Our cheeks were rosy, our noses cold. Rain was pattering down gently onto passing umbrellas and the air was so icy we could see our breath in it. There were juletræer on every corner and holly wreaths on every door. Bakery windows were steaming up with the warmth from the taste-bud-torment that lay inside.
We followed the smells of coffee and brunsviger along the narrow cobbled streets lined with pastel-painted cottages, and turned right onto Vintapperstræde, where a flying carpet of fairy lights danced above our heads. All we could hear was the shuffling sound of almonds being tossed over an open fire. Christmas had arrived in Odense.
To Travel Is To Live
Since spending hours wandering around the hometown of one of the world’s most well-known storytellers, my fingers have been itching to pick up a digital pen and write. Hans Christian Andersen made it his one mission in life to entertain and educate through the words he wrote, and I hope that one day mine will do the same. So, while the world locks down and borders remain closed, I’ll take you on an adventure with me as I turn a foreign land into a home.
It’s been six months and there’s already so many things I love about Denmark. The unlocked bicycles, the zillion-calories pastries, the cosy coffeeshops. The way they throw “hygge” in front of words to describe a concept that only a Dane (or honorary Dane) could ever understand.
I love the way they decorate their shop windows and how they’re not boarded up by shutters at night. Consumerism closes down around three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon and doesn’t open back up until ten on a Monday. Sundays are for big walks in the woods or along the fjord. Everything is about family, friends and togetherness, and any day of the week seems like a reason to celebrate.
Festivities are really taken seriously here and they’ve definitely got their fair share of strange ones. Apparently, if you’re 25 and “still” single, your mates take you into the street and pelt you with cinnamon. If you’re single at 30, it’s pepper. God knows what I would have got, had I been here for my 35th birthday earlier this year – mace, maybe?
Another odd custom is fastelavn, when, traditionally, a black cat would be put in a barrel and people would whack the hell out it with a stick until the cat fell out. Something about warding off evil spirits. Fortunately, nowadays, the cat has been swapped for sweets.
Christmas in Denmark is a big deal, and I can’t wait to experience my first jul. Since mid-November, the shop windows have been covered in fairy lights and baubles and, as the nights continue to draw in, the streets are full of people sitting outside under starry skies, covered in blankets and drinking gløgg.
One of my favourite things about this place though, has to be that whenever it rains, there always seems to be a rainbow. To me, it’s a reminder that The Idol, my Grandma, is always with me in spirit, encouraging me to write, and it’s a reminder that even when the skies are grey, there’s always something to smile about.