Crazier than Christmas: Why do Danes travel?

Vivienne McKee, Denmark’s best-known English entertainer, is this country’s most beloved foreign import. Over the last 30 years, hundreds of thousands of Copenhageners have enjoyed her annual Crazy Christmas Cabaret show at Tivoli, marvelling at her unique, wry Anglo wit and charm.

I recently returned from a long trip to India and, on arriving at Kastrup Airport, I suddenly felt an overwhelming surge of relief.

Indian bummer
On my last day in India I was robbed of all my credit cards, iPhone – everything except my passport. It was a sad end to a wonderful trip and, although I know that this kind of disaster could happen in Denmark, I think the chances are less likely.

Denmark feels safe. Having now lived in Denmark for 30 years, I criticise the country for many things, but these are minor compared to what I noticed from the window of my taxi as I travelled that day from Copenhagen Airport to my home. I seriously began to wonder why Danes bother to travel abroad at all!

After all, Copenhagen really is the best city in the world for bike-riding. Whole sections of the road are dedicated to cyclists. The idea of riding a bicycle in India as a means of transport is, at best, insane and, at worst, suicidal.

A smorgasbord of delights
But Copenhagen has so much more to offer than safe cycling. My route from the airport opened my eyes to the other wonders of life here. It took me past Christiania – a hippie commune or freetown that runs under the ‘Christiania Law of 1989’. Many Danes deride it as a slum area, but they should take a look at the congested slums of Delhi and think again. Here 850 residents live in what some might call paradise with its Gay House, green location and exciting music venues.

As the taxi crossed Knippels Bridge, I considered how much Copenhagen is surrounded by water. With a lido in the harbour and beaches within ten minutes of the centre, no wonder it’s called ‘the Venice of the North’. I admired the Opera House, which appears to float on the water – Danish architecture at its smart, sleek best. And there was the unfinished bridge that will allow people to cross from Noma, the best restaurant in the world, to Nyhavn – exquisite in its picture-postcard cuteness. And from there, a brisk stroll away is the food market Torvehallerne, an explosion of energy where you don’t have to bargain your way to a full stomach.

And it doesn’t end there
I marvelled at the clean pavements. The Danes never dump rubbish. There are bins everywhere that are regularly emptied. Tivoli Gardens – a parallel universe. Kødbyen – the coolest hang-out. Can I continue with all these superlatives? Easily … the list goes on.

This is also the happiest nation in the world. You’ll struggle to meet Danes who aren’t happy with their lot. On the other hand, you’ll struggle to meet Danes! It is difficult to meet people here and rare to be invited into their homes. Everywhere I travelled in India, the hospitality was genuine and overwhelming.

I finally arrived home. Opening the taxi door, I shivered and rushed inside to turn up the heating and find a thick sweater. So this is why Danes travel abroad.  There is one thing that smart, clean, safe and happy Denmark can never guarantee …