I’m in Delaware? No, I’m in Denmark!

Caroline Walsh
7 min readDec 9, 2023

To generalize from my one day in Copenhagen and a brief amount of reading, I feel like Denmark loves babies, is super proud of their artisanry, and has a silly, innocent, and lovely sense of humor.

My day started at the National Museum of Denmark, what better way to understand a place than see how it presents its history? Actually, my day started with a gray morning view, leaving me wondering how much caffeine I would require in order to do something with my day. I went down to the hotel breakfast, which was full of self-serving espresso machines and a vast array of breakfast foods and juices. After a cozy breakfast, in which I worked on my dissertation, (I am working…despite what the rest of this article says…) I was off to the downtown area, backpack ready, to see if I would spend the day away or return to the hotel for more work and maybe a nap.

I started at the museum and learned that despite Denmark’s Viking history and hardiness, the museum was not focused on conquests, wars, strengths, or any victimhood. How un-American. They did present tons of artifacts. TONS of artifacts. They presented the artifacts with an analysis of the intricacies of those artifacts.

One display discussed roof shingle design during the middle ages and how churches went from being built with wood to stone. They had many examples of the shingles of the different periods. Over the walk from pre-history to modern history, there was little discussion on the impact of becoming a Christian nation in the Middle Ages, however, with over 10 wooden Jesus’s on the cross, they touched on how Jesus Christ was presented on cross to evoke empathy for others’ pain. No other emotion or hardship from that period was described.

They also had hundreds of gold rings and went in depth about how artisans had to learn gold and silver upon its introduction to the region, after they had already become masters of bronze. Apparently, they preferred their locally crafted gold jewelry over that from Rome. I don’t know if I’m getting this all exactly right, because I’m not a details person, but the overarching theme of the museum and their history was, “Sure, we had some kickass explorers, but have you seen the hundreds year-old beautifully decorated pot? Or these shields that local citizens found in the field a couple years ago? Did you know that shield was not likely used in battle, but was more of a ritual piece about the sun?”

The Sun Chariot

Next on my agenda was lunch. I wandered through their shopping area and browsed restaurants and cafes that were a few steps down, at a lower level, than the main cobble stone road. After circling, I decided on one with a similar menu to the others: sandwiches, smorrebrod, and sometimes nachos. It was cozy, had muted lighting from being slightly below the ground. I ordered an open face salmon sandwich on rye, with cream cheese, greens, and capers. A couple sat next to me, they were in their 60s or 70s and the woman had fabulous dark framed glasses.

Halfway through eating, she looks over and asks, “Where did you get your shoes?” A nice chat ensued and before long I was asked if I wanted to go see the “Christmas Tables” with them. I didn’t know what that was, so I said sure, and off we went. Earlier, I read that Denmark has the highest level of trust between its people, government, and communities, so when she locked arms with her husband, and then me on our walk over, I enjoyed the warmth and company. Pier and Brea? I would have had to ask for spelling to get it exact, but those interpretations seemed good enough for them.

The Royal Christmas Table display was done every year and this was its 60th year of designers and artists creating the most fabulous table displays using Royal Copenhagen plates and dishes. It was fabulous with napkin rings decorated with small pine twigs and mistletoe.

Christmas tables (author photo)

“Have you had grogg?” I hadn’t. After viewing some of the finest dishes I had ever witnessed and making sure not to knock into any displays, it was off to have hot wine in a little pub, again, just a few steps down from the road. On the way, a little baby wrapped up was being carried and Pier stopped to say to the mother how cute it was. Prams and strollers were not quite as prevalent as bikes, but they were clearly built for winter outings, with there being clear places dedicated as stroller parking lots outside of shops.

Walking into the pub and pushing the gold-rimmed door to the pub open, the room was filled with the delicious scent of wine…and rum, I later learned. We sat at a round table with others who were already there and ordered a wine glass of their steaming grogg, with raisins and almonds fallen to the bottom. The glass was hot to the touch and warmed your entire torso upon sipping. An hour or so of chatting and laughing, with their banter between themselves and few Swedes about who spoke more clearly, I said my thanks with so much gratitude for a lovely afternoon and was off to a spa appointment I had booked that morning.

The Aire Spa was not a Copenhagen-local place/ I later learned that it was a small chain of spas with Roman-like design and located in New York, London, and Barcelona, among others locations. It was in the “basement” of a hotel. However, unlike my previous basement spa experiences, such as the one located in a probable old Colorado brothel, I felt confident with this spa evening that I would not be taken.

Steps down were much more reassuring than the Indian Hot Springs (Author photo)

The spa was co-ed and with bathing suits, one of which I threw in my outer suitcase pocket last minute before my departure, remembering it might be nice to take a dip, should one of my hotels have a pool or hot tub. The Aire seemed to be marketed for couples, with the front desk asking if I was with anyone. When I responded that I wasn’t, the woman said, “Oh good for you, you can relax and focus on yourself without having to think about what to say.” Not only did she validate my solo experience at the spa, but also my life-long experience as an introvert.

It was great. Hot baths, cold punges, a steam room where I could hardly see the benches in front of me, and a floating salt pool with a huge mound of exfoliating salt. I was definitely treating myself, of course in preparation for the conference and workshop I was actually here for. What better way to adjust to a new time zone and long travel across the Atlantic?

Airespa Copenhagen

I had taken the metro over to the spa, as suggested by Pier, and I chose a bicycle ride back to the hotel. I had downloaded the app to take a bike into the city to the museum that morning, but my wifi wasn’t connecting well and I couldn’t get the app the connect. I settled for a taxi, which was $30. After my luxurious spa experience, I thought a bike was the financially responsible thing to do. In the cold night, I found the bike named the “Underdog” and connected easily, unlocking the wheels and ready for my zero gear ride back to the hotel just outside town. The bike lanes were mostly empty, with only a few people passing me on their bikes that clearly had a little more stability and gear underneath them. There were a few times during the ride that I was definitely on the wrong side, unsure how to navigate to where I needed to go otherwise, but overall, it was easy. A bit of a ride, but was not the hour and a half that the taxi driver joked it would take to get to town via bike.

“It’s easy, just take a bike, it’s about an hour and a half.”

“Ok,” I replied. That’s a little long, I thought, but some brisk exercise would be ok.

“I’m joking! It’s 20–30 minutes on bike. One and a half hours and you would be in Germany!”

I locked up the Underdog outside of the hotel. My fingertips were chilled and my face a little pink from the cold, but otherwise, I was warm from the grogg and the spa and ready to sleep.

What was next? I’ll leave the blinds open so that the sun wakes me up. Eight am arrived with very little change in the lighting between day and night. The gray morning would require two espressos to get going in the cloudy cold, but a little excitement for what Saturday would bring, with plans to go to the Tivoli Gardens, Happiness Museum, and just see what explorations might be left.

Happiness Museum…hopefully it doesn’t make me tear up like their post did.

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Caroline Walsh

Former CIA Analyst and Coastie. PhD Student. Author of Fairly Smooth Operator: My life occasionally at the tip of the spear, available now!