Monday, July 11, 2011

Copenhagen, Denmark

It's Saturday, July 9 at 10:30 AM, Denmark time. I'm in the Copenhagen airport. The first of my two-leg flight home doesn't leave till 2 PM, so I got nothing but time. I took the train here to the airport instead of a taxi because the train station was only a 10-minute walk from my hotel. On Wednesday, the taxi ride took about a half-hour. The train ride was only two stops: half that time. Weird.

Anyway, let's hop into the WABAC machine and go to Wednesday.

The two flights from Nuuk, Greenland to Copenhagen, Denmark were uneventful. The first part was on a small plane, while the second part was on a 747 -- both Greenland Air.

I got to the hotel in Copenhagen around 9 PM. I wanted to get a bite to eat before everything closed, and the area I was staying in didn't seem to have a lot going for it. All I could see were expressways, train tracks, office buildings and chain hotels (Radisson Blu skyscraper, for example).

Reception said around the corner was a partner hotel with a restaurant. They only had about four things on their menu, since it was way past normal dinner time. The one thing looked interesting, but it was like a five-course meal and seemed to heavy, so I opted for a bacon cheeseburger and fries. It was really good. Had some orange sauce on there and radishes (and obviously lettuce; also, a cherry tomato on top speared with a toothpick). With it I drank a bottle of Carlsburg beer. Very tasty: not too much of a lager, and not too watered down.

I went to bed around midnight, even though my body was in Greenland time (8 PM). Surprisingly, I fell asleep without too much problem.

On Thursday, I purchased a breakfast ticket from reception for 60 kroner, then headed to the restaurant on the second floor. They only had bread, lunchmeat and cereal. I opted for some grainy cereal with nuts and dried bananas. I washed it down with orange juice.

After freshening up, I walked about less than a kilometer to the main tourist office, Wonderful Copenhagen.

My original impression on Wednesday was wrong (aren't first impressions almost always erroneous?). I wasn't in a desolate area. It was pretty close to the city centre. Everything seems so spread out because bicycle strips and pedestrian paths get generous swaths of concrete, not as wide as the street but big enough. They actually need the plentiful bike paths. I would say there's almost as many bikes on the road as cars. And like in Stockholm, pedestrians need to watch where they're walking, or speeding bicyclists will clip them.

Wonderful Copenhagen was ultra-modern, with lighted floors and walls, glass panels with information every few feet, and more than enough booklets of stuff to do. And they were adequately staffed; like Nuuk, you had to take a number.

With a city map in hand, I went to the adjoining store, a bakery, and got a dessert I forget the name of. It had whipped cream and cherries (with stem) on top; on the bottom was a crumb-like concoction. Yummy. I followed it up with a bottle of Coke I got from a nearby hotdog stand.

Because it was supposed to rain Friday, I decided to do as much today, Thursday, outside. First stop was across the street from Wonderful Copenhagen: Tivoli.

It's an amusement park first erected around 1860. Lots of rides in there and cool crazy architecture, like a clown's head on a pillar, busts of Roman emperors, a Ming Dynasty temple, and an 18th-century ship in a lake with oversized electronic mosquitoes, a real live white duck, and koi fish.

After spending about two hours in there, I walked up Hans Christian Anderson Boulevard, named after the Danish author of such stories as "The Ugly Duckling" and "The Little Mermaid". At one intersection, I stumbled across a sandwich shop that named their treats after American celebrities, such as Marilyn Monroe, Hillary Clinton, Oprah, and Katherine Hepburn. You don't need too many brain cells to guess which one I got. That's right, Jane Fonda! Seriously though, I mainly got it 'cause it didn't have any meat; I was in the mood for something vegetarian. The sandwich had lettuce, tomato, and the white stuff vegetarians eat -- I think it's some type of cheese. And with my cold pretty much kicked, I had a Carlsburg orange juice with green tea. I ate while walking to my next destination. When I went to open my drink, I saw that you needed a bottle opener. Crap. Fortunately, I called up my college partying past and used the top edge of an electric box to open it. Got it on the second try!

Next up was a Botanical Garden. About the same type of stuff I had seen last year in Glasgow, though they did have they supersized lily pads -- at least three feet across, and in one of the greenhouses they had two white-painted, metal, spiral staircases so you could get a bird's-eye view. Oh, it was hot up there. Had to be in the nineties, compared to outside where it was no more than 69 degrees.

Around the block and across the street was Rosenborg Castle. My-oh-my, what a sight. It used to a vacation home for some king and storing place for their prized possessions. The place was huge and ornate. I couldn't believe the opulence in there. Fresco ceilings, ginormous oil paintings, royal crowns. And on the third floor were the king and queen's thrones. Really impressive with the three life-sized lions in front of the thrones; not sure what the lions were made out of, but they were shiny (sliver, maybe?).

