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Stories about life in Denmark, Travels in Denmark

The Bridges of Denmark

I don’t do a lot of stock market investing, but if I did, I’d want to go back in time and invest in companies that build bridges in Denmark. This country is on a tear when it comes to bridge building. Over the past decade, there have been 5 new major bridges in Copenhagen alone, and at least one new major one is planned.

And because this is Denmark, and people love design, each bridge has its own special look. You can’t just put up a few bridge supports and a deck on top for traffic. You need style, and you need a colorful name.

Consider, for example, the multicolored Kissing Bridge in Copenhagen. It’s not named that because you’re supposed to kiss on the bridge, although you can if you like. It’s named that because it breaks in half on a regular basis to let ships through, and then it’s supposed to come together again like a kiss.

The Kissing Bridge has needed to visit a relationship counselor, however, because there have been constant problems getting it to kiss. It wasn’t quite aligned the way it was supposed to be.

It seems to work now, although it’s rather steep and a difficult ride for bicyclists, which is rather a shame, because it is a bicycle and pedestrian bridge only. There are no cars on it.

Bicycle Snake and Brewing Bridge

The Bicycle Snake and the Brewing Bridge a little further down the harbor are also just for cyclists and walkers, and so is the Little Langebro bridge.

The Little Langebro bridge is currently the newest bridge in town, just a couple of years old. This is a neighborhood I don’t go to often, and I remember coming home from a late night engagement to suddenly find a new bridge in front of me, all lit up and ready to serve.

Whoa! Unexpected bridge. It was like a dream.

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Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

Private-equity pastry and the decline of bodegas: How Denmark is changing


I help out at a flea market sometimes near Copenhagen, a flea market that’s held a few times a year to benefit my daughter’s marching band. We sell things people have sent for recycling – at the local recycling center, you can put things that are still useful in a special room, and then community groups sort through those things and sell them to raise money.

We have one persistent problem: too many shotglasses. Each new week brings dozens of beautiful crystal shotglasses, prized for a lifetime by someone from the older generation, perhaps now the dead generation. These people to used to drink clear snaps before fancy Easter lunches, and or a dark bitter alcohol called Gammel Dansk before breakfast.

People in Denmark don’t do that much any more. They go jogging before breakfast and drink wine for holiday lunches, if they drink anything.

And most young people already have a set of grandpa’s old shotglasses gathering dust somewhere at the back of a cabinet, and they don’t need any more.

So week after week, these lovely little etched crystal glasses line up like fragile soldiers on the storage shelves at the flea market. Nobody needs them, nobody buys them, but we just don’t have the heart to throw them out.

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Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

Danish Design: From spaceship toilets to thieves that steal chairs

When I first visited Denmark, back in my Eurail pass days, I didn’t like it much. Copenhagen was very different in those days: less prosperous, less open, less social.

There were few cafés then, and I had a lot of trouble finding something to eat. I walked and walked and ended up in the coffee shop at the SAS Radisson Hotel, a big 1970s concrete block on Amager.

Anyway, I took only one picture that day, and it was of a toilet at the hotel. It was the most beautifully designed toilet I had ever seen. All round, streamlined corners. It looked like a cross between an egg and a spaceship. I was really impressed. I took a picture.

I didn’t know it then, but I’d just seen my first example of local Danish design.

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Stories about life in Denmark

Danes and Fashion: All the colors of the Danish landscape

I can’t remember exactly what the social occasion was, but when I was fairly new to Copenhagen I met a man who was a refugee from a country in Sub-Saharan Africa. He had escaped his homeland – I also can’t quite remember which country that was – by way of Cairo, Egypt, and ended up in Denmark.

What I do remember is his account of what it was like to come to Copenhagen after living in busy, colorful city like Cairo. He asked another refugee, a guy who’d been here longer, to show him downtown Copenhagen.

The guy drove him to, I don’t know, Gammel Strand on a Tuesday night in February, and there was no one there. All the Danes were home enjoying their hygge, and the streets were dark and empty. My friend got very angry at the other refugee. Said he’d tricked him. Where is the city! This is not the city! he said. But it was.

The same grey sweater
Anyway, I also remember this African refugee’s comments about Danish fashion. He said he had trouble shopping here, because Danish clothes all look alike. He said, Every store you go to, it’s got same grey sweater.

Now, that’s not entirely true. You could also find a navy blue sweater. I’ve even seen green sweaters.

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