Canadian Wanderer

Travel plans, thoughts & lessons

Month: December 2016

The Carlsberg Exbeerience

Wandering amongst the largely empty brick warehouses that makes up the sprawling historic Carlsberg brewery in Copenhagen you can’t help but feel the enormous scale of the family run business that created such a conglomerate and left such an indelible mark upon the city.

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Not unlike the Guinness family that reshaped a Victorian Dublin with their philanthropy so to did Carlsberg founder J.C. Jacobsen with the creation of the Carlsberg Foundation for scientific research related to brewing and the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek museum that’s comprised of his personal art collection. Future generations of the family would commission public art including the Little Mermaid status who graces Copenhagen’s harbour and has become a city symbol.

Located two kilometres from Central Station and accessible at regular intervals by free shuttle bus that stop just opposite Tivoli Gardens, the Visit Carlsberg exhibit – or Copenhagen Exbeerience as it’s been dubbed – is a brewery tour through the former factory used  from 1847 – 2008, when the production was moved to Jutland. Admission is Danish Krone 95 or about $17 Canadian Dollars but Copenhagen Card holders enjoy free admission to this and many other sights.

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The self-guided tour includes a stop at the largest bottle collection in the world, displaying more than 16,600 different kinds of beer bottles, all sadly behind glass and out of reach. Fortunately I’ve managed to hang on to entrance ticket which includes two complimentary beers in the tasting room in a short while.

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The massive copper vats gleam in the bight light but expect it wasn’t so pristine in the breweries heyday of the late 19th century.

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It’s well worth exploring all the nooks and crannies of the old brewery complex which include the statue garden and a fountain with a miniature version of the Little Mermaid.

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After the self-guided tour and time out sampling the two beers included in the admission one unique feature is a walk through the horse stables with real live horses!  photo by author

A quick exit from the stables and some of those real live horses are waiting to transport you both around the complex and back in time as their hooves echo off walls ready for redevelopment.


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The redevelopment of the decommissioned brewery is being spread over the next 15 – 20 years to transform it into a new neighbourhood called Carlsberg City District and the early phases of this reconstruction can be can be seen on the right of  this in this picture as a few new condo blocks, shops and restaurants have appeared amongst the former industrial landscape. As it was a crisp Autumn  day the driver, who was a grandfatherly figure,  wrapped a little rider in a Tuborg blanket.

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Sadly the horse carriage rides were cancelled shortly after my visit because of the construction within the old brewery complex raising concerns for the safety of the horses.

A short walk from the main entrance to the Visit Carlsberg exhibit is a small street with two very interesting architectural features, the first being the Dipylon Gate built in 1892 with its elegant curved arches anchoring a clock tower, a relief with Carlsberg family figures and brewery workmen and a company motto promising to always put the quality of its beer ahead of company profits in what we might call a company mission statement these days.

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Decorations on Dipylon at Carlsberg, Copenhagen by Alan Samuel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Unported License.

Elephants have been a Carlsberg symbol since its early years and nowhere within the complex is this more apparent than the  so called Elephant Gate directly opposite the Dipylon Gate, a work completed in 1901 with a quartet of pachyderms holding up the gate and tower. Notice the swastika on the elephant’s side, an ancient good luck symbol from India  Carlsberg stopped using permanently in 1940 due to its appropriation by German’s Nazi party.

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A tour of  the Visit Carlsberg attraction should be paired with a visit to the surrounding Vesterbro district, a once rough part of the city but one that’s been reborn as a hip quarter in recent years with trendy designer shops, boutique hotels and chic cafés. The former Meatpacking District has some noted restaurants including the seafood at Kødbyens Fiskebar or the craft beers at the  brewpub War Pigs.

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Culinary detours in Copenhagen

While Copenhagen’s Noma is famed for reinventing Nordic cuisine and has been lauded with many honours including a four-time winner of Restaurant magazine’s Best Restaurant in the World there is a wealth of unique dining options throughout the Danish capital beyond this Michelin-starred gastronomic glitterati that are worth experiencing one slow bite at a time.

For the foodie fans crushed at the news of Noma’s closure there is a silver lining in that across the street Restaurant 108 has opened and is headed by a former Noma chef. The new venture will be more casual with less set tasting menus and more à la carte fare but a quick scan of its menu found entrée pricing almost as much as my hotel so will give this newcomer a pass even if that risks disqualifying me forever as a “foodie”.

