So we’ve embraced Copenhagen festivals. This summer may be eccentric in terms of weather (it changes from glorious sunshine to pouring rain and back again every thirty minutes) but there’s still consistency in Copenhagen’s festivals and street parties.
Every week there tends to be music and events of various shapes and sizes. Last week we went to Stella Polaris.http://www.stella-polaris.dk/
It’s a free festival with ambient DJs and musicians creating chilled out electronic music in a large family friendly park.
We start the day by shopping for our picnic. Eating out is an expensive treat so like most Copenhageners we make the most of any opportunity to picnic or barbecue in one of the many gorgeous areas of the city. I head into Fakta in order to get some bread, beer and hummus.
Danish supermarkets are a strange affair. They have weekly special offers and this entails a constant rearranging of key items. Occasionally they will try to up-sell items by moving them around and mixing them up, to the effect that you remember seeing an item in one location one week and by the next week its gone. There is always an excessive stock of Bernaise sauce, Whisky sauce and Moray Sauce, but you’ll never find Tartar sauce, mint sauce, apple sauce or brown sauce.
It’s a similar scenario when I’m trying to pick up hummus. Fakta has gone into Mayonasie and Aoili overload:
There’s around ten different areas in the shop where one can purchase mayo, but alas it seems no hummus. I thought we had reached a point in multiculturalism where hummus had become a staple good in just the same way that rice and kiwis are no longer ‘excotic’, but in my local supermarket it seems they can’t be bothered of going through the stress of importing such a rare and unusual foodstuff. I guess they worry it might take up some of their Mayonaise shelf space.
Still, the beer is always easy to find and I head to the checkout, raising another half eyebrow at the swearing going on in the product descriptions of the sweets.
Now that my 6 year old can read pretty good. Signs like the one above and this other one:
can be a real headache for a parent.
The Danes generally seem to be a polite and reserved bunch but their rudest swear word is ‘piss’. I guess if you live in an equal society where everyone is happy then you don’t need hard swear words.
However, the myth than everyone is happy in Denmark is just that (does anyone else like the irony that Denmark is the 2nd happiest country in the word but also has the highest rate of anti-depressant use in Europe…maybe its because they take their pills that they are so happy). So Danes have had to import decent swearing from the UK (I’m so proud of our cultural exports). In Denmark swearing in English is pretty ok and shows off your linguistic skills in just the same way that saying merde in the UK is no big deal
Jeg ville lave en smørrebrød, men der var ikke fucking brød
Anyway, after I fail to get the fucking hummus, I head home to rant to Emma about Danish supermarkets for around 45 minutes (imagine being married to me, I don’t know how my wife has such fortitude). Following this we make the picnic and head to the festival.
The festival is great. Super-chilled music, a nice mixture of live acts and DJs, families and hedonists come together to stretch out on a beautiful lawn and enjoy a perfect lazy Sunday.
The summer has been fairly rubbish in Denmark so the fact the sun makes an appearance today creates an even more special atmosphere. What’s more, it’s all free. You suddenly don’t begrudge paying excessive taxes when you are sitting in the sun enjoying amazing music and having happy times with your kids.
After a few picnic beers, we take it in turns to look after the kids and head off to explore the festival. There are people giving out free ice creams, promotional sunglasses and energy drinks while DJs play and kids have fun.
Another beer later, I find the part of the festival where there is the cheese van giving away cheese.
For those of you that know me, the combination: electronic music, a festival, a cheese van, not having to pay for anything is close to me idea of paradise. I experience something close to a mental and emotional ejactulation and spend the next 35 minutes gorging myself on cheese and contemplating why cheese vans at festivals aren’t a mandatory feature.
The day is great, the kids are happy and when it all wraps up at around 5pm we cycle back along the harbour with the kids in the Nihola bucket bike.
The memories of -10 degree winters melt away.
Life away from the UK is still hard. Early mornings, long days at work, feeling isolated because you don’t speak the language, being skint and unable to afford some of the pleasures of regularly eating out that now feel far more luxurious.
However, there are days like today when you realise you don’t need to spend lots of money to have a great time. Copenhageners and the Kobenhavn commune regularly invest time, energy and money in big and small communal events like the Stella Polaris festival because they know the feeling of fellowship and neighbourliness it brings is a great return on investment. Nearly every week there is some kind of public event or free gathering with music and food and fellowship. It really helps to break down the walls of the winter isolation, makes you feel great and help create a sense of belonging to the city. It’s something some places in the UK could learn a lot from.
The alternative viewpoint is that Danes just like to get pissed on cheap beer and party, but either philosophy works for me.
Coming up Haven Festival and Noma. The adventure continues.