On the edge of Sibelius park lies Cafe Regatta – quite possible the most novel cafe I have ever been in, if not in the world. And I’m fairly certain it is where Santa goes to lunch. The cafe itself is a tiny little shack, that is actually over the waters edge, chock full of all things finnish and christmassy and generally exciting.
As it is such a small wee cafe, there is a huge outdoor part. With a fire to sit around, a little picket fence, eclectic painted, wooden, mismatched chairs and extremely snowy surroundings, it was just the most amazing and unique atmosphere. I just couldn’t get enough of it! Lovely food and coffee too at pretty decent prices. It has an extra magical quality to it, looking far to small to possibly house a cafe from the outside, like it is some kind of Harry Potter cafe.
I was pretty excited that I was one step closer in my quest to find Santa, but I must have just missed him. Best get a little closer to the North Pole next time.
Café 60 was one of the few cafes I have ever seen that can get away with throwing a whole bunch of unrelated crap in a room, with no clear design or theme, and still look great. The theme was carried on with the food – it was practically lined wall to wall with every possible type of sandwich, pastry, handmade chocolate, dessert and cake you can imagine, and many more that you never would have. You could tell it was the sort of food where the focus was on the quality, rather than making sure the cakes and pastries look exactly how they are meant to, a la most other bakeries around. We didn’t actually get round to trying any of the amazing creations, as we were there for the amazing breakfast deal: 25kr for a coffee or tea, a juice, a piece of fruit and pretty decently sized sandwich if you are there before 10am. I definitely recommend it to anyone wanting a decent cheap breakfast. There were a million and one menu options if you wanted to upscale a bit for a few more kroner too.
One of our café recommendations in Stockholm was ‘Sturekatten’ which I’m fairly sure translates to the fat cat. Based on the Danish word for big/large (Store) and the cats all over the signage. This was yet another scavenger hunt of an adventure, as the café turned out to be quite the hidden gem, off in a side street with minimal signage. After google maps sent us in a totally unnecessary circle, we found the place. We only knew we were in the right spot as a result of our detailed instructions “You will feel like you are walking in to someone’s loungeroom.”
As we walked up an old wooden spiral staircase, the description was perfect. With doilies on tables, potted plants, delicate teacups and mismatched antique chairs, we knew we were in the right place. The waitstaff were all in the cutest Victorian style lace aprons, and there was a range of different rooms you could sit in, with majestic curtains and rustic window frames separating them.
The food at Sturekatten was amazing, and we felt it was the perfect time to try a truly Nordic lunch. While smörgås, or smørrebrød, as it is called in Danish, is very common in Denmark, it wasn’t until I was in Sweden that I thought it would be a good opportunity to give it a go. Smörgås is typically on a slice of rye bread (two slices is far too much to consume in one go) and piled with toppings. A very common version of this Nordic delight is a generous helping of mayonnaise, slices of egg and a ridiculous heap of shrimps. smörgås or smørrebrød is usually well decorated, commonly with cucumber slices and at this particular place also had caviar.
It was a delicious lunch, and the cabinet of food looked amazing – it was really hard to pick just one thing!
Another particularly swedish trend was on display here also. When you pay for a coffee at many cafes, you then help yourself to a coffee at a tea/coffee stand. A bit of an honesty system and refills are encouraged, but the sacrifice is a lack of espresso machine. No flat whites in this part of the world!
Fun fact: the term smorgasbord (buffet) comes from smörgås.
Whilst in Sweden, it was highly important to indulge in a lovely tradition called “having a Fika.” Fika loosely translates to “coffee break” but it is vitally important that your fika is long and relaxed – no nipping down to the coffee cart to grab a takeaway caffeine fix. Instead, a fika is about sitting, relaxing, chatting (it can be a break from work or a date) and most often having something sweet, like a Swedish cinnamon roll. A most endearing social trend.
It seems to me that it is just putting a name to something we do in New Zealand quite a lot. If you aren’t going out for drinks, you will generally catch up with a friend over coffee. My Canadian friend thought it was an amazing tradition, but being from such a high-strung, business focussed continent, she was astounded at how much productivity must be lost sitting down and having a coffee in Sweden (a 1-2 hour fika is supposedly a normal part of the working day). We concluded any time lost was made up by all the J-walking they do in Sweden.
In Sweden, we had many a fika. The best was probably at a cafe called Saturnus, another adventure Emelie sent us on, off the beaten track to find the biggest and best cinnamon rolls in all of Stockholm. They were amazing, but only the boy of the group could finish one. We were suitably impressed.
