August 31, 2012 – Copenhagen is the first stop on our three country tour. The Copenhagen airport (Location) is very nice with real wooden floors and Danish furniture everywhere (not surprising but nice). To get here, we drove from Ottawa to P.E. Trudeau Airport in Montreal, flew from Montreal to Heathrow Airport in London and then flew from Heathrow to Copenhagen. Transfer times were a bit tight due to an hour delay leaving Montreal. Signs in the airport were in English and Danish so no need for the Berlitz European Phrase Book yet :-).
Just enough time for us to find our castle for the night, do a bit of orienteering, find some supper and take a look at Denmark skies and check the weather.
Our home-away-from-home while in Denmark will be the Copenhagen Generator Hostel (location). This hostel is new and located near Copenhagen’s largest downtown square, Kongens Nytorv. The plan was to get to the hostel, unpack, find something to eat and then try to rest after our long flight from Canada.
Instead of relaxing last night, we saw the outside of the Marble Church at Amailienborg and enjoyed a view of the Copenhagen Opera House from across the bay. The site chosen for the Opera House on the Island of Holmen provides a straight line view from the front of the opera house to the Marble Church through the Amailienborg structure which is directly behind me in this photo. The opera house was officially opened January 15th, 2005 and cost about $US500 million to construct.
For our ultra-touristy activity of the day, we visited the Little Mermaid (Den lille havfrue) which is a 4 foot tall statue based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale. The statue sits atop a rock in the Copenhagen harbor at Langelinie (location). The statue was originally commissioned in 1909 and has been vandalized many times and has actually required a replacement head after vandals sawed off the original.
Plenty to see and do in Copenhagen and we’ve just begun. Want to see more mermaids? Visit our mermaid specific blog Mermaids of Denmark.
Ordering food from Danish menus will provide a few interesting moments. We had Pizza for dinner (Alan almost ordered fish pizza) and drinks (I accidentally bought Alan a Strawberry Yogurt Drink). Good fun and was yummy.
The Summer Olympics are firmly underway in London. Here in Copenhagen, the Audi Spheres in front of the Christianborg Palace/Castle are suitably decorated with their own set of rings. According to the promotional materials, the three spheres are air-pressurized, tent-like in nature, and symbolize the future of mobility and technology. Inside the spheres, the German auto maker showcases new technology such as its space-age combination of ultralight aluminum, magnesium, carbon and other high strength steel materials; highlights the development of its e-tron Spyder; and shows how Google technologies will assist in navigation of futuristic models such as the Audi Connect. The Audi spheres will be on display by this centuries old castle until August 5th, 2012.
We had a full day of independent exploring ahead of us so started off the morning with Danish pastries before heading over for our tour of the Carlsberg facility. Update: see Carlsberg visit blog here
More pictures to follow when we are back in WiFi land. Traveling today by train to the Viking Ship Museum (Vikingeskibsmuseet) in Roskilde (location) and then north to Helsigor to “Hamlet’s Castle” called Kronborg.
Viking Ship Museum
In 1962, five Viking ships were uncovered in the mud at the bottom of the Roskilde Fjord near Skuldelev, Denmark. Therefore, this year, 2012, the Museum is celebrating the 50th anniversary of that discovery. Very interesting place to visit. Lots of hands-on activities at the Museum.
Update: More of our images from our visit to this museum are now here: Viking Ship Museum.
Plenty to see in Roskilde after a visit to the Boat Museum. The Roskilde Cathedral, shown below, was one of many very interesting structures.
After our visit to Roskilde and the Viking Ship Museum we got back on the train and headed toward Helsigor. ‘Toward” is the operative word here since we somehow ended up in Lejire (opposite direction). We had purchased a 24 hour train pass for 130dkk each so the side trip to Lejre just cost us some time but not any extra funds.
The Kronborg Castle is the Danish castle overlooking the Sund which is the narrowest point between Denmark and what is now Sweden. Its location provided Danish leaders with control of any shipping that went through this area and and allowed them to exact tolls/duties/taxes from the ship’s captains in return for passage through the narrows.
For Shakespearean fans, Kronborg is known as Elsinore, the castle of note in Shakespeare’s Hamlet – Prince of Denmark. In recent years, the castle has been added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. We enjoyed visiting the above-ground rooms but, even more, we enjoyed wandering through some of the many underground tunnels of the castle.
More Kronborg images will be uploaded to a separate blog when we return to Canada. Update: More Kronberg images now here.
Saturday: We decided to leave Denmark for a day and cross the 8km Øresund Bridge across the Øresund Strait into Sweden. We crossed the bridge by train and the trip into Malmo on the other side of the strait only took about 30 minutes. In addition to being a train bridge, the bridge also carries a divided highway.
