After a gap of almost a year, I stepped outside the borders of Sweden for the first time. No, it wasn’t a giant leap, rather I opted for the country next door — Denmark, and its famed capital Copenhagen. Copenhagen is hands-down my favourite city and I missed coming to it. My last experience of visiting Copenhagen wasn’t great, when I was there a year back, in the midst of the COVID crisis. The streets were empty, the shops had their doors shut, the colourful NyHavn district was left bare without any tourists. Moreover, no rides ran in Tivoli, the famed amusement park.
This time though, things were different. The city seemed to be back on its feet. The vaccine drive and the reduced number of cases have brought the confidence back. There is even a talk of people having acquired the elusive herd immunity. When I heard that the city is alive again, I decided to take a train ride from the Swedish town of Malmö where I live.
A 45-minute train ride took me to Copenhagen Central Station. Though anyone planning to come to Denmark is required to bring COVID-negative test results (not older than 72 hours) or a vaccine pass, there was nobody at the border to check the incoming passengers in the train. I wondered. “Four years back, when Denmark had implemented border checks to avoid refugees coming in the country, the common man suffered a lot,” said a neighbour, “it was a major loss for the economy for it significantly increased the commute time and many of those who were coming from Sweden to work in Denmark decided not to anymore. Perhaps that’s why they want to loosen the controls this time.”
As I stepped outside Copenhagen Central Station, at once I noticed that the situation was fast becoming normal. The evidence lay right in front in Tivoli, from where shrieks of kids on amusement rides filtered outside. People have started flocking back to Tivoli. I walked past to the walking street. This narrow corridor connects the heart of the city to Nyhavn district known for its colourful buildings and the bars that nestle in them.
The walking street was crowded, though I could bet that those who formed the crowd were mostly Danes, sprinkled with a few outsiders such as me who had managed to get in the country. These are summer months in the Nordic region and during this vacation period many locals usually go on a three-to-four-week break to the beaches in southern Europe. However, this time, given the uncertainty related to travel, many decided to stay home. That explained why I was seeing more locals than tourists in these touristy parts of Copenhagen.
I had no fixed destination in mind and just revelled being in the midst of the crowd. Though very few were wearing masks, everyone kept a safe distance. The shops were all open, including small gelato shops and bakeries. I wondered how these small businesses survived the crisis but then was reminded that most of these got financial support from the government to stay afloat. For once, I was grateful for the high taxes that we pay here for that’s the money that has found its way into these small businesses that would have otherwise struggled.
I grabbed a cup of coffee from my favourite cafe and continued walking ahead to NyHavn. The bars at NyHavn were spilling with people and there was a cheer in the air. I couldn’t find a place to sit at any of the bars and decided to cross the bridge to the other side. Up on the bridge, I stopped and looked around. The sun was still out and would remain so till late in the night. The noise from the bars filtered in all the way to the bridge. Below me I could see several boats dotting the dark Nordic water. Standing here, for once everything looked normal, as if we had left the dark times of the pandemic behind. I knew I was perhaps crafting too good a story to be true, but in that moment I chose to believe it.
The adrenaline rush-seeking travel writer lives in Malmö, Sweden.