This summer I traveled extensively through Italy, followed by a whirlwind trip to Scandinavia! What became apparent to me is that there is a great divide between these two regions (I know Italy is a country) regarding geography, landscape, food, attitude, and culture. I left Italy's warm Mediterranean climate for cooler temperatures (~55 degrees), endless days (the sun at midnight), and the fjords of Norway! I said goodbye to the belly pleasing pasta of the Amalfi coast for the Michelin Stars of Copenhagen. The Vespas of Italy were soon replaced by the bikes of Stockholm. Most notably, however, the principle of La Dolce Vita (the good life), was replaced with the Scandinavian belief of Hygge (feeling of the coziness of the soul). Hygge is hard to pronounce (hoo-gah) but encompasses the spirit of this region, and perhaps leads to the Nordic countries consistently being the happiest in the world. So, if nothing else, in this week's post I am sharing the Hygge I found in Scandinavia!
Translating into "a home" this boutique hotel in Stockholm is perfectly named. With 12 rooms only (though not creepy like many Northeast Inns), this is an intimate enclave in the Northern part of the city. The Swedish design, a collaboration between Ilse Crawford (of Soho House fame) and owner Jeanette Mix, is stylish, comfortable, and effortlessly well appointed evoking Hygge all the way! Ett Hem is not your regular hotel and guests are treated as part of the family; walk into the parlor and make yourself a drink, or wander into the kitchen and ask one of the in house chefs to whip you up anything to your heart's desire. Breakfast, however, personifies hygge, because it's that comfortable and that right. As you eat in the enchanted garden, replete with Edison string bulbs, beautiful furniture, and warm blankets, you are literally and figuratively warmed to the soul! I want to give a special thank you to fellow Louper and dual US/Sweden citizen Chris M. who introduced us to this magical place!
As much as Italians love their motorcycles/scooter, Scandinavians love their bikes. Copenhagen, specifically, is the biking capital of the world with over 390 kilometers of designated bike lanes. More importantly, it is part of their culture of green living. Nothing warms the soul more reducing your carbon footprint for your children and your children's children. Hygge!
Now regular bikes are popping up as a useful mode of transport in a lot of cities around the world (thanks to the Scandinavian model). However, the cargo bike was something unfamiliar to me! The cargo bike in Denmark is NYC's Cadillac Escalade! The City of Copenhagen reports that 26% of all families in the City of Copenhagen with two or more kids own a cargo bike; the main use is to transport the children. Even the grandmas are biking the kids places!
Now, a few cool brands of cargo bikes to schlep your kids, your wife, your husband, or your crap that you can find in the US and use instead of your gas guzzler! If you're in NYC, check out 718 Cyclery for all your cargo needs, as they carry a lot of brands. Otherwise, shop online for these below and feel as carbon responsible as the Scandinavians. Special bonus for the first Louper to send me a picture of themselves and another family member in their very own cargo bike. Hygge!
First I must elaborate on the term Hygge, what it is and from where it came. Hygge, according to Wikipedia is a Danish and Norweigan word meaning a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture). More importantly, it was a contender in 2016 for word-of-the year (I am a little late!), and #hygge has 2,197,318 posts on Instagram. So let's get a little hygge into all our lives!
Hygge (internal happiness) begins in the home, and Scandinavian design has evolved since its inception in the 1950's. While form and function are the key principles, so are simplicity and modernism. The uber famous design store in Copenhagen HAY HOUSE and its website takes this one step further by bringing the feeling of hygge to their designs. Started by husband and wife team Mette and Rolf Hay (who met while working at Gubi (my favorite)), they understand what hygge means regarding the house. Perhaps, it is a comfy blanket, hot tea, a bottle of wine, a scented candle, a roaring fire ... who knows, what gives you a warm and comfy feeling?
Denmark is the benchmark for a green and sustainable society, yet they aren't smug about it. This belief system is evident in all areas of life, most notably their food culture. Patrons really care where the food is coming from! Amass is very clear about their food philosophy, which is holistic and mindful of reducing their carbon footprint. They believe "sustainability as well as deliciousness are mutually reinforcing, not mutually exclusive." They are asking everyone to make a difference in their attitude toward food consumption and production to protect the food (we love) for the future!
While our entire trip was filled with incredible food (you know I'm food obsessed), it seems that Scandinavians have something over the folks who dole out Michelin stars. Copenhagen houses more Michelin starred restaurants (28 Michelin Stars and 24 star-studded restaurants) to choose from than anywhere else I've been! It also housed the former number 1 restaurant in the world, Noma (which has since shut its doors). It seems that the Michelin folks love a tasting menu. Further, they love a tasting menu with previously undiscovered ingredients locally procured and treated in ways never even considered.
These meals aren't for everyone and certainly not for every meal, but once in awhile, they are a real treat whether you are a foodie or not. I biked (of course) to this restaurant on the outskirts of Copenhagen for lunch. It is a gorgeous and modern warehouse space that feels like it belongs in Red Hook, Brooklyn. It even has a rather large garden space producing vegetables and herbs for the various preparations. The menu is fixed (it's a Noma thing) and the items served are incredibly innovative and tasty. Chef/Owner Matt Orlando (who was cooking for us) comes from San Diego, but his culinary education comes from the best: Aureole, Le Bernardin, Per Se, and Noma. This restaurant is worth the trip and the hype!
And, this is hygge all the way, as good, sustainable food warms the soul. Amass (meaning gather together) invites the community to enjoy their garden. "Have a glass of wine next to the sunflowers, a post-dinner coffee by the nightly bonfires, or even a sniff from our lavender patch."