Wonderful Copenhagen

Hello my lovelies, I am back at last from a little jaunt to Copenhagen. TL had to go to a conference so I scrounged a lift to see whether the whole of Denmark is like Borgen, The Killing and The Bridge. Well, I’m glad to report that, as far as I’m concerned, it is. I know no Danish, apart from that gleaned during the course of staring, transfixed, at the screen as various grisly murders play out on BBC4. So I can basically say ‘tak’ and ‘brau’, or ‘thanks’ and ‘great’ (and I have a feeling that ‘brau’ might be Swedish anyway). I can also say ‘born’ or ‘children’, as in ‘the children have been abducted and are in mortal peril’, and I think ‘dood’ is ‘dead’, as in, ‘oopsie, don’t trip over that great big pile of dead bodies.’

This meant that every time there was a public announcement at the airport or station, I was convinced it was saying, ‘and the dismembered corpse is over to your left, the dysfunctional female detective will be along shortly and the rumpled yet strangely attractive love interest chappy will let you down in episode 6.’

I was almost disappointed that the weather was much better than the crepuscular half-light and torrential drizzle I’d been led to expect. And shops and restaurants seemed to have lashed out on higher wattage lightbulbs than Sarah Lund, heroine of The Killing, would ever consider necessary. Why enjoy bright lighting and warmth when you can skulk around in deserted, creepy semi-darkness with a teeny-weeny torch dodging psychos, her view seems to be. Luckily it is not shared by the entire population. And also – coming from London, I found this quite shocking – Danish people seem to go around smiling. A lot! For no apparent reason. More startling than the most twisty-turny of plot denouements, people seem actively happy when wandering around the streets going about their daily business.

And who wouldn’t be, living in the small, civilised city of Copenhagen? There are bicycles everywhere, and maybe that sense of autonomy helps to cut down on the commuter stress which seems to afflict Londoners so badly. Hard to look enthusiastic when you are paying through the nose for a train ticket which doesn’t even guarantee you a seat as you battle to get home. How much nicer it must be to cycle on your own bike, at your own pace, in a proper cycle lane. The Danes are so relaxed about cycling that no one wears helmets, and hardly anyone even has a bell. I found this out after I’d wandered into the cycle lanes by accident and cyclists had come up behind me and said ‘ding ding’ to me, in a polite, smiley way.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about all the Danish TV shows is the interiors – murky though they may be, you can just make out the odd interesting lampshade here and there. So in Copenhagen I was on a mission to find some. It was not a difficult mission. In fact, it became quite hard to dodge wonderful lighting designs, as well as quirky kitchenalia, lovely bedding, beautiful home accessories – Denmark seems to be a designer haven. I discovered why on visiting the National Museum and Design Museum. From stark and striking Viking runes onwards, the Danes have had an eye for stylishness. At a time when the British idea of home decor was to slap another layer of mud on our huts and maybe paint our faces blue for a special occasion, the Danes were carving the most intricate and beautiful knick-knacks out of nautilus shells and narwhol tusks. By the time we’d got round to fashioning a pot or two, the Danes were so over all that twiddly embellishment and had begun a journey into minimalism which led them, by the 20th century, to designs so pared down that they still look space-age today. I now find I can add greatly to our enjoyment of The Bridge by shouting out, ‘ that’s an Egg chair by Arne Jacobsen’ at particularly tense moments.

So yes, Copenhagen was just like my favourite Danish thrillers, in that it was surprising, much better than you thought it was going to be at first, it led to unexpected discoveries – and I’m looking forward to the sequel.

Arne Jacobsen's cracking design


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