It’s Explørdag once again. We’re staying local and I have the distinct pleasure of introducing you to our neighbor, Nørrebro. One of the 10 districts (burroughs, ‘hoods, areas) that comprise Copenhagen’s capitol region. This Saturday it was an Explørebro. The Danglish continues to evolve. Forgive me.
Harken back, if you will, to medieval times – Copenhagen an emerging trading port in the Baltic has become the center of Scandinavia. Historically speaking, a city’s evolution into grandeur is rarely without challenge. A walled edifice, traditional throughout Europe, was erected to protect this growing economic base on the Øresund. From what I have learned, there were four original “gates” (unfortunately all dismantled in the mid-nineteenth century) that offered access to the growing Copenhagen centret. As for these historic ports, their impact remains solely in name and geographic location to the center city – Vesterbro to the west, Nørrebro to the north and Østerbro to the east. (Amager to the south). Literally translated in our modern languages they mean west bridge, north bridge and east bridge respectively. A little etymology again; call me a word nerd and bear with me. But there was no actual bridge at these points and rather the titles evolved from the Old Norse word brolagt meaning paved. These were the original paved entrances to the main city.
We live in Østerbro – the eastern bro. Standing in the historical old center of Copenhagen – we are the furthest ‘hood to the right, in geography alone – I can not attest to political leanings at this date, although it is definitely more family-oriented and ostensibly more conservative. In stark contrast, nearby, radiating from the city center to our left is Nørrebro. You can ride, walk, shuffle, skip, bus, dance down the man-made lakes that separate the old town from the “bro’s” and find yourself in Nørrebro. The northern bro is the wild one. Exotic and gritty. Complex and crazy. Graffiti and grunge and good food and young people.
Colors are different here. Smells are different here. Sounds are different here. I like it. Many of the city’s immigrants have pooled together in Nørrebro, which is part of the reason it feels different from other neighborhoods. Traditional Danish culture comingles on a daily basis with a diversity of cultures from many of earth’s corners here. It’s spicy, colorful, flavorful and exciting.
One of the most flavorful coffee purveyors in Copenhagen hails from Nørrebro. Myself migrating from Portland, Oregon where coffee micro-batch roasters, coffee houses and baristas with skilz were second only in popularity, diversity and unique flavors to our world-famous craft brews and microbreweries – I will admit that I may have moved here dragging a suitcase full of coffee snobbery. Insert The Coffee Collective. Mid-way down on Jægersborggade, an underwhelming (on first impression) street above the Assistens Kirkegård (Cemetary) in the middle of Nørrebro. (An aside – a veritable who’s who of Danish super-peeps are buried or memorialized there… heard of Hans Christian Andersen? Søren Kierkegaard? Lots more.) But I’m not seeing dead people today, I’m here for the coffee. And it is delicious. A tiny step down into the – dare I say “garden-level” – original shop collects a LINE every time we’ve visited. It’s not quick, but worthy. And they have converted me from my normal latté of yore. In Copenhagen – my order is a cortado. Less milk, more rich espresso. Short, beautiful, luxe. I’m in love.
Caffeinated and happy, I’ll share my next love in Nørrebro – can you guess? It might have something to do with Kunst. Art. Korrekt! Slicing through several northern bro blocks is a fantabulous public art space known as Superkilen Urban Park. We met Superkilen by surprise when dropping our eldest off for practice with the Copenhagen Lacrosse Team (of which he is the youngest player – lacrosse is not big here – more on that in another post.) They were practicing at the amazing sports facility Nørrebrohallen, the entrance of which is on Red Square – one beautiful and interesting segment of Superkilen.
Swings, kids, skate ramps, a boxing ring and workout equipment set in an open pinkish red plaza with nod to Russian iconography. Hunh? It works. Warm and inviting and fun and piquing and entertaining and interesting all at once. There are several other sections to Superkilen that will have to be adventured on another Explørdag. For now – enjoy the warm tones and exciting colors of Nørrebro. It’s Saturday night – I’m going out! Skål!