Denmark: Taking A Stroll Through Vesterbro | Terra Incognita | DW | 26.09.2007
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Terra Incognita

Denmark: Taking A Stroll Through Vesterbro

The once rural area of Vesterbro has changed dramatically over the past century. This inner-city district of Copenhagen is becoming increasingly upscale. And artists and authors are helping to promote it.

Vesterbro was originally the name of the road that led into the city center from the west

Vesterbro was originally the name of the road that led into the city center from the west

"Everything, except the expected." The motto of the Carlsberg brewery can just as well apply to the Copenhagen district it's based in: Vesterbro.

Artist Johanne Lögstrup is part of a group of artists and writers helping to promote this district, which lies in the west of Copenhagen -- where the sun shines the longest. This is why people like to flock here in the evenings.

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Johanne Lögstrup wants to show visitors the other side of Copenhagen

Lögstrup has participated in developing and voicing an audio tour through Vesterbro in which personal stories are combined with the history of the area, both past and present.

She says she is deeply passionate about Vesterbro and wants to open the eyes of both locals and visitors to the many different sides of this once unknown part of Copenhagen.

There's something for everyone

In the past, the citizens of Vesterbro worked in slaughterhouses, small businesses or the timber trade. Today, the 35,000-strong population is made up of many immigrants who own small businesses and pubs.

In the 1970s, prostitutes and drug addicts dominated the street scene. But now, more wealthy people are discovering this area. Trendy bars and cafes now dominate Vesterbro and old buildings are continually being renovated into chic new apartments. Businessmen in pinstriped suits with their briefcase in hand bustle alongside tattooed punks.

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Vesterbro is a combination of old and new

Istedgade Street, known to many as the red light district and once filled with pornography and sex shops, is now home to posh restaurants and expensive hotels.

Christian Else, who owns a newsagent's on Istedgade, has witnessed the regeneration of the area.

"The area has really changed," Else says. "It has become more mundane. But it is still a place where everyone from alcoholics to businessmen can feel at home."

Carlsberg has a life of its own

Jakob Thommesen from the city museum explains that times have really changed in Vesterbro.

"Vesterbro used to be the last stop in the countryside before you reached Copenhagen," Thommesen says. "In the late eighteenth century, this was an industrial area and people were poorly paid and cooped up in small houses. Today, most people here work for the Carlsberg Brewery."

However, Thommesen explains that the brewery has a life of its own -- almost with its own city district. The brewery has contributed to the dramatic change in life here and the city center is easily reachable by foot. The old buildings are being modernized, and students and young families are moving into the area.

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Vesterbro is located just outside Copenhagen's city center

What's more, developing cities are always great sources of inspiration for artists, Lögstrup says.

"There was a famous Danish author by the name of Dan Turèll, who was very well known in the area because he was forever visiting the pubs here," she says. "Tove Ditlevsen is another excellent author who wrote about her childhood here."

Johanne Lögstrup's great-grandmother has now also become a prominent figure in Vesterbro. If you let yourself be carried back in time with the audio book, you could almost believe that you would meet her here in person.

Audios and videos on the topic

  • Author Petra Kohnen (September 2007)
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  • Author Petra Kohnen (September 2007)
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