Contrary to popular belief, you CAN get a tan in Scandinavia. With a bit of meteorological luck, it is actually warm and sunny for a few months out of the year, especially here in "Southern Scandinavia." Yesterday I read in The Copenhagen Post that May 2008 was actually the sunniest month EVER in Denmark (since they began keeping records in 1920, anyway...). During the sunny month of May, I spent a great deal of my free time outside - running, sitting in parks with friends, walking around window shopping, etc. As a result of my hours logged outside, I was actually building a bit of a tan. (A tan I thought would be forever unattainable each time I caught a glance of my ghastly white skin in January... I should note that glances of skin were pretty much relegated to pre-and post shower naked moments. The coldness dictates that everything must covered whenever you are outside, which I guess is good because then you aren't forced to acknowledge your Dita Von Teese style paleness every time you pass a shop window and, you know, happen to check yourself out out of sheer vanity. Not that I do that.) Unfortunately, between last weekend's move and being super busy at work over the past two weeks, my gradually-built tan sadly faded in about a tenth of the time it took to get it in the first place. So, when I woke up this morning with no commitments, no plans, and a weather forcast of 77F and sunny, I decided to hit the beach to regain some color and boost my vitamin D.
It's easy to forget that Copenhagen is on Sjælland, the largest of Denmark's approximately 1419 islands (only 443 are named), when you spend the majority of your outside time biking around the city among bricks and concrete. Luckily, when you remember, there are a bunch of beaches within biking distance for us city-dweller's beaching pleasure. Most of my friends are happy with going to Amager Beach, which is just a short bike ride away on the neighboring island of Amager. I'm an anomaly in that I don't really like Amager Beach all that much. It's pretty rocky and I like my beaches sandy and rock-free. So, I decided to head further North to Bellevue Beach. Bellevue Beach is probably one of the fanciest beaches in Denmark. It's about 10km north of Copenhagen and situated between Hellerup and Klampenborg, which are two of the fanciest, richest neighborhoods in the country. Bellevue is like the Danish Hamptons and attracts Denmark's young and beautiful crowd. In that sense, maybe I'm a little out of place :), but it has rock-free sand, gorgeous views of Sweden, and on a good day like today I can watch people sail their fancy spinnaker-clad yachts, so it's my beach of choice.
After my usual breakfast and a skipped 8km run (skipped in the sense that I didn't go, not that I literally skipped 8km. That would be goofy, even for me!), I pulled on my bikini, grabbed my beach blanket (the hospital blanket I "stole" when I dislocated my shoulder in December - I sadly don't have a real beach towel in Denmark), ipod, and a couple of magazines. I stuffed it all in a tote bag and headed off on my trusty bicycle towards the beach. From my apartment, it takes about 45 minutes to bike to Bellevue, but the ride is really nice. First, you ride along Østerbrogade, the main street of the Copenhagen neighborhood of Østerbro, which soon turns into Strandgade, the main street in the aforementioned town of Hellerup. Both have lots of boutiques, cafes, and classy people to check out while you ride. After passing through the towns, the right hand side of the road drops out and turns into a seawall. There is a marina nearby and the wind was good today, so I was greeted with dozens of colorful spinnakers out at sea as I pedaled along the sea wall. It was a bit hazy today, but on a bright, clear day you can see Sweden across the sound.
I arrived at the beach just before noon. After a quick stop at the snack bar to buy a bottle of water, I scoped out and set up shop on a nice (rock-free!!) spot. I spent the next half hour-ish lying on my back with my eyes closed, combating what seems to be my omnipresent sunglasses tan. After awhile, I opened my eyes to flip and grab a magazine out of my bag to read while I lay on my stomach. The beach had filled up quite a bit since I had arrived. Looking around, I saw that about half the women were topless. This isn't unusual for Denmark. In fact, it's pretty standard across all of Europe that it is acceptable for women to sunbathe topless in parks, on beaches, etc. You'd probably be going a bit too far if you were walking or biking around topless, but I haven't seen that yet, so I guess it's not a problem. (side note: While writing this blog post, I Googled Bellevue Beach. Apparently Askmen.com has voted it the #10 nude beach in the world. I had no idea! I didn't see any "below the belt" nudity, which I feel should be absolutely necessary for earning the Askmen.com vote as #10 best nude beach in the world, but maybe I was on the wrong part of the beach for that...?)
Since I first lived in Denmark two years ago and been exposed to the European world of topless sunbathing, I've vaguely tossed the idea of tanning topless around in my mind. I wonder if it's freeing or weird feeling or... something else. I was curious. I think the fact that I generally spend my time outside with friends (both male and female) has been the strongest limiting influence to actually trying the whole topless thing. I mean, I don't really want most of my friends seeing my breasts. I tend to reserve breast viewage for people I'm intimate with, which I think is normal. Maybe I'm flattering myself, but what if I went topless with friends and that became all they could think about during subsequent interactions with me!? Weird. Anyway, seeing that I was alone today, I decided to take a baby step. I flipped over on to my stomach and untied my back string to prevent a back tanline. "Oooh, risque!", I thought. I laid like this for a while, intermittently napping and reading. After awhile, I forgot I was even untied. Without thinking, I flipped back onto my back. There was a moment of shock and horror when I realized that my loose top had slipped up in the flip and my left breast was now entirely exposed. Thinking quickly, I decided it was now or never to try the whole topless thing... Moments later, I pulled my top off and laid down on my blanket. Ahhh... freeing? It was actually okay and miraculously not that weird or uncomfortable or objective feeling. No one was looking at me because it was a pretty normal thing to be topless on this beach. Amazingly, after awhile you kind of forgot that your boobs are exposed for the world to see. I laid topless for about 45 minutes, thinking about it...
In the end, I put my top back on for two reasons. First, I was worried that my breasts would get sunburned in the blazing sun. Amazingly, my arms and back got a little red, but my boobs are okay. It must be because they weren't out that long. Second and more importantly, call me prude or old-fashioned, but I couldn't help feeling like there are parts of your body that should be reserved for special people to see. I think tan lines can be kinda hot, too. Weird, I know, but I'm not talking about, like, sunglasses or socks tan lines. In my opinion there is nothing wrong with white boobies that have been covered by a bikini. If someone were lucky enough to see them, they could have the satisfaction in knowing that they were one of the only people besides myself who ever had. And, really, what reason besides not having tan lines would you go topless? Regardless, I tried it. It was fine. But I don't think I'll be going topless again anytime soon.