It’s been more than a year since I travelled anywhere outside Sweden, but, finally, last week, I did. It wasn’t a long journey, nor was it new to me. It was a day trip to Copenhagen. It is a city that I keep going back to since I first visited it in 2006.
It is normal to get bored of seeing the same cities repeatedly. You’d have explored them at length, checked all the tourist hangouts, tasted all that these cities have to offer. However, a few places grow on you, their charm rarely fades. I would count Copenhagen as one of those cities for me. Despite being the capital of Denmark, it
retains a certain cosiness about it — a little prettiness that never fades away.
I last travelled to Copenhagen a year back. It felt empty; almost soulless — without its people lining up outside Tivoli and without the tourists taking selfies along the Nyhavn. It was perhaps the first time that I disliked being in this city and that made me realise how much of an empty shell a city is without its people.The irrepressibility of the disordered crowd on the street, the orphan notes of a street musician’s guitar, the tinkle of the bells from the fast-crossing bicycles, the relaxed vibes of the local cafes — they all make Copenhagen, and without them, the city felt alien.
This time, I came to Copenhagen with hesitation. Not because I was afraid of mingling with the crowd given that the pandemic is still rampant, but out of fear of finding it empty again. The moment I stepped out on Copenhagen Central Station though, my reservations melted. The station, deserted when I last visited, was back to its busy self. Just outside the station is Tivoli. Calling it an amusement park would be an understatement, for it is more than that for the Danes. It first opened in 1843 and it would not be an exaggeration to say that almost every Dane has been to it. Despite it being a weekday (which I had carefully chosen to avoid the weekend rush), the park was teeming and the queue to get into it snaked till the street corner. If I had any doubt about the city coming back to its whole self again, it vanished when I saw this crowd lining up.
I made a mental note of visiting the park later when the crowd had hopefully thinned and walked further to yet another of my favourite spots — Stroget, the walking street of Copenhagen. Stroget is a narrow corridor, a couple of kilometres long, flanked on both sides by some of the most famous shops and malls of the country. As I walked through it, I noticed one difference in the makeup of the crowd that occupied it. Earlier, I would find more tourists and fewer locals on this popular street, however, now the street was buzzing with the locals. “That’s because we don’t have anywhere else to go this summer,” the barista (at my favourite coffee shop in the city) informed me while brewing my latte, “every summer Danes travel to Greece or Spain or somewhere exotic. This year they made no plans and stayed in the city.”
I strolled to the end of the street leading up to the colourful buildings at Nyhavn that overlook the waters of Oresund. There was no place to sit at the cafes here. They all were brimming with people. So I walked over the Kissing Bridge to the other side of the water, where a temporary food court had come up. It was a bright sunny day, and several small boats punctuated the dark blue water below. I found myself some street food and settled on a spot along the canal.
I caught myself smiling. Though it was a day trip, I had managed to come to the city that I have always loved. I was surrounded by people, there was cheer in the crowd, and music hung in the air. I realised how much I love travelling and what the year of staying home had kept from me. But now once again, I am back on the road.