In back of the castle was the King's Garden, which is now a public park. It's basically nine blocks of flat grass that stretch about 100 yards. Very tranquil. Unfortunately, that's when my camera's battery died. Bummer.

I walked back to my hotel. I took a different route to experience something new, but I did a bit of a roundabout because the train tracks (two dozen tracks, perhaps) were in the way, so I had to walk a kilometer around until the next bridge appeared. Needless to say, I was glad to put my feet up in my hotel room. I must've walked at least five miles total.

For dinner, I walked to a restaurant about six blocks past Wonderful Copenhagen. My travel book recommended it, though they failed to mention that it was in the red-light district. I'm assuming that, but it did have all the tell-tale signs: a couple hourly hotels per block; vagrants lounging on stoops, spitting on the sidewalk; and a tattoo parlor every block. Anyway, the restaurant had some weird deal where you had to reserve and pay online; sounded like they were only interested in large parties not loner tourists like myself. It worked out 'cause an Italian place was on the next block. They had a special for a four-course meal. When I entered, I was the only one there besides two women finishing up in the corner.

The meal was superb. For a starter, the owner (I'm guessing) brought over micro shrimp in a bowl with red sauce and some other stuff in there. Next up were six cheese ravioli in a white thick sauce. The main course was veal. Dessert was something called Symphony Dessert. Loved all of it!

Amusement ride at Tivoli that you could see for miles. (Copehangen, Denmark; July 7, 2001)

Friday I had breakfast at the hotel again. Sixty kroner equals about $12 US. May sound like a lot for cereal and OJ, but I didn't mind paying for the convenience.

Once I finally left my hotel, it was raining. I contemplated calling for a taxi but decided to hoof it. I went next store to Wonderful Copenhagen to a souvenir shop so I could buy postcards for my family. Next store to that was a football shop. I bought a Denmark soccer jersey for 499 kroner. I'd only used my credit card twice in Denmark: for the cab and dinner Wednesday night. I had a lot of kroners left over from Greenland.

I then purchased a ticket for the Hop On Hop Off bus tour. It lasted an hour and a half, drove by the main tourist sites. I took some pics, but the rain hurt the quality.

For lunch I ducked into a meat place on the corner next to Nationalmuseet (National Museum). On the tour they mentioned a Danish specialty is
smørrebrød aka an open-faced sandwich, so I got that: pork. It's basically a meal with two slices of bread. I really enjoyed it, since I rarely eat pork at home. I liked how they had fried onions and mushrooms on top of the meat. And the salad included nuts and cold (cream-tasting) corn. For a beverage I had a Carlsburg lager. Not as good as the regular Carlsburg I had Wednesday night.

By now it was 2:30 PM. Not a lot of time with most touristy places closing at 4 or 5 PM. I had wanted to go to
Nationalmuseet, the Christianborg Palace, and Amalienborg Palace, the winter residence of Denmark's royal family. But I only had time for one site, so I went to Christianborg Palace, where the queen entertains guests, which was two blocks away from the restaurant.

I got there in just enough time for the three o'clock tour. They wouldn't let you take your umbrella on the tour, but they did offer free lockers, which I thought was nice.

The tour was fascinating. Sadly I couldn't take pictures, but its opulence nearly matched the Rosenborg Castle. All the rooms and history there. Fascinating!

Afterwards, I took a different way back to the hotel (without getting lost). I did stop in to see if any museums low on my to-do list were open till 6 PM, since it was now 4:30, but they all closed at 5. Damn, wish I had an extra day here.

I chilled at the hotel for a bit. The sky cleared up, and around 7 PM I headed back out towards an area called Tallink that I had seen on the bus tour. Lovely area -- has a canal running through it.

I had dinner at some fancy corner cafe/restaurant called Europa. I ate something I don't think I've ever had: monkfish. Tasted like your typical fillet, though it was two inches high on the ends. It also had asparagus wrapped in bacon. Awesome. For dessert I ate a chocolate souffle with vanilla ice cream. Ah!

I ambled through a shopping district, Stroget, to get back to the hotel. It was cobblestoned and had several street performers, such as mimes and musicians. Very nice.

Back at the hotel, I packed up for the flight home. Lovely vacation. Glad I came. It was an eye-opening experience. I used to put Scandinavia on a pedestal because of their strong safety net but besides that they're very similar to America.

For future vacations, I don't think I'm going to do a bunch of cities in a couple weeks. I'll just go to a city for five days or a week. Maybe Paris next summer. . . .

Little Mermaid statue. Pretty interesting: the head is a popular ballerina from around 1911, and the body is the sculptor's wife. The entire thing was supposed to be the ballerina, but once she found out about the nudity she almost backed out. (Copenhagen, Denmark; July 8, 2011)

1 comment:

Lil Monk said...

All in all a very good trip, from the sounds of it anyway. I think the idea of spending more time in a city is a good idea. Just make sure it is a big enough city to find things to do. Too many times I had one or two days too long in a city that was really BORING!!