I pointed my rented bike instead toward PapirØen or Paper Island, a nickname given due to the number of paper warehouses used by the Danish press but which sat idle in this electronic era until an impromptu food hall sprang up in Spring 2014 and has been embraced for its raw, rustic charms and stunning harbour views. Copenhagen Street Food is the city’s first and really only authentic street food market and has an eclectic choice of food stalls and food truck delicacies from Oink Oink to Duck It with its duck burgers to a Cow Bar, Indian to Moroccan and to wash it all down a beverage from the Cocktailbaren which advertises beer ‘as cold as your ex-girlfriend’s heart’. There’s a full list of stalls here but the hard part is narrowing down which delights to sample.

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After a few circuits of the warehouse I settled upon a funky gourmet hot dog unlike any I’d ever seen or tasted from Pølser Kompagniet.

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My Superdog came loaded with so many potatoes and dressing the sausage was well hidden in its organic bun.

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To say the Superdog is a meal unto itself is a massive understatement as this is definitely not the kind of hot dog you wolf down in a few minutes on the run nor would you want to for the price which roughly converts to CAD$17. Thankfully I had the foresight to order an ice cold pint of beer from Cocktailbaren as anything less would’ve likely left me dehydrated as I washed down this mountain of a meal. If consuming this colossus be prepared with plenty of napkins as it can get fairly messy. Note that seating is at one of a dozen wooden picnic tables which reminded me of an outdoor German beer garden.

Upon leaving the street food market I paused to read a few of the wishes written on paper cards at an art exhibit sponsored by Beatle widow Yoko Ono.

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A few of the wishes were for commendable goals such as world peace or lifelong happiness but a few were more prosaic such as new electronic gadgets. My wish for a memorable meal and visit to Paper Island having been fulfilled I opted not to participate in Yoko’s art project.

Coincidentally my accommodation, the Ibsens Hotel, was within a few blocks of Copenhagen’s only permanent food hall, Torvehallerne, with its non-chain fresh brewed specialty coffees and diverse assortment of fresh produce and tempting treats indoors out of the cool, rainy Autumn weather.

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If variety is the spice of life at ASA Spice Specialist they have such a wide variety of exotic spices from every corner of the globe to spice up many lives. The quote about travel and the powerful aroma both drew me in for a closer, longer look.

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Around Copenhagen hungry travellers are likely to encounter the Danish delicacy of smørrebrød, which is an open-faced sandwich topped with everything from cold meats to smoked fish, eel, shrimp, veggies, cheese and garnished with colourful herbs. At Hallernes Smørrebrød they have an extensive menu in Danish but as everyone spoke English they guided me to something fairly safe, a roast beef and cucumber sandwich topped with shredded horseradish, onions and a sprig of water cress. It’s a handful and felt almost as if a garden salad and sandwich got mixed up in a lunch bag. There are a number of stools to perch on at Hallernes Smørrebrød while you down this Danish delicacy.

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As most smørrebrød average the equivalent of CAD$12 it’s a different but not too expensive a lunch option every traveller should try at least once.

Nyhavn Canal has gone from being a seedy sailor section of Copenhagen to a popular dining destination for locals and visitors alike drawn by its picture postcard maritime scenes and colourful historic shops and restaurants. I opted to enjoy some comfort food in the form of a gourmet burger at Nyhavns Hereford House but expect this meal to work out to around CAD$40 with beer and gratuity. Steak and fish dishes make up the bulk of the menu which is posted on a chalkboard outside the restaurant.

Warmer weather allows outdoor dining but with grey days and scattered showers the patio tables were closed.

For a better burger I would recommend Halifax Burger Restaurant, a growing chain with a Canadian connection as founders Peter and Ulrich met while business exchange students at Dalhousie Univeristy in Halifax, Nova Scotia and shared a love of hamburgers that lead them to launch their own burger joint in Copenhagen in 2007. I visited the location on Frederiksborggade around the corner from my hotel on a quiet weekday evening and scanned the menu which allows diners to select the type of bun, one of seven burgers with toppings on the menu, a side dish and even dip for the fries. With a trip to Texas weeks away I opted for the Lone Star burger with BBQ sauce, bacon, onions and cheddar and  washed it down with Halifax’s house brand pilsner. It qualifies as a gourmet burger and was hands down better than the one I’d had in Nyhavn. Tax and tip included the meal runs around CAD$35 but there aren’t any discounts for being Canadian as I’d jokingly asked my waiter.

