The Green Dragon – Copenhagen 2014

Contrary to what Hamlet thought, there’s nothing rotten in the state of Denmark. On the contrary, the air is cleaner,  the water is fresher and the government is more transparent than in almost any other country in the EU.  That’s why the European Commission named Copenhagen the GREEN CAPITAL OF 2014.

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Instead of reading the news about another failed country overrun by mad Jihadis, or one collapsed under the weight of debt or one wracked by tragic earthquakes, let’s put global stress syndrome on hold for a just few minutes and hear some good news.

Queen Margrethe II and the first female Prime Minister of Denmark, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, preside over Copenhageners who have made up their collective mind to have a real impact on the environment, or rather, to have much less of an impact on their environment. They’ve pledged to become carbon neutral by 2025 and are sprinting to the finish line ahead of any other city you can think of.

Here’s how they’re doing it.  First of all, they designated 25% of the city to be green space.  So far, 80% of the city dwellers live within 300 meters of a green area or a body of water.

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One of the most peaceful green spots in town is Kastellet (The Citadel), an old star fortress initiated by King Frederike III and designed by a Dutch Baron in the 1660’s.  Originally built to fend off the invading Swedes, today it’s a rambling public park with separate jogging and bike paths that are not too far from the Little Mermaid and the English Church.

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In 1866 King Christian IX of Denmark married off his second daughter Dagmar to Czar Alexander III of Russia. Re-christened Princess Maria Feodorovna, she nevertheless longed for her crusty native bread, ølebrød. Presto! The mill at the citadel ground her rye flour, the army bakery fashioned it into loaves and shipped it off so the Princess could enjoy it every morning with her strong Russian tea.

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Just a twenty-minute train ride from Copenhagen is another notable green space, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (named after Louise, Louise, and Louise, all three wives of the first 19th century owner of the property). Footpaths guide you through acres and acres of marvelous outdoor sculpture.

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Richard Serra “The Gate in the Gorge” 1986.

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You can even stand outside the museum’s restaurant and wave across the Sound to Sweden.

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If the weather outside is stormy, you can find your green space inside. The Glyptotek, is a world-class museum founded in 1897 by Carl Jacobsen, heir to the vast Carlsberg Brewing Company fortune. The collection will take you from Egyptian and Roman artifacts to French Impressionist Paintings to Contemporary art. You can also book your own wedding there!

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The Palm Garden inside the Glyptotek, Copenhagen.

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Outdoors in Carlsberg City District (land formerly owned by the brewery) a new housing and commercial development project includes  botanical gardens and parkland. For kids, there’s an obstacle course designed to rival a marine boot camp. Dangerous by American standards, tough Danish teenagers  reclaim their former Viking reputations here.

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Yes, that’s a car hanging from a tree! Most of the course requires ziplines and hanging upside down.

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Americans who hate high taxes might be mollified if our government delivered the kind of high level public education and efficient public transportation that Copenhagen boasts. Local S-trains, the metro, the frequent A-bus network or the water buses will get you to any number of Michelin starred restaurants, and to ubiquitous sailing, biking, and clubbing. Maybe you just want to visit experimental off-the-grid Christiania village? Maybe you’re an art hound sniffing out the infinite variety of museums?  Maybe you want to be seen at the Royal Danish Ballet or the Opera? You can do it all without ever having to resort to expensive taxis or rental cars or creating more than your fair share of air pollution.

…But the best way to get around is to take advantage of Copenhagen’s pledge to be “The World’s Best City for Cyclists.” With ingenious bike routes almost  50% of the population now cycles to work or education.

Renting a bike is easy. Go to copenhagenbicycles.dk/rent/
Renting a bike is easy. Go to copenhagenbicycles.dk/rent/

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Nørreport Station is the busiest Metro and train station in Copenhagen so don’t forget where you parked your bike!

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Recycling? Check.

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Dedication to biodiversity? Check.

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Organic food production? Check.

Denmark has been going green since 1987 when the government first set guidelines for organic food consumption.  Today Denmark sells more organic food per capita in its grocery stores than any other country so you don’t have to search for a specialized health food shop or that nonexistent Whole Foods.

As for restaurants? We loved Restaurant Kanalen, situated right on the canals. Wilders Plads 2, 1403 Køberhavn.

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Asparagus and shrimp appetizer.

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Fish, potato and cucumber artfully prepared.

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A nest of chocolate truffles, fruit jellies and marshmallow bombs complimented by a double espresso.

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Green is great, but it’s not the only reason to visit Copenhagen. While you can drink water from the tap and run the annual 10K Copenhagen Marathon without gasping for oxygen, remember that it’s one of the great unsung art cities of the world.

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Jean Dubuffet “Manoir d’Essor” 1969-82, at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.

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Christian Lemmerz “Todesfigur” 2012, at the Glyptotek.

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Hans Wegner chair from the Design Museum of Denmark.

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See you there this Fall! Meet me at Yayoi Kusama’s ” Gleaming Lights of the Souls” 2008, at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.

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See you back in the USA in October!

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