TALE AS OLD AS TIME
On the top of my bucket list are a list of countries that i want to see. Like most people these are usually things that they never think they will get a chance to do. One of these for me was to visit the home of my favourite childhood movies ‘The Little Mermaid’. As cliche as it is it was totally worth it in my opinion. I was told that many of the locals don’t like the statue despite it being one of the main attractions of the city. As a result she has had her head blown off and lost her arms twice.
Lets start at the beginning though. I flew into Copenhagen with very little trouble which is a first for me, though not to say it would stay that way. On arriving at the airport i did what i do first and try to pick up a map and ask for the best way to get to my hostel. The information people were very nice and i managed to pick up a map which they circled my hostel and was also able to pick up my Copenhagen card. I only brought the 48hr card and part of me thinks i should have gotten the 3 day, with a festival happening i thought that the 2 days would be enough though the festival while fun was not as large as i had first thought.
I caught the train into town getting off at the main train/ metro station and walked out to be greeted by construction work which made orientation a little difficult. I attempted to locate myself on the map but as all the streets sounded funny and spelt very much the same i started walking around hoping that maybe something would just happen. I walked past the old theatre which like much of the city has that classical architecture and had numbers of people sitting on the steps enjoying the sun and having their lunch.
I found myself walking towards Nyhavn Cannel which is the most famous cannel in Copenhagen. Copenhagen is known as the city of bikes and it truly lives up to that name having everything from your typical bikes to the buggy bikes for children and of course bike taxis. As i was still carrying my bags around and had still not found my hostel i decided to be a true tourist and catch one of these bike taxis. Well… what an experience; he headed straight out onto the road and while they have specific bike lanes going face first into traffic even on a bike is more unnerving than i thought it would be. He cut across roads, though small one way lanes though pedestrian roads avoiding other people on bikes and the people out doing their shopping all the while why i tried holding onto my bags and onto my seat.
I arrived at my hostel which was a good location opposite some nice restaurants and just a short walk to the main shopping streets. The entrance is lined of bean bags with fellow travellers all sitting out chatting and having a drink or sitting on their computers talking to people back home. I went to check in and was greeted so nicely by the staff, while it certainly wasn’t the cheapest place i have stayed it was the cheapest i could find, and it had been awarded the best hostel. I checked in to find that i had accidentally booked myself into a mixed dorm instead of an all female. Not that its a big deal so i headed up to my room. There were multiple changes while i was staying there and most of the time i was with Americans who unfortunately were not helping the stereotypical view on American world knowledge when one was very proudly started telling me what she had learned and that was that Wales and Scotland are their own countries and that the UK is not London.
I spent that first day walking around trying to locate specific shops and places that i might like to visit. I walked through to the main shopping street which was just like out of a story book, all cobble stones and old buildings, statues of people and fountains everywhere. As i was walking like most cities there are buskers playing. This one particular one caught my eye a piano player who of all the songs to be playing as i walked a daze through the streets was playing a medley of disney songs as i walked closer to inspect i passed a Belgium waffle place which caused the entire street to smell of nothing but chocolate waffles. The music and the smell just emphasised the dream like state i was in, trying to take in as much as i possibly could.
The first day out i wanted to try and see as much as i could to make the most of my time away. I brought a ticket on the hop on hop off thinking that this would help me to get my locations, and while it was good if i were to do it again i would not get the bus simply because i had the Copenhagen card which gave me free public transport, something i didn’t think about as much as i should have, never the less off i went to my first location Tivoli one of the oldest amusement parks in the world and the park that is said to inspire Disney Land. Founded in 1843 it has been visited by many people who have come here to enjoy the different elements that it offers people. With a little bit of everything its a good way to spend the day; from the rides for kids including an original from 1914 a wooden rollercoster that still requires a brakeman to be on board every train.
For the adults there are the variety of gardens to enjoy, there is a traditional Japanese garden hidden away amongst the tress and bushes as well as on entry an amazing open garden at the front of one of the many options you have for something to eat a building that has a very similar design to that of many of Indias classically designed building guarded by the live peacocks that can be found sitting in front of the entrance or roaming the field. Now i’m not one who's much of a fan of amusement park rides and the fact that you needed to pay for each ride though you could buy a concession card and the fact that i was alone with no one to take photos or hold my bag i enjoyed the walk around the gardens and the hidden treasures around such as the children's playground and watching a 60yr old get suck trying to climb into a mouth of a fake shark on a children's pirate ship.
