks later, and I fell in love with the little city! It was everything I loved about the charming corners of France and Italy–quaint houses, colorful flowers, kind and smiling citizens–with everything those countries were missing–a roaring economy, smiling citizens with perfect English, a safe-haven feeling.
I have never felt safer abroad in my entire life. Usual there’s some hesitation, even on a small side street in rural Montecatini, Tuscany. But in Copenhagen, Denmark, everything felt A-OK. All the bikes on the street were unlocked, and no one was clutching a fanny pack hidden underneath their trench coat and chain-linked to their thigh bone. Even walking around late at night in Christiania, Denmark’s Free State, was easy breezy. Christiania is an old military base turned hippy haven in Copenhagen. The small village looked post-apocalyptic with debris and graffiti everywhere, but the citizens of Christiania were, after all, raised in a government structure. As my brother said, “This what anarchy looks like when the anarchists chose to be here.”
I also went to the Tivoli, the Danish theme park that inspired Walt Disney to create Disney World. It was like Kiddie Land, but better, and maybe even safer. There was soft-serve custard and jazz music everywhere, so save for the Krone, and I might as well have been in the good ol’ USA.
So Copenhagen was just my initiation into the beautiful world of sparkling water, viking ship tattoos, and overly friendly Europeans that I mistook for Americans every single time (seriously, their accents are impeccable). Throughout my whole trip, being a young person, I really wondered: “What would it have been like to grow up in a place like this? To only know other people that have grown up in a place like this?” From Copenhagen, I could see that I would’ve grown up a) riding my bike and b) not knowing what a bike lock was, but there was more to it; even in Denmark, I was starting to get the sense that the Baltic (and Russia!) had a few life lessons and lifestyle pointers that the rest of Europe had yet to offer me–a more balanced approach than the Italians, more laissez-faire than the French. A more Julia-kind of town.