A few years ago Kelly was visiting Sweden and planned to visit Copenhagen for a couple of days. She had been following a Danish artist Tina Jensen on Instagram and decided to contact her to see if she might be teaching a class around the time of her visit. Tina responded saying she was not teaching a class but would be happy to host Kelly at her studio for a day to work on art together. An art inspired friendship began and Kelly hosted Tina last summer when Tina taught her first art class in the US. This is a rather long explanation of why we spent 48 hours in Denmark with Tina and her husband Ole. A lovely guest room in their home on the outskirts of Copenhagen and personal Danish tour guides showing us their country.
A wonderful opportunity to meet Danes and learn about their country, their history, their political system and so much more. They explained that 40% taxes are never popular, but they see the returns of a social democracy and would never want to live anywhere else. They do not worry about healthcare and are shocked to hear that a hospital stay in the US can cost $20,000-$50,000 a day. They have excellent healthcare, public transportation, public schools, and the government sees the benefit of investing in children who will take the country into the future so yearlong maternity leave and 3-month parental sabbaticals are the norm. They laugh when I explain that in the US socialized medicine or most any socialized benefit program is compared to Russia or Venezuela rather than Denmark or France. They admit that generous social services are often abused, and they struggle with immigrants who move to Denmark for the social services without contributing to the system with taxes. They readily admit that no political system is perfect but are generally happy with the Danish system and way of life.
We arrived early as Copenhagen is a short two-hour train ride from Falkenberg. Tina and Ole picked us up from the train station and after dropping our bags at their home we headed north to Louisiana for lunch. There is no Creole or Po’boy sandwiches in this Louisiana. The Danish Louisiana is the museum of modern art which has a great restaurant overlooking the sea. A very nice lunch of seafood, fresh vegetables, salad and Danish beer. We then toured the modern art even though none of us understood most of it. When visiting a modern art museum, I often find myself saying “I could do that” or “is that really art” it looks like a mess, or odd, or disturbing or just plain weird.
While we liked a few pieces the one we mentioned most over the rest of our stay was an outdoor installation by Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist consisting of several clothes lines of old white underwear which apparently would be illuminated with LED lights. As we visited in the middle of the day, we missed the illumination which I am sure would have made it much more artsy and far less like laundry. The underwear art was a source of humor the rest of our stay. Tina and Ole were always quick to remind us it was a Swiss artist not a Dane. We ended our first day with a hike around the former royal hunting grounds and lodge of the Danish royal family. We learned that the Danes rather like their royal family especially the crown prince who hosts a fun run through the city every year.
Day two was a whirlwind tour of Copenhagen. A train ride into the city with a walk around the Rosenborg Castle and the King’s Garden, then around the Royal residences and along the waterfront from Churchill park to Nyhavn. We wandered the pedestrian malls lined with high end shops and restaurants. Even though I am not a shopper I enjoy pedestrian malls away from traffic and filled with great people watching.
While Kelly and Tina perused art stores Ole and I sampled Danish beer at Toga Vinstue, a 100 year old pub devoted to Danish politics and debate across the square from the Parliament building. We finished the tour with a climb up the round tower for a panoramic view of Copenhagen. A great tour of the city with our local guides Tina and Ole.
As thanks to our generous hosts we took them to dinner at a great Italian restaurant near their home. But to be honest it was hardly a fair trade, Denmark is without question an expensive place to travel. $10 beers and $20 pizzas are the norm. A basic hotel room will easily cost $200 a night or more. The amount we saved in housing, transfers and food while staying with Tina and Ole was much more than the cost of a dinner out. Not to mention the opportunity to learn about Denmark from two lifelong residents was priceless.