Travelmag Banner

Copenhagen Culture Shock

A Friday night in October, the entire city of Copenhagen wears a culture pass – a smiling badge which gives access to more than 700 events and to public transport as well. It’s Culture Night.

A strong wind is shaking the weeping willows at the St. Jorgen Lake, sending the fountain water astray, to the amusement of the customers in Cassiopeia, the restaurant of the Tycho Brahe Planetarium. Inside the yellow cylindrical building with the characteristic dark stripes, planets are floating in a cement grey space. But the moon is nowhere to be seen.

The Lakes, photo by I. Cyranek

Eventually though, in the sky above Vesterbro Square, the moon appears; new, narrow and pale. It sheds light on the Copenhagen City Museum where pure choral music is flowing from the ceremonial hall. Another hall contains a model of Copenhagen in the year 1660, set on a blue sea under an equally blue sky on which two angels are holding the city arms between them. On a special panel, one can pick out a locality and have it highlighted by a little bulb. Pressing the Nyhavn button, reveals that the now famous harbour was still non-existent.

A Toast to Art
The porn culture has been flourishing for decades in the street of Istedgade. Plan E, a huge sex supermarket, is deserted tonight, except for two low-voiced young ladies evaluating a dildo. Far more vociferous is a drug addict in the porch of the neighbouring Maria Church. “Why is it always my fault?” he shouts. A female employee, intimating that the guy has a grating voice, rushes to close the door, the very instant that The Gordon Pipes and Drums start playing their bagpipes.

Thorvaldsen Museum, photo by WoCo

Danish beer culture is also thriving, even on a scaffolding poster: “Carlsberg declares the can open.” Canned beer is allowed at last. Another form of culture, sculpture and painting, attracts people to the New Carlsberg Glyptotek. The children stop just inside the entrance, at a little pond where the naked Water Mother is elegantly lounging, surrounded by all her white marble babies. Tiny red fish, darting about among the waterlilies, fascinate the children who don’t really notice the huge palms stretching above their heads, all the way up to the dome of the Winter Garden.

Lights in the Night
“What do you think design is?” the Danish Design Centre asks. The answers are written on large sheets of paper and pasted up on the wall. Design is tangible art, someone has written. New design can also be found in front of the Thorvaldsen Museum, a large open square with a circular mirror pond. Foolhardy young people try to balance on the granite decorations in the water. In her four-in-hand chariot high up on the roof, the Goddess of Victory has been revived in steam and flashing lights.

Despite the two flares dashing back and forth between their feet, most of those queuing are absorbed by the torch-lit facade, anticipating light and sound happenings among Danish sculptors inside. Some are busy looking towards the opposite side of the canal, at the fine old building of Kunstforeningen, another art museum. Behind its brightly-lit windows, the visitors are moving from picture to picture, all painted by women from the Nordic countries in the period 1880 – 1900.

A Sad Memory
The Fishwife on Gammel Strand, carved in stone, keeps a watchful eye on the nearby Hojbro Square, seeing a doubledecker shaking with samba rhythms, a drive for the Whitsun carnival, and children pumping water onto a burning minihouse, instructed by the police. That brings back memories of the Whitsun 1992 when a stray carnival rocket hit the Christiansborg Castle Church, right behind the Fishwife. The church burnt down but has risen again.

Christiansborg Castle, photo by I. Cyranek

People seem to agree that the Culture Night shouldn’t be wasted on shopping. In Magasin, a large department store, it’s quiet. Most popular is the café on the top floor. An elderly couple run into their neighbours and give them a tip, “Thorvaldsen Museum – it’s so beautiful!” An overtired little girl is screaming, until catching sight of the escalator; she dashes ahead, is caught up by her mother, though, and the yelling starts again. Outside Magasin, a brand new station is awaiting the official opening of the new Metro next week.

In front of the Royal Theatre, the renowned playwrights Holberg and Oehlenschlager sit in their regular seats, bathed in pink floodlights, while on the opposite side of the King’s New Square, the newspaper Jyllandsposten tempts with an indoor Speaker’s Corner. No one wishes for the moment to be video filmed to appear on the paper’s homepage. Actually, that might have disturbed the audience pricking up their ears over the infamous Danish SS doctor Carl Vaernet, in an adjacent hall.

Museum Erotica stays open till 2 o’clock in the morning. Those ascending the stairs, however, get disappointed. The museum doesn’t participate in the Culture Night programme and demands an entrance fee. Some pick the Bo-Bi Bar instead, in an alleyway close by. Little has changed since the bar opened in 1917. It’s still dark, smoky, small and intimate, some say womb-like. Here, the swilling of beer is only interrupted by an occasional hard-boiled egg with mustard and salt.

Nyhavn, photo by WoCo

In the pedestrian street Stroget, people are slowly moving towards the Town Hall Square, now chatting about anything but culture. They’re exhausted, almost stunned, after this evening’s culture shock. Even the badge on one’s chest is tired. As good luck would have it, it only has to smile once more – at the bus driver.

   [Top of Page]  
 Latest Headlines