What began to win me over to Copenhagen was the people. The Danes are the happiest people in the world (seriously) and this makes the city a pleasant place to visit.
I began to see this on my Segway tour, which gave me a good overview of the old portions of the city.
Next door to the Segway place is the super-cool Downtown Copenhagen Hostel. Now, I normally don’t talk about or even think about youth hostels that much. I felt I’d pretty much aged out of them by the time I took my first trip to Europe at age 27. But this place is just really groovy. The ground floor is a large, extremely welcoming tavern, with lawn chairs lining the street and a giant bed for lounging on in one corner. If I was twenty-two, I’d totally stay here.
Anyway, back to the Segway tour. Our guide was a charming Estonian grad student and he guided us through many of the most important landmarks of Denmark’s capital city. Everywhere we went I thought more and more about happy Danes. At the Royal Palace complex we learned about how Queen Margrethe is famous for her smoking out in the plaza, and how Crown Princess Mary was an avid jogger who had coffee in the same little coffee shop most mornings. You know, just out in public like a person.
But that was just the window dressing. Coming from a country where the government is so often seen as the enemy, it was once again a pleasure to see the benefits of living in a place where the government considered it’s role was to make the lives of the citizens better.
A few years ago, a large survey found the average health level of the Copenhageners to be not at all optimal. The government began an ambitious program to encourage health and fitness. You see evidence of this everywhere you look.
Check this out. It’s trampolines ON THE SIDEWALK. How fantastic is that?
[Sorry I don’t have my own photo here; not easy to get the shot when you’re whizzing by on a Segway.]
I think this emphasis on health contributes to the Danish happiness factor. Look at these bicycles:
Forty percent of Copenhageners commute by bicycle. As in Stockholm, the bicycle lanes are raised, smooth, ubiquitous, and separate from car and pedestrian lanes. (Also, oddly, hardly anyone wears helmets.) With all that aerobic exercise comes a steady endorphin flow that I’m sure helps everyone’s mood.
Here’s another reason I think the Danes are so flippin’ happy. Check out the Rosenberg Castle Gardens:
This is about 4:00 p.m. On a normal, sunny, weekday. It’s not a holiday, it’s just a summer Tuesday.
Every time I come to Europe I am reminded about how the people here have a much better idea about the importance of life over work.
If you think this means Denmark is a country of shiftless, lazy people, check again. It has one of the strongest economies in Europe.
The City of Copenhagen has a plan to be Carbon-Neutral within a few years.
I never saw litter on the streets anywhere I went in the city.
The tour was so successful even the brutally cliche visit to the stupid Little Mermaid statue couldn’t lower my mood. For long.
Coming next: More Danish Delights!