Cinnamon rolls for GIANTS
I got this far before feeling like I was going to be sick
You would hardly have noticed the place, without super specific instructions from a local
In the area of Christianshavn very near central Copenhagen, lies a self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood called Christiania. The residents call it a micronation, the lawmakers call it a commune. The area itself was originally a military barracks from the early 1600s until it was abandoned in 1967. In 1971, part of the abandoned area was originally trespassed by the homeless, followed by families of neighbouring houses that wanted a play area for the children. Things started to get more political when a bunch of students occupied the area as a protest against affordable housing shortages.
Christiania became official at the declaration of a well-known Provo and journalist Jacob Ludvigsen, (possible translation inaccuracy here):
Christiania is the land of the settlers. It is the so far biggest opportunity to build up a society from scratch – while nevertheless still incorporating the remaining constructions. Own electricity plant, a bath-house, a giant athletics building, where all the seekers of peace could have their grand meditation – and yoga center. Halls where theater groups can feel at home. Buildings for the stoners who are too paranoid and weak to participate in the race…Yes for those who feel the beating of the pioneer heart there can be no doubt as to the purpose of Christiania. It is the part of the city which has been kept secret to us – but no more.
Much of the ideals and political motives of Christiania have been completely blinded by a great deal of controversy over the ‘legalisation’ of marijuana within Christiania. Government spin seems partly responsible, as politicians have used ending Christiania as an election platform and have largely glossed over the freedom/rebuilding a more constructive society ideals by focussing on the drugs and controversy. However, the residents themselves aren’t innocent – much attention has been gathered by internal politics banning hard drugs and eradicating junkies (particularly after 10 people died of heroin overdoses in one year), conflict with gangs from wider Copenhagen that wanted in on the drug trade and violent outbursts as a result.
The infamous ‘Pusher St’ in Christiania is were all the drug selling very openly went down until large-scale police raids in 2004. Supposedly you can still find weed in Christiania relatively easily, but we weren’t looking on our visit. It certainly was easy to find people who stared at you suspiciously though!
Christiania is an incredibly popular tourist spot, and the thing I liked the most was all of the amazing artwork. While much media coverage about it focuses on the politics and drugs, it is also known as a haven for creatives of all disciplines – from graffiti artists to jazz musicians, some living in Christiania, others merely guests. Danish expat and entrepreneur Tonny Sorenson established the Creative Networking site Planet Illogica citing Christiania as his inspiration. His company owns the brands Von Dutch, Kustom Kulture and California Christiania Republic – a fashion label that capitalises on the Christiania logo and sells a ‘freedom’ image and brightly coloured onesies to hollywood celebrities including Rihanna, Katy Perry, James Blunt, Owen Wilson, Willow Smith and Perez Hilton.
As I meandered through the streets of Christiania I was amazed at all of the amazing works. There were sculptures hidden away behind bushes or and murals tucked around corners. Most of it was much more obvious, with large sculptures made of what some may deem ‘junk.’ There was an amazing and unique vibe throughout the place – with remnants of the old barracks mixed with psychedelic murals from the sixties and eclectic piles of ‘stuff’ everywhere. To your left you may find brilliant paintings on brick walls, to your right an incredibly cute organic vegetable stall surrounded by magical fairy lights. Round a corner and you will see a group of people sitting on a pile of rubble warming their hands in front of a fire in a metal bin. Further down the road you will see a makeshift bar with unmatching rustic chairs. A hipster’s home décor dream.
One of the big signs we saw at the entrance described the three rules of Christiania: “1. Have fun 2. No running – it scares people 3. No taking photo’s – drugs are still illegal.” With all of the amazing art and buildings I had serious issues with rule number three. It really killed me not to be able to take photos, as there were so many things I would have loved to have snapped.
We stopped in for a drink at one of the bars which had a definite Cuba St (in Wellington, NZ) feel. Reminiscent of Fidel’s, the bar was in one of the old military buildings and had patches of army netting on some of the walls. As we entered from the cold outside, we found ourselves in a large old hall filled with run down furniture and rowdy old men smoking and drinking. I felt like I was in communist era Soviet Union, but the jazz, eclectic art and friendly people made for a much warm, positive and energetic atmosphere. Initially I asked the bartender if they had cider and he replied with a very serious no, informing me they didn’t sell alcohol there. I must have been in a wary frame of mind with all of the rules and whatnot, because after I settled for a coffee I noticed bottles of Tuborg all around me and realised he was taking the piss. That damn Danish sense of humour.
