( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The Danish capital, the Athens of the North, as it is sometimes called, is in many ways a singularly well favored city. Lying on the borders of the sound, it not only boasts a situation of much and varied charm, and environs of great beauty, but it enjoys an admirable position from a commercial point of view, at the entrance to the Baltic. It has for many centuries been the residential city, the seat of the Government, the headquarters of the army and navy, and the undisputed, because the only, center of academic, scientific, and artistic life.
Copenhagen is at present in a state of transition; from an old-fashioned—one can not exactly say old-time—fortified town, it has in the course of two or three decades become a smart, up-to-date city, with electric light, asphalt, and big shops; it has tripled its population and materially extended its commerce and industry. But the old and the new often meet in an incongruous manner. In some directions development has almost been too rapid; in others it has been unduly retarded. And as it is with the town, so it is with its inhabitants; their mode of living and thinking, their tastes, their manners, their style, have altered, for the Copenhagener is in many ways wide-awake and susceptible.
If you want to see the Copenhageners, Monsieur, Madame, and Bebe, in their full glory, give up your Sunday to the study of their doings. By train and by steamer, by carriage and cycle and car, they migrate to Skoven, the woods—which does not refer to one distinct forest, altho the beautiful Deer Park, some six or seven miles outside the town, is the favorite resort. You will find a tremendous bustle and large crowds at the stations, and the trains themselves will strike you as peculiar by the variety of carriages, including open carriages, two-storied carriages, long salon carriages, and small old-fashioned carriages.
All the restaurants within reach are full to overflowing, so that toward evening food is often at a premium, as in a beleaguered city; and the booking process at night (there are no return tickets on the Danish State railways) is often a protracted and trying ordeal, with which, how-ever, the Copenhagener puts up with extreme good humor, his Mutterwitz helping him to pass away the time. He often cracks an amusing joke, but he can not vie with a London cabman or bus-driver in the keeping up of regular fireworks of chaff. Those who can not or will not go as far as Skoven betake themselves to the suburban parks of Fredericksberg and Sondermarken or the Zoological Gardens, whence endless processions of fond parents and tired youngsters wend their weary way townward, often late at night, perambulators being very much in evidence. The continuous string of perambulators, in fact, produces a peculiar grating sound on the pavement, which at so late an hour is apt to annoy and irritate a susceptible ear.
Several devastating fires have wrought great havoc to Copenhagen in former centuries, and the lover of topographical curiosities and ancient architecture may not find much to interest him there. Still, the city possesses some very fine buildings from the reign of Christian IV., that wonderful royal architect, of whose rare skill more especially the Castle of Rosenberg and the Royal Exchange bear witness. The Amalienborg Palaces and several other building are fine specimens of Iater styles, and of modern structures there are many which will delight even the most fastidious eye, But the charm of Copenhagen does not lie in architectural grandeur, nor is it rich in those old-fashioned national types which enhance the attractiveness of many an otherwise commonplace town. National dress is, in fact, rarely seen, and were it not for the faithful adherence to the old costume of some of the Amak flower girls and the Skovshoved fish-women, and such birds of passage as a Fanoe woman or an Icelandish girl, they would have disappeared altogether. The charm of Copenhagen must rather be looked for in its rich art treasures and museums, in its beautiful walks and parks, in the fulness of its literary, artistic, and musical life, in the genial and pleasant way life on the whole seems to flow on. People are hospitable, attentive, and helpful, and they are often wonderfully kind. As an example may be mentioned the way in which well-to-do Copenhageners often receive at their table once or twice a week young students and others to whom a free dinner means a great deal, and of whose need they may have heard quite casually.