Eugene Weekly : Coverstory : 10.8.2009

Winter Getaways

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Cold and Cozy Copenhagen The land of the eco-friendly Christmas

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Pearls of Paradise Hawaiian Islands are an ecological paradox


Cold and Cozy Copenhagen
The land of the eco-friendly Christmas
by Camilla Mortensen

Crab fishing in Rørvig harbor. Camilla Mortensen

There’s been a lot of kerfuffle over Copenhagen recently — from Obama’s trip to lobby for bringing the Olympics to Chicago, to December’s upcoming climate conference that seeks to create a new climate protocol — but aside from a tendency to confuse the Danish (Denmark) with the Dutch (Netherlands) and a strong association with pastries, the average Eugenean probably doesn’t know much about this particular Scandinavian city. And most people certainly don’t know why in the world one might want to go the freezing north this time of year, when we’ve got plenty of cold weather of our own right here.

If you’ve ever looked into a trip to Europe, you know that flights don’t come cheap, but if you’re willing to wear a winter coat, ticket prices get reasonable in the fall lull between warm summer days and Christmas vacation. Besides, the Danes take Christmas seriously, and preparations start early. A mid-November trip to Copenhagen gets you there just in time for the Christmas season, including the not-to-be-missed Christmas in Tivoli, one of the world’s oldest amusement parks. You can walk beneath the fairy lights and ride the old wooden roller coaster, then drink hot chocolate or gløgg (mulled wine) and eat æbelskiver to warm up afterwards.

Another popular tourist haunt in Copenhagen is Freetown Christiania, an alternative community that
took over a former military base and proclaimed itself autonomous from the rest of Denmark. Except for periodic drug raids thanks to a long tradition of hash and
marijuana sales on “Pusher Street,” city officials largely do let the residents of Christiania self-govern. Christiania’s Christmas Bazaar, which begins early in December will remind Eugeneans of Saturday Market’s Christmas Market, with its many homegrown food products and gifts, including the popular ironworks and metal Christmas tree decorations made by Christiania’s women blacksmiths.

The dark does come early in Denmark as winter sets in, and it’s the cold and early sunset, which has led the Danes to embrace the concept of hygge. Most commonly translated as “cozyness,” hygge is more of a feeling than anything else — curling up in front of a warm fire with a loved one and the family dog, that’s hygge. For every moment you spend in the cold outdoors in Denmark, the Danes will make sure you spend twice that much time warm and cozy. Any truly Danish hotel supplies its guests with down comforters to snuggle beneath (this is actually a year-round phenomenon, with lighter-weight duvets for summer and heavier-weight for the cold season) and rooms are filled with soft light and candles across the city.

The Danes themselves are undeterred by the cold and dark, venturing out on their bicycles in all weather, or using the city’s many buses, water taxis and trains. The state taxes gas guzzling cars heavily, and between Copenhagen’s free bike rental program and its largely wind-powered electricity, it makes it easy to feel eco-friendly on your visit (after you’ve dealt with off-setting the carbon of the jet fuel it took to get you there). Between Christmas and Copenhagen’s attempts at carbon neutrality, you’ll feel all warm and snuggly!: God tur! (Have a good trip!).   



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