The only real rebellion I engaged in whilst inside Christiania was to snap a photo of a sculpture. I didn’t know how seriously the no photo rule was taken, but I’ve seen enough Breaking Bad to know drug dealers can’t be expected to act predictably, so I quickly put my camera away and scurried off hoping no-one was about to come running at me after seeing the flash.
An example of the recycled material sculptures all around Christiania
The place is alive with creativity and collaboration. In both wandering around Christiania and reading up about its history there is clear evidence of when that has worked well and when it has failed abysmally. Everything from building safety issues as a result of the modern yet logic defying ideas of ‘architecture without architects’ to the endless cycle of debate and disagreement over whether or not marijuana should remain legal – all rules in Christiania must be supported unanimously.
After visiting and reading up on Christiania and its history, it does leave me just a little confused as to what the real aim of the society is today, and begs the questions: Are the residents on the same page? Freedom might be their motto, but what exactly are they trying to be free from? The residents want to legally own the land they are ‘occupying’ which puts them on par with most other land owners in Denmark. Many of them aren’t supportive of legalising cannabis, Denmark has one of the best welfare systems in the world, so it is no longer necessary for housing the homeless or rehabilitating the junkies – hard drugs were banned long ago anyway. The art and culture were certainly the high point of the attraction for me, but it’s not like art is banned in the rest of Copenhagen. Even one of its staunch supporters is simply capitalising on the logo, selling weird jumpsuits to Hollywood Celebrities.
It seems to me that although they are shunning the enforced laws in Copenhagen/Denmark, they are steadily creating their ‘own’ laws that take them closer and closer to square one. Perhaps it just shows that it is a lot easy to collaboratively police a small neighbourhood than a whole country.
So, mother, you can breathe a sigh of relief that I’m not quitting Business School to join a hippy commune, the only rule breaking I did was taking a photo, and no angry drug dealers stabbed me for my lunch money.
On our first morning in Copenhagen, an Australian, three Canadians and I thought we might partake in the free walking tour of the city we had seen advertised in our hostel reception.*
The tour was set to depart at 11am. Of the seven of us staying in the room, and the other exchange students in Copenhagen that weekend, it seemed only five of us were up and ready to go at 11am. Must have been something to do with the time spent the night before at ‘La Tequila Bar.’
Somehow, a rumour had been spread that the tour guide came past our hostel at 10:30, so rather than make our way to town we could get picked up along the way. I am not too sure of the authenticity of this rumour, as the poster I saw didn’t mention it, but nonetheless we reported to reception at 10:25 and there was a crowd of people waiting there. Unfortunately, here is where things went a bit wrong. Given we had 5 minutes to spare, we decided we would nip in to the 7/11 round the corner and grab some breakfast, as we didn’t know when we might have a chance to get some food on the tour. We returned about 10:32 and saw the crowd heading towards the city, so we scurried along and followed. It turned out that crowd was actually just a group of friends, which we followed most of the way to town!
A quick change in plans and we decided to head to the Town Hall to catch the tour by 11. Unfortunately when we got there, we realised google maps had lead us slightly astray and we were actually at Christainsborg (a political hotspot that houses Parliament, the Prime Minister, Supreme Court and the Royal Family), and we wouldn’t make it to the tour in time. And with that, the worst walking tour became the best one. Between google maps on my phone, Canadian numero uno with a lonely planet guide chock full of information and Canadian numero dos who had a map that included a walking tour, we set off.
I swear we didn’t look this lost the whole time
We walked along the canal down Gammelstrand to the famous Nybrogade, which has the colourful houses you see on just about every Copenhagen tourism site. Halfway along (and about 15 minutes in to our tour), we stopped at a gorgeous little coffee shop for a much-needed caffeine break. Best walking tour ever! Almost an hour later we felt rested enough to carry on walking. We also planned out a bit of a route and learned some of the history of Copenhagen, thanks to Lonely planet. We carried on along the canal (which was all frozen over – an amazing sight), took a left and decided to check the palace out in more detail. Which largely consisted of my Australian friend running around shouting “Where are you Princess Mary? I’ve come to take you back to ‘Straya!”
