Hygge = creating a warm, cozy atmosphere where you can enjoy the good things in life with good people.
The concept of Hygge is an extremely important part of Danish culture. The Danes love community, friendship, and of course, warmth (the weather’s not exactly Denmark’s strong point), and hygge is their word that describes feeling. It’s something we’ve been talking about starting in orientation our very first day in Denmark and definitely something we’ve all been working towards experiencing. And this weekend, for me, was the first time I’d say I’ve really experienced hygge.
As part of my constant burning desire to get out of the city and explore beautiful places, I spent this past weekend camping in Sweden. Many of the members of the Outdoor House really wanted to do a weekend trip, so we decided to plan a camping trip to Söderåsens National Park in Southern Sweden. Unfortunately, there aren’t any real mountains within a reasonable distance of Copenhagen, but Söderåsens National Park is a beautiful, lush, green hilly canyon just 2 hours from Copenhagen on public transportation. We planned the trip a bit last minute, but we somehow managed to get everything together for an early departure on Saturday morning.
We started our hike through the National Park at around 11 on Sunday. Söderåsens is not a very large park by any standard, but it does have two adorable little camping areas that include fire pits, shelters, cabins and outhouses. Definitely fairly luxurious for my camping standards! We stopped for lunch at this beautiful vantage point where you could see all of the canyon and the rolling hills of Southern Sweden. From there we continued hiking through the woods until we reached our campsite, Liagården. After claiming the upstairs of the small cabin and setting out our food, we decided to continue exploring the area, going off trail and hiking through the woods. We took some funny pictures, saw some cool plants and eventually meandered back towards camp.
Many of us in the outdoor house have a lot of experience camping/outdoor living, so once we returned to Liagården, we had plenty of activities planned. We started by playing a number of classic camp games, including Ninja and Signs. I’m fairly certain the Danes and Swedes had no idea what we were doing, and we definitely got a lot of stares and strange looks from the many Scandinavians also camping at Liagården! For dinner we had decided to make gado-gado, a classic American camping dish. Gado-gado is pasta with peanut butter and soy sauce (or teriyaki sauce in our case) with peppers and other veggies. As strange as it sounds, gado-gado is amazingly delicious when camping, and having it on our trip brought back so many wonderful memories from my two summers in Alaska. I was also so happy that we got to introduce gado-gado to many Outdoor House members! It was a wonderful communal dinner with lots of laughs and surprises.
After finishing our gado-gado, we turned to our next camping treat, s’mores. Unfortunately, we had not claimed one of the fire pits early enough so both were taken. However, we were all determined to roast s’mores, so we just decided to be friendly and go join the fire pits. The two groups at the first fire pit were welcoming, so I sat down and joined them, happy to have a full bag of marshmallows and a fire to roast them on! There were four Danish guys and four Swedish girls at the campfire already, communicating in both Danish and Swedish (they’re mutually intelligible languages). Once we arrived though, they immediately all switched to perfect English, of course. We immediately started talking around the fire, chatting about our experience in Scandinavia so far and what our impressions were of Danes and Swedes. Of the four Americans with me at that campfire, I was the only one who is taking Danish, so I tried to demonstrate my (questionable) Danish skills as well as learn a little bit of Swedish! As it became dark, beers and marshmallows were passed around the fire. I had some wonderful conversations about what it means to be Danish with the two Danish guys next to me. Perhaps the highlight of the evening was when the Danes and Swedes starting enthusiastically singing various fødselsdag (birthday) songs in their respective languages. Even though we were in Sweden, the whole time I couldn’t help but think about the Danish ‘hygge’. The next morning we ate a delicious breakfast of oatmeal and nutella and packed up for the day. We hiked around for a few hours, enjoying the crisp fall breeze and slowly changing leaves. After stopping for a lovely lunch right on the side of a beautiful little lake, we made our way to the trailhead and then headed for the train back to Copenhagen.
There’s nothing quite like camping to facilitate both group bonding and provide a welcome change from the city and busyness of life on DIS. We had such wonderful conversations while hiking, spending a lot of time reflecting on our experience in Denmark so far as well as discussing what we want to do next summer, next year or even after college. I feel most comfortable and happy when I’m outdoors with my pack on my back, and this trip was exactly what I needed to remind myself why I wanted to come to Southern Scandinavia in the first place. Sitting around the campfire at night, waking up to a brisk breeze and making a warm breakfast, having meaningful conversations while hiking through a lush forest on a wonderfully cool day: it all was, in my mind, my perfect version of ‘hygge’. The trip showed me again exactly why I am so obsessed with hiking and camping and why I want to spend the rest of my life constantly going outside and traveling to beautiful places. It also made me so grateful that I get to live with other people who share my love and passion for the outdoors.
Here’s to more adventures!