Updated: Jul 15, 2021
The definition of Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) is the Danish concept of cozy contentment.
When researching my upcoming trip to Copenhagen, I read an article in The Guardian about the gentrification of the once no-go Vesterbro. The article spun tales of wide avenues newly filled with charming eateries, designer boutiques and courtyard bars. Quite clearly, this was the place for me. I am so cutting edge.
What wasn't made clear by this article is that while the gentry were moving in, the strip clubs refused to move out.
So many video stores of a dubious nature line the streets of Vesterbro might make one think they had slipped into a time warp. What these stores lack in Hollywood pizzazz, they make up for in another word that contains a lot of z's. Blockbuster Video could still have a future if they tweak their business plan a bit.
When visiting a new city, I reference my holy bible of travel guides, Atlas Obscura. Many of the AO Copenhagen 'must sees' are in Vesterbro, and quite a lot of them have something to do with Nazis. I felt like a proper Nazi Hunter for a most of my day.
Carlsberg Brewery and Wehrmacht Graffiti
Completed in 1901, Ny Carlsberg's brewhouse sits between Vesterbro and Valby. Carls Jacobson built the brewhouse after a beef with his father, the original J.C. Carlsberg. Carls (berg) Junior had something to prove to his pops when he designed the Elephant Tower. Four imposing life-sized elephants, adorned with his children's initials and ... swastikas greet visitors to his brewery.
Swastikas are an ancient symbol meaning 'that is good' and reminder to never attach permanence to ancients symbols. The original label design of Carlsberg beer featured swastikas but sensibly changed after the war. But what to do with four large granite elephants wearing swastikas? Wrap them in scaffolding 118 years later, that's what.
The 19th Century former brewery, 30 hectares in all, is under renovation and closed off. You can still get close to the elephants, but cannot go through the gate. Plus the
green debris netting surrounding them ruins the photos.
Copenhagen highlights Frederiksberg Gardens and Copenhagen Zoo are located near the tyrannical pachyderms, but my interests lay elsewhere. Following the advice of AO, I headed to Kodbyen; the Meatpacking District.
The Meatpacking District is no longer packing meat but is full of meat-based eateries. The area is also buzzing with trendy bars and art galleries. It was here that I was to find graffiti inscribed by bored Nazi soldiers assigned to guard potatoes. Spud-sitting Nazis in itself is worth a Hollywood treatment. Lily James anyone?
The Wehrmacht Graffiti is on the rear walls of Twin House at the most northernmost point in the district. AO often uses cardinal directions for sightseeing. This was when I fell in love with my Iphone compass. If, like me, you cannot tell your north east from your North, Kim or Kanye West, this compass is an invaluable travel tool. Twin House is a nondescript set of buildings that is actually not called Twin House on any map. I found it by pointing my compass north until I found Stalgade, walking to the end of the road and turning left.
Twin House is popular place for minimalist vandalism. The historical graffiti is not protected and sometimes written over with new graffiti, though thankfully, not spray paint. Differentiating between the carvings of a homesick soldier and a recently indoctrinated white nationalist was difficult. Not reading German or Dutch didn't help.
Searching over the faded bricks, I found dates ranging from 1933 to 1945. I assumed these the etchings of conscripted youngsters, checked Wehrmacht Graffiti off my to-see list and dragged my tired feet back to the Axel Guldsmeden Hotel.