The Copenhagen Diaries: Day 1

Saturday, 24 May 2014

The plane touched down on time, at precisely 12:15pm. The airport is pretty big; we flew EasyJet, which meant we had to walk from one end of the terminal to the other – all of 10 minutes. We took the train to Copenhagen Central Station, and from there walked to the hotel, which was nearby. The weather was lovely – sunny and breezy. I’d read that Copenhagen is one of the best cities in Europe for getting around by bicycle, and that 75% of Danes own bikes, half of whom use them on a regular basis. This was confirmed the moment I stepped out of the Central Station; about a gazillion bicycles were parked outside. On the roads, there were perhaps more cyclists than there were cars.

A trillion bicycles parked in a row.

A trillion bicycles parked in a row.

We checked into the hotel, unpacked, freshened up, and headed back out. First order of the day: food. When planning the trip, I’d looked up a few restaurants and cafes online. Andersen’s Bakery was a popular chain I’d read about, and on its online menu, something grabbed my attention: one of its gourmet hotdogs was apparently made with organic and halal veal.

Organic and halal.

Organic. Halal.

Those two words floated in front of my eyes like the glowing anagrams Tom Hanks brought to life in the movie adaptation of The Da Vinci Code. Nitrates be damned. Forget, too, the unsettling reason behind the ubiquitousness of veal these days. My first meal in Copenhagen was going to be an organic gourmet hotdog from Andersen’s.

So off we went to Andersen’s Tivoli Café, walking along with a spring in our (just mine, actually) step and eyes shining.

Their hotdogs are apparently quite good.

Their hotdogs are apparently quite good.

At the counter, I perused the menu once more before ordering.

Hmm.

The gourmet hotdog was listed, and it was made from organic veal, but there was nothing about it being halal.

Hmm.

I asked the lady at the counter and she kindly checked with her colleagues in the kitchen.

Nope, she said, unfortunately it’s not halal.

But…. but…. I read it… I saw it… I swear I did…

My heart shattered into a million pieces.

It was not meant to be. So I ordered something else instead – some random salmon sandwich. It was good, but my heart was still broken.

Their iced latte was delicious, though. My broken heart was slightly mended.

And so, after picking up the pieces of my broken heart and patching it together over a sandwich and iced coffee, we walked to Radhusplasen (the City Hall Square) and Radhuset (the Town Hall), saying a quick hello to Hans Christian Andersen’s statue on the way. As a child, I spent my days devouring his fairytales: through The Little Mermaid, I’d learnt that a woman should never give up her identity or personality for the love of any man; The Emperor’s New Clothes had taught me the virtues of speaking the truth and challenging authority; The Ugly Duckling had been an ode to personal transformation and finding one’s place in society; and The Nightingale had been a lesson in appreciating the beauty of nature’s own creatures, which no toy, trinket or technology could ever replace. So thank you, Mr HC Andersen. (With a special mention to Ladybird Books, who made it all possible).

Paying homage to H.C. Andersen.

Paying homage to H.C. Andersen.

After momentarily reminiscing over the literature of my kindergarten days, we walked into Tivoli Gardens, and were immediately transported into another world. It is at once a flower park and an amusement park, with rides both classic and exhilarating. A vintage trolley bus made its way past us, providing its passengers a tour of the gardens. I spotted arcade games from my youth (Whack-a-Mole! Frogger!), and retro food carts selling cotton candy and popcorn. The park has its fair share of food pavillions and restaurants too, to cater for those whose growling stomachs require more substantial fare. A huge screen dominated one of the many green open areas in the park; facing it, benches, chairs and bean bags – some empty, others occupied. Perhaps there was a concert later that evening, or a football match screening. Either way, it looked like it was going to be good fun. A bride and groom strolled casually past us, hand in hand. A wedding photoshoot? Or the ceremony proper? A good choice of venue either way, I thought.

Frogger! Yes, I'm that old.

Frogger! Yes, I’m that old.

 

Popcorn - an amusement park staple.

Popcorn – an amusement park staple.

Nice ride, kid.

Nice ride, kid.

Getting ready for a concert, perhaps?

Getting ready for a concert, perhaps?

Tivoli is at once an amusement park and a garden.

Tivoli is at once an amusement park and a garden.

Luckily for them, it didn't rain.

Luckily for them, it didn’t rain.

Had we the luxury of time, we may have gone on a ride or two. But ours was a short trip, so it was enough to just walk through the gardens and savour the sights and sounds of the world’s second oldest amusement park.

Our next stop was the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, an art museum founded in 1888 by Carl Jacobsen, the beer baron. The winter garden in the centre of the Glyptotek is particularly lovely, and would be a nice place to relax and have a cup of coffee. The museum itself houses a surprisingly good collection of sculptures and artifacts from Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, and Rome, as well as an impressive collection of French Impressionist art – Degas, Renoir, Sisley, Monet and Cézanne, namely.

