(4.7) (4 Votes)
July 12th, 2004
Pros: Stylish and elegant
with cheap flights!.
Christiania, the infamous "free state"
A long but enjoyable day today.
We flew EasyJet from Bristol, and it was fine. There was less pushing
and shoving for seats than we had been led to believe. The flight
itself was smooth and arrived ahead of schedule. Not bad for 17
The Danish design credentials are right in-ya-face as you enter
the country, as Copenhagen airport is a triumph of contemporary
design: dark wood floors and long clean lines turn the most utilitarian
space into the center spread of a glossy, chic design magazine.
Everything from home that is ugly, clumsy or barely functional is
stylishly elegant in Denmark. A good example would be their airport
luggage trolleys, which silently glide through the halls like stainless-steel
Similarly the train station was well designed with wide platforms,
clean natural colours and clear information on the trains. We did,
however, have to wait an age behind some dim-witted couple who were
trying to complete what appeared to be a fiendishly complex ticketing
transaction, involving most of the European train network!
The city (at least the small part we have seen so far) has been
very pretty. ( Lots of cyclists, no cycle helmets! Our B&B is
charming, as is our host, Anders. He has put together lots of local
information for us. Hopefully we will get to spend some time with
him later on this week.
We had dinner close to the B&B at Skurks bar - a bit trendy,
but quite relaxed.(www.skurks.dk) Chris had the veggie option: a
selection of salads, gazpacho soup, braised artichoke and an extremely
phallic piece of what we think was white asparagus! I went for the
swordfish with risotto & mussels... Yum! Oh, and Chris had a
delicious Hot Chocolate, which he is currently sleeping off! Our
choices were only slightly hampered by the menu only being printed
in Danish, but our waiter obligingly translated everything for us.
Tomorrow? Not yet fully decided. Probably a lazy exploration of
the center of town, and a mooch around Tivoli gardens. Whatever
happens, the morning will definitely start with Danish Pastries
and coffee: Chris has been very excited to find two excellent bakeries
within spitting distance of our front door! Oh well, looks like
the diet starts next week!
Our first full day here in Copenhagen started in a most decadent
way: wonderful choc-nut pastries and strong black coffee from emmerys
- the bakery round the corner.(www.emmerys.dk)
Afterwards, we walked off a (very) few of the calories by strolling
up to Strøget - Europe's longest pedestrianised street. We
began our retail therapy in Magasin du Nord (or just Magasin as
it seems to be known locally) This is a department store, but it
really stands out with its selection of beautifully designed Danish
homewears, and a huge Lego section. My nephew will have the benefit
of their huge range on his birthday in a few weeks time! We managed
a snack of chips and remoulade before hitting the rest of Strøget.
We both bought bargains in the Filippa K sale, and enjoyed the bohemian
Latin Quarter's book and comic shops.
We ended up at the Town Hall and it´s Square - Rådhuspladsen,
very close to Tivoli gardens. We have put off going into Tivoli
until tomorrow, when we believe there is a free firework display.
Instead we had a beer (large!) in a friendly nearby bar called Oscars.
We then returned to Nørrebro for dinner at Sushi and Sticks
- excellent Japanese cuisine.
Tomorrow, we will probably try to visit some of the cities museums,
and end the day with the fireworks in the Tivoli gardens.
We awoke to sunshine today, but it looks like we'll be going to
bed with the rain lashing down outside! Never mind - we had a good
day, with plenty of photos taken. When we get to put them up next
week, it'll take ages to download the pages, so for now, enjoy the
We began with our usual trip to emmerys bakery for breakfast, then
took the 5A bus back to Rådhuspladsen, where we ended our
explorations yesterday. A short walk away is the Nationalmuseet
- one of a handful of Copenhagen's museums that open for free on
The museum foyer is - like so many of Copenhagen's public spaces
- impeccably designed, open, light and airy. The guidebooks say
it has been extensively renovated, but judging by the amount of
plastic sheeting covering the exhibits, it looks like it's still
The Nationalmuseet is one of those museums (like the Louvre, the
British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York) that
you could easily spend all day in. For reasons of time, we restricted
ourselves to the Danish prehistory section, encompassing everything
up to and including the Viking period. Even though we "cherry-picked"
we were not disappointed: the collection had some good pieces, including:
a selection of lurs - paired over-the-shoulder horns blown to attract
the sun-god; coins, brooches and swords; golden horns; a statue
of a horse pulling the sun across the sky and some suitably horny
helmets! Ancient Vikings had the sense to make sacrifices to their
gods by chucking their precious goods into the local bogs, where
the anaerobic, acidic conditions were a perfect preservative for
pretty much everything including wooden coffins, skeletons and clothing,
as well as the usual metal relics. Consequently, all these 3000
year old artifacts are in remarkably good nick!
