Copenhagen,  Denmark

Torben & Dorthe in Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen
Torben and Dorthe
Smorgasbord

The Place: Copenhagen, Denmark 

There aren’t many places where you can stroll through cobbled streets with Marijauna plants rising from cracks at the roadside. Copenhagen is one of those places. For such a small country, it delivers a big dose of charm. With districts so distinct from one another you can feel like you’re in a different city altogether after just a short cycle in the most bike-friendly city on the planet, you’re spoiled for choice. Of course, the hallmarks of the city like Nyhaven’s rainbow of houses are an absolute must, but it’s the lesser-known areas that make Copenhagen what it is. None stands out more than Christiana Freetown, a squatter settlement that operates independently of the Danish government, and where stalls sell weed as though they’re selling cheese at a farmers market. Home to some 900 people, it offers a view into a totally different world from what the standard tourist is used to.

Like so many other European cities, Copenhagen is structured around canals, which brings me to another especially unique aspect of Denmark’s capitol; its houseboat culture. Docked against quays in the residential areas of town, you’ll find that among the ritzy apartments are various ships and ferries that have been converted into homes, one of which belonged to our interviewees below.


Please note that we do not fact-check our interviewees, and that their views do not necessarily represent our own.

The People: Dorthe, 55, Nurse, and Torben Jørgensen, 57, Maritime Engineer

Torben: I do not sail, but I make some alarm systems for the maritime industry. So, that’s what I do it’s a detector that I invented myself, self-employed. It’s an oil leakage detector for engine rooms, so it will prevent fires, and you get a pre-alarm instead of having an alarm when the detector sees smoke or flames – i.e. when there is a fire. For now we are installing them on cruise ships. I started the company for selling this detector 18 years ago. It’s doing quite well, so when our kids moved from home, we had a big house but we decided to do something else. Dorthe wanted to move to Copenhagen, and I did not want to live in an apartment. And then we came up with the houseboat idea. It was €1,000,000 for a houseboat,  but then it coincidentally came up that there was a guy that we knew, and he had a ferry that he didn’t want anymore because it was too expensive to maintain, so we got a good deal and got it two years ago. So we put it on this shipyard and then took everything down to the car deck and rebuilt everything up as close as possible to what it was.

Dorthe: And we had dreams about it, and we talked about it: “maybe one day”. It was always just a dream that we didn’t think would actually happen. It sailed between two cities in southern Denmark, only five minutes each way for twenty years. Then they made a bridge and sold the ferry to a different city, where it sailed for 40 years, then was brought back and stayed in a dock for ten years just sitting there. And there’s more history, because this ferry was the one that I had to take when I was a little girl, and we knew the man who sold us this ferry. I knew him from ‘84, ‘85, and then he told us he wanted to get rid of the boat because it was too expensive to maintain it; the boat was built in 1947.  It wasn’t in bad shape because he maintained it well. Of course it’s an old ship, but it’s in good condition. And now a lot of parts are completely new.

Torben: Our hobbies really consist of enjoying our houseboat and also exploring Copenhagen, because we have lived 10-15km outside Copenhagen for years, but now we are here.

  1. What is home to you?

“We left our house which we lived in for thirty years, and just turned our backs to it and it wasn’t our home anymore.”

See Dorthe and Torben's Full Answer

Torben: The past two years have changed it a bit. Two years ago we moved into this trailer, and that was definitely not home. We left our house which we lived in for thirty years, and just turned our backs to it and it wasn’t our home anymore. I think we saw this coming, we knew it was coming in the future, but we were very excited to see what our new home would be. But the trailer was not home.

Dorthe: I feel like we came from Svenburg five days ago, and for the first time in a very long time, I feel that when I came in here I could sit down and read a book. And that’s amazing, because it means a lot for me. There was so much to manage on this ship, and I hadn’t found a place to relax, or do work, and now I can. So for me, it’s home.

  1. What is special about Copenhagen?

“It has its own soul… I don’t see thirty story buildings in Copenhagen… It has its own feel.”

See Dorthe and Torben's Full Answer

Dorthe: There’s a lot of interesting places. A lot of buildings and houses look very modern. They have used a lot of money. But it’s for all people, and I think it’s amazing. Everybody can join, take a very fancy chair, some water, sit down with their computer, and everybody can use the facilities. I like that. You can dance… it’s like working for free. You can teach salsa dancing as a free class… there’s a lot of interesting places.

 

Torben: What I like about Miami is the big beautiful buildings; what I like about Copenhagen is that there are no very tall buildings, so it has its own soul… I don’t see thirty story buildings in Copenhagen, which is very nice. So it’s the soul of the city. It has its own feel.

  1. What have you learned from living in Copenhagen?

it is different living on a boat. We have had freezing, heat system, no water supply, broken roof, a lot of spiders, it’s just we have to learn to live here…” 

See Dorthe and Torben's Full Answer

Torben: Of course it is different living on a boat. We have had freezing, heat system, no water supply, broken roof, a lot of spiders, it’s just we have to learn to live here, and we love it already.

