Middelfart: Denmark in January = Witch’s Tit

Smart money says go to Denmark in July. But when smart money zigs, we zag. So, in January, Andy, Anne and I pack our bags full of clothes only a Californian could possibly believe were suitable for a Scandinavian winter and board a Lufthansa red-eye for Copenhagen.

When we touch down at Roskilde Airport, it’s -8°C (which the driver assures me is balmy). But huddled outside our hotel, with a biting breeze blowing off the Baltic, it feels like -80°C. It’s a special brand of cold this reporter has never experienced. Bitter cold. Relentless cold. Penguin-killing cold. Cold that smacks you in the face with one hand, while snaking up your pants to flash-freeze your junk with the other. Why exactly are we here again?

We’re here to shoot a new campaign for our client, Sanita, the makers of the original Danish clog. And we’re doing it in January because we shot our big mouths off and said that if they ponied up the cash, we could get the work done in a hurry. To add insult to frostbite, all the shots we’ll be taking are exteriors.

But before we begin shooting, Andy and Anne take a train up to Sanita HQ in Ikast to explain our plans for the American launch. The details of this trip fall mostly outside the parameters of this travelogue, except for the noteworthy fact that their train happens to pass directly through, wait for it, wait for it, Middelfart.

When you are juvenile people – and we are nothing if not – this is the kind of watershed event that can turn a whole trip around. And even though further study of the map revealed no Upperfart or Lowerfart, things were looking up.

So we’re basing our campaign around a single, five-letter Danish word we can barely pronounce. And we’re there to bring that word to life through pictures of happy, clog-wearing Danes.

The word is “hygge” (hue-guh) and we’re told that it neatly sums up the Danish way of life. The closest word in English is cozy. But it’s more like cozy to the tenth power. And we think: Won’t that dovetail nicely with our Danish client who makes ultra cozy clogs? So we’ll tough it out for a couple days, get our cute little pictures and be back in sunny California before you know it.

Except this hygge thing is really real. And we really like it. And even though it’s a year-round phenomenon, they crank that shit up to 11 when the temperature drops. Danes absolutely fall all over themselves to make you as comfortable as possible.

There are candles at every meal. Lunch has four courses (not including dessert). And with that curried herring and crispy roast pig and brown bread with sweet butter come endless pints of Tuborg and shots of Aquavit (a liquid ménage a trios of dill and caraway seeds and fucking fire).

And though we’ve only known the photographer and his crew for 48 hours, they start to feel like old friends. And we talk and we talk and we talk, because they all speak perfect English (seriously, I’ve known copywriters with less grasp of our language). And that’s good because Danish is crazy with a capital K. Sometimes they sound like that Swedish chef from the Muppets. Sometimes they sound Chinese. Sometimes – somehow – they sound both.

Anyway, we wake up early Sunday morning for our return flight and it’s the coldest day yet. A real nipple-twister. But, the truth is, we don’t want to go. Make no mistake, Denmark in January is as cold as the proverbial witch’s tit. But the warm, inviting bosom of the Danish more than compensates.

Plus, there’s Middelfart.

See the photos on Flickr.