We had lunch in the museum cafe: a segment cut from a huge chunky
sandwich - not cheap at 4 quid, but good quality and very filling.
We also liked their coconut covered truffle ball cakes! You just
don't have to be put off your food by the over-looking totem poles,
brandishing their large and intricately carved genitalia!
We returned to the tourist office just opposite the main entrance
to Tivoli gardens to purchase Copenhagen Cards: free travel on the
excellent, efficient buses and trains and free or discounted entrance
to many attractions is now ours for 72 hours! The first thing we
used them for was a foray into the Town Hall for a look at Jens
Olsen's Astronomical Clock. The clock has three sections, with various
clocks and calendars in the first two, and astronomical instruments
including a star map and an astrolabe in the third. The clock itself
has elegant stainless steel dials, and beautiful polished brass
workings, all visible through the glass case.
Next we took the bus to Christianhavn to visit Vor Frelsers Kirke
(Church of Our Saviour), with it's amazing black and gold spiral
spire. We opted not to climb the 400 stairs (the highest 150 of
which are on the outside of the structure!) due to fear of heights
and already-aching limbs, but instead went inside. The church has
some amazing features, not least the altar, dripping with statuary,
and the huge carved wood organ loft, seemingly supported by two
elephants (they come from the Danish royal family crest, although
so far I'm not entirely sure why!). The church itself had an amazing
sense of space and light, and seemed a bit TARDIS-like in that it
seemed much bigger on he inside than the outside.
We walked further down the road into Christiania, the infamous "free
state" which extols alternative virtues, and is a haven for
pot-heads and dealers alike. The contrast to the rest of Denmark
is striking. The roads are unmade-up, no window is unsmashed, every
surface is graffitied, and derelict vehicles litter the unkempt
verges. I'm afraid Christiania did nothing to change our existing
view that this wasn't some radical counter-culture, it was incapable
of culture at all. This community wasn't revolutionary - drugs render
it utterly incapable of revolutionary thought, indeed of anything
useful or productive or creative, just dope smokers with empty eyes
and worthless, meandering dronings fixated on one thing: the further
availability of their drug of choice. It's neither big nor clever.
Thankful to be leaving, we made for Nyhaven, which made for a stark
contrast. Where Christiania is chaotic and purposelessly lost in
it's haze of pot smoke, Nyhaven - with it's pretty harbour and painted
buildings - has the single minded function of removing as much cash
as possible from the many, many tourists who flock to it's bars
We undertook a fantastic tour of Copenhagen's canals from here.
Not cheap, but our Copenhagen Card got us a bit of a discount. We
cruised past the new Opera building (opening 2005), the Little Mermaid
(operative word: Little), back into Christianhavn and back. Spoilt
only by the drizzle, it was an excellent tour and gave us a real
feel of the city's waterfront. Dinner at a little Italian restaurant
(virtually the only one with a vegetarian option on the menu!) was
warm and pleasant and not too hideously expensive. The rain postponed
our evening trip to Tivoli, and the tourist bureau told us that
there are no longer fireworks on a Wednesday evening. So we headed
home, via a really nice little coffee shop for a hot chocolate.
A full day, I'm sure you'll agree. Tomorrow we head out of town
to Roskilde to see Viking longships... can't wait!
About 20 minutes by train from Nørreport station is the town
of Roskilde. The first capital city of Denmark, it boasts a wealth
of history, far surpassing its first appearance as a small sleepy
The main reason for our visit was the Vikingeskibs Museet (Viking
Ship Museum). Housed in a listed late-60's concrete brutalist building
are the well-preserved remains of five Viking ships scuttled at
the entrance to the shallow Roskilde fjord around 1060 AD. These
were carefully lifted off the sea-bed in 1962, after which the timbers
underwent a long series of treatment and conservation processes.
Five different types of Viking vessel are represented from the massive
30 foot longship - capable of transporting a force of 80 Viking
warriors across the sea to the UK, the rest of Europe and beyond,
to trading ships and fishing boats. The excellent guided tour was
conducted in English by an enthusiastic student from Copenhagen
University. All aspects of the boat-building process are documented
in the galleries, from selecting the correct timber, the tools that
were used in construction and the sails and rigging. There is also
a temporary exhibition detailing the Vikings relationship with Ireland.
