Copenhagen, Denmark January 2011
When it came to deciding where to go for our next trip Copenhagen wasn't exactly on the tip of the tongue but with an irresistible price for a new Easy Jet route from Manchester it would have been rude not to visit.
The Little Mermaid

Copenhagen's most famous attraction is undoubtedly the little bronze statue sat on a rock a few feet out into the harbour. Based on the Hans Christian Andersen's fable the Little Mermaid it was commissioned by Carl Jacobsen of the Carlsberg family after he saw a ballet of the tale.

The prima ballerina that caught his eye refused to pose nude for the scultpure.

Only the head is based on her.

The artist's wife stepped in at the last minute for the remainder of the body.

Despite her well publicised diminutive size we still couldn't help feeling underwhelmed as we stood at the water's edge but the longer we looked at her the more we began to appreciate her form.

It was interesting to notice her bottom half was both fish tail and legs, elegantly catching the moment of metamorphis.

We hardly spent more than a few minutes here but we were just happy that she was here at all.

Last year for the first time in almost a century since being unveiled in 1913 she left the country and spent six months at the Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China.

Water Water Everywhere

Copenhagen isn't quite Venice or Amsterdam but it does have a network of canals and open waterways. Nearest the hotel was a stretch of water called Havnebadet, a wide expanse seperating the main island of Zealand with the smaller Amager Island.

We started at the harbour near Lange bridge and walked north past the wing of the Royal Library known as the "Black Diamond".

The large skewed cubes of black marble and glass stood out like two sore thumbs but were striking nevertheless.

We skirted around them and past a traumatised alternative version of The Little Mermaid.

Her face was pained reflecting the story's unhappy twist where she struggles with the dilema of killing the prince for her own rescue or not.

Next up along the waterfront was Knippel bridge an unremarkable drawbridge.

It did have at first glance some very boring lead lined towers on either side but when I caught the reflection of the harbour warehouses in it's porthole window it suddenly acquired a strange industrial beauty.

Julie thought I'd lost my mind when I started taking photographs of it.

The Knippel bridge connects the district of Slotsholmen with Christianshavn.

It's one of nine bridges that link the "Castle Isle" to the rest of the city.

The island is formed by the harbour and the Frederiksholms canal that loops around the Christiansborg Palace.

Apparently in mid-August when the temperature of the water is a little warmer there's a swimming competition held along this stretch of canal.

Nyhavn
The most attractive stretch of waterfront has got to be the colourful 17th and 18th century townhouses of Nyhavn. The canal/harbour runs all the way into the large open square of Kongens Nytorv.

Not much has changed since the days when the harbour would be teeming with sailors enjoying their on shore leave.

The Northern sunny side of the street is still filled with many bars bursting with tourists.

These days there are also a number of more refined restaurants to choose from.

We called in at Hans Klodz, (13 Nyhavn) where I enjoyed a glass of warm and sweet and fruity Glühwein.

A few doors down in a restaurant called Cap Horn (21 Nyhavn) we had a very tasty lunch.

Julie tried the traditional smørrebrød dishes and really enjoyed the salmon gravadlax open sandwich and a rare beef salad with horseradish piled on top of buttered rye bread.

I had to make do with a tomato pasta dish. At least they had a choice available for the discerning vegetarian!

Since 1977 Nyhavn has been given the title of a ship & harbour heritage musuem which has served to protect the area. It was without question the prettiest area of the Copenhagen. Hans Christian Andersen thought so and spent most of his life at various addresses in Nyhavn.

I was thrilled to think he looked at the same sunny side of the street dreaming up fairy tales like the Ugly Duckling, and the Little Mermaid.

He was quite the prolific writer with The Snow Queen, The Sandman, The Emperor's New Clothes, The Princess and The Pea all from his imagination.

Kastellet

North of Nyhavn we came to Kastellet (Citadel), a fortified defensive embankment in the shape of a pentagon protecting a once important military barracks.

It was built in the 17th century as part of Copenhagen's defensive wall.

We crossed the frozen moat that surrounded the Kastellet obviously over the bridge not on the thin ice and we entered through the Norway Gate at the Northern end.

It was very peaceful here. There weren't many people around, a few joggers up on the embankment that's all.

We walked amongst the buildings which in addition to all the non-descript military offices (that were still in use by the Danish Armed Forces) there were also a striking bright yellow Commander's House, a military prison, a church, and an attractive wooden windmill.

 

At the southern entrance to Kastellet in an area known as Churchill Park there was a statue entitled "Vore Faldne" (Our Fallen) a war memorial in rememberance to Danish Soldiers who died during the second world war.

In nearby Langelinie Park there's an impressive fountain of the Nordic goddess Gefion ploughing furiously.