After the palace we then discovered the National Museum of Copenhagen, which was definitely the highlight of my day. I honestly could have spent weeks in there, it was great! There were exhibitions from cultures all around the world, a very detailed walk through of Europe’s evolution from cave-men to today, Danish history, and my favourite part – the ‘Europe Meets the World’ exhibit. The museum was a bit of a rabbit warren, but there was so much to discover! From ancient Greek vases, Egyptian sarcophagi and original artworks to tribal artifacts from all over the world (NZ included). The ‘Europe Meets the World’ exhibit was so good it deserves its own post, so I’ll be writing about that one soon. I would definitely consider the National Museum a must for anyone visiting Copenhagen, even if you aren’t the biggest museum fan. It was free too, which was a bonus. Unfortunately I didn’t get all the way through as I learned yet another travel lesson: I’m a museum fiend and should therefore go to them alone!
Inside the National Museum
A few missed calls later and I discovered the rest of the walking tour was hungry, so we went in search of somewhere cheap for a late lunch. We wound up at a terrible Chinese buffet lunch place, with all kinds of bizarre rules. I.e. no taking photos, if you don’t order a drink you get charged an extra 20DKK penalty fee, if you don’t eat everything you serve out you get charged double. I don’t know why this lesson hasn’t sunk in yet, but I really should stop trying to eat Asian food in Europe.
Keeping Princess Mary safe!
After lunch the walking tour degenerated in to shopping and I decided that as much as tours are a nice idea and can be educational, if you can find a free map of the city with some highlights it is much more fun to do things at your own pace. It is especially beneficial if you like to take silly photos and have a bit of a laugh – not always appreciated when you are with a group of strangers – or if a few members of the group are feeling delicate from the night before and regular stops for refreshments are in order!
Here’s an album of photos from along the way which even includes a wee map of our route! How fancy. There are a few extra photos from around Copenhagen and some at the end from my Aussie friend’s flash camera (you’ll be able to tell the difference).
I’m Liesl! At Christiansborg Palace
* The hostel we stayed in was the Generator Hostel, which I thoroughly recommend. The facilities and location were great – modern clean, the reception staff really helpful, all in all couldn’t expect much better out of a backpackers. Even better, it was the cheapest option on HostelBookers.com, which is proving to be a really helpful website. The only downside was a lack of kitchen facilities to make your own food, but I hear that is the norm in Europe.
Cafe culture is a term often overused in New Zealand. And believe it or not, attributed to Roger ‘Rogernomics’ Douglas (take that, left wing latte drinkers).
We love a good flat white, and my experiences so far are that Kiwis make bloody good coffee. Meeting over coffee is pretty standard, and every office seems to have a bottomless supply. The Danes, however, have a next level obsession with the stuff! They talk about it all the time. One of my lecturers doesn’t refer to our mid-class break as a break, but instead will announce it by telling us all to go get coffee. Study groups tend to meet at a cafe rather than the library and there are coffee machines all over campus.
The most bizarre thing though, is that their coffee is pretty average in comparison to what I’m used to. Beaten only by the revolting crap they serve at Starbucks (thank god there’s no Starbucks here), it is just filter coffee with a dash of milk. And often you’ll pay $8-$10 for it. I’ll happily drink instant at home and I don’t mind paying 6Kr (about $1.20) at Uni for filter coffee where I have to add my own milk, but it is borderline offensive in a nice cafe where you are paying $10 or more. Even if you order a cappuccino or latte (sadly our NZ invented Flat White is never a menu option) don’t expect a double shot, or appropriately frothed milk. 9 times out of 10 it isn’t even a proper espresso machine, just the automatic kind that is only a step away from being a vending machine.
Finally I caved and went to one such cafe, in my weekend of indulgence when my friend came to visit from London and I ignored my strict budget. We went to a lovely wee cafe in town and ordered coffee and cake, which came to about $10 each, not bad for Denmark! The cafe made the most amazing cakes too. One was a beautiful flourless chocolate cake. The other had no label on it, so I asked the cafe owner what it was. All he would tell me was ‘special secret.’ I didn’t want the recipe or anything, just to know what I was eating! If I were in Amsterdam I would be a tad more concerned at such a description, but luckily it was just that sarcastic Danish sense of humour.
“Special Secret” cake, which was amaaaaaaaazing
In a hilarious conversation with a couple of Danes about their ridiculous quest for inefficient hydration, I was informed that the main reason they constantly drink coffee is not to be productive, to stay awake or becuase they like the taste, but that they realised they should probably cut back on their day time drinking and it seemed a good substition for all the beer. I have been told time and time again by locals and immigrants alike just how obsessed the Danes are with beer and coffee, but nothing made me laugh as hard as the next comment from these two:
“You can see when the Danes switched to coffee in our architecture: suddenly the buildings aren’t wonky anymore.”
This one was obviously built in the beer for breakfast days