For a quick and inexpensive bite on the run there’s always the hot dog stalls or pølsevogn in Danish meaning “sausage wagon”, a Copenhagen street food institution that happily resists modern commercialism.


Pølsevogn by MGA73bot2 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

There is usually a choice of different types of grilled or boiled wieners, franks and sausages but not all come wrapped in a bun as North Americans are accustomed to with their hot dogs so if that’s your preference order an American otherwise you’ll receive a basic boiled red wiener with a small white bun on the side. Some like the Fransk or French are long, skinny little sausages with sauce that is stuffed into a round hole in the end of a long bun. My favorite is the grilled medister which is a thicker, spicy sausage you dip in ketchup or mustard.

It’s a cheap and probably low nutritional value bite on the go but I found it fun to linger in the heat of the wagon around dusk and chat with the vendor or people watch the other patrons who while mostly male make up a broad cross-section of Copenhagen from businessmen to construction workers. The wagons are often found in busy crossroads such as Nyhavn, Norrerbro, City Hall Square and are open well past midnight to serve the bar goers heading home after a night of drinking.

While Copenhagen became a Scandinavian culinary capital over the past decade thanks to its innovative haute cuisine haunts such as Noma it will retain its status because of the wealth of unique dining choices catering to all budgets and found in all corners of this city that have followed in its wake. Copenhagen is a moveable feast and best explore by bicycle as the locals do which helps burn off some of the calories consumed. That is at least what I kept telling myself.


Two wheel touring Copenhagen

There are bicycle-friendly cities around this planet and then there is Copenhagen which is  arguably the most bike-friendly city with almost half its 1.2 million inhabitants commuting to work or school every day.  The statistics were pause for thought for a visitor eager to join the crowds and explore this Nordic capital on two wheels.

As impressive as today’s statistics are however they pale in comparison to an earlier era in the 1950’s when more than double today’s percentage of the population cycled into the city centre every day.


This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons in the public domain.  The graph showing bicycle traffic into the inner city may be found here.

After bottoming-out in the 1970’s bike use began to climb through grassroots efforts in the 80’s until the late 90’s when city policy was adopted to encourage its use with dedicated bike lanes and a more central role in civic planning. The results of a coordinated cycle-centric policy are evident today with over 454 kilometres of cycle tracks and traffic lights that are coordinated in favour of cyclists during rush hour. It’s also worth noting that 80% of cyclists ride all winter despite the occasional snowfall.

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Return the bicycle! by EUregistry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Before jumping on a bike myself I walked around Copenhagen and encountered a few morning rush hours with a steady flow of cyclists.

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After walking around the city centre for a few days my bike envy took over and I stopped by a rental shop and signed out an pretty standard unisex bike for the day for approx. CAD25 but pricing will vary so it never hurts to shop around for the lowest prices. Many hotels offer bike rentals but check for additional fees or an overall higher cost as there are a number of rental shops in and around the Nørrebro station.

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As with most bikes in Europe my rental was equipped with a key operated lock that goes through the rear tire so no bulky chain and padlock is required. The basket was handy to throw my Eddie Bauer camera bag into while on the road but a plastic bag also is worth keeping handy to slip over the seat in case a little rain falls during your ride.

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Once freewheeling around Copenhagen you can’t help but notice the variety of bikes that stop beside you at traffic lights from fancy road bikes fit for the Tour de France to more rugged knobby-tire mountain bikes and utilitarian two or three wheel cargo haulers.

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It isn’t uncommon to see parents pack the children in a cargo bike.

Thee are a number of pedestrian and bicycle-friendly bridges connecting the various part of the city including the so called ‘kissing’ bridge which gets its nickname from the tongue-like sliding bolts that allow the two sections of the bridge to interlock or split apart to allow ships to pass through.

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The ‘kissing’ bridge is near the picture Nyhavn canal and opened in August 2016 but is far from the only innovative paved path for cyclists as the Cykelslangen – the Cycle Snake – is a 700 foot elevated bike-only bridge for that winds its way above the harbour to help speed riders journey to and from the city center.

At 13 feet wide the Cykelslangen is wide enough to accommodate all cyclists including double-wide cargo bikes.

Not far away is Freetown Christiana,  an 84 acre self-governing enclave that grew out of a 1970’s hippie squatters camp in an abandoned military base. Open to the public this area of Christianshavn has a number of shops, galleries, vegan restaurants and music venues worth exploring on bike or on foot.

