Once a year, usually between the hours of 6 PM and 4 AM, the streets of Copenhagen flood with children, families, school kids, young adults, and (yes) American study abroad students looking for some immersion. Copenhagen’s annual Culture Night (Kulternatten) is a highly anticipated attraction in which literally everyone that lives in Copenhagen, the suburbs, and surrounding cities gathers in the Inner City for a night full of “culture.” It sounded like something that wasn’t too be missed (at least that’s what DIS told us students). Though tickets to Culture Night are affordable (90 DKK, or $17 USD), my program partially subsidized the ticket costs–an even greater incentive to check it out. And I’m really glad I did.

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To summarize briefly, Culture Night is the one night in Copenhagen when all the cultural attractions (castles, museums, breweries, etc.) stay open till the wee hours of the night, providing visitors with a unique nighttime experience of these renowned historical sights. In addition, some of the attractions have a twist on the evening’s visit. At the Orlogsmuseet (a nautical-themed museum in Christianshavn), for example, local brewers crowded in the lobby for a beer tasting event…and beer was served to customers by pirates. CORRECTION: men dressed in pirate costumes (they weren’t convincing pirates at all).

I’m not necessarily one for heights, but after much thought, I figured climbing up the Spiral Tower at nighttime would be the best way to see Copenhagen under the city lights. The climb up wasn’t too demanding or problematic…until I walked outside onto the observatory. The combination of the cold, mist, and heavy wind made for an incredibly uncomfortable climb up the narrow staircase that winds around the top of the tower. I figured that venturing to the top of the Spiral Tower at night would eliminate the vertigo I experienced the first time climbing up the tower on a sunny September day. I think it’s fair to say I underestimated the powers of the wind. Never have I felt the sensation of free fall so strongly as I did on that narrow staircase (and I obviously wasn’t even moving). Here’s a photo of thinly veiled terror induced by the climb up that evening. Disclaimer: smiles can be deceptive.

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Perhaps my favorite part of Culture Night was having an excuse to see world-famous sights on an average Friday night. What made the experience that much better was that I had yet to see many of the sights during my time in Denmark. From cooking pancakes over an open fire at the Old Stock Exchange, to the Round Tower, to the Danish Parliament, my night was filled with once-in-a-lifetime experiences–all thanks to the efforts of those that coordinate the Kulternatten.

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