Copenhagen, Denmark: Happy Happy Joy Joy


I’m not sure if you have heard of the World Happiness Report, but Denmark has been the world’s happiest country for three years running. That is, until we arrived. No, no, no. It wasn’t because of us. The Norwegians knocked the Danes out of the top spot and into second place. It might have had something to do with “our fjords are better than your fjords.” Although, I’m not even sure if Denmark has fjords. Kind of an unfair criterion if you ask me. If I were full-Danish (I’m only a quarter), I’d insist that mermaids figure into the scoring next year.

Bucket 1 of 3 going through security at LAX. Not a happy thing.

What is happiness anyway and how can one possibly measure it? Is there a grin-o-meter? A national chuckle registry? Is a sample population of people from each country sent to a World Happiness certified phlebotomist so their blood can be analyzed for happiness levels? Is it like cholesterol? Is there good and bad? Do both count? One person’s happiness isn’t necessarily another person’s happiness. I really don’t get how you measure such a thing.

We are happily on the road again after a little longer stint in the States than anticipated. We set our sights on Eastern Europe and bought plane tickets to Copenhagen. Trust me. It makes sense. Think cheap airfare. Copenhagen is just a short stop on our way to Italy where we plan to spend some time before heading off to Albania.

Walking along the ocean with friends in LA during our 12hr layover

Happy Danes getting their Danish danish.

Long plane rides, long layovers and air travel in general do not make me happy. But, seeing friends during a long layover and getting to a new and unexplored (by us) country make me very happy. Having one bag lost by the airline did not make us happy, but having it found, and schlepped up the six flights of stairs the next morning by an airport employee made us very happy. Net positive on the happiness.

We had two full days to walk around Copenhagen, so we set out to see what makes the Danes so darn happy. First stop, a bakery for real Danish danish and a nice big cafe latte to help calibrate our circadian rhythm clocks. Ok, this is happy stuff. We thought the French knew what they were doing when it came to pastry, but the Danes sure give them a run for the Krone.

Inside the Round Tower

These are the guys who tried to run us over by the way

Next stop, the center of the city for some random walking. We came across the Round Tower and naturally had to scale it. From the top there is a great view of the city and the inside has interesting displays and a modern art exhibit. We continued our random walking and popped into a church and a few plazas. Along the way we were nearly run over by the Royal Guard Marching Band playing the Liberty Bell March on the way back to their barracks. How does one not conjure up a Monty Python skit in their head when hearing that? That’s the kind of stuff that makes me happy… and thirsty.

We found a pub on a busy plaza and passed a few hardy souls sitting outside sipping on beers as we made our way inside. The bartender was a friendly fellow, and as he poured our pints of Tuborg, he couldn’t help but go on and on about how fabulous the weather was. He handed us the pints and we noticed that absolutely no one was sitting inside. We felt obligated to go sit outside in the not-quite-fifty-degrees-F weather. Thankfully, someone abandoned a table under a heater, and blankets were provided. That made us happy.

After we slaked our thirst, had our fill of people watching, and enough of the fabulous weather, our internal clocks said it was time to grab something to eat and head back to our room. Jet lag does not make me happy. We crashed early and woke up way too early. One or two more days should have us on schedule.

Pat enjoying the ‘fabulous’ weather and a nice cold Tuborg beer. Note the heater over his head and the blanket under his bum.

Another day, another danish pastry for breakfast then a hop onto bus 5A for more walking around town. It was another ‘fabulous’ day; not warm, but sunny at times, though windy. Since the Royal Guard Marching Band tried to run us over the previous day, we thought we’d go watch the changing of the guard at the palace.

Amelienborg Palace Square with the Marble Church behind

A statue in one of the plazas we randomly walked through

On our round-about way to the palace square, we walked by Rosenborg Castle, through the King’s Garden, and took a look inside the Marble Church. We arrived at Amelienborg Palace Square for the changing of the guard a little early and had no idea where to best situate ourselves. We went to the center of the plaza, south-southeast corner (port quarter of the horse statue). Turns out, that was perfect. The changing of the guard was quite formal, as you would expect, but watching the security guards trying to keep order in the crowd was hilarious.

The rules were clear, and simple, and conveyed by the security guards pointing at a line of dark bricks in the pavement and motioning to the crowd to ‘stay behind.’  Two tiny, obviously not Danish, women could not figure this out, or chose not to obey, and were repeatedly grasped by the shoulders and placed behind the line by one of the big security guards. He was not happy. The changing of the guard continued. The climax of it all was a stare-down between two sets of guards. Some spectators trailed off after a minute, others after two or three minutes. We remained for about five minutes when absolutely nothing happened, and we too left. I wonder what happened and when. Did the last spectator win a prize? Prizes are happy things. I wouldn’t put it past the Danes to have a prize.

Rosenborg Castle

Changing of the guards was a dehydrating experience, so we strolled along the canal and crossed over into Christianshavn. Christianshavn is sort of a hippie, artsy area. There was an old warehouse that was converted into a street food market. Duck. Fat. Fries. Oh my… and beer of course. We snacked and sipped while watching the people, and letting a rain squall pass.

Our dollar didn’t go very far in Denmark, so on our way back to our Penthouse Airbnb room (or, 5th floor, attic, walk-up with the world’s tiniest bathroom… and I mean tiny, remember we lived on a boat and know what tiny is), we picked up a couple of sandwiches and two airline-sized bottles of Aqvavit. We couldn’t very well leave Denmark without tasting the national liquor after all, now could we? It was pleasantly herbal and dangerously strong, weighing in at 90 proof. It made us happy and a bit sleepy. C’mon you World Happiness certified phlebotomist, take my blood now!

Airline-sized bottles of Akvavit

We did our best to find the fountain of happiness in Copenhagen by sampling the food and drink, watching the people, and taking in the architecture and scenery. I still don’t know how to measure happiness, but visiting Copenhagen for a couple of days en route to Eastern Europe made us happy… happy as Norwegians as it turns out.

Hike, Drink, Live, Laugh

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2 thoughts on “Copenhagen, Denmark: Happy Happy Joy Joy

  1. I was there many years ago boarding our cruise ship to see all the Scandinavian capitols and we enjoyed Copenhagen as well and when we came back there we boarded the train south to Amsterdam to visit friends. I really wanted to go over there especially Sweden because your Uncle Herb Olson was born in that country. His family came over to the U,S, when Aunt Bobbie was 13, father was 11 and Aunt Peggy was 10. Did you remember any of that Carrie? Unfortunately stopovers off of cruise ships don’t last long enough to see a lot of the country. DJ

    • Hi DJ! I do remember Uncle Herb, but I did not recall that he was born in Sweden. I have often wondered how people taking cruises got to really see much. When we lived on the boat, we saw many cruise ships come into and go out of various ports. It never seemed like there was more than half a day to explore.

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