I’ve come to Copenhagen hoping to follow the trail of Danish fairytale author Hans Christian Andersen, but just a few hours into my first day, I’m held captive by a more modern romance. We’re in a GoBoat, a solar powered picnic boat made of recycled plastic bottles cruising down one of the city’s many canals. Before us, lit up by a burning sunset, is Inderhavensbroen (Inner Harbour Bridge), or as it is more popularly known: the Kissing Bridge.
Like many lovers, the story of Copenhagen’s Kissing Bridge has mostly been one of waiting. First, the financial backer declared bankruptcy, and then technical blunders made the design seem too complicated to handle. The bridge gets its nickname from the tongue-like sliding bolts that allow the two sections of the bridge to interlock or split apart for a ship to pass through. The love affair seemed to be in its final throes when city officials declared that the feat seemed impossible because of the weather: the uneven heating of the bridge from the summer sun and the cold sea made the bolts misalign.
But it did open, finally, in late August 2016, having taken eight years for the two halves of the bridge to meet. From the boat, I can see travellers and locals cycling across or leisurely admiring the canal. Like many other new bridges over Copenhagen’s canals, Kissing Bridge is entirely car-free, meant only for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Nearly 50 per cent of the city travels by cycle daily (you can even spot the crown prince and princess on bicycle if you’re lucky!). Just a few minutes ago, our boat passed the splendid Cirkelbroen (Circle Bridge), a striking red passage made of circular platforms. Another beloved bridge, the funky orange Cykelslangen, allows cyclists to beat traffic at the waterfront shopping area by cycling on an elevated passage over the harbour. They’re each so impeccably designed that the Kissing Bridge seems like an amusing anomaly. It’s not until I see another bridge being raised up to allow a sailing boat through that I appreciate its design. Watching it elevate, I had the curious sensation of being in a toy world; it’s a sight that makes the locals pause too.
Atop Kissing Bridge, I soak in views of the rippling Christianshavn canal, with its charming fishing boats, yachts and funky floating homes (now on Airbnb)—one even has a bicycle strapped to its roof! I see a new restaurant called 108, alongside its older sibling Noma, one of the world’s best restaurants located in an old warehouse. It’s hard to focus on avoiding the cycling path when there are beautiful views of buildings and boats on both sides of the bridge.
Later that evening, we take Kissing Bridge again to cross over from the 17th-century neighbourhood of Nyhavn to edgy Papirøen (Paper Island) on the other side. Among the crowds on Kissing Bridge, we meet the only other Indian travellers we encounter on the trip—a couple with their baby, vacationing from West Bengal. We’re all very excited; the unusually warm weather makes this buzzing new city feel more like home.
Formerly used by the Danish press for paper storage, Papirøen is now a pop-up creative hub with food trucks, museums, and art galleries. Scores of people emerge from the vast hall that now houses the booths of Copenhagen Street Food market, to lounge in the last of the summer sun, with beers and plates of duck burgers, Chinese stir-fries, and organic ice cream in hand. Kayaks, sailboats, and public waterbuses go by, and occasionally, someone slips into the rippling waters for a swim. Inside, everything is cheery, the music is loud, and there are disco lights on the cow model suspended from the ceiling—dining proceeds help support the indigenous Red Danish dairy breed.
On our way back, after gorging on Danish smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches) at Papirøen, we stop by 108 for strong coffee (the Danes are proud of their roasts) and a sugary danish. We catch our breath on a bench on the opposite side of Kissing Bridge. Under dark skies across the water, is a faint gleam from Papirøen’s outdoor dining area, and the glittering glass-fronts of the newly constructed Royal Danish Opera House and the Royal Danish Playhouse. The crowds have dispersed, only the occasional whirs of cycles pass us by. The view is finally, all ours.