Dispatch: Exploring Scandinavia

Astonishingly, I’ve already passed the halfway point of my Block Club residency in Copenhagen. My perception of time during this trip has been both incredibly slow and incredibly fast, with so much new information, fun experiences and mental stimulation being packed into each day that they can seem to last a week, yet when reflecting back, the string of successive days seems to have absolutely flown by even more swiftly than usual.

As I’ve gotten nicely acclimated to regular life in Copenhagen, I’ve also begun to venture a tiny bit outside of the city limits by train to see what greater Denmark and the neighboring areas have to offer. During my first three weeks here, I have been lucky enough to take two short little weekend trips to nearby areas and am now beginning to get a better sense for this beautiful part of the world through a wider lens than just the one offered by this idyllic city.

Sweden

My first mini-travel experience during my residency was to visit friends in Lund, Sweden. I took the train from Copenhagen, across the impressive Øresund Bridge that traverses the narrow sound separating Denmark from southwestern Sweden, and arrived in less than an hour. Lund is a beautiful college town, home to a major university and all the typical campus scenes that come with it. I was not surprised to find the same amazing bicycle culture on this side of the Øresund, and was actually amused that while driving in my friends’ car, they were constantly wanting to show me parts of the city and then remembering that they were inaccessible in an automobile and could only be visited by bike.

Photo: Rooftop view of Lund with Malmö and even the Øresund Bridge visible on the horizon

The next day I took the train just a few dozen kilometers back in the direction I had come from to see the beautiful and vibrant city of Malmö. As the third largest city in Sweden and just across the water from Copenhagen, Malmö shares many of the same metropolitan charms as its Danish sister city, just a little quieter. By happy coincidence, my day in Malmö happened to be a beautiful, hot, sunny day—definitely the nicest weather I’ve experienced so far during my residency. I walked for miles through Malmö’s beautiful parks, bustling shopping centers (where I spotted some Block Club fam Oxford Pennants for sale in a posh retail boutique) and even made it out to the coast for a sauna out on the sea. This city is gorgeous, full of old European details like huge squares, canals, lush parks and beautiful fountains or bronze statues at every roundabout, yet juxtaposed with some striking modern architecture in much of the same way that Copenhagen is.

North Zealand

My second adventure beyond Copenhagen proper took me up the coast of Eastern Denmark to the area of Helsingør. While this is also relatively close to Copenhagen and a quick train ride, I had quite a few places I really wanted to visit in this area, so I stayed in a quaint and gorgeous little seaside town called Snekkersten (part of what’s sometimes referred to as the Danish Riveria) to stretch the visit out for the whole weekend. I brought my bicycle with me on the train for this trip and from my homebase in Snekkersten I was just a short bike ride from the amazing Louisiana Museum of Modern Art to the south, and the town of Helsingør and its famous Kronborg (Elsinore) castle to the north.

Louisiana was one of the most impressive and beautiful galleries I’ve ever been to, with its gardens on the sea and the glass-enclosed hallways that bring visitors right through them to different wings of the museum. There is a definite intersection here between nature, art, architecture and design at every corner of this sprawling complex. At another museum I had visited in Copenhagen, I learned about the connection between Japanese and Danish design and nowhere have I seen that concept displayed more profoundly than in the architecture and grounds of the Louisiana, which almost resemble a Zen garden or Shinto shrine. I spent an incredible day here taking in their extensive exhibitions, walking the grounds and meditating on the amazing work I had seen and the thoughts it inspired.

Up north in the more densely populated city of Hesingør, I found a lot of the same historical beauty, modern architecture, and Danish friendliness that I have grown so fond of in Copenhagen (and unfortunately the same gray, rainy weather I’ve grown accustomed to). I spent the majority of my time here touring Kronborg, a 16th-century renaissance castle and the setting for Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” For an American who has been tied to North America for his whole life, simply being around something so old was a transformational experience. There was so much history to learn about and so much beauty to behold while walking the halls of this gorgeous and inspiring ancient place.

I am now happy to report with some authority that Copenhagen is not an anomalous bastion of good design, culture and beauty, but more of a shining jewel in the crown of Scandinavia where all of these things exist in high concentrations.