Sunday, August 26, 2007

Trip report: Copenhagen, Denmark

First off, this is where Denmark is, and what it looks like:

JT was attending a meeting in Nyborg (pronounced New-borg) for the entire week. I joined him on Wednesday night, mostly so I could go on a conference-organized outing to a castle on Thursday. The outing, with 10 Wives of Scientists, was to Egeskov Castle, built in the 1550s.

The grounds were beautiful, as was the castle. It has been preserved as kept by its 20th century owner, who was a big hunter and fancied hanging dead animals on the wall. The owner was also a memorabilia collector; in one room, standing with three suits of armor, was a mannequin wearing the Superman costume used during flight scenes of the original Superman movie.

That trip was also supposed to include a tour to other castles around Fyn, the name of the island Nyborg and Egeskov is on. We didn't so much have a tour guide as we had a bus driver. "This a very old castle," he'd announce. He also took us to see the largest rock in Denmark, deposited by the glaciers. Weren't we lucky? I did see other castles/estates, though -- this one, that one, and another one.

I did have a traditional Danish lunch on that trip: a koldt bord (cold table, literally) spread of food.
Pictured: cheese and grapes; asparagus and shrimp; cold cod; cheese and cured ham; pate with artichoke and pickled onion; marinated tomatoes.

The next day, JT's meeting wrapped up mid-morning and we headed into Copenhagen (90 minutes on the train). We checked into our hotel, and had a good giggle over the shower in the bathroom. The Danes aren't prone to extremes, and they seem to not build any more than is needed. Why would you need any more in a bathroom than a showerhead on the wall and a drain in the floor?

That wooden panel on my right was on hinges -- it folds flat against the wall when not being used for the shower. What kind of youth hostel were we staying at, you ask? A 3-star hotel that cost more than US$200 a night. For that, you get just what you need.

Our first priority was some lunch. We went to Ida Davidsen's, which was lauded in our guidebook as The Place To Go for the traditional Danish smorrebrod, or open-faced sandwich. Actually, every guidebook about Copenhagen must recommend the same because we were surrounded by tourists with guidebooks. It was fine -- we had a nice chat with the manager, and a good/interesting lunch to boot.

John's sandwich is on the left -- chicken salad, bacon, and potato; mine was smoked eel with spinach and mushrooms. Mmm.

After lunch, we wandered around a bit, coming across Marmokirken (the Marble Church) and Amalienborg Slot, where the royal family lives. Next was a boat tour of Copenhagen, which was incredible and is most certainly the best way to see Copenhagen. (Even if you don't check out the rest of the pictures, you gotta see the Royal Yacht.) We ended the evening with a stroll through the streets and dinner sitting outdoors at an Italian restaurant.

The next day, we rented bicycles from our hotel and set out to go a little farther and wider than you would on foot. I'm not sure we achieved that, but we sure did have a good time. After riding for a short time, it threatened to rain. So I pulled into the nearest castle, Rosenborg, which was built as a country home in the early 1600s. (Of course now it's smack in the middle of the city.) Its primary occupant was Christian IV, king of Denmark for the first half of the 17th century.

Rosenborg is also where the Crown Jewels and Royal Regalia are on display. Very cool.

We wandered back into Copenhagen Proper to catch the tail end of an Italian market in front of Thorvaldsens Museum. The museum happened to be free that day, so we did the 10-minute walk through. (It houses most of the works by the famous Danish artist ... Thorvaldsen.) Review: It's fine, but we were glad it was free.

After that, we headed west, with a drive-by of Carlsberg Brewery. The Carlsberg empire is apparent everywhere, but we didn't make it a priority to learn much about it. We wandered through a neighborhood and park called Frederiksberg (which has another castle), and then made our way to a park on the north side of the city, where the Copenhagen Opera was putting on a free concert of music from their upcoming season. Naturally, it started to rain about 15 minutes after we got there. We stuck it out for about an hour, though, and had a good time.

We meandered back through some more Copenhagen history, the Nyboder houses and the citadel Kastellet, and had dinner at Nyhavn.

Sunday, we took in another museum offering free admission that day: the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. This museum was built by Carl Jacobsen (part of the Carlsberg empire) to house his classical art collection. In general, I don't usually like museums that show an art collector's collection, since they tend to be pretty random. This one was very nice, though, and we spent a couple of hours taking in both ancient and contemporary sculpture.

We then set out to take in two last sights, Vor Frue Kirke (the Church of Our Lady, pictured below), which, for you royalty buffs, is where Crown Prince Frederik married Mary Donaldson in 2004, and Rundetarn, the observatory tower built in the 1640s.

We spent the rest of our afternoon at Copenhagen's central amusement park, Tivoli. Disneyland it's not, but we had a great time. We had a great time overall, in fact, and convinced ourselves that we can do a medium-sized European city in 2 1/2 days. Maybe not comprehensively, but certainly as an overview and at a moderate pace.

N.B.: In case you haven't picked up on it already, the photo album for the trip is here. And since it wouldn't be a trip without pictures of cows, here are many photos of cows that are part of Copenhagen's Cow Parade.

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