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This counter-culture corner of Copenhagen tolerates marijuana use but frowns upon hard drugs as is advertised on some of the walls of “Pusher” street, the community’s main avenue.

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Note that because of ongoing friction between police and Christiania residents photography is discouraged. Reminders of the Do’s and Don’ts are posted at entrances so it’s worth noting the suggested rules so that your visit is peaceful.

Worth seeking out while in Christiana is the bike shop Christiania Cykler as they provide a 24-hour bike rental for the equivalent of CAD$18 which is about $10 less than other rental shops I encountered around Copenhagen. Beyond the budget bike rental this shop is the only place in Scandinavia where you can find the handbuilt Pedersen Bicycle, an odd looking upright bike that is reputed to be both more comfortable and offer a better view of the traffic than the variety I was riding. My next time in Copenhagen I’ll have to rent a Pedersen to confirm or refute this theory.

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With such notable civic cycling landmarks, a flat, compact city center and a wealth of bike rental options riding around Copenhagen is a pure pleasure that affords the visitor the ability to navigate this Nordic capital as the locals do and feel like one of them if only for a short time. My only regret was not having rented a bike earlier in my stay but won’t hesitate to hop on a bike every day of my next visit to Copenhagen.

Air Miles cancels expiry policy at the last minute

A few weeks before Air Miles controversial New Year’s Day expiry of unused miles banked more than five years ago Canada’s largest loyalty program abruptly reversed course in announcing that expiry policy was being cancelled and its miles would never expire.


The seismic shift in Canada’s largest loyalty plan policy was prompted by Ontario legislation that was to become law this month making it illegal for loyalty programs to let customer points expire without their permission. For those Air Miles collectors who hadn’t done anything about their expiring miles the last-minute reprieve comes as welcome news however the multitude who for months have rushed to redeem their unspent hoard on travel or merchandise they didn’t want the reversal comes as a bitter pill to swallow.

The long-term damage to the Air Miles brand from the expiry policy debacle remains to be seen but at the very least has forced millions of passive collectors to pay more attention to the worth of their miles and that can’t be a bad thing. For those collectors who sat tight and didn’t join the stampede to redeem their miles there are some lessons to be learned about the risks of not using banked loyalty program miles and how to get the best value from them when they are redeemed.

For starters, simply put points & miles lose value over time so the longer a collector sits on their account the less value it holds as loyalty programs periodically adjust their award levels. For example in 2013 an Air Miles short haul, low season flight reward roundtrip between Edmonton and Calgary required 950 miles while today that same flight award requires 1,200 miles, a 25% decrease in the value of each point in three short years.

Given that Air Miles stood to gain millions when old miles expired and ceased to be a liability on its balance sheets expect  redemptions levels to raised to recoup some of that lost money so it would be wise for account holders still sitting on a big balance to seriously consider a redeeming a Dream Reward in the shorter-term or see their hard earned miles further devalued.

It should be noted that the Ontario legislation only outlawed the expiration of loyalty program miles and points due to the passage of time however miles can still be lost through inactivity which with Air Miles is 24 months. This means there must be at least one mile earned or a redemption made within that period of time and it’s a common clause for all loyalty programs.




Cozy, comfortable, cosmopolitan Copenhagen

Copenhagen is cool! And by that I don’t mean weather-wise or the trendy pretentious hipster kind of faux cool but rather a genuine kind of cool that happens almost without effort as this gateway to Scandinavia boasts a gilded imperial past yet lives very much in an pragmatic present while embracing a dynamic future.

Home to more than a million Danes Copenhagen is in equal measures a big modern metropolis with striking modern architectural showpieces and a capital with centuries of notable historic treasures but luckily for the visitor both are found in close proximity within a compact and walkable city center.

A good place to begin city explorations is in Rådhuspladsen or City Hall Square dominated by the imposing red brick City Hall with its tall bell tower copied from the Tuscan town hall of Siena.

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The main hall is open to the public without charge and is draped with dozens of red and white flags which have been used by Danish kings since the 14th century making it the oldest continuously used national flag on earth.

Well worth the CAD$5 price of admission and climb up 300 stairs is the bell tower for its sweeping view of central Copenhagen including the adjacent Tivoli Gardens.


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Local literary legend Hans Christian Andersen’s statue looking at the H.C. Andersen Castle that rules over his beloved Tivoli Gardens, one of the world’s oldest amusement parks enchanting young and old alike since 1843.

