If Only I Could Have a Kolonihave…

I joined another MeetUp. Because I won’t make any friends here if I don’t put myself out there.

This MeetUp was led by a local, a guy named Jens. I figured it would be good to mix it up a little, since most MeetUps are organized and filled with foreigners. Danish people are notoriously hard to get to know (at least it’s their reputation. I find them genuine and fairly approachable), so I thought it would be valuable for me to meet someone who is Danish and can shed a light onto some aspects of Danish culture.

Jens is a professional tour guide. He’s worked in Denmark mostly, but is now set to lead tours in other European locales. This MeetUp was his way of giving a few foreigners a little tour from a Dane’s perspective and answer some of our questions.

We met near the Amager Strand, which is one of the most popular beaches in Copenhagen.

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It’s a nice long stretch, with a lagoon and open water beach front as well. There are clubhouses, where you can row and join open water swim teams, there are saunas, lots of little ice cream and snack shops, walking paths through the tall grasses, and a nice wide boardwalk where you can rollerblade or just stroll around in a skimpy outfit.

That bridge, off in the distance, is the bridge to Sweden. You can definitely see Sweden from the beach as well.

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One of the most popular swimming spots is “The Snail” – a circular structure where there are changing rooms, lots of places to sit and soak up the sun and many different diving platforms.

Okay, on this particular day there was plenty of sun, but it was also freeeeezing! At least I was freezing. I was wearing jeans and a sweater, which wasn’t enough for me. I wished I could be wearing a jacket and a scarf (I was told to never leave home without either one again. I started to pay attention to what women carry around with them and most will have a large bag, which is stuffed with sweaters, jackets and, of course, a scarf). The wind was vicious and I was so cold! But then, all these people (kids mostly) were jumping into the water and swimming around, without a goosebump anywhere! Okay, I could never be this Danish…

Jens and a woman from England went for a swim though and I was getting hypothermia just watching them.

After this, Jens invited us over to his Kolonihave for a drink.

Located very close to the beach, a Kolonihave is a city person’s summer house. There are two types of Kolonihaves in Copenhagen.

There are those that are still run by the State. They are very inexpensive, but nearly impossible to get. People stand in lines to get on lists for one of those. And once they’re on the list, their hope is that some day one of their kids might be awarded one.

Another kind of a Kolonihave is a self-sustaining coop. These are run by a community of about 30 or 40 members. These you can buy on an open market. Jens said they’re very expensive. He said he paid over a million for his! Which made me gasp, until I realized he meant Danish krone. After I did a conversion that came to about $160,000 US. That’s actually not a lot! Not for a house next to a beach, near the city center!

The houses are small. Most are like large summer cabins, with a kitchen, living room, bathroom and a bedroom. People can expand on them, but there are rules as to how much of the property can be a house and how much must remain a garden. Still, Jens said he could put an addition on his house, and still be within the set guidelines.

These places are a dream of most city dwellers. If someone owns an apartment in the city, as most people do, without a garden, they want to have a place where they can sit in the back of a house and eat outside throughout the summer months. So, many people invest in these summer cottages.

If I were a person who owned a city apartment, I would most definitely want a to have a Kolonihave.

Also, I’m happy to report that I did make a couple of friends at this MeetUp.

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