It’s grundlovsdag (constitution day) today - the closest thing Denmark has to a national day. It celebrates the first democratic constitution that was signed by King Frederik VII. on June 5, 1849, and established the constitutional monarchy with a representative parlamentary system in Denmark.
Yesterday was the first day that actually felt like spring, and the first day this year that allowed me to pull out my sunglasses. The day itself was beautiful, with fresh air, clear blue skies and non-stop sunshine. We spent it with a family brunch and birthday in Frederikssund in Northern Sjælland (Zealand), and after a downright food orgy with brunch, coffee, cake and sweets, we took a walk on the beautiful Roskilde Fjord. One thing I love so much about Denmark is that, no matter where you are, you’re never far away from the ocean. I’ve always wanted to live near the water, so this is absolute heaven for me. And the walk along Roskilde Fjord was stunning, with the sun in the blue sky, the clearest, freshest air, and the calm water as far as the eye could see… on the way back, we passed through a small, idyllic residential area, where every couple of houses, you’d see a “dannebrog” flying in the soft ocean breeze. I forgot to bring my phone or camera to the walk, so no pictures, unfortunately.
But this amazing day in Nordsjælland made me think of Rørvig, where my boyfriend’s parents have a “sommerhus”, a typical Danish summer cottage, near the beach, and where we’ve spent some time last summer. We’ll probably go up there again for the traditional family Easter lunch this year, and hunt for chocolate in the garden.
Danish summer houses have a very unique style. The classic “sommerhus” is usually a one-story building made of black wood, with white windows, surrounded by a small garden area with bushes and trees. Many sumer cottages have a flagpole as well, and usually you will see some bikes leaning against the house or standing in a shed. The interior is cozy and homely, the famous “hygge” is as important as ever. The traditional “sommerhusstil”, or summer house style, is very romantic. As opposed to the stylish, clear and modern interiors you find in fancy Copenhagen and Frederiksberg apartments and houses, summer houses will have plushy couches, fluffy pillows, carpets and curtains. Many summer houses have wood-burning stoves or fireplaces, because evenings and nights in the Danish early or late summer can be chilly. (When we arrived for our vacation last summer, we almost smoked out the entire house when trying to get a little fire going to warm us up…) As for the colors, furniture will often be white or of light wood, and color schemes range from romantic pastels to nautical-themed blue and navy tones. I’ve really fallen in love with the Danish summer house, and we’ll probably be spending some time there again this summer. For me, summer cottages mean long, wam nights, cycling to the beach, barbecue on the porch, and drinking a cold Carlsberg. They mean “hygge” and relaxation. They are the epitome of Danish summer.
Some interior brands capture the essence of the Danish summer house:
Greengate: Romantic designs, floral patterns and soft pastels are the trademark of Danish company Greengate, and you’ll probably be able to find many a Greengate product in Danish summer houses. http://www.greengate.dk
Cath Kidston: Similar to Greengate, this UK brand is also focusing on playful patters, romantic flowers and pretty colors. If you like the “shabby chic” trend, you’ll also be right at home here! They also have clothes and accessories available in the online shop. www.cathkidston.com
Lene Bjerre: I’ve written about this brand before, but if I had a sommerhus, I’d be sure to put a ton of their products in there! They are less playful but no less girly and pretty, with more natural colors and high quality materials. http://www.lenebjerre.com
There are some blogs I’ve found that are dedicated to the Danish sommerhus:
- http://betina-sommerhusstil.blogspot.dk/ (in Danish)
- http://sommerhusliv.blogspot.dk/ (Danish as well)
Further, I’ve found some great posts here:
I always find it funny to observe the country I’m living in from an expat perspective. My experience with living in 4 different countries in the last 6 years or so is that not only do you learn a lot about the country and culture you’re living in, but you learn even more about yourself and your own culture. I’ve caught myself doing distinctly German things, like mixing fruit juice with sparkling water to make a delicious refreshing “Schorle” (pure juice is way too sweet, people!), that I never actually thought were something special. And of course, you notice odd or weird things in your host country that are quite different from what you’re used to.
One such thing I have noticed in Denmark is flags. It might just seem so strange to me because in Germany, we’ve had a difficult relationship with our flags and national pride in general after the Second World War - understandably so. The first time I remember waving a German flag was during the soccer world cup 2006 in Germany. We had those Aloha flower necklaces in black-red-and-gold, painted the flags on our cheeks, and waved flags when we won a game. But otherwise, you won’t find many people who actually display a flag, say in their garden, and if they do, you immediately think they might be weird and maybe a bit to the right end of the political spectrum. In Denmark, this is totally different. The flag is everywhere.
The Danish flag has a name: “dannebrog”, which means “Danish cloth”. Legend has it that the flag fell from the sky during a battle of the Danish army against Estonia, when they were praying to God to save them from defeat - which worked. I think it’s a quite pretty flag, and the red and white colors look great on the background of a clear blue sky.
