A manifesto for a more wondrous age.

Over Halloween weekend this year, my girlfriend and I decided to fly to Copenhagen. We had both longed to see Denmark, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to get out of the country. We got our passports, packed our bags, and got on a flight. This post is not meant to be a comprehensive round up of everything we did, but more of a look at the experiences we had, and the lessons that can be learned and applied to other cultures.

The country is lovely, from the moment you get off the plane at the airport. There’s something elegant in the way everything glides into place there. The board of incoming and outgoing flights, and the sound of trains slipping from the station.

We got off the train at the Copenhagen central station as our Airbnb host had suggested to us. We followed her directions to the flat we would be renting for the next few days. Walking in, everything we had heard about Danish design was immediately confirmed.

The flat was a open space, full of windows and natural light. There was a small kitchen with all the essentials, even though we hadn’t intended on cooking much if at all. There was a living room, with a table, and a couch opposite a TV. A coffee table had some art magazines on it. There were a few posters, with a picture of the Black Diamond library, and one for a literary conference with Karl Ove Knausgård. The bedroom had a bed and a set of shelves.

We were lead through the place by our gracious host, Charlotte. She showed us the place, presented us with a bottle of chianti, and gave us the keys.

With that she was off. We had the city to ourselves, and the perfect base to come home to.

My phone was near dead, and I didn’t have service anyways aside from the copious free wifi in the city. So I left it. I had filled my trusty notebook with a few destinations, directions and addresses. We had a paper map, a pen and our wits, and that was all we needed.

I am not the kind of person to advocate for leaving the internet and setting up shop in the woods, but wandering through the curving streets with only the analogue tools at my disposal afforded me a unique perspective on the city as well as the freedom to wander. It is okay to get lost, to explore. Sometimes that’s the best way to find where you’re going.

We rented bikes, which are a massive part of Copenhagen culture. Any location on the sidewalk or along buildings where a bike could be stored, there was. It’s the most bike-friendly city I’ve ever been to. With excellent bike lanes, biking traffic laws, as well as signals set up for bikes, it’s the way to see the city. Armed with a bike, a notebook and pen, and my love, I felt like I could do anything. The most efficient animal in the world is a human with a bike.

It’s a great city for writing. There’s coffeeshops and cafés on every corner. I had salmon or cod at every meal and while my diet is pretty good at home (and mostly salmon anyways) I felt healthier there. I got plenty of exercise on the bike, the clean air bites the bottom of your lungs in the best way, and the food leaves you feeling clean and weightless.

There are tons of museums and activities in Denmark. Tivoli is an incredible park, especially in the Fall. My favorite stop was to the Glyptotek. This museum a block away from Tivoli started as the personal collection from the founder of the Carlsberg brewery. Housed inside is one of the largest collections of Greek and Roman marble sculpture in the world, as well as an amazing collection of French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. I was in heaven.

The museum opens to the beautiful palm gardens with a lovely statue by Kai Nielsen called Water Mother. The halls house the busts of philosophers, emperors, and commoners alike. It’s a sight to behold.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of all we did. We ate smoked salmon sandwiches in a bookshop, visited a castle and countless museums (many of which were free even to American college students like us). There are some clear take-aways from it that can be applied to anyone’s life.

  • Photography, even more than other art forms, allows you to share your perspective with others in an efficient way.
  • Biking is not only an efficient means to travel, but an efficient way to change your perspective on a city and interact with your environment. I’m tempted to quote Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance on being a part of your surroundings.
  • Sometimes the analog allows for more freedom than the digital, and can offer more opportunities to explore.
  • It’s okay to be lost, and to wander. Sometimes that will teach you more.
  • Less is more. If something isn’t adding to your life or your experience, it’s detracting. Remove all barriers.
  • Always be learning and improving. There is a way for you to get better at whatever it is you are working towards. Find a goal, and stick with it. Anything else is unnecessary.

It was a great experience, and I can’t wait to go back someday.

Your faithful commander,

  • Ian Battaglia
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