Even though Copenhagen and Malmo are geographically very close to each other, they are quite different architecturally. Malmo has more newer buildings and one very special twisted skyscraper building known as the HSB Turning Torso. It is a private residential building, 190 metres (623 feet) and 54 stories tall. Designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and opened in 2005, it is the tallest residential building in Sweden.
Our travels in Sweden included a further trip to Lund, Sweden by train and visits to a number of interesting buildings. While visiting one of the cathedrals, there was a wedding underway and all tourists (including us) were asked to leave.
We weren’t abducted by aliens so got back to Copenhagen okay. We have another day to explore the sights and sounds of Copenhagen and then we are heading for the Netherlands.
Our last full day in Denmark and we decided to see as much as we could see within walking distance of our hostel. That included the Danish Crown Jewels in the Rosenborg Slot (Castle) treasury as well as the Botanical Gardens and the Rosenborg Have (Park). We were in luck to find that the Round Tower Observatory was open and then in the Danish Museet (Danish Museum of History) we learned more about the mermaid before heading out on a walk past the “Our Saviours” Spiral Tower.
The Rosenborg slot (Castle) is open to the public and although not tremendously large, is lavishly decorated. The castle was the royal residence of King Christian IV and built between 1606 and 1624 by architect Hans van Steenwinckel the Younger.
Queen’s Crown (left) and Crown of Christian V (right) – Christian V was King of Denmark and Norway 1670 to 1699.
Below – Crown of Christian IV (1595) – From Wiki: The crown was made by Didrik Fyren in Odense helped by the Nuremberg goldsmith Corvinius Saur in the years 1595-1596 for the coronation of Christian IV. It is made of gold, enamel, table cut gemstones and pearls and weighs 2895 g. Christian IV was the King of Denmark and Norway form 1588 until his death 59 years later in 1648. He was longest reigning King in Danish history.
The Rosenborg Have surrounds the Rosenburg Castle and has some flower gardens but the primary horticultural location for visitors would be the nearby University of Denmark Botanical Gardens which houses the largest collection of living plants in Denmark.
In our self-guided walking tour of this area of Copenhagen, we were happy to find that the Copenhagen Round Tower (Rundetårn) Observation deck was open to the public as it provided us with a wonderful panoramic view of the city of Copenhagen. The tower observation deck is 34.8 m above street level and there is no elevator, only a unique spiral staircase.
Considering my interest in astrophotography, I was especially happy to be able to try my hand at photographing distant objects through the lens of their refracting telescope with an 80 – 450x magnification. Pretty neat, even if the only thing to look at during daylight hours was the sun!
Did someone mention that they needed proof of mermaids in Denmark?
Thus ended our last full day in Copenhagen. We will still have time for a bit of touring in the morning before heading over to the Netherlands for the next leg of our journey.
Monday morning we learned that it was the equivalent of a civic holiday in Copenhagen and that meant that we had to cancel some of our plans for some last morning visits to some near-by museums. Instead, we made plans to visit the nearby Ofelia Beach which was hosting an International Sand Sculpture Competition. Lots of talent on display. The sand sculpture competition is, in many ways, similar to the snow and ice sculpture competitions that take place each winter as part of Ottawa’s Winterlude event but the sand castles don’t melt! Rainfall is their enemy, instead. Update: Our sand sculpture specific blog entry can now be viewed here: Copenhagen International Sand Sculpture Competition.
Another interesting spot to visit was the Kastellet, a still functional garrison in downtown Copenhagen. This shot is the King’s Gate (Kongeporten), one of two gates to enter the garrison.
Before catching our flight to Amsterdam, we were able to fit in a trip to the alternative life-stye anarchist community of Christiania. This “community” is within the boundaries of Copenhagen and subject to the laws of Denmark but has tended to operate more like an independent commune. It’s most famous street is “Pusher Street” so named because of ready availability of, and use of, marijuana. The community occupies a section of Copenhagen which was a former naval base and many of the buildings are considered to be historic in nature. No photography is allowed by the Christianiates, so I won’t be posting any images of those historic buildings, nor will I be posting any images of the hovel-like shanty village type construction that is also there. For various reasons, it is an important tourist site for anyone visiting Copenhagen and considered safe to visit during the daylight hours. Definitely different than anything else that the visitor might see in other parts of Copenhagen.
Now heading off to Amsterdam. Bit of a panic moment on the way to the airport, the Metro ticket vending machines for the tickets only accept coins and no chip-cards… so I had to go to the 5th floor of a large Danish department store to get change – customer service 5th floor. After that, the flight was pretty normal and soon we were in Amsterdam.
Our European holiday continued as: Visiting the Netherlands 2012.