My name is Jinna and sometimes, I’m an idiot. This is the story of how I almost got arrested in Copenhagen, Denmark.
We arrived into Copenhagen after an early morning flight from Stockholm (READ: 10 Things To Do in Stockholm) – and that mixed with late night partying led to absolute exhaustion. After a quick and efficient train ride from the airport to Norreport station, we stepped foot into the city to see this – a sea of bicycles.
First thought: Wow. So. Many. Bicycles. Never. Seen. So. Many. Bicycles. We’d get used to it very quickly, though – Copenhagen and Bicycle go together like Peanut Butter and Jelly.
We decided to meet up with my friend Dennis – a photographer based in Copenhagen to go explore the city. We were grateful to have a local take us around the city – specifically his favorite spots to capture glimpses of the city’s architecture.
A very short, few blocks later – we ran into a crowd surrounding a memorial.
We realized then that only two days before, just a few short blocks from our hotel, a security guard was killed outside the Great Synagogue during a terrorist shooting. It was a cold, grey day, and the mood was somber – we had a moment of silence in respect for the victim and continued on to get a feel for the city.
We saw more bikes than cars or pedestrians combined. There are supposedly over 5 million bicycles in the city alone.
We wandered around The Lakes – it was a bit too chilly to sit and soak in the view like we wanted to, but the few moments we spent here were absolutely wonderful.
We waved hello to some city workers along the way.
Copenhagen is perfect and easy to explore because everything is reasonably close. You can walk, or of course – bike almost anywhere.
Eventually we came across the #HappyWall, a huge wall filled with tiny doors, covering tiles of various colors. You could flip open or close shut the doors to spell words or create pictures.
So I thought I’d spread some positive vibes to this wonderful city.
We then journeyed to the HAY store in Ostergade – an interior decor heaven filled with inspiration of all shapes and sizes. This place was perfect for souvenir shopping.
Three floors up with an amazing view – it’s filled with functional, minimal design books, furniture, office supplies and home furnishings.
After that we stopped by Emmerys cafe for some Danish pastries and coffee.
We entered the Amalienborg Palace on Frederiksgade street.
And said hello to the Royal Life Guards.
He didn’t smile, he was perfectly still and had no reaction whatsoever, but he did look at the camera – and that was all I needed.
We soaked in this view of the entire city from the top of the Round Tower.
Walked to Nyhavn to explore the Canal.
Wander a few blocks around this area and you’ll see beautiful pastel colored buildings… with more bicycles.
…and friends hiding in between them.
Wandered over to the Royal Danish Playhouse – a beautiful glass building that sits right on the waterfront, with a brilliant view of the Opera house across the water.
Stopped by the Torvehallerne Farmers Market to grab a quick bite.
At this point we decided to meet up with Max, Dennis’s friend, a photographer also based in Copenhagen. Both Dennis and Max are in their early 20’s with incredible eyes for architecture, design and composition. They’re also the adventurous type – going to great heights to get the perfect shot (sometimes that means climbing to the top of a crane).
No crane-climbing today. They brought me to the Aller building – an incredible place covered in glass that looks like this.
We decided to take it a step further and bring in a prop – a smoke bomb.
The results of using this were absolutely magical.
After this successful first attempt of getting photographs with the smoke bomb, we decided to give it another go in a different location.
Now, finding a location that’s open enough yet enclosed enough – is a bit difficult.
If it’s too windy outside and you’re out in the open, the smoke will blow away way too quickly, taking away from the effect. If a space is too enclosed, I would have probably choked to death. We spent around thirty minutes exploring the area, trying to find a place that was both interesting yet open enough to do another quick shoot.
So we wandered around a bit more and finally found a stairwell leading into a parking garage. It was perfect. Cool lines, enclosed but open at the top, allowing ventilation. We set up our cameras, got ready to shoot – then I stood in the middle of the stairwell and lit the smoke bomb.
I was immediately engulfed by a thick cloud of bright blue smoke. Trying to pose, hold your breath and keep your eyes open at the same time was a lot harder than I thought it would be. My eyes burned, I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t even think about trying to not look like I was extremely, extremely uncomfortable. The smoke finally dissipated and I looked like a smurf. My face, hands and previously-white shirt were all lightly dyed blue.
Great. I hope that was worth it.
We got out of the stairwell and started walking away from the area until we noticed a man walking towards us. The man was wearing a security uniform. Some of us thought about turning around, only to spot three more men following us from behind.
These men were not wearing security informs. They were wearing police uniforms.
Welp. No way to escape now – we stood and waited for the two groups of uniform-clad persons to converge and trap us in the middle.
Immediately, one of the police officers asked us questions in Danish. Max and Dennis spoke to them while we were nervously waiting to completely freak out.
The officers came over to us and asked us where we from, then asked us to give them our forms of identification.
After noting down our information, the older and obviously higher-ranked Danish police officer turned to us and asked:
“Do you know what’s been going on these past few days in this city?”
We all turned to each other, and immediately the guilt set in. Of course we knew what had been going on the past few days. The shooting. The memorial. The police officers walking around right outside our hotel carrying huge guns and patrolling the streets.
Us: Yes, officer. The terrorist shootings.
Officer: So if you know all this is going on, I’m trying to figure out how the HELL you can stupid enough to light a smoke bomb outside of a police station.
That’s right, we were standing outside one of the main police stations in this city, and two days after a terrorist shooting, we lit a colored smoke bomb to take photographs.
Us: Yes, yes, a million times yes, we are complete idiots, and we are so absolutely sorry.
After a few more seconds of glaring at us underneath his glasses, he proceeded in his questioning:
Officer: You’re all from New York?
Max and Dennis looked on.
Officer: Here in Denmark, we ask people their names before we shoot them. They don’t do that in New York.
Us: Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for not shooting us. We had no idea this was a police station. We are complete idiots, and we are so so sorry.
We were as sincere as we could be, but more embarrassed than anything else. He was absolutely right, and we were still trying not to pee our pants.
If I were arrested, how would I get home? What if I missed my flight and couldn’t find a lawyer? What if our court date was so far away that I’d have to get some kind of visa? Were they allowed to throw me in jail? Holy sh-t.
The head police officer looked at all three of us one more time and went back over to Max and Dennis. He looked them both up and down, and told them to put out their hands.
Dennis and Max put out their hands, palms up.
He told them to turn them around.
With their palms facing down, the officer smacked the tops of their hands, and then told all of us to get the hell out of there.
…so we got the hell out of there.
We didn’t end up getting arrested, but I don’t think anyone reading this story would be surprised if I had.
Traveling opens your eyes to people, things, places, methods, sights that you haven’t seen before – it’s also an opportunity to learn and pay respect to that new destination’s culture and way of life. We all looked like sad puppy dogs walking back across the town to our hotel – mostly shook up with a tiny amount of relief-filled excitement. The gratitude we felt to the non-arresting officers was off the charts. They let us go, but still taught us better.
The entire experience was a lesson well-learned – it also became a piece of our lives that will always connect us as a story to be told, and a memory earned.
And that’s how I almost got arrested in Copenhagen.
I put together a short 1-minute video documenting the various things I saw while walking around this amazing, inspirational city. Watch below.
Big thank you to my friends who helped me with these wonderful photographs. Follow all of them on instagram for more beautiful, inspiring photos.
Any crazy travel stories you’ve got to share? Leave a comment for us below!