My second stop was the Rosenborg Castle. Built originally as a country summer house in 1606 and built in the typical Dutch renaissance style it has been expanded several times evolving to its current state in 1624. The castle was used by royal regents until around 1710 which after it was used only twice during emergencies.
The castle is now open to the pubic as a museum for people to get a chance to walk around the grounds and some of the rooms but its main attraction is that of a collection of the Danish crown jewels which are proudly on display, and of course guarded very carefully. Seeing such jewels up close is truly amazing while the tiaras and necklaces belonging to the queen and princesses are stunning with their rubies and emeralds the most impressive for me would have to have been the crowns.
There were three crowns on display; the first two are the ones that in most movies are portrayed as coronation crowns, the red velvet and gold to see the king and queens side by side were very cool, but the one that stood out for me and i think for most people was a crown belonging to King Christian IV. This crown was made for his coronation made of gold, enamel, table cut gem stones and pearls this crown weighs 2895g.
The three points above the king’s forehead and behind each of his ears has a “pelican in her piety.” The point on the right of the king’s forehead has a representation of Fortitude riding a lion, while that on the left bears the image of Justice as a woman holding a sword and a pair of scales. The point above the back of the king’s neck bears the traditional image of Charity as a mother suckling her child. On the inside these points are decorated with the coats of arms of various regions of the realm. The six smaller points each bears a star-like design in triangular and square table diamonds with a large pear shaped pearl at its top.
My final place for the day was to go visit the Danish royal family’s current residence and that is the Amalienborg palace. Made up for four houses all looking the same this is the home for the entire royal family each family having on the four houses. In the middle is a very large statue of King Fredrick V sitting on a horse.
On my way back to the hostel i passed a Cathedral that is famous in Copenhagen called Fredriks church or simply the marble cathedral which as its name suggests is made out of marble. With its large dome on top it is much like any cathedral that you have seen quite possibly inspired by St Peters basicalla in Rome for many years it remained as ruins as it was never completed then sold off in a decision that created much controversy.
Realising i hadn’t eaten all day i decided to stop off at a restaurant on the cannel and have a drink. Seeing this is a sea side city and while im not much of a sea food eater i opted for the basic fish and chips followed with a bottle of cider to do some people watching while listening to the buskers outside. Each restaurant also provides you with a blanket so that you can wrap up warm and still sit outside to enjoy the scenery which i thought was a pretty good idea.
My second day again was full with much exploring. This time i decided to leave the main city and catch the train to visit Kronborg Slot which is another castle this one in particular is famous as it’s said to be the castle that inspired none other than Shakespeare's Hamlet. Situated at the tip of Zealand between Denmark and Sweden this fortress controlled the enterance of the Baltic sea. Much like many structures in Denmark much of the original castle was destroyed in a fire in 1629 and was rebuilt by King Christian the 4th. This castle was much used in the line of defence surrounded by moats and walls deep below in the basement can also be found a statue of Holger the Dane. Following a traditional myth Holger the Dane was once a king who was taken to Avalon by Morgen Le Fay.
He returned to France to save the French from danger then travelled to Kronborg where he sleeps until a time at which his country needs him to come and save them once more. As there was an event happening you were unable to walk through the entire place and areas had been sectioned off however walking through the underground tunnels was a pretty good experience and seeing how large the royal rooms were gave a clear indication at the richness of the history and lives of those who once lived there. Surrounded by moats and old artillery it is easy to see why this was used for defence as when staring out onto the horizon on a clear day you can see Sweden making it perfect to look out for any ships that might have planning an attack.
The journey to the castle was what felt like an entire days journey however it was only more like 2 hours there and 2 hours back which wasn’t really to bad and it was nice to view the different stops and country side that you passed. I spent most of the day at this castle enjoying just walking around and taking lots of photos, stopping to get lunch and picking up presents for people back home. On getting back into Copenhagen i decided to walk around and see what i could find passing the Christianborg palace. I didn’t go into this one but merely walked around the outside and admired the structure and courtyard. This is in the centre of Copenhagen and is used for the Danish parliament, but can also be used by the monarchy for special events. The onc currently standing is the third to be built on that spot as much of Copenhagen's buildings seem to go up and smoke and seems like parliament not an exception. I would have liked to have gone through the building and not entirely sure why i didn’t but never the less walking through the courtyard alone and through the tunnel in which the royal carriages are usually parked gave a very impressive view on just how large the interior scale would have been.