Danish folklore tells a tale of a Swedish king who promised Gefion all the land she could plough in one night. She cunningly turned her four sons into oxen (as you did in the 9th century) and set about turning over as much earth as possible.

The following day all the land she ploughed was thrown into the sea forming the island of Zealand on which Copenhagen is situated today.

They didn't half have a vivid imagination back in the dark ages!

The Rundetårn

Julie's not as big a fan as I am of trudging up hundreds of steps to scale the the highest building in a city for the lovely views but the Rundetårn or Round Tower with its spiral ramp up to the top was a pleasure to climb.

We quickly realised that walking nearest the centre would be the shortest distance but the corkscrew twist was making the gradient much steeper there.

We took the slower but more gradual outer lane which made for a slightly easy walk.

It was built in the 17th century as an observatory tower for the University and the ramped corridor was designed for horse and cart access to deliver large equipment to the top.

Legend has it that Tsar Peter the Great whilst visiting Copenhagen rode a horse up the cylindrical tower. Talk about taking advantage of his power.

Over the years cars have been driven up it and cycle races have run down it. The record descent is 43 seconds!

The view of the city from the observation desk was of course wonderful.

There wasn't much to see but for the city's rooftops and the occasional church spire rising above them but it's always worth climbing to the top of a tall building if only to get a feel for the scale of the city.

The platform was plenty wide which gave Julie confidence to stay up there for quite some time. She didn't venture much towards the wrought iron barrier for a better view, she said she could see plenty from where she stood.

The sun was now slowly setting, silouhetting the towers of the Rådhus (City Hall) in the distance.

 

 

 

Changing of the Guards

Denmark, like the United Kingdom still has a constitutional monarchy with a Queen as head of state.

When we walked through the Amalienborg Palace we were unaware that it was the winter royal residence. Although perhaps the soldier's in their black overcoats and high bearskin hats were a bit of a clue that we had entered a royal enclosure.

We watched them as in pairs they ceremonially walked from one sentry box to another. They looked really funny like a pair of toy soldiers standing on guard in their pencil shaped box. At least they had each other to aleiviate the boredom.

One morning whilst we were having a late breakfast at the OS American Diner a small troop of the Danish Royal Life Guards marched down the street, rifles against their shoulders, arms swinging and their hobnail boots crunching the tarmac in unison.

I didn't get a decent photograph, they were on a quick march and my camera was as bleary eyed as I was.

We did later stumble across a stray guard.

He was waiting at the traffic lights all red-faced as if he was late for the changing of the guards.

There was another soldier standing to attention in a toy shop window but he was made entirely from lego blocks!

Bikes

As a visitor to this city it's popular to hire bicycles. We thought about it for a brief milisecond before realising that we would be safer off the roads and stay on our two feet on the pavements.

It's not like were keen cyclists at home.

Having said that Copenhagen has to be one of the most bicycle-friendly cities around.

All the main routes had seperate bicycle paths, some even with their own traffic signals for their lanes.

Danish Pastries

Danish pastries are popular the world over so when we came across Reinh van Hauen an artisan bakery on Købmagergade street we just had to pop in and try the real thing.

There was an array of sweet delicacies on offer.

I tried a circular one with custard in middle called a Spandauer. Apparently it's also known rather unappetisingly as a "baker's infected eye".

Here in Denmark they call them wienerbrød and as the name suggests its origin actually lies with bakers who came to Copenhagen from Vienna in the mid 19th century.

Reasons to Return

Other than the statue of The Little Mermaid the Tivoli Gardens is Copenhagen's most visited attraction.

It's quite unique being a city centre amusement park. Packed into its 15 acres are several rollercoaster rides, the tallest carousel in the world, a lake on which you can row your boat, a concert hall and a pantomime theatre all within beautiful gardens.

Unfortunately the world's second oldest amusement park shuts for its winter break in Januray!

It's certainly a reason to return to Copenhagen.

One of the city's premier museum is the Ny Carlsberg Glyptothek housing the personal art collection of Carl Jacobsen, son of the Carlsberg founder.

He amassed items from Greek and Roman antiquity as well as a large collection of Rodin sculptures. He also gathered together many paintings from French Impressionists such as Monet, Cezanne, Renoir, Degas as well as the post-impressionist Paul Gaugin and Van Gogh.

We always try to visit art galleries and musuem when we visit anywhere but the Glyptothek was shut whenever we walked past. We were either too early or too late.

Christianshavn

Over the inner harbour and onto Amager Island we walked around Christianshavn, a neighbourhood criss crossed by canals. It's here where Noma, the "best restaurant in the world" can be found. We did think about making a reservation but chose the Hard Rock Cafe instead!

In the centre of Christianshavn was the Church of our Saviour with its unique corkscrew spire.

The external golden staircase spiralling up the black tower was striking.