 

Dorthe: I think there’s a lot of people we have met that we’re so grateful for, and when you can trust other people around that have something to do with this.

 

Torben: We have the cafe over here, so people can sit and stare, but you get used to it. Actually 20 years ago, south harbor was an area with a bad reputation. Poor people, not a lot of crime, but people living on fishing boats or in small wooden houses, and when we came here, our feeling was still more or less the same. But staying here, you learn the area and the people, all the stuff about the area. We actually started loving this area in Copenhagen. Some parts still have a bad reputation, but it has changed. But all of Copenhagen has changed. It’s expanding all the time.

 

Dorthe: To trust other people who come with good ideas. That’s very important.

 

Torben: We moved in here in December and we had the door open more or less all the time. It is a yacht, and they’re working during the day when we’re gone. The owner (of the houseboat next door) said nobody steals, maybe they borrow, but they’ll bring it back. One day he said, I’m fucked because someone stole my bike. And then two days later, he said I found it in the harbour, the wind took it in.

 

Dorthe: It’s a fantastic way to see life.

  1. Can you think of a time you have been proud of Denmark?

I meet a lot of sea-farers who have been all over the world. They say the best place to live is Europe. And the best place in Europe is northern Europe.”

See Dorthe and Torben's Full Answer

Torben: We’re now wanting to explore Copenhagen as it’s very common that you don’t know the area where you live very well. But if we go outside, I meet a lot of sea-farers who have been all over the world. They say the best place to live is Europe. And the best place in Europe is northern Europe. We’re not so proud of our mountains, but we’re happy to be Danish and be from northern Europe.

 

Dorthe: I think Denmark is for all people. I think it’s very different to come from where I come from, to Copenhagen. In Copenhagen, people usually take people from outside in. But in smaller places they’re more closed off. So I think it’s great that Copenhagen is so open.

  1. What is your main concern or worry about Copenhagen?

I don’t like the Danish way of treating outsiders. I think there’s a lot of people who think we don’t have to take others who need help who are from other countries.”

See Dorthe and Torben's Full Answer

Dorthe: It’s political, I think. I am a little concerned about people’s mindset. We talk about people that come from other countries, I don’t like the Danish way of treating outsiders. I think there’s a lot of people who think we don’t have to take others who need help who are from other countries.

 

Torben: I think a lot of Danish people can be kind of racist because we don’t want to share our wealthiness.

 

Dorthe: I’m sad about that. We have a lot and we can give a lot and share with others.

Torben: On the other hand, if we don’t share, some will make sure that we share without permission. The crime has often increased, mostly gang crime and credit card thefts.

 

Dorthe: But a lot of people who come here manage to be here just fine, and it’s only a very small part that do that.

 

Torben: It’s not easy, there’s always two sides of a coin; there are bad parts of open borders. But this racism I think is what caused Brexit in your country. It’s more like people try to protect what they have rather than racism, and I understand that in the UK there’s a lot of unemployed people.

  1. How would you convince a tourist to visit?

 See Dorthe and Torben's Full Answer

Dorthe: All the great places, the good food, the water all around the city that you can swim in. There aren’t many city harbours you can swim in, but you can here.

 

Torben: We have attractions like Tivoli and the little mermaid which is North. You can go around in water taxis which is actually quite cheap. From the South to the North of the city it takes an hour but only costs the equivalent of $2.50.

 

Dorthe: Yesterday we had, in another part of the city, Howard eagles which we didn’t know about. It just shows how there are so many different, distinct areas here that you can visit.

  1. What are your thoughts on Stereotypes of people from Copenhagen?

The Danes are hygge. We actually have a book about it. There is no word for it in English. It kind of means ‘cosy’, like ‘koselig’ in Norwegian. Candlelight can be hygge, so can coffee or talking.”

See Dorthe and Torben's Full Answer

Torben: It’s people who are complaining a lot, and dislike a lot of things. They complain about everything, about the bicycles in the street, the boats. The shipbuilder here, he’s not a typical Dane. When he started here, it was just fields and trees, and then they started building it up. He’s always lived in Copenhagen for 70 years. It has changed so much for him but he never complained, he just saw it as development and progress. For a real Dane, I think complaining is one of their hobbies.

 

Dorthe: But then we also have ‘hygge’. The Danes are hygge. We actually have a book about it. There is no word for it in English. It kind of means ‘cosy’, like ‘koselig’ in Norwegian. Candlelight can be hygge, so can coffee or talking. That’s a special Danish thing. Like outside on the deck of our houseboat when it’s very quiet, with two glasses of wine, candlelight and just sitting there with the city, that’s hygge. It’s actually a good answer to ‘what is home?’

  1. What is the best thing to ever come out of Copenhagen?

Lego! Everybody knows lego.”

