What’s all the Noise about Hygge? By Dr. Sven W
This year the winter buzz was about finding hygge, the Danish word for coziness.
After reading about the phenomena in several newspapers, I decided to see for myself if finding hygge was hype or a life changing experience. The Danes have been practicing hygge (pronounced hoo’gah) forever. It translates as staying cozy in winter by surrounding yourself with candles and a warm blanket, sitting around an open fire, soothed by a warm drink.
Figuring that I should experience it, rather than read about it, off my partner and I flew, in the heart of winter, to ”wonderful, wonderful” Copenhagen. This was my first visit to the Danish capital and I had no idea where to stay. Friends from Copenhagen suggested the Hotel Angleterre – an upscale old world classic located in the center of town. I opted for the Marriott located away from the center, along a canal. It meant a moderate walk to the center, allowing us to explore the local streets. The Marriott has a wonderful gym and spa and an exquisite executive lounge. It has an added plus that I discovered on my last day: an outdoor running track that takes you along the canal, across two bridges in a beautiful 2 mile oval route.
So what about hygge?
First, a note about the weather. Winters in Copenhagen are not particularly cold and there is little snow. Jan.-Feb. temps during the day are around 30-40F degrees. During our stay, temperatures were in the low 40’s and there was no snow to be seen. There is rain almost daily, although intermittent and unpredictable. Warm clothes and water resistant shoes are a must.
And now for some hygge. Copenhagen’s streets are bustling with bicycles. People of all ages, grandmas, kids, businessman, students all going about freely, in everyday clothing without any regard to the rain. They ride -day and night- politely, orderly, obeying traffic rules to the letter. They seem happy. The rain and the cold is taken in stride. Sure they feel the rain and the cold air but when they get home they strip off their clothes head for the warm shower or bath and then relax in the comfort of their homes. All part of your day. No stress. No worries. Hygge at home.
Inspired by the bikers, we walk into and thru the rain, finding some relief by going into shops and cafes. You actually wait at traffic lights, whatever the conditions. You meander about the town. The city is peppered with interesting museums and stores that show off the much acclaimed Danish design. At the end of the day, returning to our room, we achieved that warm feeling and appreciated being home and warm.
By the next morning, our coats, gloves and shoes dried we set off for a rare treat – the Louisiana Museum. We took a 45 minute train ride north of Copenhagen to reach it. Labeled by some as “the most beautiful museum in the world”, we entered a non- imposing site on the North Sea, with fabulous exhibitions (William Kentridge videos and Louise Bourgeois sculptures) and an extraordinary sculpture garden. The museum enchants and impresses you by the beauty of its surroundings. A restaurant, built halfway thru the museum forces you to take a break and offers spectacular views. More hygge on the way back to the train, as we sat in a lovely café that offers creamy, frothy Belgian hot chocolate. We will take the next train.
The next day more hygge in the form of visiting a string of cozy second hand shops on the way to Nyhaven – the old seaport. It is cold and windy but no rain. You begin to appreciate the simplicity of Danish/ Scandinavian design. Stores are filled with furniture and housewares that are cleanly designed. Salespeople are friendly, helpful and speak English perfectly. Every store is a delight. Pastries (danishes) and smorrebrod (open sandwiches) are everywhere to be had in comfortable candle lit cafes. I could get used to this life style, but tomorrow it is back to the old grind.
I think I got the feeling, and I will miss it.
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