Tuesday, 02-06-2015. Day 286.
Experiencing Hygge in Copenhagen
Our Airberlin flight landed in Copenhagen at 10:00 in the morning. The first hurdle anyone faces when arriving in a new city is figuring out the best way to travel from the airport to where you're staying. In the case of Copenhagen (or København, as the signs say), that meant taking a short train ride from the airport to København H, also known as Central Station.
The second hurdle is, of course, trying to find an ATM to buy tickets because your credit cards don't work in the train ticket machines and your pocketful of Euros are no good in Denmark. Even though Denmark is part of the EU, they use their own currency—the Danish krone. Once we figured that out, we were off to the train.
After we arrived at the train station, we were greeted by the sight of Tivoli Gardens, one of the oldest theme parks in the world (it opened in 1843). This world-famous landmark, said to be Walt Disney's inspiration for Disneyland, is right across the street from København H.
We didn't visit Tivoli Gardens on this trip, mainly because we'd we'd had a good fill of theme park action that week with Phantasialand, but also because the prices in Denmark were higher than we'd experienced in other European countries and that made our budget pretty tight.
On the Phenomenon of Hygge
Denmark is regularly at or near the top of all those lists of the happiest nations on Earth. We're still not sure why that is for sure, but it has a lot to do with hygge, (pronounced a little like hyoo-ga), the national concept of "finding comfort and being happy." That's not exactly what it means, but it's as close a translation as non-Danes can get. Anyway, when we got to our Airbnb apartment and checked in, our girls had their very first authentic hygge moment when they saw the old school arcade console loaded with 400-plus retro arcade classics, all free to play. If we'd have let them have their way, they wouldn't have left the room.
But fortunately, they didn't get their way and we'd checked in early enough to still have pretty much a whole day ahead of us to go exploring. So we took a look at what was near our apartment and were delighted to see that the Carlsberg Brewery was just down the road. So off we went.
Gamle Carlsberg (Carlsberg Brewery)
After walking , we signed up for a self-guided tour of the historic Carlsberg Brewery, a little something the folks running the place call The Carlsberg Exbeerience.
One of the nice things about the tour is that includes two free beers along the tour. You get to choose from a few different options, but one we didn't want to pass up was the Jacobsen Original Dark Lager, which is only available in Denmark. As we sampled (the kids got an age-appropriate option), we learned that this beer is from a rediscovered 1854 recipe, and while it's not the same as it was back then (not all the same ingredients are available), it's pretty close. After tasting the Jacobsen Dark, we wandered upstairs to view the much-touted Carlsberg bottle collection.
On our visit, the bottle collection on display was 16,869 bottles (out of a total of 22,553 in the entire collection). There was a large number of Carlsberg bottles in the collection, and while I guess that makes sense, I was hoping for a little more variety—and organization. There didn't seem to be any rationale for what bottles were displayed where. Visitors are also only able to view the perimeter of the display; we couldn't wander down the aisles to view the bulk of the collection. So this was a bit of a letdown.
But aside from that small disappointment, the rest of the self-guided tour was pretty great. We learned about the history of beer in Denmark as it pertains to the Carlsberg brewery (they also own Tuborg and Kronenberg) and a lot about founder J.C. Jacobsen and his son Carl—for whom the brewery was named and with whom he had something of a stormy relationship.
One of the interesting things that I didn't know is that the brewery has been owned by the Carlsberg Foundation since 1888. The whole story is a little more complicated than that, but it was interesting to learn that a good portion of profits from Carlsberg beer go to help fund a variety of worthy social causes (which are decided upon by the Foundation). It made me a little predisposed to choose Carlsberg over other commercial lagers when given the option.
When we finished taking the tour through the brewery, the gardens with its replica of Denmark's The Little Mermaid statue (that's it in the header image) and the stables (complete with real horse smell and real horses), we headed up the steps to the brewhouse bar to sample a few others and get some snacks to keep hunger at bay until it was time for dinner.
We didn't get to see the brewery's famous elephant tower (built in 1901 and modeled after the column in the Piazza della Minerva in Rome, which we did see) because when we left the brewery it was raining pretty hard and we'd left our umbrellas in the car in Berlin (they're huge and don't travel well). So we invested in four Carlsberg rain ponchos, which kept us reasonably dry on our walk back to the apartment.