Exactly four years ago, I found myself in Denmark.
I had just survived my first semester at the École du Louvre. The term had culminated with eight exams in five days; each exam was basically a choice between two broad questions with three hours to answer one of them. I celebrated my birthday with an exam on the history of French patrimoine.
I was burned out. I desperately needed to get away from Paris.
On Monday, I reached out to French friends in Copenhagen to ask if I could stay with them. Two days later, I was on a plane.
I usually plan my trips based on museums I want to see. But there I was, suddenly in Copenhagen, clueless about Danish museums. While my friends were at work, I decided to wander around the Nationalmuseet, the National Museum of Denmark. This seemed like a good place to get an introduction to my surroundings.
The museum is in an 18th century palace. It covers Danish history from hunters in the Ice Age and Denmark in the Viking Age, to the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and the present day.
But honestly, I didn't read a single label during my visit. I just wandered quietly through the galleries, keeping company with the beautiful and mysterious objects. I was drawn from detail to luscious detail: a dramatically lit cauldron, a horse pulling a sun chariot, a room full of wooden altarpieces.
There were barely any other visitors that morning in the museum. It was immensely therapeutic to wander alone through the handiwork of artists and artisans over the millennia. It reminded me, somehow, that I was not alone.
My visit to the Nationalmuseet changed me. Or, rather, it changed my outlook and gave me some much needed perspective.
Most importantly, despite my current burnout and anger at any mention of patrimoine, my visit helped me to remember something that had been buried in test preparations:
I utterly adore museums.
Have you ever had a cathartic museum experience?
Address: Prinsens Palæ, Ny Vestergade 10, 471 Copenhagen K ∣ Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm