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Coveting Copenhagen

Envy comes easily looking down at the slick, shingled roof tops of Copenhagen, Denmark. They are so desirable in their delicately toned, film processed hues of slate, apricot, and mint. I imagine only good things are allowed to occur under those eaves. Coffee cups never break; morning toast is always warmly buttered; potted plants thrive next to minimalist furniture. All is calmness and decorum.

I yearn to have a pied-à-terre in Nørrebro to which I can saunter after late night drinks. Or an artist’s studio in Nyhavn from whose dormer I can wax lyrical about my muse: the canal. Surely I would be a better novelist if I had a regular café along Nordre Frihavnsgade to haunt? I’m certain I could achieve more if I were contemplating sunsets from my dock-side desk on Kongens Nytorv. After all, it worked wonders for Hans Christian Andersen.

Instead, I must be contented with glimpses into hygge accommodations from my lofty perch. I spy Panton chandeliers and Jacobsen egg chairs. My envy grows as I peer at sleek steel appliances and curvaceous wooden rails. I covet walls painted platinum and charming salon tableaux. Every penthouse vista Copenhagen divulges feeds my fever. Each chimney pot and tiled square fuels my inner comparison demon — the one that’s always eager to convince me life would be better if I were doing things differently.     

Climbing the spiral steeple of the Church of our Savior, I have to remind myself, “you don’t know what it’s like to live under those roofs, you can’t tell what goes on behind those paned windows.” Nose pressed against the grill, surveying the candy-colored townhomes shouldering one another, I shout back at envy, “Stop trying to trap me inside your false, constrictive metaphors!”

Still, when I read the plaque about Copenhagen’s contribution to the Danish Golden Age, when a passing tour guide praises the city’s commitment to urban design, when I peruse an article claiming this is the happiest place on earth, envy rears up to whisper at me, “See what you’re missing? You should be part of this. When will it be your turn?” I sigh in defeat. Resentment is triumphant. It has managed to demoralize me amidst a Danish utopia. I stop exploring. I don’t want to see Copenhagen’s rooftops anymore.

In an older neighborhood, I slip into a garden nestled between mansions. I rest underneath a tree by a lake. No one else is there. The light sparkles off the water for my amusement. The poisonous murk clears. I see the situation clearly. I don’t need lodgings by the canal. I don’t require quarters in a canary terraced house, under a slate roof, or along the Strøget. I am part of Copenhagen, I realize. I have tasted its delights. I’ve watched it from above, delved into its interiors, climbed its heights. I’m immersed in hygge at this moment. The petty monster has no response. I smirk. “It’s my turn now,” I say.


Copenhagen is a bicyclist’s dream city. It caters to their safety, welfare, and comfort through the use of bikeways, traffic preference in city planning, and integration into the public transport service. To experience the Danish capital like a native, rent a bicycle or sign up for a bike tour.

Has a city or an object ever made you envious? What is your remedy for getting out of the comparison trap?

133 replies »

  1. But I have seen a Danish film or two and they are full of echoing sadness! So! And so was Andersen! Nothing but sadness, really! Perhaps the counterbalance! And I have read somewhere—beautiful houses—always come from heartbreak!

  2. nice pictures!!! and Kobnhavn indeed a lovely city <3, so bad I didn't go to the top of church of our saviour… it seems nice

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the photos. I don’t usually get to experience a city view from above, so it was wonderful to see this perspective of Copenhagen. Hopefully, next time you are in the city you will get a chance to check out some of the tower vistas.

  3. I’m not that much of a cyclist, but the colorful houses and the boats have a picturesque view that can please me. The way in which you can tell your travel experiences in a lyrical way is also fun to read.
    Best regards, Heidi

  4. Wonderful post, wonderful writing. It’s true that it’s easy to envy others…at least from an “outsider” perspective! I think life is very often very different on the “inside”! Nice look at Copenhagen too. It’s on my travel list.

    • Thank you so very much. As you say, things are never as they seem, but my envy loves to pretend they are. I hope you’ll manage to make it to Copenhagen at some point. It’s such a lovely place.

  5. It does seems like a perfect Utopian world. Perhaps you’re better off wondering what goes on under those picturesque rooftops, at least I can enjoy the imaginative thoughts that you write about.

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