Not a day goes by without me mentioning to someone how great my time was in ‘wonderful Copenhagen’. Friends, work colleagues, family and my children were probably tired of hearing it. It was time to take them there to show them what my fuss was all about.
I moved there in January 1997. The weather was awful and the days were short. I didn’t speak the language (although English is more widely spoken than in London), and I had no idea what I was in for. It got progressively better as I found a place to live, made friends, and started understanding the Danish signs in shops and roads. The days got longer and warmer, which made the people there smile a lot more. I soon found myself in the world’s best-kept secret.
I moved back to London in 2000, soon after getting married and introducing my wife to the beautiful city. I visited a couple of times for work but only for a day or two. This trip was my first proper visit in over 15 years, and our children’s first. We stayed in the heart of town in a hotel that was converted from a 200-year-old granary warehouse. The near-by area to the other side of the palace is newly developed and includes the new opera house. I say new, it was actually completed in 2005 but since it wasn’t there when I was there… it’s new. It also includes the Royal Danish Theater – which I’ll come to in a minute.
We spent the days being tourists, fitting in as many of the sites as possible, and meeting old friends when possible. I met a dear friend who was and remains an inspiration for me. We also had lunch with my Danish teacher, and shared an ice cream in Tivoli with my first ever boss.
I owe my growing love of architecture, cycling and candles to Denmark. I also learned (and lived) the attraction of authenticity in design. This didn’t happen in an obvious way. I had my frustrations of living as an expat in a place that didn’t understand me. I soon learned that it was in fact me that needed to understand where I was… and what I had.
The Royal Danish Playhouse is a good summary of my Copenhagen experience. I looked at the imposing building and described it to my wife as a perfect structure in the space it occupies. My only criticism was the dark colour of the glass. It didn’t make any sense to me at 2pm when we were walking past it back to our hotel. When we stepped out again for an evening stroll, the colour made perfect sense. It was in perfect harmony with the colour and stillness of the water surrounding it. It not only made sense, it was hard to imagine any other colour or material having the same effect. Copenhagen remains a city that reminds me how little I know, and how much it does.