Warm Days in Copenhagen
May 3rd Week
My husband reminds me that he is going away to Japan on a business trip next week. He says ‘Suja, why don’t you go somewhere for a short break?’. I hesitate for a moment..I have lots of travel planned for the summer, should I bother? Should I not be doing some spring cleaning instead? The moment that thought occurs, I rush to my computer to do some research! I check the Easyjet site. I set the ‘from’ to Geneva and look at the ‘to’s. Copenhagen immediately catches my eye. It seems to fit all my criteria – not too far, safe, big city, somewhere I haven’t been. I immediately book myself in. The next day I go looking for hotels and get a shock at the prices. They are SO expensive! Is this because this is last minute? Ordinary chain hotels are charging as much as what we paid for a lovely cliff side hotel in the Amalfi coast..and that I thought was expensive! I decide to check Airbnb. I have never used their services but decide to take a chance. I find myself a small apartment not too far from the city for about 60% of the cost.
29 May 2016
I am panicking! I have been busy with two lots of guests last week and have had no time to do any planning. In fact, one couple is leaving this afternoon. I abandon them to their own devices to give 5 full hours of concentrated effort to my travel plan. I download Copenhagen region map to my CityMaps2Go App (Love this!), download Danish to my google translate offline language (never use it!), research places to visit using Copenhagen Tourism and Tripadvisor sites, decide on my priorities, pin everything on my offline map, pin the apartment, train and bus stops, find vegetarian friendly restaurants and pin that too, pack my bag as lightly as I can and finally feel ready for the trip.
For those who are reading this, I take interest in art, architecture, history and monuments. I am not interested in restaurants, night life or adventure pursuits, so if these are your areas of interest, you may as well give up reading now!!
30 May 2016
I take the train to Geneva airport well ahead of time. We board on time but then it is announced that we will not depart for another 45 mins. Something about weather. I worry. I am supposed to pick up the keys to the apartment from the corner store which closes at 11pm. Am I going to make it in time? I text the host. She replies that if I am late, her sister would be able to come and give me the spare keys. Still, this is stressful. Arriving in a new city at night and having to make your way to the burbs using public transport can be difficult. But thanks to my prep work everything went well. At the airport I struggle a bit with the metro tickets at the machine but there is nobody at the info desk, its too late. Finally I manage it. In the train the stop names flash across the scene so it is easy to get off correctly. After I exit the metro I figure out the bus stop. My CityMaps2Go uses GPS to show my position which I follow as I ride the bus. From the stop I again use the mapping app to find my way to the apartment. I make it just in time, it is 10:40 when I collect the keys. There is still plenty of light and the streets are busy on this Monday night.
31 May 2016
I have a relaxed start to the day and set out at about 9:15am. I am dismayed to see that it is raining, it was supposed to be a fine day! I walk to the tourist office, it takes about half an hour. There is a bit of a queue but finally I get what I have come for, a three day Copenhagen Card which gives me free entry to all the sights I am interested in as well as free transport. It costs DKK 699 and I reckon it is a good deal. I also collect the free city map which clearly shows the bus routes and metro stops. Very useful.
Nobody who knows me will be surprised that my first stop is at the National Gallery of Denmark – Statens Museum for Kunst. It opens at 11am and I am there before the gates open. There are four main sections, European Art 1300 to 1800, Danish and Nordic Art 1750-1900, French Art 1900-1930 and Danish and International Art after 1900.
The exhibits are very nicely arranged and descriptions are in both Danish and English. I really enjoy the Danish and Nordic Art as well as the European Art from 1300 to 1800. The French collection is OK but I have seen many better collections so I am not much taken with it. I quite dislike the last section; it is not to my taste. I abandon it after a couple of rooms. I spend a total of 2 hr 30 mins here.
The Rosenborg Castle is just a few minutes walk from the National Gallery of Denmark. It stands in a beautiful garden called the Kings Garden.
I walk around snapping pictures from different angles. A very photogenic castle!
There are some interesting exhibits. I particularly enjoy the gorgeous Venetian glass collection, some very pretty Porcelain service and, of course, the Crown Jewels including a beautiful jewelled sword. I spend about an hour including both outside and inside.
Next, I head out to the Round Tower. I had been planning to climb it but then seeing that it is already almost 3pm, I decide to skip it. I am feeling really hungry and stop at a café for a quick carb kick of pasta and juice. I feel rather overcharged for a very simple and ordinary meal.
My next destination is the Christiansborg palace which is also the seat of Parliament. As there is hardly a queue I decide to first go up the tower for a view. There is a security check but it is quick.
The views from above are very good but I don’t stay long; I want to see the reception rooms and they will close soon.
The inside of the palace is sumptuous, I especially admire the many gorgeous chandeliers.
