A Moment of Sun

Something miraculous happened on Saturday: the sun came out.

I actually had plans to go out with my visiting-host mother rain or shine, but I was extremely pleased when the weather in Helsingør turned out to be clear and mild, as if the clouds had parted just for us. Helsingør is an absolutely adorable 15th-century town about an hour’s train ride from Copenhagen that is home to Kronborg Castle, otherwise known as Hamlet’s Castle. Although Hamlet was not a real person, the castle provides tours where you can follow and actor dressed as Hamlet’s closest confidant, Horatio, through the various parts of the castle where the scenes from Hamlet might have actually taken place.

From the castle tower, you can look out onto the canal that separates Denmark from Sweden– in fact, you can see the Swedish town of Helsingborg, which sits only about a 30 minute ferry ride away from the shore. The view is stunning from all angles, and you can really start to understand why the castle was placed in such a strategic spot back in the 1400s.

Kronborg Castle

Besides the castle, the town boasts colorful buildings, an indoor food market, and a city square that hosts a farmer’s market in the warmer months. As someone who has searched Copenhagen far and wide for farmers markets, this excited me– although there were only one or two people selling things when we visited (I bought some lavender honey from a local beekeeper). My visiting-host mother told me that in the summer, the entire town square is filled with stalls selling local produce, delicacies and art. Even without all the hustle and bustle, I could have walked down each and every one of the quiet streets, just to get a little taste of the past.

The weather surprised me yet again a couple days later when a few of my housemates and I decided to take a morning run to try the famous snail rolls at St. Peders Bageri. It was supposed to rain, but the sun peeked through yet again and cast a heavenly glow over the city in the early morning. We ran about 2 kilometers from our house in Amager to the bakery, which is located right by DIS. After having done martial arts with our LLC the night before, I was still extremely sore– not to mention the fact that I hadn’t worked out properly in…longer than I’d like to admit. The run was a bit of a push for me, but I have to say, the cinnamon rolls might have tasted just a little bit sweeter after having worked for them.

“Snail Rolls,” or giant cinnamon buns, from St. Peders Bageri

Regardless of weather, I think that taking little trips can create unforgettable moments, whether it be to another city or just down the street to a new bakery. If I had stayed in bed an extra couple of hours instead of getting off my butt and taking a run, I might not have had the sunny experience I did that day. Going on even a short adventure can create bright moments on even the cloudiest, rainiest of days.

The Forgotten Giants

They said that Sunday was going to be the nicest weather that Copenhagen has seen in a long time. With the weather app showing a full sun icon during a week of cloudy and rainy, I had no choice but to get outside somehow. Luckily, a bike and a good attitude can get you pretty much anywhere you want to go in Copenhagen– and I wanted to see the giants.

The 6 Forgotten Giants” are part of an open-air art installation by Thomas Dambo, aiming to bring attention to beautiful but overlooked nature spots on the outskirts of the city. With the aide of the treasure map below, you can go on your very own quest to find all of the giants, and see some fantastic scenery along the way. We visited the closest one on the map, number 2 (also known as “Hill Top Trine”), which was nestled into the side of a hill by the Quark nature center.

The park was about a 45 minute bike ride from our dorm through the city and out into the suburbs. Copenhagen suburban neighborhoods are a bit like those in America, except with more charm and less McMansions. We collectively decided that we HAD to live in one of the many quaint houses at some point in the distant, fictional future.

Although Denmark is known for being flat, the wind was strong enough to make us feel as if we were biking up a steep hill. I’ve found that sometimes the sunniest days can be the coldest and the windiest here. Really though, we were so distracted by the scenery and the joy of seeing the sun that we didn’t really mind.

The park not only houses this friendly giant, but also several goats, sheep, and chickens. During the weekdays there are activities for children, and right beside the hill there are shelters and a fire pit for camping. The seagulls overhead also told us that we were close to water– although we didn’t make it to the bay, I think it would be worth coming back another time to stay the night and venture out a bit further. We only made it to one giant that day, but we still got about 40 km of biking under our belt.

Stopping to admire the view of the canal on the way back

We of course treated ourself to some excellent hot chocolate at a small cafe on the way back– the perfect way to simultaneously celebrate and cancel out a long day of fitness. Although we’re only just a week in, I’m constantly marveling at the hidden gems of this city, whether it be cafes or nature parks. I think we spent our day of sun well– getting to know new parts of the city, besides the ones that every tourist visits and posts on social media. While the famous landmarks are great, I look forward to exploring more of these hidden giants.