I was lucky: my hotel room faced southeast. I felt the sun (when there were no clouds) peek through the gossamer curtains, waking me up with a soft orange kiss. I always woke around dawn. Good, because I had work to do; terrible, because I had work to do. After a quick shower, I slipped into my clothes and boots and headed out.
I would turn left upon leaving the airy stone lobby. Another left put me on Kalvebod Brygge, a thorough way which would take me closer to my destination, Christianhavn. I expected a fifteen minute walk and there was no hurry. I had walked miles of cobblestone for days, but always near the city center. This morning, I walked for myself.
As Copenhagen slept, I took notice of my surroundings for the first time. Sure, the buildings were regal, all stone and spire, overlooking the clear, calm canals. Today I noticed for the first time the air, the light.
There’s a term in photography and film called the “magic hour” or the “Golden hour”. Occurring at the beginning or end of the day, the light cast by the sun is indeed magical, casting a golden hue on everything it touches. Buildings are softer, the world is purer.
On my walk, I felt transported by the glow. It seemed elven, like every building carried with it a halo, somehow emanating from within. Or, more similarly, like there was perpetual candlelight which cut through the idea of time, day and night. I was awestruck. I’ve been told Scandinavian are a hearty people, that they have to be, it gets so cold up here. But the way the light catches the buildings, and how the water subsequently plays with the reflections… Well, Scandinavians are poetic architects as well.
Hours later, upon returning to my hotel, I couldn’t walk away from my thoughts on the fairy-quality of light in Copenhagen, as I’ve changed my understanding of what it means to be “well-lit”. In fact, I was reminded of this section from Bernard DeVoto’s The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto:
This is the violet hour, the hour of hush and wonder, when the affections glow again and valor is reborn, when the shadows deepen magically along the edge of the forest and we believe that, if we watch carefully, at any moment we may see the unicorn.
As I prepared to leave Copenhagen that night, it was all I could do to look around, anxiously hoping I could be so lucky.
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