There are plenty of beautiful paintings and objets d’art to be admired. However I am conscious that the palace closes at 5 pm so I am brisk. I spend about one hour here; I could easily have spent another hour or two; as it is, I have no time to see the kitchens or the stables. Sigh! The reality of short trips is that one cannot see everything. Is it better to see a bit of as many places as you can fit, or just choose a few for a thorough exploration? I tend to go with the former but sometimes it leaves me disappointed, as in this case.
My feet are really tired now and I need a rest. I decide to take the canal boat ride. The current boat is already full, I need to wait 30 mins for the next one. I don’t mind, I am happy to sit at the pier and enjoy the sun. Yes, the morning rain gave way to wonderful sunny weather while I was indoors all day in museums!! The boat ride has live commentary to point out places of interest but it isn’t exactly riveting. But this is a very pleasant way to spend an hour watching the world as they watch us back.
After the ride, I walk down to Nyhaven area which is very lively and full of restaurants. But after my rather late lunch I am not hungry so I decide to find a café near the apartment to have a salad. Stupidly, for I was tired, I decide to walk back as I normally enjoy walking everywhere. But I give up half way through and take a bus. The café experience is suboptimal..I should have chosen more carefully. I upload my pics on my computer and savour my day once more before falling into bed to an exhausted sleep.
01 June 2016
My day yesterday has given me a more realistic picture of what is feasible and what is not. I spend a little time in the morning tweaking my plan and reordering priorities. As this is a fine day, I decide to head on a day trip to the two northern castles.
I take the bus to Norreport and switch to the train to Hillerod. The station is easy to navigate, the trains are clearly marked and it is not at all hard to find my way to the right train. Hillerod is the last station. The bus stop is right outside the station and number 301/302 takes me to the castle entrance. I am at the castle by 10:15.
Most of the current structure is a re-construction from the 19th century after a fire destroyed major parts of the 17th century castle built by King Christian IV. It is now the National Museum of National History and houses some beautiful artwork. At the reception, I leave an id as deposit and take the free mp3 audio tour. The rooms are richly decorated with furniture, objects d’art, paintings, tapestries, panels etc. The audio tour is useful and interesting. I am so glad I have come to see this castle!
This beautiful chapel, which mostly escaped the fire, is gorgeous. It is of great historical significance as this is where almost all Danish monarchs were anointed between 1671 to 1840. I admire the beautiful organ, the oldest in Denmark.
The Audience Chamber is another room which escaped the fire. Large and airy, it has stunning views of the garden. I am amused by the hand-operated ‘lift’..the red chair you can just glimpse at the left corner of the room above.
There are many wonderful portraits here, but my favourite is Christian IV because he has a marked resemblance to Obelix! See the braid? See the figure? He made me smile so!
This grand hall looks amazing with a most intricate ceiling and many portraits of the royal family.
I spend about 80 mins inside the castle. I then head out the large ornamental garden with cascading fountains. It is nice to be outside, so I take my time wandering down the paths and taking pictures.
I head out back to the bus stop..or so I think. Instead I have exited from another entrance and have to walk around the moat to reach the bus stop. I feel hot and grumpy with my mistake; then realise I am hungry as well. I stop to have a sandwich and a drink. It is 1:15pm by the time I am back at the bus stop.
I take the bus 301/302 to the station and catch the train to Helsingor to see Kronborg castle. The train is easy to find. Exiting from the station at Helsingor I see the castle in the distance. It takes about 15 mins to walk to the entrance; I am there by 2:15pm.
This castle is markedly different to Frederiksborg. While Frederiksborg is a luxurious palace, this is more of a solid fortress. This castle is the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet and many famous actors have performed the play right here, starting from Richard Burton, John Giulgud and Christopher Plummer to Kenneth Branagh and Jude Law. There is a room with photos from their live performances here; I enjoy my star gazing!
The insides are rather plain and not that interesting. I still do a complete walk-through in case I miss something. What I like best is a room full of beautiful tapestries.
There are 144 steps to climb up the tower, but it is worth it as the views are amazing! I am alone up there, nobody else has bothered with the climb! Once I climb down again I head towards the exit. I hesitate in front of the dungeons. I don’t like dark and creepy places…and this one would have been such a sad place, with so many prisoners living in misery, seeking death as a relief. I decide that I don’t want to see it after all.
I exit and walk up to the ramparts. The guns here attest to the role of the fortress in days gone by. I walk back to the station, passing through Helsingor and admiring its lively central area. I find my way to my train and have a nice restful time while the train takes me back to Copenhagen.
I reach Copenhagen Central station just after 5 pm and and head straight to the Planetarium. I somehow forget to take pics; this is from the tourism website. I haven’t been to a planetarium for many years, I am not sure what to expect. I certainly do not expect this huge 100 square metre screen and a 3D star voyage! The first 15 mins just take my breath away! It is incredible! The IMAX documentary which follows is also very educational. I really enjoy my experience. Note : If you carry headphones with you, you can save 20 DKK on buying one in order to listen to the commentary in English.
