We noticed, during our time in Copenhagen, that it appeared nearly every building had a courtyard. Doors to the street would occasionally be left open offering the passerby a glimpse into this hidden world. I have seen this before in cities where front yards are rare. In San Francisco apartment buildings and Victorians hug the sidewalk in an even line. Behind them yards, home additions and even the occasional cottage can be found. In Mexico's classic colonial architecture the courtyard is often the center of home and family life. In Amsterdam, as in San Francisco a separate world exists behind the centuries old canal houses which stand shoulder to shoulder along the streets. I was in the yard of one open to the public. A small wing jutted out of one of the homes next door. In the yard of the other sat a copper roofed gazebo. Across the small yard where I stood, sitting amid the flower beds, was a tiny caretakers house. There are also the half homes, originally slave quarters, in the yards of homes in New Orleans, not to mention the famous courtyards there.
They might all be considered cities inside of cities. Some of them may be purely functional, providing access to portions of the buildings difficult to reach from the street, but they can also be places for socializing, sharing time with friends and family or conversing with neighbors across the "back fence". Or occasionally they be a place of your own. An inner place of quiet and solitude away from the noise and crowds of the city.