Something Old and Something New in Denmark

Poppies in a field in Jyderup, Denmark

When I visited Denmark a couple of years ago, I knew I would come back for more—not simply because I found Copenhagen utterly charming then but also because some important people in my life have decided to call this city home. We came back over the weekend to attend the wedding of my dear friends Céline and Michael, and got to appreciate Denmark on a deeper level. We celebrated in Aggersvold Gods, a stunning property with stables and a beautifully restored barn nestled in the Danish countryside of Jyderup. There we participated in many Danish and Belgian wedding traditions (e.g. cutting the groom's socks for the former and waving napkins in the air when the couple arrives at the reception for the latter); dined on heaps of sumptuous salmon, beef and cake; listened to tear-jerking heartfelt speeches; watched a beautiful fireworks display; snacked on addictive Danish-style hotdogs from a food cart that magically appeared after midnight; and danced until daybreak on the day of the summer solstice. It was such a treat to see the lush Danish countryside, dotted with wildflowers, windmills, cows, sheep and horses, for a change.

We also got to spend a little bit of time in Copenhagen, where we visited some of my old favorites and discovered some new ones with J. I spent my previous trip to Copenhagen mostly on my own, which can be a nice way to experience a city but is wholly different from doing so as a couple.

Guards walking outside Amalienborg, Copenhagen, Denmark
Ørstedsparken, Copenhagen, Denmark

Last time, I ate at Torvehallerne every chance I got, sampling different types of Danish smørrebrød and local treats. This time, J and I enjoyed the innovative Nordic cuisine at Restaurant Höst. We tried both of Höst's Evening experiences, which are listed on the menu as including an aperitif, three courses with wine pairing, dessert and coffee or tea. In fact, the meal ends up as an eight-course meal with all the little extra treats they give you. Amazing value at prices well appreciated by this food-enthused New Yorker.

Almost everything we were served was fantastic but there are a few worth talking about in more detail. The Signature Menu's first course was inspired (though perhaps not for the less adventurous), with a fried chicken foot and succulent Norwegian lobster served on a slate plate alongside a smoldering juniper branch. Underneath the plate was a bowl of glas-cabbage, toasted hazelnuts and juniper, all of which was topped off tableside with decadent lobstercream. Absolutely delicious and so inventive! The main course was everything I could possibly want on a plate but impossible to photograph by candlelight so my description will have to suffice: ribeye steak with smoked lettuce cream, cabbage, pea sprouts, and fried chips made of squid ink. The most delightful dish of all, however, was an unassuming pre-dessert of house-made yoghurt served over berries ... and sprinkled with pop rocks! We couldn't stop smiling with every crackle-topped bite. These pictures were the best I could muster in the dark and intimate cellar where we were seated, as I do so hate ruining the experience for myself and other guests with flash photography. But this webpage gives a better indication of Höst's beautiful food and interiors.

Dinner at Restaurant Höst, Copenhagen, Denmark

The next day was somewhat of a departure from our sophisticated evening but still a complete delight: an afternoon spent seeking thrills in Copenhagen's charming Tivoli Gardens. The world's second oldest amusement park, Tivoli first opened its doors in August 15, 1843. Like little kids, J and I got on the park's famous rollercoaster, Dæmonen, which despite its comparatively dimunitive size includes a zero-gravity roll that will make your heart jump into your throat for an exhilarating millisecond. We also got on the Star Flyer, which provides panoramic views of the city—if you can withstand being flung about on a spinning chair 80 meters above the ground!

Tivoli Park, Copenhagen, Denmark
Dæmonen, Tivoli Park, Copenhagen, Denmark
Peacock at Tivoli Park, Copenhagen, Denmark
Tivoli Park, Copenhagen, Denmark

Despite now having been to Copenhagen twice, I still feel like I've only scratched the surface. It's a rapidly expanding and evolving city, with so much to tease and tickle one's imagination. Thankfully, I know that there will always be more occassions to visit. I can't wait to see what this sparkling city will show me next!

Jeppe Hein: Please Touch the Art in Brooklyn Bridge Park

Now that school's out and summer is in full swing, I'm taking every opportunity to be outside. Whether it's a picnic, al fresco dinner, or a quick a run, there's plenty to enjoy in these extended daylight hours and balmy temperatures. 

It hasn't been effortless to get back into running after my grad-school imposed hiatus. Thankfully, there's a little something extra to motivate me to get out and pound the pavement in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Commissioned by Public Art Fund, Danish artist Jeppe Hein has filled the park with 18 pieces that call us to come close and play. Please Touch the Art is an 18-piece installation composed of an entrancing labyrinth of mirrors, delightful water fountain "rooms", and bright red modified "social" benches—all meant, not just to be looked at, but to be experienced.

The "Mirror Labyrinth" is about as much fun as being in a house of mirrors. My favorite parts are the angles that allow me to see swathes of the historic Brooklyn promenade set against the modern architectural marvels of Downtown Manhattan.

"Appearing Rooms" is good fun when there are children running through in glee. Hein engineered this installation with timed fountains that create "rooms" between the jets of water. According to the artist, one can remain dry by keeping to the individual rooms. I haven't quite gone in just yet; each time I've passed by there have been little children running around with gleeful abandon in their bathing suits and I couldn't bear to throw cold water on their fun (pun unintended).

Appearing Rooms, Jeppe Hein, Please Touch the Art, Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York
Appearing Rooms, Jeppe Hein, Please Touch the Art, Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York

The "Social Benches" are comparatively less elaborate, but I've come to enjoy seeing how different people interact with them. One child's playground is another man's meditation spot.

Modified Social Benches, Jeppe Hein, Please Touch the Art, Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York
Modified Social Benches, Jeppe Hein, Please Touch the Art, Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York
Modified Social Benches, Jeppe Hein, Please Touch the Art, Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York

Perhaps that's why I keep coming back for another look. Every time I run past Hein's pieces, there seems to be something new to see, whether it's bright blue skies or sunset casting a new light on the mirrors or people using the benches in a different way. That's the beauty of interactive art; being able to touch the art ensures it remains a living and evolving thing.

Please Touch the Art will be in Brooklyn Bridge Park until April 17, 2016. As much as I love and wish summer would never end, I'm excited to see how Hein's pieces will evolve with the changing of the seasons!