On my final morning in Copenhagen, I awoke before the sun — not such a great feat in Denmark in November, mind you — and headed for the Great Synagogue for morning services. (Side note: I failed to visit the Dohany Street Synagogue in Budapest when I was there, the third time I have visited that city and not set foot inside the massive Moorish structure. Nor did I visit the main synagogues in Berlin and Vienna. I have vowed not to miss any more on this trip.)
The Copenhagen synagogue is located just off one of the main shopping streets in the city center, down a small winding lane that is the very definition of charming. Inside, barely a dozen men were gathered beneath the massive vaulted ceiling, painted in blue and gold. From the outside, the building is unremarkable, and easily missable. But the sanctuary is large and regal, its size seeming to magnify the smallness of the number of worshippers.
The service was already well underway and moving along at a good clip when I ducked inside a few minutes after the 7:00 a.m. start time. I received a curt nod from one man engrossed in his prayers, the closest thing that anyone came to greeting me. A younger bearded man wearing a messianic Chabad kippah was present, but otherwise the group was composed entirely of men of late middle age. By 7:35, the service was finished and, this being Denmark, several worshippers strapped on their bicycle helmets and headed out into the cold.
As I moved for the exit, I heard a voice behind me.
"Where are you from?" asked a man who appeared to have some position of authority.
New York City, I told him.
"Will you be here tonight?" he asked.
No, I said, I’m leaving for Belgium this afternoon.
"Well," he replied. "Have a nice trip."