Why are the Atlanta Falcons wildly popular in Denmark? Read on....
06/12/2008 - 06/12/2008
I found and took a free "City Bike" this morning, riding it to the Central Train Station in Copenhagen before replacing it on the special rack and getting my 20 kroner coin back.
Here is a great tip for travelling in Denmark - always have a 20 kroner coin with you. You need to leave it as a deposit for City Bikes and for every bag locker in every museum I have been in here. Just deposit it, lock your locker, and get it back when you unlock your stuff. You can use the same coin the whole time, so keep it in a special place!
I figured out the train system, and was amazed at how easy it is. Trains run everywhere you need to go every 20 minutes. Buy a 24 hour pass and go everywhere you want to go. That's it! It was like a light bulb going off over my head, after the patient ticket agent explained this to me over and over to yet another stupid America (me). I felt like an idiot walking out of the office, and averted my eyes from those of the Europeans waiting in line behind me, their expressions a mixed bag of amusement and total disgust.
The weather was cold, windy and rainy as I stepped off the train in Helsingor, Denmark, home of the massive and intimidating Kronborg Slot, also known as "Hamlet's Castle," because of its being used as the setting for the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare. Shakespeare never actually saw the castle, but talked extensively about it with people at the time who had visited it. It was built at the narrowest part of the strait that separated Denmark from what is now Sweden, so the king could dominate and control access to the Baltic Sea. Each passing ship had to pay a special coin as a passage fee, thus enriching the country's coffers immensely. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and I was really looking forward to seeing it.
It was driving rain and very cold as I walked up to the castle - absolutely perfect.
I crossed many moats and battlements before entering the central courtyard.
I bought the 85 kroner ticket to see everything. First came the Royal Apartments, where the royal family actually lived while the castle was occupied. The rooms are huge, yet sparsely furnished due to it being ransacked over the years. Particularly impressive was the Queen's bedroom, which is linked by a specially constructed hallway to the ballroom, wide enough for the Queen to pass from her chambers to an event dressed in her huge dress skirts, which were the upmost in style at the time. Now there is a King who can keep his lady happy!
Next came the huge ballroom, the largest in all of northern Europe when it was built. At one end is a tremendous fireplace at least 7 feet tall, and at the other a specially crafted tapastry to cover the royal dining table at functions. It is said that banquets here consisted of 65 courses, with each guest given his own vomiting bucket! Now THAT is a feast!
Next came the Maritime Museum, housing mementos of Danish maritime history. The sea has been very important to the Danes, and they owe it a lot.
They also had the world's oldest ship's buiscuit, dating from 1852! Still looks good to eat!
From there I climbed to the top of Telegraph Tower for incredible views of the castle, the sea, and the town. It is situated so that messages could be sent by visual telegraph up and down the coast. It is also at the very top of very steep spiral stairs - 146 of them - I counted!
I next visited the chapel, where services are still heald on the first Sunday of each month. It should be noted that the King made sure the Queen had a special passageway built for her to the chapel directly from her room.
I finally went to the Casements, which are the dungeons below the castle. They are not lighted, and you have to take a flashlight with you to explore. It is incredibly spooky, especially the triangular-shaped cell rooms, which had bars set progressively back from the wide entrances to reduce the space a problem prisoner had, step by step, him ending up at the narrow lightless point with no room to lie down. Extremely creepy, especially in the dark!
There is also a huge concrete statue down there of Holger Danske, Denmarks ancient legendary hero. It is said that he is actually waiting down here, frozen in time, ready to come back to life in the time of Denmark's greatest need. During Nazi occupation during WWII, the Danish Resistance actually used him as a symbol of their dangerous movement to free their country.
After this I actually began talking with one of the tour guides, William, who works here during the summer so that he can travel during his 4 months off. I told him I was from the Atlanta area, and he said he was planning on hiking the Appalachian Trail next year. He also said that Atlanta has an increasing international reputation because of the Olympics, CNN, and the Atlanta Falcons NFL football team. "What?" I asked, mystified? "Yes, the Atlanta Falcons are wildly popular here in Denmark." This completely dumbfounded me, because after the Michael Vick incident, you couldn't pay most Atlantans to take season tickets, even if you threw in a ham and a free bowl of cheese. "Yes, it is because of your place kicker, Morten Andersen. He is from Denmark, and is a national hero here." Andersen, the only Dane in the NFL, holds the league's all-time scoring record. Apparently he comes back to Denmark every summer, signs copies of his autobiography, and is mobbed by fans. Amazing. Three cheers for Morten Andersen, the oldest player in the NFL! Now let's go down to the Georgia Dome with Danish flags and give him some support!
We exchanged email addresses, and I walked back to town in the driving rain, this time a big smile on my dripping face.
On the way back to the train station saw a bunch of schoolchildren, apparently unfazed by the weather.
I took the train back down the coast o a small town called Humlebaek, home to the world famous Louisiana modern art museum. The museun is shaped like the capital letter "C," opening to a sculpture garden on a beautifully manicured lawn facing the sea. I enjoued the abstract art, but the sculptures were the real treat. And, NEWS FLASH - the sun ACTUALLY CAME OUT!! It was glorious as I walked around examing the unusual statues.
This one is the recreation of a men's room wall...
This one was called "Eyes." Discuss amongst yourselves...
I then caught the train back up to Helsingor for dinner, and did some more exploring in this beautiful small town.
There was even a Dixieland band playing in the town square!
I finally found a place that haden't closed after hordes of Swedish tourists had left on ferries hours before. I saw this sign...
and interpreted it to mean that the Viking Garden had the land's best burger. So, all other options exhausted, I went in and ordered a cheeseburger. The man behing the counter asked me with a completely straight face if I wanted a double. I thought about it, but said no, I would just take some of those scalloped potatoes and a chocolate shake instead. He took my order calmly and I sat down, trying to read German television magazines. Finally the chef rang the bell and yelled "Cheeseburger!" I got up and went to the counter, and my jaw dropped in disbelief. My "single" cheeseburger was as big as my head!!
Apparently the word I thought meant "best" actually means "biggest!" I simply took the burger, laughed, and did the best I could!