If walking around for a good few hours admiring European art sounds like your idea of a good time, SMK may just be the place for you. It’s not necessarily my favourite museum, or the most impressive collection I’ve seen – but the way this place was designed to be experienced has something of a Danish vibe to it. Maybe something like hygge. So as a leisurely indoor activity this place does not disappoint.
I personally like to check out the major museums in cities I visit, so of course SMK (The National Gallery of Denmark) was on my list. I think the museum shop and cafe are themselves worthy of a visit – I like how good Denmark is at making their cultural spaces attractive and places that are pleasant to really hang out in! The glassy modern extension in the museum building that houses the sculpture gallery is lovely too – you’ll see below where the newer architectural style meets the old. As usual, I’ll let the photos do the talking.
One of the first things I noticed after moving to Copenhagen is how well kept the cemeteries are – none of that haunted or creepy feeling about them. They are honestly quite beautiful green spaces. Assistens Kirkegård in Nørrebro is certainly no exception. This is reflected in how people use and pass through the cemetery as well. People come in here to have a picnic or drink with friends in the grassy areas, to lay in the sun, and have a quiet chat on the many benches dotted around the place. There are also cycle and walk paths through the cemetery that allow you to make shortcuts across parts of the neighbourhood.
Some of the individuals buried here whose names you may be familiar with are H. C. Andersen, Niels Bohr, and Søren Kierkegaard. For this post, however, I’ll share with you the more garden-like features of the cemetery, rather than the gravestones.
Copenhagen town centre is an aesthetic, cosy, and walkable area (as is many other areas of the city, really). Compared to many capital cities I’ve been to, it’s not super congested either in terms of vehicle traffic, and public transport tends to be efficient and reliable if needed (though pricey, I will give you that). Honestly, it’s up there as one of the nicest cities to walk around in Europe in my opinion, because it’s got a really nice balance of things to do and see. I have to laugh when people point out to me the parts of the town centre that are apparently more ‘grungy’. Having moved from a neighbourhood in Bristol where it was pretty standard for me to dodge broken bottles and other, even more questionable trash on a daily basis, I have yet to find ‘grungy’ here. If any of you have lived in Copenhagen, I’d be curious to know what you think about that.
To me, the city centre is very clean, there are plenty of colourful buildings, a mix of older and more modern architectural styles, cute streets, cobbled courtyards, flowers and ivies climbing up houses, parks and gardens every other corner, design-focused shops, and stylish cafes and eateries to grab a bite or people watch. Even in rainy weather (which I must say is quite a lot of the time…) there is something romantic about the vibe in the city. Hopefully the pictures below capture something of that atmosphere. You can see that even on gloomy and cloudy days, and in less-than-ideal lighting conditions, the city is just nice to look at.
If you missed the first post I made on ARKEN, make sure you check that out alongside this one 🙂 In this post I’ll share with you some snaps of ARKEN’s outdoor sculpture park/garden! It was a beautiful walk on a sunny day.
Oh, and the cafe in ARKEN overlooking the sculpture park was pretty cool as well, I’ve included photos of the place towards the bottom of this entry. I felt like I stepped into an architecture and design magazine (I feel that way quite often in Denmark actually…)!
This summer has been one of tears, goodbyes, joy, light, and love. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster. Yesterday I cried because I talked to some of my friends back in the UK and I missed the life I had there and all the wonderful people I still know there. I cried because I don’t know when I will be able to see my closest friends again in person. I cried because I’ve been through a lot of frustrations and obstacles to get to where I am now. I cried because I’ve had to say goodbyes. I cried for the bittersweet memories and the unresolved stories I left behind.
But I also smiled because my life in Denmark is better than I could ever have imagined. I’m meeting all the goals I’ve set for myself at work, I have great colleagues, I’m finally getting enough sleep (ish…), I’m in a relationship with someone I see a real future with (which is really saying something), I’m actually getting invited to parties, and I’m just making the most of the good life and not taking a single second of it for granted.
