I went to Copenhagen with my childhood friend. We grew up reading fairy tales together, so it seemed fitting that we should travel to the home of Hans Christian Anderson together. On this score, Copenhagen did not disappoint. However, we found that it was the city’s undeniable modernity that truly stole our hearts.
We arrived late at night to find snow falling and Copenhagen looking every inch a fairy tale. Naturally many of the following days were spent investigating the city’s storybook history. We visited the small and lovely statue of The Little Mermaid, and took a short and picturesque train ride to the town of Odense, the birthplace of Hans Christian Anderson. The house in which he was born has since been converted into a museum. Even here, there is a wonderful clash between the old and new. The upper level of the house is full to the brim with original manuscripts, letters and artworks while downstairs contains a transfixing Little Mermaid inspired light installation. From there, you can follow the Hans Christian Anderson sized footsteps through the town to the wonderfully untouched house he grew up in. A few days later, in our quest to follow Hans Christian Anderson from cradle to grave, we spent an afternoon wandering through Assistens Cemetery, snacking on freshly baked bread in search of his grave, which we found to be covered in letters and trinkets from admirers. However, the pull of the modern world outside the graveyard was difficult to resist. The historic cemetery is located in Noboro, which is filled with boutiques, bars and café’s full to the brim was procrastinating students.
The merging of old and new was most prevalent when we traveled to North-Western Zealand. Like Odense, it was a short train trip from the center of Copenhagen and was just as compelling. Our first stop was Hamlet’s castle, which was everything we imagined it would be. Vast and imposing but with huge windows looking out over the violent North Sea, we couldn’t help but feel that the ghost of Hamlet’s father was lurking just out sight. Feeling like time travellers, we then set off for the Louisiana Art Gallery, which is about a ten-minute train ride away from the castle and feels like the middle of nowhere. In the absence of an Internet connection and any sort of visible signage we followed some very well dressed hipsters down a path through, what I can only describe as the woods. Then, like an apparition, the Louisiana Gallery appeared. The mysticism of the gallery didn’t end there. Once inside, we felt bizarrely stripped of any ability to make choices for ourselves. We were pulled through the gallery by some kind of invisible force, one minute looking at a fascinating series of photographs of the Lords Resistance Army in the African jungle. The next minute, we were pouring over everything from Danish abstract artists and American pop art. Then, we very suddenly found ourselves outside wandering through sculptures perched on the side of cliffs overlooking the endless sea.
By the end of our trip, we were convinced that there is magic in Denmark. The magic that exists in fairy tales, and the magic that comes from the magnetic pull of modernity and creativity.