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Coping with Copenhagen


I’m on my way to Tivoli to explore a certain phenomenon, “hygge”, the Danish form of cosiness.

It pops up at the very entrance where an electronic device refuses my season ticket until I turn it upside down, which I always forget. I suspect the thing was made that way deliberately, so that the guards could have a cosy chat with forgetful visitors.

A green flash and a short howling send me off into another world, a peaceful one in which I needn’t be on the alert for reckless motorists, indulging instead in an aboundance of flowers, trees and happy faces under thousands of fairy lights. The only vehicle to beware of is route 8, a yellow minitrain carrying children and exhausted grown-ups about.

A huge peacock, freshly painted cobalt blue, proudly presents the renovated Pantomime Theatre, shining with gold and cheerful colours. The peacock is not for decoration only; its fan of tail feathers actually act as a curtain. The bird certainly looks forward to the next performance, an obvious opportunity to make a flight, perhaps all the way “Over the rainbow”, inspired by the Promenade Orchestra and its trumpet soloist.

Saturday dance

The Promenade Pavilion is in my opinion the cosiest corner in Tivoli, roofed by a canopy of green branches. To cope with an oppressive evening heat, exhausted visitors have planted themselves on benches where good-humoured musicians shower them with lovely tones. Good-humoured is the clown Pierrot as well, high up on his plinth, smiling with thick red lips all over his chalk-white face, alarmed though when the corks start popping in “The Champagne Gallop”.

A few meters away, down on the large square, Tivoli’s Big Band is getting ready for the Saturday dance. Round the dance floor, people have taken a seat – and remain seated. It looks like rain so the conductor urges them to dance. Soon, one couple after another throw themselves into a swinging jitterbug, while the audience enjoys evaluating their skills and sidesteps.

Slim, black-haired Bobo Moreno, in a shining charcoal grey suit, sings “Come fly with me” in a deep, warm voice. The precious tones make their way to the balcony of the Concert Hall in the background, settling on the railing as golden notes. The invitation to flight is heard by the seagulls; a single one comes flying high above the stage, soon followed by two more. The peacock, however, doesn’t turn up.

In love in Copenhagen

Colourful balloons with a basket-like swing underneath, appear over the treetops. It’s the romantic Ferris wheel, taking its time and pausing every now and then. In the swings, hand in hand, lovers enjoy the view when not totally absorbed in each other. Maybe they sing like Siw Malmkvist and Henning Moritzen did during their Ferris wheel ride, filmed in 1960, “You and I fell in love in Copenhagen”.

Foreigners dominate the scene tonight. Determined, eagerly snapping Japanese are easy to identify, but the Swedes are certainly in the majority, a natural consequence of the new Oresund bridge. Tourists should preferably be happy and feel at home, in that way confirming the Danish self-image, that Denmark is a cosy little corner. In fact, I think it would be difficult to find a displeased tourist in Tivoli although the crowd and stiff prices may be irritating.

No cosiness without flowers, and Tivoli is full of them. At the end of the lake, a garden path leads me to a bench and a little fountain. Bougainvilleas and giant roses, deep-red and soft as silk, make my nose tickle and my fingers itch. In the distance, half hidden behind a rose bush, people are dangling their legs under the onion dome of the Golden Tower. They suddenly fall down, disappearing behind the bush, screaming as if they had pricked themselves on the thorns.

Time for elephants

Alcohol promotes cosiness, and I’m in the midst of an Elephant Beer when a tipsy young woman sits down, addressing the whole bistro, “He’s cute, don’t you think?” She just won a soft toy elephant. A stout man, busy instructing his son-in-law in the art of smoking a cigar, replies dryly, “Will you sleep with him tonight?” The Danish humour isn’t always that good-natured; it’s often bitingly ironical.

“Okay if I sit down here?” A handbag lands on the chair next to me, followed by a middle-aged woman from the table behind me. Sitting down at a single man’s table isn’t common. I get an explanation though: she had been in the Restaurant Groften with her daughter and the daughter’s boy friend, having a wonderful time, “There was a large bottle of snaps on our table!” She’s now sobering up in the Smogens Bistro.

At 23.45 an inferno breaks out on the roof of the Concert Hall where the Danish cosiness explodes with sparkles. While a puzzled full moon is watching, the sky is illuminated by comets, stars and Bengal flames. United in the thrill of the thunderous fireworks, we keep uttering enthusiastic exclamations, and I entirely agree with the Danish woman declaring, “Enormously cosy, isn’t it?”

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