Since the start of my 20s, I’ve either spent my summers in Korea or the UK, or doing little trips around Europe. Talk about pre-pandemic privilege! With the exception of last summer, when I finished up my PhD and took up a temporary full-time office job while looking for my first academic post, I have always felt the desire to move around or explore someplace new. Some of that desire was genuine curiosity and a sense of spontaneity, but it was also a way for me to while away my dissatisfactions. I kept wanting a taste of change, a different environment, because I often felt like whatever I had or was doing just wasn’t it. Going ‘away’ inspired me, and allowed me to indulge the most cliched fantasies of possibility: I’d be a writer in NYC, a fashionista in Paris, a curator in London. I felt like a dreamer passing through an ocean of opportunities whenever I found myself exploring a new place or a big city.
Since finishing up my PhD in 2019, I knew I had to get serious about my future and do a little less of the physical travelling and a lot more of the spiritual, speculative kind of travelling. I couldn’t just jet off to a romantic city every now and again and pretend myself a chic, free, burden-less cosmopolitan citizen (and let’s be honest, you actually have to be quite privileged to sustain that kind of jet-setting mobility). I’ve had to ask myself where I want to be in a year’s time, 5 years time, 10 years time. I’ve had to ask myself what country I’d like to work in – and how far out in the world I am willing to go for the kind of career I want. I’ve had to reflect on what adventure, stability, and home mean to me, and what it is that I value most about life and all that can be experienced within it. I’ve had to think about the kinds of relationships I could and could not part with. And as I’ve discussed countless times on this blog, the answers to these questions were never set in stone or obvious to me. This is because my life and my identity has always been defined by being away from my country of birth. I never really felt like I had an existential constant, or anchor, that served as a foundation for the answer to my purpose.
I think part of that lack of an anchor has to do with my perceived lack of an identity which for most people is greatly shaped by the cultural, legal, and in many ways moral membership to their country/nation/state. Let me put this in the form of a trivial example. In the Western world, the number 13 is considered unlucky if you are superstitious. Where I’m from originally, it is not so – but number 4 is considered unlucky. There’s little things, quirks of culture and belief, that never ‘added up’ from where I stood because I would have the ability to inhabit multiple worlds simultaneously. And those worlds were in constant tension: Does my intuition tell me that the number 13 is bad, or is it 4? How am I supposed to decide which belief systems I pledge my loyalties to? And why does any of it matter? Did my cosmopolitan attitude actually erode the stability of whatever ‘personal identity’ I have?
I’ve met so many people for whom purpose seems to come easy. To them, it’s like, I was meant to become a parent and start a family. I was meant to give back to my country. I want to settle in _____. And I’ve always had this sense that their ability to, literally and spiritually, locate themselves as a stable member of some spatio-temporal environment, was what allowed them to see their purpose.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I don’t have my goals or principles. I want to be a good person. I want to better myself. I want to take care of my friends and family. I want to foster meaningful connections. I want all the universal things that I like to imagine everybody else wants in their life too. It’s just that I also have to ask: Ok, but which country to do you belong? Where are you going to settle to achieve all those things? Do ‘your people’ actually accept you? Where are you supposed to buy a permanent property? What happens if you have a cultural clash with the person you want to be with? Whatever objectives I had, they’ve always been complicated by questions regarding immigration, citizenship, integration, and belonging.
Like many others, I so desperately wanted to make 2020 ‘my’ year – a fresh start in a new decade. My first academic job contract was due to end in May 2020 and I had to find something to do next. But then the pandemic spread all across Europe and I had no idea where I could go given all the chaos. I could barely hold it together the first three months of 2020. It took blood, sweat and tears for me to figure out how not to get deported from the UK when my visa ran out mid-pandemic, to stay in Europe, not have to move back in with my parents all the way in Korea, and somehow land my dream job – all at the same time.
And what do you know, I somehow managed to figure it out in the nick of time, and now I’m here. The answer I was looking for all year was Denmark.
It’s now been 3 months since I relocated to Copenhagen, and I’m so grateful. The world has shown itself to be a scary place, full of tragedy, disappointment, resentment, violence, fear. And we can probably all agree that 2020 has been a dark and disastrous time, on many levels, for humanity on the whole. We’ve collectively and individually ached for the things, people, and ideals lost so early on in the new decade. But I take my experience of this year thus far as a true gift, in spite of the tears I’ve shed. I will forever count myself lucky to be able to say that I’ve thrived and endured in my own way, at this strange juncture in human history.