Christiania
We made our way to the much visited community of Christiana. It grew from a small group of hippies squatting in a former military barracks back in 1971 into a community of nearly a thousand residents living in a self-governed free state within Copenhagen.

The whole thing sounded quite utopian and it was certainly a draw to see the social experiment in action.

The Danish government and the people of Copenhagen have been very tolerant of the commune on their doorstep despite its problems.

We entered through a side entrance by the murial on the side of a house where beneath a tree heaving with pixies and fairies a spiritual guru gnome sat on a rock alongside Puff the Magic Dragon. (or at least that was my interpretation)

After walking past a few arty instalations and a playground made out of recycled materials we turned into Pusher Street. As the name suggests it's main feature was an open air hash market.

There were plenty of "No Photos" signs up which was a little disappointing as it was quite an unique sight. Usually such a camera embargo wouldn't stop me sneaking a quick snapshot but I felt an slight undercurrent that I didn't feel comfortable in taking the risk.

Eyes were following us from some shifty looking characters huddled around empty oil drums keeping warm around the fire. I imagined they would pounce quite hard on anyone daring to take a photograph of them openly trading drugs.

At the end of Pusher Street we called in to the bar for a beer and sat outside. Not many people were drinking, most were smoking. Obviously there was a relaxed atmosphere as we watched the strange mix of people come and go.

One guy turned up with what looked like a take-away box and sat down at a table near us. Inside the polystyrene box he had a few syringes and tubing. We left as soon as we could. We didn't want to hang around and witness someone shooting up.

If it wasn't for the drugs the authorities would I'm sure continue to tolerate Christiania but there have been several forced attempts at 'normalisation' and integration back into society.

Whilst it provides the opportunity for an alternative lifestyle for those who find living in the real world difficult the sanctuary it provides also attracts those who abuse the tolerance.
Away from Pusher Street the idyllic romantic vision of a commune slowly returned. Most homes were nothing more than brightly coloured shacks made from the corrugated iron of the old military barracks. One however was a yurt with a Nepalese stupa in the garden. I'm not sure if it was someone's home or a Buddhist community centre.

Our walk took us through the embankment and onto the waterfront where there were a couple of properties that anyone would be envious.

That old adage of some (houses) were more equal than others certainly sprung to mind.

Apparently no one owns their house in Christiania. If you leave then you leave your house for someone the next tennant to use. Perhaps the houses outside the embankment in the prime location of the waterfront are exempt from that rule or even outside Christiania's boundaries.
Chillax

Icebar Cioenhagen by Icehotel

We arrived on the (re-)opening night of Copenhagen's Icebar after being closed for a refurbishment, also known as a defrost. It was an experience we didn't want to miss so we decided we had to give it a try.

After donning on the blue thermal capes and paying the £15 entrance fee each the guy at the reception said it's a littl quiet at the moment. What he meant was we were going to be the only ones in there!

The entrance fee included a fruit cocktail of your choice served in glasses made of ice. Mine was a delicious ruby red absolut vodka with passion fruit puree, vanilla sugar and orange juice named Twentyseven Carat.

Julie went for a cocktail called Red Ruby with Campari, champagne and pomegranate liquor.

It was actually rather nice to have the place to ourselves. Everything was made of ice (of course), except for the outer shell. The bar was made of ice, the chandelier was ice, there was even an ice sculpture of the a rolls royce in the corner.

after about 10 minutes another couple arrived, followed soon by another pair of tourists. We all shuffled around looking like a group of smurfs on ice.

We finished our expensive fruity ice drink, our glasses were nowhere near melting. We left before spending any more money. It had been costly but a wonderful experience nonetheless.

Icebar Cioenhagen by Icehotel
Wake up !

We stayed at a hotel called Wake Up Copenhagen.

It was surely a gamble choosing to stay at a hotel that was named after having your sleep disturbed but luckily it paid off.

The room rate of 700 Danish Kronas was reasonable. Included in that price was a very fresh and ample breakfast. It was certainly worth getting out of bed for, even with a hangover.

On the negative side the room was tiny, quite possibly the smallest we've stayed in. It wasn't far off being called a cell.

Then again it was clean and functional. It had a bed, a shower and a toilet what more did you want?

It's location wasn't bang city centre either which was another downer. It was just outside the central district of Indre By in an area known as Vesterbro. It was however within five minutes walk of the Rådhus (City Hall) which would have been perfectly acceptable on a warm summer's day. A sub-zero winter's night and it felt a little too far away from the action.

It does claim to be a stylish hotel and to be fair the foyer did live up to this billing. It was a large open space dressed with drapes of string hanging from the high ceiling creating quite a dramatic effect.

We sat here a number of times before we headed out for the day. It was a very peaceful space.

 
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