Or how to walk and walk and walk...and walk...and walk some more
06/09/2008 - 06/11/2008 50 °F
OK guys, a lot has been happening. The flight into Copenhagen got in and my hotel had given away my room! Luckily another across town had a room for 3 nights. Upon arrival there, I was told they only had 2 nights because of a convention in town. I took them and set off the next morning bright and early to find rooms for my last 2 nights. I finally found a hostel with 1 room for 2 nights, which I took. Then, this morning, my hotel said that another of its sister hostels had a room for my final 2 nights, and it was just around the corner. Musical rooms are par for the course during the summer in Europe, even though I booked them in April, so you have to keep your chin up and keep plodding along. I witnessed several "Ugly Americans" in my same situation, and it was not a pretty scene. It always pays to be nice and polite I have found, especially in foreign countries.
Yesterday I saw quite alot. First was the City Hall and square, and then on a bus to Rosenborg Slot, the former summer castle for the Danish royalty. It was beautiful, and the construction positioned many of the rooms with windows on three sides to try and brighten up the interior during the dark winters. We really take interior lighting for granted these days!
I then walked to the National Gallery, which had a crazy Scandinavian modern art exhibit. I like modern art, and enjoyed trying to figure out the meanings of chains bolted to iron stones on the floor, etc. Bizarre and interesting.
I really enjoyed seeing the old row houses people live in around the city. I passed a set at this point walking up the street and got some good pictures.
Next stop was Gustof's Church, home of the Swedish church in Denmark. The caretaker was very nice, letting me in to tour the church by myself. There really have been few crowds, and I was all alone most of the time. I should mention that the weather has been very cold and windy, with scattered rain showers. I bundle up in my fleece to walk around, and when I enter buildings they have the heat turned up so high I usually have to take my coat off and put it in a locker.
Next I walked through Kastillet, a well-preserved moated fortification near the Little Mermaid statue. It is still being used actively by the military, but its beautiful location in the center of a gorgeous park invites joggers and walkers during the day. After Kastillet, I walked around a small marina filled with sailboats to see the statue of the Little Mermaid, donated by an admirer of Hans Christian Anderson, who was a resident of the city.
This was the only place I encountered crowds, because of the two giant cruise ships tied up nearby. I also ate lunch from one of the ubiquitous hot dog stands here. For some reason people in Copenhagen seen to absolutely love hot dogs, as there are vending stands on very many corners.
Geifion fountain followed, which is a huge fountain near the harbor. The wind was blowing the water right out of the fountain, drencing you if you were in the wrong spot at any given minute!
I then took a very cool canal tour from Nyhaven. Copenhagen is a city of canals, and the homes and buildings lining the various waterways are breathtaking. From the boat I saw the new very cool Opera House, which cost $500 million to build, donated by a local corporation.
I also saw the new theatre, also right on the water. When it opened, the first play put on, fittingly, was Shakespeare's Hamlet (the prince of Denmark). The Queen's royal yacht was also in the harbor, and they take it out during the summer, visiting coastal town around the country.
I then walked down to Amalierborg palace, where the Royal Family normally lives. The changing of the guard happens here every day at noon, with guards in big fuzzy hats marching over from Rosenborg half an hour before.
Right behind the palace is the Marble church. It's impressive dome is the 4th largest in Europe.
Back to Nyhaven. It is a canal dug out so that merchants could sell their goods in the city center. It has quite a sordid history (sailors on leave and all that), and was fairly seedy until a revitalization in the 1970's Hans Christian Anderson lived here in three different houses at various times in his life. Despite being a well known children's author, he reportedly lived a fairly unhappy and troubled life. Living in this formerly seedy area may reflect that. Today Nyhaven is gorgeous, the canal lined with great restaurants and shops. I actually had my first decent meal in days here, eating a passable hamburger and boiled potatoes. I also got three different types of haddock as an appetizer, and although I ate it, it appeared fairly dicey! It had a kind of a slimy, sweet flavor, and I liked the mustard-covered ones best. Here is a picture of me standing in front of one of the Hans Christian Anderson houses in Nyhaven.