The Ny Carlsberg Glyptothek.

The Ny Carlsberg Glyptothek.

The winter garden.

The winter garden.

There was even a painting of Muci! Or Muci’s great, great, great, great- 19th century ancestor, rather. Well, actually it was a painting of a white cat. A random white cat. It could’ve been any old white cat, but I’m sticking to the “Muci’s ancestor in the court of some European King” story, though. That’s more fun.

Muci! What are you doing here?

Muci! What are you doing here?

While we were perusing through the hallways and the rooms, we heard singing. A choir performance! In a museum! I rushed through the halls, following the sound of harmonious voices, dragging The Mister along. It was a nice little treat, listening to the mini-concert; but we couldn’t stay for long. As we walked out, I had a look at their flyer: Cikaderne, they’re called. Cicadas? Am I right? Anyone out there who can speak Danish? Well, cicadas or not, I loved it!

The acoustics of the museum was perfect for the choir performance.

The acoustics of the museum was perfect for the choir performance.

Having gotten the day’s fill of music and art, we walked eastwards to the “islet” of Slotsholmen, where in 1167, Bishop Absalon founded a fortress, around which what is now Copenhagen began to grow. The ruins of the fortress now lie beneath Christiansborg Slot, the palace complex which now houses the Folketinget (the Danish parliamentary chambers).

Christianborg Slot.

Christiansborg Slot.

We walked across Marmorbroen (the Marble Bridge), into the palace courtyard and southeastwards towards the canal, passing through Det Kongelige Bibliotekshave (the Royal Library gardens) on the way. The Royal Library itself has two parts: the original, 19th century red-brick building, and the “Black Diamond” – a stunning glass-and-granite landmark by the canal.

The original red brick building of the library.

The original red-brick building of the library.

 

The stunning Black Diamond.

The stunning Black Diamond.

The banks of the canal were lined with people in deck chairs, soaking up the sun and enjoying the view. We sat on one of the benches in front of the Black Diamond to rest our weary feet and enjoy the view. Actually, only my feet were weary. The Mister has soles of steel and was pretending to feel sorry for me, while secretly smirking at my aching calves and back. I couldn’t really fault him, though; the itinerary had been prepared entirely by none other than yours truly, and in so doing I had overestimated my stamina. I realised this, but I wasn’t prepared to admit it just yet; my pride had to be protected. Aching feet notwithstanding, I signalled that we should go on – but oh, look! Three men in kayaks paddling down the canal! Let’s just watch them go by first, shall we?

Taking a break by the canal.

Taking a break by the canal.

Not giving in is one thing, but when circumstances hand you a convenient excuse, you milk it. 

After the kayakkers had paddled away, leaving me with no excuse to prolong my benchwarming stint, we (read: I) soldiered on. Next destination: Christianshavn and Christiana, home of Denmark’s alternative, counterculture community.

Christiana was … interesting. Colourful murals and graffiti cover the walls of what used to be naval barracks. In the Green Light District, in the heart of the Christiana neighbourhood, people are asked to abide by three simple rules: “Have fun. Don’t run. No photos.” As we walked around the area, we saw groups of friends casually chatting over drinks and cigarettes and pot. Every so often we would be overtaken by a drunken man, stumbling along.

I must have stuck out like a sore thumb.

As interesting and colourful as it was, I was glad to leave.

Christiana.

Christiana.

Final order of the day: dinner.

Christianshavn has quite a number of notable restaurants, Noma being one of them. We didn’t dine there, of course – even if I had wanted to, our trip to Copenhagen was a last minute, post-exam holiday, and I doubt we would have gotten a table. Instead, we went to Viva, a restaurant housed in a small ship moored along the dock. We walked in and were shown to a table. Before we had time to peruse the menu, a waitress came up to our table and asked for our drinks order.

“Hmmm…. Do you have lemonade?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, we don’t. We don’t drink lemonade in Denmark.” 

“Oh? You don’t… Oh. Ok.”

The waitress smiled apologetically.

“Do you have… ginger ale?”

Her eyes lit up. “Sure!”

“Great, I’ll have that, then.”

“Of course!”

They don’t drink lemonade in Denmark? Was she being serious? Do they not have lemons? And sugar? Despite the absence of lemonade, the food was delicious and the service was friendly. A lovely end to the day.

Dinner on a boat: a lovely end to the day.

Dinner on a boat: a lovely end to the day.

Inside the boat-restaurant.

Inside the boat-restaurant.

The food was good.

Oooohhh yum.

 

Highlight of the day? Definitely this:

 

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