The festival that was happening while i was there was actually set up on the other side of this building and as i walked though could see them setting up the stage and sound system for the festival that would start there the next day.
On the second day i also when to the HC Anderson museum which i was a little disappointed with as it was very small and crammed into what seemed like a spare room of the Ribleys believe it or not museum. The exhibitions were bright and colourful what you would expect for a fairy tale writer, talking about his childhood and him leaving home and writing his first story. It had copies of his most famous stories that were animated for the children and in multiple languages so that you could read them of just listen. At the end on your way out it did have some of the orignal manuscripts for his most famous stories which was pretty nice to see not just something made out of what looked bit like plaster and paper mashie.
The third day my Copenhagen card had expired so was little more careful about what i went to see as the Krone is quite expensive though surprisingly not as bad as i first thought it would be. The Festival was starting today and while i don’t actually know what the festival was i wanted to get the full experience so i got up nice and early to try and find where the parade started from and get a good spot.
They weren’t the most organised of parades i’ve been to and while most parades back home have barricades to keep things flowing and stopping people from getting through here they didn’t and as they made there way through some of the narrow streets the people where often held up by people wanting to walk across their path or get down the street and everyone getting pushed and shoved out of the way. What did impress me about their parades though is again while most back home are run by engines or cars the ones here being a bike city were all pushed by people on bikes. Most of the parades where of different ethnicity's and dancing, also the type of dancing seen in Madi gra as that was my understanding is that the festival was the danish equivalent of madi gra. The dancing was really interesting and high energised but the poor girls looked freezing where nothing but high heals, bikini and a head dress that looks like they might topple over with but it was still an experience.
Later that day when i went to see the actual set up of the festival while walking around the tour the Madi gra trucks pulled up beside me, they had been brought over from New Orleans and were all decked up and dances and music and of course beads and alcohol. Before i knew it one of their followers had grabbed my arm and we were walking/dancing down the street with a bunch of guys dressed as the blues brothers. I even got my Madi gra beads which im continuing to hold onto as a reminder. We walked all around Copenhagen picking up more people as we went and getting confused stares by other tourists who weren’t sure what was going on, trying to not spill our drinks while on the move, reaching our final destination at the Christian borg palace courtyard where of course more drinks were poured more dancing and Cherrios which were amazing.
After the parade earlier in the day i decided to do the cannel cruise which would take you through most of the Copenhagen canals telling you the history of them such as the Nyuhaven which was originally known as the red light district for all the sailors who had been away at sea to have some fun. The locals didn’t like this and wanted to change that by asking the boat club to bring in some of their ships and dock them for a while to hold a festival type thing, which they did and was a great success. At the same time there was a massive heat wave which melted the opening of the bridge that lets ships in and out that these boats were now stuck. By the time they managed to get the bridge free the locals were so used to having the boats there and enjoyed them they struck a deal with the owners that this canal would now become there permanent home and there is where they still are to this day.
Day four i took another trip out of Copenhagen to Hillerod to view the Frederiksborg Slot, a renaissance styled castle. This was the first castle to be built inland as all the other castles had previously been built on the coast or close to ports. This castle was built as recreational use as opposed to a defensive castle. This castle had multiple renovations and changes done to it and yet again another fire destroyed most of the building forcing it to be rebuilt as closely as could be to the original building. This castle has an impressive history to it being used for all the coronations between 1671 to 1840 except one. It was also the site that the Treaty of Fredricksborg was signed between Sweden and Denmark- Norway which had started in the 1700s.
This to me was the most impressive castle i have seen. It is very much what you would think of a fairy tales prince/ princess castle. Surrounded by a moat overlooking a perfectly kept garden full of flowers and a maze made out of the shrubs, a secret garden full of bridges and streams. The Castle with mythical creatures eitched into the walls and fountains. High up towers that over look the land with massive rooms for eating and dancing. While i was there, an exhibition was taking place to celebrate the Danish Queen and on display were some of the gowns that she had worn over the years to different events, a bit like the crowns to see these stunning gowns up close was just stunning and to see how the style has changed over the years. For me though what i enjoyed about the great hall was all the paintings of the monarchs and future monarchs. What caught my eye was a new painting of the Crown Prince holding hands with his oldest child to Princess Mary from Australia. I thought that fact that too this day the painting of an official portrait is still done as with all the new technology i never really thought that people still have their portraits painted but just photographed.