After dinner I continued my walking, seeing a cool spiral-topped church that actually has steps all the way up to the top of the steeple - on the OUTSIDE!! The church was closed for renovations, or I would have made the climb!
I also saw the beautifully modern "Black Diamond," the expansion of the Royal Library. The black glass wally are built at fairly extreme outward angles, in order to appear like a ship's bow. The Parliament building nearby, has a very cool spire made out of three dragon's tales intertwined!
The day ended with me going to Tivoli Gardens, Europe's oldest theme park. It is small, right in downtown, and absolutely wonderful. It is heavily wooded and has rides, but really has an old-world Europe feel, with nice restaurants and outdoor performances. I saw a show by the Pantomime Theatre, which was accompanied by a live orchestra! I also really enjoyed a show a bit later there where a great jazz band played big band favorites in a gazebo while people danced in front. What a wonderful end to a huge day!
This morning I had to change hostels (see above) and then went down the the National Museum, the "National Museet." It has an absolutely huge collection on Danish prehistory, including several ancient mummies recovered in recent years from peat bogs in the area. They are remarkably well preserved, right down to their clothing and facial expressions. There was also another great section with many Viking artifacts, including wooden shields, metal swords, helmets, and a partially recovered Viking ship!
Following the National Museum I walked over through a cool quiet waterfront park to an area of the city called Christiania. Christiania was a former walled military installation that was granted to civilian people in the 1960's I think for a social experiment. It became an independent hippy enclave, free from outside laws. The government finally moved in during the last several years to clean up the hard and then soft drugs, but the hippy culture remains. As I walked through there were signs asking that you take no pictures. There were numerous stands selling various pariphenalia, and every so often a randon explosion would go off, sounding like a pipe bomb. There were several police in a group investigating the explosions, but seemed to be intimidated by the rough residents, who were not going anywhere. I was very glad I went and saw Christiania, but I didn't feel very safe there, and left after about an hour.
I then walked over to the Royal Danish Naval Museum, which had hundreds of hand-built ship models of every shape and size, as well as mock-ups in miniature of important naval battles and a submarine. It was very impressive. I left and enjoyed a Diet Coke outside of a cafe nearby on the canal while resting my swollen and blistered feet. Good thing I brought plenty of moleskin with me - a very valuable addition to any pack.
I should mention here that there are literally thousands of bicycles everywhere. People ride them everywhere, and hundreds can be found at any one time outside of the train station, etc. Crossing a street you learn very quickly to look both ways before stepping out, because giant herds of bicycles literally will run you down! There is a cool project the city has done called "City Bike," where they bought and put out 1000 specially designed bicycles for people to use all around the city for free. The bikes are locked in dozens of locations around town. If you find one you put a 20 kroner coin in the lock, it opens, and you are off wherever you want to go. When you are finished you just return it to one of the City Bike racks (marked on the map), put the lock back on, and get your coin back. It is an awesome idea, and very popular. The bikes have solid spokeless wheels and puncture-proof tires, and are only 1 speed. Tired of walking, i finally found a free one and rode along with the crowds back to Nyhaven for dinner. It was great fun, and I think it is an idea more cities in the U.S. should try. Denmark is a very "green" country, and it shows.
I ended up the evening eating at a fish buffet on the canal, which was wonderful. I finally got the hang of the subway, and took it back to my hostel, where I now desparately need to do laundry but cannot find machines here. Maybe I can hold out by handwashing in the sink until I leave to see Per in Landskrona on Friday. Tomorrow the plan is to take a train up the coast and return tomorrow night.
One last word on European breakfasts. Every morning here I really have to scramble for breakfast. At the hostels they have ham and turkey luncheon meat, cheese, rolls, and apple juice. For some reason on my travels overseas breakfast seems to be an afterthought. I wonder why? Also, most places I have been outside of the U.S. do not have washcloths at all, so I have taken to travelling with two of my own. Just a tip.
Vincent Vega: [Y]ou know what the funniest thing about Europe is?
Jules Winnfield: What?
Vincent Vega: It's the little differences.