Copenhagen Adventures

The packing and cleaning took much longer than expected, of course. But we did indeed make it out of the house before the guests arrived. We also made it to the ferry dock early enough to withdraw some Danish Crowns from the ATM and eat some leftover potato salad that we had to take with us, before the bus took us to the ferry to board.

There are oh so many pictures available here:

It was all very exciting, having never been on an international ferry before, and extremely windy! We really experienced this to the full extent, because a short excursion below-decks to get Adam some coffee quickly revealed that fresh air would be the only way to keep me from seasickness. So we stayed on the top deck the rest of the ride—watching the seagulls race the boat and getting buffeted around ourselves.

Windyyyy Ferry Ride
Hold on to your hoods!

We had a long way still to go by the time we got to Gedser, the Danish port town where the Ferry landed. We were supposed to get on a bus, but after a confusing German interaction with the Danish driver we ended up missing what actually WAS the right bus, and having to walk into town, as it got darker and rainier. We stumbled upon a cute little cafe however, where we were first told we didn't have to wear our masks, and had enough time to warm up and split an award-winning alcohol-free Danish beer before getting on the next bus.

We eventually transferred to a train which delivered us at last to Copenhagen Central Station where we a bit taken aback to see that yes, really no one, even in the capital, were wearing masks. It was a bit surreal, but apparently the Danes have reached a 75% vaccination rate, so they decided it was safe. Being vaccinated ourselves we decided to trust the health authorities, because doing so had so far led Denmark confidently through the pandemic. It was rather late by the time we made it to our airbnb, where our host welcomed us with tea and chocolate, which is just what we needed after a long afternoon of traveling.

We woke up refreshed on Saturday morning, and headed to an adorable and (after we did the currency conversion math) it turned out very affordable little cafe down the street for some breakfast. The desire to get a Danish pastry in Denmark was strong, but I ended up being glad I had opted for the hardier egg because of all the walking we did that day.

After a quick hello to Hans (Christian Anderson) we headed off to the Danish National Museum. Or at least that's where we thought we were going, but int turned out that we happened upon the Copenhagen Museum first, so that is where we spent a few informative hours instead. In addition to some in-depth history of the city, from its prehistoric days right up until the present, we also got to see some really interesting architectural drawings from the city planner's office. They had blueprints of everything from lamp posts to sewage treatment plants; from schools to streetcars. It was very interesting, and a good first stop, since I think it made us see the city through clearer eyes, knowing some of the history and design that went into it.

Statue of Hans Christian Anderson
Chillin with my buddy Hans—Denmark's favorite fairytale writer

We were a bit museum-ed out by the time we left, so we just strolled around for a while until we decided we were hungry, and stopped into a cafe with a very friendly waiter who was happy to chat with us about how much he loved Chicago. We ordered what turned out to be extremely tiny but very elegant open-face sandwiches (mine had boiled and fried potatoes on it!) and beers that were in fact about as big as our heads.

Lunch or Snack?
Potatoes, beer and bread: what's not to like?

Though adorable and delicious, the sandwiches were not in fact a very substantial lunch, so we ended up at 7-eleven in search of some quick snacks before our walking tour began. I ended up getting seduced by the Danishes there, so ironically my first experience of Danish pastry in Denmark was at an American convenience store! When we showed up a minute late for the tour, the guide immediately told me that this didn't really count and I had to go to a real bakery before leaving the city. I knew he was right, of course, but I must say the cinnamon roll wasn't half bad—much better than I would have expected of a 7-eleven in the US.

OK 7-11!
My expectations were low, but definitely surpassed! It was unlike anything the 7-eleven in the US would have had.

The tour was an interesting mix of nationalities, from the originally Australian guide to the Danish girl he kept asking how to pronounce things properly. We were told some interesting facts: like how the coiled animals whose tails slither up the spire on the Christianborg palace are supposed to be crocodiles, except the poor architect had never actually seen a crocodile, or even a picture of one, it appears… We also saw several buildings on the island of Christianshavn that are actively settling and leaning and zigging and zagging due to the originally swampy nature of the land. The tour ended outside the gates of "The Free Town of Christiania" which is indeed marching to the beat of its own drum. Quite literally, as it turned out, as there was an active drum circle going on when we wandered in. The area is known for its flourishing trade in…not quite legal substances, but also for its mostly peaceful coexistence with the surrounding city. It was certainly an interesting detour!

Our tour guide said they looked more like Disney's cartoon dog Pluto than crocodiles…

We decided to get a grocery store dinner and eat it as a picnic, before making the obligatory trip to see the Little Mermaid statue. We ate at what we discovered was actually an active Danish military base, which might not sound very picturesque, but in the case of Kastellet, it actually was. It was built in the 17th century, and you can stroll along the star-shaped ramparts, and look over the harbor, which we did. We did indeed see the remarkably small (and in fact famously unremarkable) Little Mermaid statue as the sun sank low in the sky.

After dark, we headed back to the airbnb and dropped off our day packs and went in search of an evening adventure. We ended up in a touristy area near the Tivoli, where we waited in a very long line for expensive but rather yummy cocktails and some strange "nachos". The quotes are because we have discovered that Europe doesn't really understand nachos. In the same way that they would probably argue that America doesn't understand pizza. They were Doritos with melted cheddar, some dubious guac, sour cream and their best attempt at salsa (basically ketchup with some onions, peppers and diced canned tomatoes.) None of it was gross, exactly just not really what we were expecting when we ordered nachos. Anyway, we got to sit outside on a lovely night in Copenhagen, so the main goal was achieved.

