For the past two years, I’ve escaped all things winter by living in Hawaii. There were a lot of things I missed about winter, but honestly, I was glad to be away from the cold. I forgot how magical winter can be and how much I actually love winter.
Who is that girl sitting outside in the cold and how is she possibly enjoying it?! Allow me to tell you the story of how Denmark taught me to love winter (hint: wine helps).
When we found out that Nick could take time off in between his job in Hawaii and Connecticut, the first thing we thought was that we should take a trip somewhere. Nick’s sister, Shannon, lives in Morocco, and we decided to meet somewhere in Europe, somewhere with lots of Christmas decorations and lots of things to do in winter. We researched a bunch of cities in Europe, but it didn’t take us long to decide on Copenhagen as the perfect winter holiday. We swapped our flip flops for snow boots and threw ourselves into winter in Denmark. We just had traveled 13 time zones, but we managed to adjust and quickly got into the Christmas spirit.
The first think that I immediately felt in Denmark – besides the cold – was something that is very important in Danish culture, hygge. I think that the word hygge, pronounced “hoo-ga,” is best described as a feeling of warmth, coziness, of being surrounded by people you love. It doesn’t just mean getting out of the cold. It’s the culture, the way of life, the attitude that I think has helped Denmark to consistently be named one of the happiest countries in the world. Sitting in a cafe for hours, reading a book by the fire, or drinking mulled wine with friends can all be described as hygge. The things I loved most about Denmark were all very hygge – welcoming and cozy coffee shops, warm drinks, lunches that lasted hours, heated outdoor cafes, late nights spent eating popcorn and watching movies, and time with people I love.
In Denmark, outdoor cafes are open all winter long. Instead of hiding from winter, the Danes use outdoor heaters to warm up their outdoor cafes. They leave out blankets for you to use, and they get creative with the hot drinks. It was so refreshing to see this take on winter – to see people not hiding from winter, but adapting to it and embracing it. People were having fun being outside in the cold. Crazy, right?!
But the Danes don’t just sit at cafes all winter long. They open up their famous amusement park, Tivoli, for 6 weeks in the wintertime to celebrate Christmas. With delicious restaurants both inside and outside, beautiful decorations, stalls making mulled wine and hot chocolate and popping popcorn, shops selling ornaments and Christmas gnomes, it is everything I love about winter, all combined into one place. Nick, Shannon, and I spent hours walking around and even eating outside in temperatures I used to cry at.
The best night I had in Denmark was with Nick and Shannon in Tivoli. We walked around Tivoli, drank spiked hot chocolate, and then settled at an outdoor cafe to share a bottle of wine and pizza. It was cold outside, but under the heaters, with our hats and scarves, drinking wine, I was cozy.
Another night, we sat outside, drinking ice cold beer and eating fish and chips, warmed under the heaters. Who have I become?
Dinners lasted for hours, with no one bringing us a bill until we asked for it. Life was slow. We were relaxed. Some of my best memories from the trip are moments like these:
Winter drinks might just be the best part of winter, something that I just forgot about living in Hawaii. The best hot chocolate I ever have had in my life made me love being cold, just so that I could enjoy my hot chocolate even more.
In Denmark, I had mulled wine, or glogg, for the first time. Although I prefer wine to glogg, sometimes you just need a hot wine to warm you up.
Heaters under the table? Complimentary warm ginger shots to get the chill out of your bones? It doesn’t get much better in the thick of winter:
Copenhagen is known for its many cyclists. There are huge bike lanes – the city seems like it has been laid out more for cyclists than for cars or even for pedestrians. I was amazed to people riding their bikes in the bitter cold all over the city. So we layered up, rented bikes, and got to ride around the city. What better way to show winter who is boss than to embrace it?!
What I also really loved about Copenhagen was those Christmas markets! Seriously, how adorable is this? We had to buy a gnome and an ornament.
The most important thing that Denmark taught me that it doesn’t matter where you are, as long as you are with people you love. The whole point of our trip was for Nick, Shannon, and me to be together. Living on opposite sides of the world has made that really hard, but we made it happen. Whether we were sitting in a cafe spending our mornings drinking coffee or out exploring museums, all that really mattered was that we were together.
Finally, Denmark taught me to take it slow and just enjoy winter. Usually when I am traveling, I have this intense feeling of urgency, like I need to do everything on my list, like I need to see all. of. the. sights. Our trip was so last minute and we had so much going on with the move that we had done minimal research before our trip. With no itinerary and no plans, the three of us spent our days wandering and just enjoying the moment. We also got to see some beautiful castles, visit museums with beautiful works, find some amazing restaurants, and we even went to see the Royal Danish Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. At night we would get popcorn from 7-Eleven and watch Christmas movies. And isn’t that what the winter holidays are all about?
More about Denmark to come soon! What’s your favorite thing to do in winter?!