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Despite not being open year round, Tivoli still managed to attract 4.7 million visitors in 2015 making it the  second-most popular seasonal theme park in the world. From its founding the park has featured many buildings built in exotic Indian and Oriental styles including the picturesque Chinese pagoda that shimmers at dusk above an ornamental lake.

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I was fortunate that Tivoli was open for a few weeks during my visit to Copenhagen to celebrate the Hallowe’en season and was decorated with carved pumpkins and spooky spirits.   20161016_095156photo by author

Adult admission to the 20 acre amusement park entry is free for Copenhagen Card holders or the equivalent of CAD$22 for those without this versatile sightseeing card.  Note that the entry price does not include any of the two dozen adult and child oriented rides including the floorless 4g Dæmonen (demon) roller coaster.

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For the thrill-seeker a front-seat view of this chilling coaster ride can be found here. There is something for everyone within Tivoli so if adrenalin rushes from thrill rides aren’t your thing there are lots of quieter corners to people watch or enjoy at a leisurely pace.

As with most amusement parks there is a variety of dining options from take-away fast food to sit-down higher end fare but as with costs around Copenhagen expect food at Tivoli to be in the CAD$20 range for a hot dog,  fries and Coke and double that for more formal dining.

Upon entering the park pick-up a schedule of concerts and events as it changes throughout the year. A popular favorite is Tivoli Illuminations, a light and sound show that uses colors, music, lasers, fire, smoke and water on Tivoli Lake to dazzle the gathered crowds.

The Copenhagen Card also includes a harbour tour in a Netto-Boat and seeing the city from the water is a good way to appreciate the role maritime trade played in making the city a regional powerhouse. The low sightseeing boats glide into the postcard perfect Nyhavn canal which is one of the oldest parts of the Copenhagen harbour dating back to 1673.  Once a  seedy sailor quarter but having undergone a makeover in recent years to become a popular dining  destination for locals and visitors alike. The familiar yellow façade of the pub Nyhavn 17 has  been welcoming thirsty visitors since the 18th century while a little further along is Hong Kong Night Club, a Danish strip club who’s heyday ran from the 1960’s – 80’s but survives in part because it’s open until 5 AM, long after all the other bars have closed.

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A reminder of the seafaring traditions of the Nyhavn is the Mindeankeret monument, a large monumental anchor in memory of the Danish officers and sailors who died during the Second World War.

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Anchor placed in Nyhavn by Medien-gbr is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Arguably Copenhagen’s most familiar city symbol is The Little Mermaid, or in Danish Den lille Havfrue, a diminutive harbour side statue commissioned by Carl Jacobsen, the founder of the Carlsberg brewing empire and based upon a fairly tale of the same name by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen.  I took this picture from the harbour tour boat to show the crowds that gather to snap a photo,

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The 4-foot tall statue has been decapitated on numerous occasions and suffered an occasional limb amputation since she was unveiled in 1913 but each time she’s been restored to her original state. There was some thought given to moving her rocky perch out from the shore a few metres to discourage vandalism but as of my visit she remains landlocked.

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Copenhagen harbour is home to a number of impressive modern architectural showpieces including the Royal Danish Opera House, designed by Henning Larsen, one of the great names of Danish architecture.

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Another modern cubist building occupying a scenic spot on the harbour in the Frederiksstaden district near the Amalienborg Palace is the Royal Danish Playhouse, a theatre building for the Royal Danish Theatre opened in 2008.


The first local landmark on the architectural landscape in 1999 was a modern waterfront extension to the Royal Danish Library‘s old building on Slotsholmen in central Copenhagen, the so called  ‘The Black Diamond’.

black-diamondCreative Commons Licence
The Black Diamond by Jeroen Pulles is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License.

Copenhagen however is far more than gleaming architectural wonders or centuries old palaces as it’s the people who make this city the thriving Nordic capital it is today with unexpected moments of serendipity around almost every corner. A morning wander drew me to a dozen knitted pink bras pinned to a line along a busy thoroughfare which I thought at first may be a manufacture’s gimmick but quickly learned was a more sombre symbol to the victims of breast cancer as October is breast cancer awareness month in Denmark.

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The pink bra is knitted by the breast cancer survivor who tells their story on the attached tag (more in this article).

The Danes are often cited in surveys as the happiest people in the world and this positive outlook stems from Hygge (pronounced ‘hooga’) a word that roughly translates to ‘cosiness’ but means much more of  creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good life with friends & family and it’s this contentment that makes Copenhagen such a pleasure for visitors to experience.

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