Sunday, 1 June 2014

Copenhagen: Eurofever, Mermaids and Smushi.

This year I made a decision deemed funny, brilliant or just plain odd, depending on who you were asking. I decided to travel to Copenhagen to meet up with friends, and watch the Eurovision Song Contest (or more accurately, the dress rehearsal during the afternoon - lots cheaper). I know we don't really get into Eurovision here, and until last year I had never really even watched it, but my Belgian friends and their intense passion for all things Eurosongs changed my mind last Summer when we watched it together. They were so wholeheartedly and sincerely into it, I got totally swept along, and it turns out that Eurovision is a great laugh if you just embrace it - whether 'it' be men in boxes, ABBA, Polish milkmaids or people in scary masks, just screaming - for the fun, silly entertainment that it is. The fact that Denmark was hosting definitely nudged me into saying yes too. I've always wanted to visit Copenhagen, and have dreamed of seeing the statue of the Little Mermaid ever since I was a little girl, who just wanted to be where the mermaids were. A tiny suitcase and a Union Jack (filled mostly with make-up) in hand, I was off!

Copenhagen is a really pretty city, and was fully decked out in its Euro-finery for the weekend I was there. The lyrics to Denmark's entry decorated the streets, and there was a whole pedestrianised 'Fan Mile' dedicated to Eurovision-themed fun, with stages set up and performances, events and music throughout the day. There were people from all over Europe there, and everyone wanted to have fun and make friends; the atmosphere was incredible. People were signing old Eurovision favourites in the streets, wrapped in flags, which may sound less than classy, but this didn't have a football hooligan vibe at all. It was more like the happy, celebratory vibe we had when the Olympics were on. 

The non-Euro stuff was the opposite of cheesy however; the interior shops' window displays had me drooling, the locals were seriously gorgeous and stylish, and there were some amazingly cool cocktail bars and restaurants. I'd definitely recommend Copenhagen for a stylish city break. We spent rather a lot of our beautiful Danish kroner on the first day we were there on food and drinks alone. Lunch was at the beautiful Royal Smushi Cafe, an elegantly eclectic little haven filled with pretty oddities, and amazing, miniature Scandi-sandwiches. Think a wallpapered, high ceiling, chandeliers, pastel-coloured ornaments and food almost too pretty to eat. That night, cocktails were followed by dinner at Geist, a contemporary tapas-style restaurant that feels a bit like eating the experiments of a mad-chef/scientist in a branch of All Saints. The decor was what I'd describe as industrial-glam, and we had an amazingly huge round table, that made me feel like a knight. The idea was to order three or four painfully expensive dishes (I split with a friend, and ate more than enough) which come one at a time. It was hit-and-miss to be honest, but my brown crab with mash and salted butter was pretty delicious, and my beef topped with egg-yolk was the most perfect shade of pink. 

The next day was Eurovision day, and we caught a boat to Eurovision Island (kind of a let-down, totally didn't live up to the camp and glittery images conjured by the name!) from Nyhavn. Nyhavn was the prettiest part of Copenhagen that I saw, a pretty canal, complete with wooden ships bobbing on the water, lined with colourful cafes and shops. I imagine this area looks glorious in the sunshine, but unluckily for us it was raining that day. Eurovision Island may have been a let-down, but the arena wasn't; it looked incredible, with a huge stage, amazing lighting creating a sort of laser-cage, and pools surrounding the stage for last-year's winner's pool party of a performance. I had a great time, and was totally mesmerised by it all - enough so that I was genuinely excited to watch it all over again that night on the big screens in Rainbow Square. A danish hotdog later (nearly as good as their pastries) and we were painting rainbows on our faces in the gay hotspot. Beers in hand, we danced in the rain and went crazy every time Conchita was awarded douze points!

On the next, and last, day my main priority was getting near that mermaid. Luckily, one of the group was a Copenhagen resident, and so had a car, which meant no messing around with buses or long walks. Everyone I know who has been to see her say they are surprised by how small she is, but not me. I'd genuinely wanted to see that hundred-year-old statue my whole life, and have never quite outgrown wanting to be a mermaid, and luckily she was just as beautiful as I had hoped. I felt a little moved just looking at her, and thought she was a perfect tribute to my favourite fairytale. 

Before heading back to the airport, we decided to go for lunch at the food court. Now, the term 'food court' has always meant McDonald's, Pizza Hut etc. to me, but Copenhagen's is of course, far more stylish than that. Two modern, glass buildings house the most amazing food market I have ever been to, including over 60 stands of everything from butchers, pasta restaurants, cheese stalls, delis, fancy coffee shops, pizza stalls, florists, fish cooked to order and greengrocers. I didn't know where to start, and tried a few samples before settling on a bowl of pasta with a glass of wine, followed by a final Danish pastry. 

The station was right next to the food court, so we were checking in to the airport in no time at all, and the whole trip was over too soon. I'd have loved to stay a little longer and visited the amusement park and botanical gardens, and maybe even travelled out of the city to see more of Denmark. It's a beautiful place, and one I'd definitely return to. I love seeing European cities, and feel like I'll never get around all the ones I want to see, but I'm so glad I did this one. Have you ever been to Copenhagen? Which are your favourite European cities?

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