This castle sticking to much of the renaissance theme also contained a variety of paintings from the renaissance and other paintings that the King had insisted be painted with that as the reoccurring theme. Walking down the great corridors will the marble floors and paintings there is no way to possibly imagine what i would be like living in place as large as this. While following the stairs to reach each floor you would come across another staircase that would take you somewhere else which would then take you nearly an hour to get back to where you started which was the only way to know where you had already been or yet to go. This castle is a must do for anyone who visits Denmark its something that will leave you utterly speechless when you first walk up the gates and cross the moat into the courtyard.
For me the highlight was of course seeing the little mermaid statue, and as i mentioned she’s not well liked by the locals. The first time i saw it was nearer the end of the day which is a good time to go see her, i went on a few other occasions and seeing the crowds of people huddling around her its easy to see why the locals might get annoyed by the tourists.
The statue is of course based on the fairy tale of the little mermaid. Commissioned by Karl Jacobson the founder of Carlsberg who had been fascinated by the story after view a ballet performance. The ballerina was asked to be the model, as she didn’t agree to be a nude model only the head was modeled on her and the body was based on the sculptors wife. She is situated in the harbor perched on her rock looking longly onto the shore waiting for her prince. The statue has been damaged many times and there was discussion about moving her further out into the harbor to prevent damage and stopping tourists from climbing onto her but it has yet to be changed. Her head was sawed off in 1964 and has never been recovered as a result of the many damages there are stored multiple copies to replace when damaged and the one currently on display is actually a copy of the original. Its a shame so much damage has occurred to this statue as its a huge tourist attraction for the city.
Despite being told that it was small and i’d be disappointed the expectation that it was small just made it more impressive as it turned out to be larger than i was thinking and a lot closer to the shore so that you could actually get a good view of it and of course a photo.
My last day in Copenhagen i decided that now was the time to view Copenhagen the way the Danish people see it everyday; by hiring a bike and biking the city. What i learned from that experience i should never be allowed to drive on the other side of the road. Although they had bike roads i found it very difficult to work out how to turn left when i was biking on the right so ended up spending much of the day going in circles in attempts to not be hit by cars. However in doing so and just seeing where i ended up i came across places i hadn’t seen just as the Rundetaarn also known as the round tower
which is simply as said a round tower but it is a well known site for the city. I also made it to the Botanical gardens which i found a nice quiet spot where i sat and drew for awhile and had the company of a red squirrel which kept coming up to me and sitting on the chair opposite. I also saw a traditional windmill sitting atop of a hill, most of them were destroyed however this one still remains, the irony that they destroyed all the old ones only to now be rebuilding them for wind energy. I also passed the largest fountain in Copenhagen the Gefion Fountain which represents the Norse goddess Gefion driving a group of bulls. Story goes that she turned her four sons into oxen to help plow the fields and the earth thrown out into Danish sea between Scania and Fyn. It is now often used as a wishing well.
I was sad to leave as there is such a quiet relaxing atmosphere here the thought of going back to the wet rainy weather of Ireland didn’t appeal. This is where my amazing trip fell to pieces. My flight wasn’t until the afternoon, so in the morning i did a walking tour for one last look around, i left the walking tour early to catch the train to the airport. I went to a different station than the one i arrived at maybe that was my problem should have left at the same one. I brought my ticket and found where the train would arrive i had 20min before it was due, i was waiting with people who had their suitcases so i knew i was at the right spot, however sure enough there was a last minute change and it wasn’t announced and only because i was looking around that i saw my train was on the track across from me, i ran up the stairs and down the track making it just as the door shut and wouldn’t open it so sure enough missed it. Now i was running late for my flight and the next train wasn’t for another 30min so i dashed back up and hailed a taxi off the street. Was in such a rush when i arrived at the airport i payed my money and didn’t get a receipt, i took maybe 6 steps before realising i didn’t have my phone i turned around and the taxi had already gone. I had no idea the name of the taxi company or the taxi number and no way of getting my phone and all my photos back. Of course was guttered at this and wallowed in self pity for the next few days, looking online the places i went to just to find photos similar to what i took. Never the less was an awesome trip and such a nice place to visit i highly recommend it for those who like the history but want a relaxing getaway with the option of sightseeing or just enjoying the food and drink.