Across a small bridge is the Museum island, where a collection of
replica boats is on display. The team there are currently building
a replica of the 30 metre longship, due to be launched in September
2004, and they are planning to sail it to Dublin in a couple of
years time. For an additional charge you can join a group for a
sail out into the fjord, and so far this has been the highlight
of our trip. Skippered by a kiwi called Dylan, who instructed us
in Danish and English, we rowed our Viking vessel out into the fjord
and then raised the large linen square sail. Even in a slight breeze,
we got up to about 8 knots. It was an amazing experience: you could
really feel how a Viking ship could function, and we would thoroughly
recommend the whole experience to any visitor to Denmark.
We were so enthralled by the Viking ships, we left little time to
explore the rest of the town. The Domkirke (Cathedral) is worth
a visit: it is the burial place of Danish kings and queens since
approximately Viking times. Unlike in the UK, the Danish monarchy
seem to go in for big flashy coffins (black velvet seems to be a
particular favourite!) and marble mausoleums.The cathedral itself
looks huge outside, but the main nave is surprisingly narrow. The
external appearance is due to the addition of numerous chapels to
house the bodies of the royals.
This evening we will be heading to Tivoli to see what all the fuss
Last night we went to Tivoli Gardens - one of Copenhagen's best
known attractions. We decided to go at night, as our guide book
said that it was at it's most enchanting when lit up with hundreds
of thousands of bulbs.
I had been expecting a traditional park with a funfair, but the
whole area is packed with shops, sideshows, stages and rides. There
isn't that much in the way of a parkland, although there are some
Neither of us are really into funfair rides, so most of what was
there wasn't much to our taste, but we enjoyed walking around in
the soft glow of the lights, just people-watching. What we did enjoy
very much was The Tivoli Illuminations, which took place over the
Tivoli lake, just before the park closed. Smoke poured out over
the water from the bank and under the bridge we stood on. Lights,
lasers, flames and fountains played out across the lake in time
to a modern, slightly Bjork-like soundtrack. A really magical experience,
that seemed to pass much too quickly. Not sure what the ducks and
huge carp who inhabit the lake made of it all, though!
Another really hot, sunny day allowed us great opportunity to complete
our sightseeing. Today we ventured south-west of the city centre.
The Tycho Brahe planetarium is housed in a modern, cylindrical brick
building. The observatory includes a helioscope (telescope for looking
at the sun) as well as a number of computerized displays (none of
which carry English information, sadly). They also have some excellent
models (the black hole model is particularly mesmerising!) A guided
tour was only available in Danish. I like visiting planetariums
(planitaria?!), but I felt that the Tycho Brahe had some more unusual
exhibits, and I could have learned a lot had there been more English
We took the metro S-train out to Enghave. The train is wonderful:
efficient, clean and light, with fantastic information boards updating
in real time. Why aren't all metropolitan transport systems this
The reason for our trip was to visit the Carlsberg brewery in Frederiksberg.
The visitors centre is very interesting, documenting the history
of brewing techniques from the 1800's (when the brewery was first
opened) to the present day. A little like the quakers who were industrially
active in the UK around the same time, Christen Jacobsen the founder
of Carlsberg, had a strong social conscience, and the way he provided
social support and healthcare for his work force, and his philanthropism
is also documented. The museum is a little static, but well captioned
in English and Danish. It's a bit sad that most visitors rushed
blindly through the exhibits in order to claim their two free beers
at the end of the tour! We paced ourselves, and looked at everything
before we got to the bar! We can recommend the Carlsberg wheat beer,
which I haven't seen in the UK.
Whilst in this area, we visited one of the most unusual art galleries
I have ever been to. Cisternerne - the museum of modern glass art
has opened in the old water cisterns of Fredericksberg palace, underneath
Søndermarken park. A museum of stained glass without any
natural light might not seem the most obvious choice, but the museum
has collaborated with theatrical lighting designers to create a
weird and otherworldly experience. The museum is dank and slightly
damp underfoot, with stalagtites dripping from the ceiling. It was
noticeably colder inside (especially on a warm July day), and the
conversations of other visitors echoed around the vaulted chambers
like a Stockhausen symphony. In the first gallery, modern stained
and painted glass mingled with statues and masonry dating back to
1700. The second, larger room had coloured glass by many different
artists. A unique experience, for sure!
We finished our day with some popular culture: Spiderman 2 at the
Imperial Norsk cinema. The film itself was disappointing, but the
cinema was amazing: deep comfy reclining seats and a very impressive
sound system. Not cheap, though!