The next morning started off with another trip to Sonja's Cafe down the street, where I tried the chia seed porridge this time—complete with some excellent strawberry jam. We then set off for Rosenborg Castle. It was a country summer house built in 1606 by the Danish king at the time, Christian IV, but was expanded over the years, until it reached its current size in 1624.

It was a very well set-up museum, with tons of displays of royal trinkets, including hand-carved ivory sculptures that incorporated Ostrich eggs, conch shell goblets, detailed botanical paintings and of course tons and tons of lavish jewelry and impressive paintings. What fascinated me most of all though, in the four levels of splendor were in fact not the crown jewels on display in the basement, but the walls, floors and ceilings themselves. Most floors were elaborately tiled, though one room had a floor, walls and ceiling all of mirrors, which the wide-skirted ladies of the time understandably found rather scandalous. Paintings and carvings of angels, lions and all manner of mythical beasts peered down from most of the ceilings. Even the bathroom was completely covered in lovely blue patterned tile! Some rooms had elaborate wood paneling, others swirling marble inlays. Most rooms had floor-to-ceiling tapestries however, woven in such astoundingly intricate detail that we found ourselves intrigued mostly by the process of making those. How long must it have taken? How many people worked on one tapestry at once? Were the makers of these royal wall-hangings esteemed artisans? The fiber artist in me was blown away at the detail. In one room there was cold-encrusted leather wallpaper! I guess you can get a lot of fancy stuff when you're the absolute monarch!

Extravagance:Ceiling edition
Extravagance from floor to ceiling
Extravagance:tapestry edition
The fact that they took the time to weave the subtle shades of this dude's incredibly red nose blows my mind.
Extravagance: wallpaper edition
First of all, no one has ever heard of leather wallpaper, and then to have it also encrusted with gold?

After oohing and ahhing at the crown jewels (let me tell you the heads that wore those crowns would have been heavy!) we rounded off our tour of the castle in the geometrically hedged rose garden. Adam patiently waited as I compared the precise scents of the yellow, orange, red, pink and white roses. Orange was the most intriguing if I remember correctly: sweet, with a hint of spice to keep it interesting and not cloying.

Extravagance:crown edition
They must have really gotten neck-aches wearing all that finery around!
Extravagance: garden edition
How many gardeners must they have employed to manage all those roses?

After finally stopping at a real bakery to pick up some authentic danish pastries (locally known as "Wienerbrod" or "Vienna bread" after the Austrian bakers that originally brought the confections to Denmark, as we had learned on the tour the day before) we took our snack to the botanical garden. What a lovely place for a snack! The cardamom-cinnamon-poppyseed and the sweet dough were spiraled into pure deliciousness: 7-11 had nothing on this pastry. We strolled around the gardens and ponds enjoying the first changes in the leaves and the last flowers of the summer.

Finally a real Danish in Denmark!
Finally a real Danish in Denmark!

Next up we went to an art gallery that was formerly St. Nicholas Church. The lovely tall ceilings and large windows provided a wonderful backdrop to the exhibition called "Eden" by Nicoline Liv Andersen that we saw on the first floor. Her background in high fashion led to some really intriguing costumes featuring plastic drink straws, and her fiber art dealt with fertility, femininity and nature in insightful ways as well. On the second floor we saw some photos by David Lynch, one exhibit of abandoned industrial buildings, one of naked ladies, and one of snowmen—so lots of variety!

Where fashion meets art
See no evil plastic straws

After we left the gallery, we remembered that there had been a good tip on the walking tour the day before: there was no admission charge to go up to the lookout tower of Christianborg Castle (same building with the "crocodiles" on it) so we took the elevator up to the top of Copenhagan's tallest tower, at 106 meters. Christianborg was originally the home of the royal family, but after one of the many fires that ravaged the city, the family decided to give it to the government and it is now the home of the Danish parliament, supreme court and ministry of state. The Queen does still use it for some official state visits though, apparently.

Christianborg Tower
Christianborg: The tallest tower in Copenhagen

After all the art, gardens, tours and castles, it was time for some food. My pizza—eaten on a cute little balcony, was really in keeping with my personal philosophy to order the weirdest thing on the menu: it had kale, pistachios, zucchini, squash and olives. It was pretty good! Adam's order was more traditional: just a bunch of meat.

After dinner, we scurried over to the round tower (apparently we hadn't had enough towers yet) and raced up its unique spiraled ramp in the fading light. Built in 1642 by our pal from Rosenborg, King Christian IV it was originally used as an astronomical observatory. The hollow central core of the tower is where a choir boy who was playing hide-and-seek in 1880 fell down all the way through the middle of the tour! Miraculously, he survived though, and needless to say, there is a clear plastic panel covering the hole now, so no one else can make the same plummeting journey. We arrived just in time to see a few of the brightest stars peeking out, despite having to compete with the bright lights of the surrounding city. It was interesting to get a nighttime tower view to contrast with out Christianbor tower views from earlier. We also stopped to briefly peruse another art exhibit in on of the rooms on our spiral path down, about the many transitions in women's lives.

Round Tower
It was the perfect crouching spot, what else could I do?

Not up for another busy night, we headed back to the airbnb. We heard a lot of booming and eventually learned that we had missed out on the fireworks show that marked the closing night at the Tivoli—too bad! It had been a long and pleasantly full day nonetheless.

Sonja's cafe was closed on our last morning in Copenhagen, so we opted for some last pastries and some quick souvenir stops before it was time to get on board the bus that would itself later board the ferry and take us back to what we were now considering home: Rostock.

The LITTLE Mermaid
We found this fine lady in a tourist shop, and Adam joked "Look, it's life sized!" Not quite true, but LITTLE is indeed the appropriate word to describe the real Mermaid statue.