Note that the queen’s royal yacht also carries the name “Dannebrog” (to be precise, the vessel is called “KDM Dannebrog”), but it was named after the flag. It usually anchors in Copenhagen harbour, but in the summer, the queen usually spends a couple of weeks in Greenland on the ship.
The Danish flag is a common sight in Copenhagen (and Denmark). It is found on public buildings, Amalienborg palace, of course (where flags on the four main buildings indicate which members of the royal family are home), and a lot of people even have a flagpole in their garden. This is a typical sight especially for summer houses.
But the Danes also use flags on special occasions. For example, when there’s a special holiday, all busses in Copenhagen will fly little flags. This is also the case when it’s the birthday of a member of the royal family, or another special event, like the royal wedding. If you see the flags on the busses but can’t remember what they are for, there’s a website called http://hvorforflagerbussen.dk/ (why do the busses fly flags) that will tell you exactly why - pretty neat! But I’ve also asked bus drivers before, who were happy to explain.
Another popular occasion to use flags for decoration is birthdays. Not only royal birthdays, but every single family birthday is celebrated by pulling out the flag decorations! Our neighbors even put two flags outside their door when there’s a birthday in their family! You can buy napkins, paper plates and cups, even small paper “strøflag” (sprinkle flags) to just throw on the table… the possibilities are endless! And of course, the miniature flagpole can’t be missing from any birthday table! Even high-end interior brands like Georg Jensen have those little flagpoles so you can celebrate in style.
And last but not least, flags of course also decorate the famous Danish “kransekage” (layered marzipan cake) traditionally served on New Year’s Eve and at weddings, but sometimes also as a birthday cake.
What do you think? What are your experiences with flags - the Danish and your own? And to the Danes: did I forget an important detail about the Dannebrog? An occasion where it is also used? Are there other traditions or trivia around the flag?
Aaah, yes. It is winter. And me, personally, I’m pretty much done with winter after Christmas, okay, maybe New Year. But from January 2nd, I’m ready for spring! Sunshine, flowers, birds singing, warm air, … but no. Denmark is not having any of it. After all, the Danish winter only really kicks of in January and February. And this week, it really showed me what it can do.
On Monday, the first snow fell, and with it came some pretty nasty wind. Well, it’s always kinda windy in CPH - whoever came up with the nickname “windy city” for Chicago has obviously never been to Copenhagen! - but in combination with the snow, it gets downright unpleasant. No matter how many layers you wear, the icy wind will make sure the cold creeps all the way through wool, cotton or whatever fabric you chose to wear. There is no escape!
Especially near the water (where I live and also where my workplace is) it can get pretty bad. Seriously, some mornings it’s nearly impossible to make your way up the street against the wind at Tuborg Havn!
But then, we also got some snow, and people got all excited (I say people, not me, because, again, I am done with anything winter-y after Christmas!). One of my coworkers described the Danish winter to me as follows: “It gets really cold, and then it rains a lot, and the rain freezes as it hits the ground, but it almost NEVER snows!”
So when it actually did snow, people were super-happy and started dreaming about ski vacations, snowmen and igloos in their front yards, only to realize that pretty much nothing actually remained on the ground. So people got all like
On this note, I have to say that the “When You Live in Copenhagen” Tumblr has some very truthful and hilarious facts, so do stop by there! There’s another one called “When You Live in Denmark“, which is also quite fun.
So basically, the weekend will be spent at home, cuddled up and drinking tea or hot chocolate (with Baileys!). I still have a couple of books I haven’t read yet, so maybe this is the time…
I hope the weather is more pleasant wherever you are!
Heute ist der letzte Tag in 2013 und das nehme ich gerne zum Anlass, um nochmal einige Highlights des Jahres Revue passieren zu lassen. Das Jahr war schon ziemlich stressig, aber es gab immer wieder Unterbrechungen zur Erholung: ein Familienurlaub in Südfrankreich und ein langes Wochenende in Barcelona zum Beispiel. Aber da dieses Blog sich ja vorwiegend mit Dänemark beschäftigen möchte, findet Ihr hier einige Eindrücke der wunderschönen Tage, die wir diesen Sommer im Sommerhaus der Schwiegereltern in spe in Rørvig (Nordsjælland) verbrachten.
As 2013 draws to a close, I’m taking the opportunity to look back on some of my favorite moments and events of the year. It’s been a stressful year, but there were plenty of welcome interruptions for relaxing, e.g. a family vacation in the South of France or a long weekend in beautiful Barcelona. But since this blog is supposed to focus on Denmark, I’m sharing some impressions from the couple of days we spent in the in-laws’ summer house in Rørvig, North Sealand.
Sommerhaus - summer house
Hafen - Rørvig harbor
Fangfrischer Fisch im Hafenrestaurant - fresh fish in the harbor restaurant