It is past 7 pm and I am hungry. As the Copenhagen pass includes entry to the Tivoli gardens I decide to go and see what they have to offer. It is interesting to see an amusement park right in the centre of town! There are any number of eateries here but as a vegetarian, my choices are, as always, limited. I spot Wagamama, a chain I am familiar with. I am very pleased with my lovely vegetable and tofu stir fry.
After dinner I wander around and spot a jazz concert in progress. I sit down and enjoy the music for about half an hour. I am kind of fading, it has been a long day. I head out and catch a bus back to my apartment. However the bus veers away from the normal path as there is some kind of a street festival. There are thousands of young folk thronging the streets. I thank heaven for my mapping application; I get off a few blocks away and trudge on tired feet back to my apartment. The noise levels are horrendous and the streets are a garbage dump. I cannot understand why streets should be trashed thus for the young to amuse themselves! It is late by the time I get to bed but the street noise doesn’t abate..I nod off in exhaustion but wake repeatedly; there is noise even at 02:30 am! The light wakes me up at 5. Not much sleep for my tired body.
02 June 2016
I am a bit dizzy with lack of sleep this morning but the day is bright and lovely and soon I feel myself again. I head straight out to the aquarium. This is just one metro stop away from the airport. A 10 minute walk from the metro gets me to the aquarium. If my flight timing had been suitable, it would have worked very well to see it on the way back but unfortunately that didn’t work for me. I’ve seen a few good aquariums in Australia; I wonder if this will stand up to those in Sydney and Melbourne?
It turns out to be very charming. I am so glad I came! I am mesmerized by the so many different colours and shapes of the life forms, isn’t the world quite a magical place? I spend just over an hour here. I leave at about 11:15.
My intention is to see the changing of the guards at Amalienborg at 12 noon. By the time I walk to the station, wait for the metro and get off at the appropriate stop, there isn’t much time left. Instead of trying to figure out the bus, I decide to just walk – or rather run – to the palace. It’s a mistake, the bus would have been quicker. Still, I arrive at the square in front of the palace just before noon. There is quite a crowd but the square is big and I get a ringside place. The changing of guards is a long process, I need not have run at all.
It is an impressive square. There are four palaces arranged around a central statue of King Frederik V from 1771.
One of the four palaces is open as a museum about the royal family. There are some well preserved rooms on display, such as Christian Xth study above. However I don’t find this museum very interesting; perhaps it is just a matter of too many palaces in too short a time! I spend about 30 mins here.
I walk across to the Marble Church which is close by. The Dome is very impressive! I spend only a few minutes here.
My next port of call is the Hirschsprung Collection, an art museum. As there doesn’t seem to be any convenient bus, I decide to walk it. I realise on the way that I am hungry..it is such an inconvenience, this hunger! Such a waste of time when I could be doing something else! I can’t spot any likely café on the way so I stop at a supermarket and pick up a Danish pastry and a yoghurt drink. I settle down under a tree in the King’s garden to enjoy a little rest and my picnic lunch.
I am just at the right time to enjoy gardens as the flowers are all blooming!
I am rather hot by the time I reach the Hirschsprung collection. I am wondering if this would be worth the effort. I am blown away by what they have, what a treasure! They have a free mp3 audio tour which is very good. I learn a lot about some excellent Scandinavian artists. I want their catalogue but it is rather heavy and won’t fit in my hand baggage. They tell me I can buy it online..note to myself, do this soon!
I leave the art gallery at 3:30 pm and take a bus to see the National Museum of Denmark. I guess that it would take about 30 mins and I will still get an hour to see something of the museum. But our bus stops at a stop half way there and everyone is asked to get out. The next bus which comes along disgorges passengers as well. I don’t know what is happening, I just wait at the stop to see if the next bus will take us on. It does. The bus is very full. I somehow miss my stop and land up somewhere else. I have to take another bus back. I’ve made such a mess of this! I land up at the museum at 4:30 and they kick me out at 4:50. I see just the one section about Vikings which is very interesting. I realize that I could happily have spent half a day here, sigh! Wish I had skipped Amalienborg and come here instead. Regret this…(picture from the internet)
I head to the Town Hall square to take some pics. A nice square, very busy. Then I walk through a pedestrian area towards the Canal.
My intention is to catch the Harbour Bus Number 902 (included in the Copenhagen card) which has a stop close to the Little Mermaid. The boat ride is pleasant. The statue is about a 10 min walk from the stop. There is a good crowd there. I am not sure why there is such a song and dance about it, but it is the statue to take a picture of in Copenhagen and so I too join in.
I then walk through the Citadel and the pretty park around it and head to the bus stop. I am done. I go back to Wagamama where I am assured of a tasty dinner before going back to the apartment. Tomorrow at noon I fly back home. This has been a great little holiday, I am content.