See Dorthe and Torben's Full Answer

Torben: Lego! Everybody knows lego. It was an extremely good idea but some years ago when they tried to digitalize it, it just went down and down. So then they got a new CEO who’s been extremely good, and now they’re some of the most wealthy people in the world. A Chinese company tried to copy it some years ago and just called it 0937… what’s that upside down?

 

Dorthe: My brother has actually worked for Lego, and Kir Christiansen, the man who built it, offered a lot of money to society and for social projects.

  1. What do you eat during the Holidays here?

To make it Christmas, it’s more the amount of what we eat rather than what we actually eat.”

See Dorthe and Torben's Full Answer

Torben: My family eat duck. It’s prepared in the oven or in the grill. We also have pork steaks; sometimes we put cloves on it, and it’s served with red cabbage and vinegar. To make it Christmas, it’s more the amount of what we eat rather than what we actually eat. A very common Danish dish is “frikadeller” – Danish meatballs. They’re fried on a pan so they’re a little crispy, and you just have them with mustard.

 

Dorthe: At Christmas we eat duck and pork. My family eat goose. And then we have risalemande. You cook rice grains in milk, and once it’s cooled down you mix it with cream, vanilla and almonds, and add some sweet cherry sauce. It’s a Christmas tradition to put a whole almond in one of the bowls of the people eating it, and whoever finds it gets a prize.

  1. What is your least favourite Danish Dish?

“Stekto – eel. I think it’s too fatty, and I don’t like the texture. It lives on the sea floor… ew.”

See Dorthe and Torben's Full Answer

Dorthe: Stekto – eel. I think it’s too fatty, and I don’t like the texture. It lives on the sea floor… ew. It’s fried, no spices apart from salt and pepper, and you have it with schnapps. It’s served with potato and white parsley sauce.

 

Torben: I like eel… We don’t use so many spices here. A guy from sri lanka told me that the food there is so spicy because there aren’t many refrigerators, so maybe before long the food doesn’t taste so good any more if it’s not spicy.

Reccomendation:

Torben: Today you’ll try a smörgasbord with herring in a mayonnaise, thyme and apple sauce, sausage, shrimps, brie, and dark rye bread which is a special Danish thing. You can’t get this dark bread anywhere. In Germany they have something similar but it’s not the same; it’s very sweet and compact in Germany. The lemon is from our little lemon tree over in the corner, by the way. One of Carsten and my old friends travelled around and went to Colombia and Vietnam, and all the people he met from Denmark abroad miss this yellow sauce that’s a bit like mayonnaise, the crispy onions, the chocolate, the sausage, the liver paste and definitely the dark bread. There are a lot of different Smörgasbords. There’s a very famous Danish book of all the different Smörgasbords. For example, the “vet’s midnight smorgasbord” is liver paste with salty, thinly sliced cured pork and something called ‘cloud’, which is a brown jelly made from animal bones. There’s also horse radish.

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The Plate: Smörgasbord

There’s something about Smörgasbords. Whether it’s the feeling of eating like a viking with a sprawling table of food before you or the relaxed and informal nature of reaching across your neighbour to snatch at cured meats and cheeses, there’s not another meal out there that’s quite the same (for the record, pictured in the photo is one small element of what makes up a Smörgasbord).With such an astounding variety that there’s entire cookbooks devoted to forms of this Scandinavian feast, if you’re a vet, there’s a Smörgasbord for you, if it’s christmas, there’s one for that too. Whatever the occasion, whenever the date, it seems the Danes have an answer to everything in the form of a table of food. Those with commitment issues when it comes to ordering a meal will breathe a sigh of relief when they realise you aren’t required to tie the knot with one particular dish for an entire evening. Instead, snack and sample to your hearts content, and feel like you’re becoming more and more Danish with each bite.


BONUS: Torben and Dorthe’s Houseboat:

We would be doing a disservice to Torben and Dorthe if we didn’t show their absolutely incredible houseboat. Two years ago, they secured the purchase of the ‘Svendborgsund’, a ferry built in 1947, and began a project: turn a decommissioned car ferry into a home. Since then they have completely gutted the inside, renovated it and converted it into a houseboat. The old deck that used to house up to 12 cars now functions as their living area and kitchen, and they sleep down below in the “engine room”.


Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to keep up to date with our blog. If you want to see more of the cycle touring side of our adventure, you can also have a gander at our YouTube channel! If you want to see how we’re doing on our journey, check out our Live Updates page.

Attempting to cycle from Tromsø in Northern Norway to Baku, Azerbaijan while interviewing locals en route. Despite my chequered history with bikes, here’s to me returning home with an intact facial structure and at least as many body parts as I left with.

2 Thoughts on Torben & Dorthe in Copenhagen, Denmark
    Dennis
    26 Sep 2018
    12:50pm

    Yet another way of life!

    Hilda
    26 Sep 2018
    12:57pm

    I found this a most interesting article. A couple to be admired making such a life changing move and the boat is incredible.. Have Always loved smorgasbord – I am sure what you get in Copenhagen is much better

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