This summer has been an exceptional one in Scandinavia. On most days, temperature soared in the high twenties, the sun beamed unrestrained from any passing clouds, and the blue waters of the Baltic Sea shimmered underneath. On days like these, Danes, declared the happiest people in the world, pour out on the Strøget, the city’s pedestrian street.
Last week, on one such sunny afternoon, I decided to take a stroll on the Strøget. Denmark had just recently allowed people from southern Sweden in, and I didn’t want to let go of the opportunity to visit one of my favourite cities in the world.
Strøget runs from the town centre Rådhuspladsen through the shopping thoroughfare of Copenhagen to Nyhavn. Nyhavn is perhaps the most recognisable neighbourhood in all of Denmark. It is marked by old pastel-coloured buildings and a waterfront, where Danes and tourists sit in open-air cafés eating smørrebrød sandwiches. There was a mild cheer in the air, and artists occupied corners of this neighbourhood street, punctuating it with their flair.
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I sat at a waterfront café, sipping coffee, breathing the air infused with the smell of the sea, listening to the songs from the street singer, and watching expensive yachts bobbing up and down in the Öresund Straight. At this moment, everything looked fine. Although just for a few hours, we all seemed to have collectively dropped the fear and decided that things are normal. I relished this semblance of normalcy with each sip of coffee. I left the festivity of Nyhavn behind me as I walked to yet another favourite spot of mine in Copenhagen—Tivoli.
To the outsiders, Tivoli may seem like just another amusement park. To the locals, it means much more. Tivoli threw its gates open in 1841, when a Dane, Georg Carstensen, inspired by all the amusement parks that he had seen abroad, sought the Danish king's permission to open one in Copenhagen. Such was its success that even Walt Disney took inspiration from Tivoli and tried to replicate Tivoli’s mood and atmosphere for his parks.
In normal times, I would have taken a few rides, and relished the artificially generated thrill. But today I decided to stay on the ground and watch others hop into their rides. On the bench where I sat, next to me sat a man eating ice cream. He was perhaps in his late fifties. He saw me observing him, and smiled back.
“I have been doing this for the past 40 years,” he said. “Eating ice cream here every summer.” Not everyone comes to Tivoli to take the rides. I decided to give him company and got myself an ice cream as well. There we sat, a safe two metres apart, eating ice creams at Tivoli on this warm, sunny afternoon.