Denmark. Home of pastries, wind and bikes. We were fortunate enough to have several days in Copenhagen after our time in Malmo and Lund. We literally took the train straight from Malmo across the Øresund Strait and a peaceful 45 minutes later we were in another country without any passport checks or custom hassles. Not too shabby at all. The view from the train of the massive windmills as we crossed the strait wasn’t too bad either.
Once we arrived in Copenhagen, we walked over to our hostel and lo and behold we passed yet another windmill on the way.
We got settled that afternoon at the hostel and then ended up exploring downtown for a place to eat. There are bikes everywhere in Copenhagen and a main reason that people bike is because it’s easy. Not because it’s healthier or more sustainable, but simply because it’s easier.
Biking started in Copenhagen in the 70s for a variety of reasons. It can be attributed to the fact that it’s a flat city (less than 90m difference from highest point to lowest throughout the city), parking is super expensive, there is limited car access in the inner city (which started due to not wanting to depend on oil after the oil crisis in the 1970s) and lastly, they build the infrastructure for it. There are bike lanes everywhere and limited traffic lights. The city puts bikes ahead of vehicles, something Victoria could learn from.
Anyways, we explored Copenhagen that evening and ran into some amazing street artists. I ended up buying a CD from one local music guy, had a “sitting” competition with another guy who was holding a wall squat but without the wall for what seemed like an eternity!
We also ran into a Disney store and I found a great stuffed animal of my old friend, Dumbo. I liked him because we both had huge ears!
The next day we had a tour of the controversial Ørestad development, which was referred to as the Manhattan of Copenhagen. Essentially the area was designed to be a sustainable development with unique architecture in an unused area. The problem is that it’s not really sustainable and it’s quite the distance out of town and provides lots of parking – key aspects that other sustainable development projects go to great lengths to avoid.
While the development is certainly home to some amazing looking buildings, we heard that the choice of materials sometimes wasn’t the best and the buildings themselves didn’t really connect well with each other or the surrounding area.
Part of our research before this tour was a TED Talk by architect, Bjarke Ingels called Hedonistic Sustainability. I found this to be a truly inspring TED Talk for a number of reasons including making architecture more about improving life quality and also some of the projects he has undertaken. The one that struck me was an energy plant in Copenhagen that takes waste and turns into power. It’s a massive building so they ended up turning the top of it into a ski hill! Imagine skiing on top of a power plant! And the plant would also collect the CO2 that it emits and compress it until it has exactly 1 ton. Then it releases it in a circular ring that floats up to increase awareness of just how much CO2 humans are producing. Some great concepts in this talk by a brilliant mind.
If you’re curious for more detail than I am giving of these field school sessions, then head on over to the UVic Sustainability Field School website to check out our blog and read posts from different group members about our trip!
From there, we had a great chat with the Head of the Climate Unit for the City of Copenhagen. She outlined her two “simple” jobs:
- make Copenhagen carbon neutral by 2015
- Be as climate resilient as possible
She also gave us a quite in depth lecture on Copenhagen’s flood plan. Essentially, the city is digging up many of it’s streets so that water flows into the middle, rather than outside and also so that they are sloped to follow the natural flow of the water. We don’t have this problem as much in Canada, but here the cities are quite man-made with many canals and changes to natural waterways which can make havoc when heavy rains come in.
Our next stop was at Traestubben, an outdoor nature school. The site was an old derelict public washroom in a courtyard before being converted into a school with an amazing amount of wildlife around it.
These types of schools are necessary here because many European cities are surrounded by cultivated land and it’s hard to find any true nature without going really far away from city centres, something children can’t do that easily. So they bring nature in and make sure each class goes at least one week (nobody is at the school full-time, public and private schools make appointments to come spend time there with the educator, Felix).
After this small nature school visit, we biked over to Christiania, a dwelling in Copenhagen that is surrounded by nature and has a “hippy” feeling to it if you will. Here we learned about another nature school and the projects being undertaken by the staff at this school. Sustainability begins with education, and it was inspiring to see so many of these grassroots projects becoming successful and influencing so many young children.
The last stop of this day was another outdoor school for children, but this one was a marine school in the harbour. 20 years ago the harbour in Copenhagen was a mess, but they are proud to say you can swim in it at any time of the year!
The marine school worked with public and private schools, much like the nature schools, to educate local children about the extensive waterways that surround their cities. They learn to fish, clean fish, clean the water, and much more. We saw first hand what one group had managed to pull from the river, just hours before.
We were also lucky enough to have a quick harbour tour on a zodiac!
The next day, we were supposed to explore a rooftop garden, but personal matters came up for our host and he couldnt make it so we ended up having the day off. It worked out well for me as I was in bed sick with a brutal headache.
But do not fret as I was up and at again the very next morning and went off for a gorgeous morning run before our departure to Hamburg, Germany!
Oh, and the reason Danish pastries aren’t really Danish is because they were actually invented by some Austrians who were working in Denmark during a strike by Danish bakers. The Austrians didn’t know how to make the local desserts, so they stuck with what they knew and the locals loved them so much that they’re now world famous!
I’ll let you digest this little tidbit of information now, but keep your eyes peeled for the next post! 🙂