I’ve started to appreciate the beauty of staying put in one place, making do with what is, observing the interesting and beautiful things around me, caring more about those that mean the most to me, and learning to love the small and simple things. The work I put in all year to be right here has meant that my life doesn’t consist of fantasies and dreams anymore. Rain or sunshine, my wish is my life. I cherish it, and I’m content. I’ve been chilling, working, living, meeting new people, and enjoying the city at a very leisurely pace. This country is not perfect, nor is it ‘my’ country by any means, but it’s a beautiful stopover if nothing else. I look at these photos I’ve taken over the summer below and honestly think the city is a sight to behold at every single hour of the day. I’m here to embrace it and make the most of the experiences it has to offer me as a young and ambitious woman trying to live a good life, a beautiful life, a meaningful life. That’s all I can do to continually create my own realm and sense of belonging. And the beautiful memories I’ve made this summer make my heart sing. I hope I can look back on this time, Summer of 2020, and remember that life can be simple yet full of meaning. A life worth living.
Nordhavn is an area with an up-and-coming vibe and is situated on the harbour next to Østerbro, a.k.a the ‘fancy’ and family-friendly part of town.
You’ll see below that Nordhavn has some seriously cool building and recreational space design/architecture, and lots of new residential development in the works. There is plenty of space for outdoor swimming and cute cafes around the apartment blocks. I just enjoyed walking around the area and taking in the sights.
I mentioned in my previous post that I will be doing Sunday museum posts from now on (until I run out of museums to post about, I guess…) and I think many of you will find this one interesting!
ARKEN is a museum for contemporary art in Ishøj, a short 30 minute train ride from Copenhagen Central Station. You’re greeted with a ceiling of jellyfish cut-outs as you walk through the funky museum shop (appropriate since the building is right next to a beach), as you will see below. I noticed lots of families and their kids wandering about the museum, which made sense because the exhibit was about animals in art – and there were plenty of colourful and eye-catching works to keep the little ones entertained.
It’s definitely a nice half-day trip from Copenhagen which you could stretch out into a full day if you visit the beach afterwards. I’ll show you more of the outdoors around the venue in Part 2, next Sunday, but for now, enjoy the exhibit 🙂 As usual, I have indicated the artist responsible for the work below each photo where possible.
Hej. I’m just dropping in to say thanks for your support in helping me grow this tiny little corner of the cloud – there’s now apparently 1000 of you subscribed to my blog 🙂 It’s not a lot, and honestly I only started this blog so I have somewhere to organize my photos and to share my journey with the few friends who might care to keep up with me. But it’s actually cool to receive feedback from you and to see that many of you are taking an interest in the beautiful city of Copenhagen. I really do hope these images help you enjoy some of the magic of the city from afar, and that you feel inspired to visit when it’s viable to do so 🙂
I’ve honestly been really busy enjoying my summer in recent weeks, especially now that the weather has taken a turn for the better, so I haven’t done much photo editing recently. But I’ve been taking my camera everywhere in the meantime and have now accumulated a great many images of some amazing memories and places. I’ve literally got thousands and thousands of photos that I need to sort through for when I have a free moment! I really want to share all of them now, but I guess I’ll just have to stagger out my posts 🙂 But if you’ve been liking my photos so far, please do stick around for more because they’re just going to get better and better!
I’ve also decided Sundays will be for posts of museums for the time being, so I hope you will enjoy the ‘Sunday Museum’ posts I will line up soon.
Now I just can’t resist sharing a good sunset/golden hour, so I’ll leave you with some dazzling shots around The Lakes.
Remember that cool food market – Reffen – that I posted about? Just around the corner from Reffen is a contemporary art gallery – Copenhagen Contemporary. The gallery is housed in a really cool warehouse setting. I just loved the open space and high ceilings. I got absolutely soaked head to toe with rain this day, and trailed around the gallery carrying a good five pounds of rain-soaked clothes, but it was still awesome to explore a new place.
I mentioned in a previous post that my camera got ruined in the rain. These were the last shots I got on it before the rainfall completely messed up my camera inside my bag (thankfully with my memory card intact).
I’ve never seen anything like this weather before – skies with dramatic storm clouds and narrow slivers of sunlight that made for some very artificial-looking lighting. You can see what I mean below – everything is just visible enough, but you feel like you are walking under some big shadow cast from the sky. I’m pleased I got some cool photos out of it though!