Castles and Canals in Copenhagen

Trip Start May 26, 2006
Trip End Jun 18, 2006

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Tuesday, June 6, 2006

With a little under 48 hours between arrival in Copenhagen and departure for London, this was a really packed day and a half of sightseeing. There's quite an interesting sight to see as you come in to land at Copenhagen Airport - a bridge from Sweden that goes for miles and then stops on a small island with nothing on it a few kilometres short of Denmark. Turns out the island is the transition from bridge to tunnel, which makes perfect sense because they have some serious shipping going through the sound, but it looks bizarre.

Entering Denmark was strange. I followed the signs for 'non-EU and Nothing to declare' and there wasn't so much as a Passport Control booth. I found myself in the open part of the terminal wondering if I'd missed it or taken the wrong corridor. Anyway, there was a booth on my way out of Denmark, and they didn't seem concerned that I didn't have an entry stamp, so I guess it had something to do with the fact that I was coming from neighbouring Germany.

Evelina and Claus stay in the cutest little flat. It has the smallest bathroom I have ever seen. You have to sit at a slight angle on the toilet otherwise there is no space for your knees. And it is quite possible to shower and go to the toilet at the same time, because the shower is over the basin. It's compact. Apparently space is at quite a premium in the Danish capital.

After dropping off my stuff and having some dinner, we drove up the coast to have a look at some of the smaller villages north of the city. We stopped at a small yacht harbour and walked to the end of the pier. Caught the sunset from the end. That was at about 21h30, I guess.

Sunday was the fullest day. We started at Christianborg Castle, which used to be the seat of the absolute monarchy, but is now still the seat of all three arms of government - Monarchy and Prime Minister; Legislature and the Supreme Court. There are also the ruins of two previous castles - the earliest dismantled by the Swedes in the 13th or 14th century, and the second destroyed by fire a couple of hundred years later - excavated under the courtyard's of the castle. Each time the castle has been destroyed, they've rebuilt it bigger and better.

A highlight of the day was definitely a boat tour of the city's waterways from a place called New Harbour - new being relative, since the oldest building next to this canal is dated 1682. The tour was quite a good way to get to get an overview of the city and get a sense of the layout. However, walking the narrow streets, I found it difficult to keep my bearings. Luckily I had two excellent guides.

Another highlight was Christiana.

[As an aside, if you're picking up a bit of a theme in the naming of places, for the last 500-odd years the kings of Denmark have been alternately called Christian and Frederik. There's currently a queen on the throne (only the second in 1100 years - both Margrethe), but thereafter the trend continues with Frederik. And he has a son called Christian. Christian IV was the start of this alternating trend, and he built the first Christianborg castle]

Christiana is a free town which was started by a bunch of hippies in 1971. They moved on to a disused military base and set up a separate community there. Until quite recently, they sold marijuana openly on the market street - literally tables with piles of dope - but the police then started to clamp down. So the market is now more about crafts and so on.

We packed in a few more sights, including the Statue of the Little Mermaid sitting on a rock on the edge of the water, before heading back to the flat to relax for a bit and have some dinner.

The evening was dedicated to visiting Tivoli (pronounced Tiyoli) - a huge amusement park. As you know, I'm not exactly an adrenalin rush thrill seeker, so trying some of these rides was decidedly out of my comfort zone. Started with the Demon - a roller coaster doing a full loop. This was pretty intense, but not the worst. The second ride (the name escapes me) was a +- 30m tower. You're pushed to the top with, I think, air pressure where you're held by a catch while the air pressure is released. You then free fall about 20m before the air pressure builds up enough to slow you down again. Very intense! But not the worst. The worst was the Dragon This thing spins on two different axes, the second one also being reversible. Some kid ran down the ramp afterwards and joined the back of the queue. I stumbled down the ramp, and it was at least half an hour and a pint of Carlsberg before I felt normal again.

On Monday morning, we managed to squeeze in the crown jewels at Rosenborg Castle, the changing of the guard at the Queen's palace, and a very brief trip up the round tower. The changing of the guard is very elaborate. I found myself wondering if it evolved as a kind of one-upmanship arms race between Britain and Denmark.

Views from the top of the Round Tower were stunning. Unfortunately, we could only spend a few minutes at the top, before rushing back to the flat to pick up my stuff and head to the airport.

On to London...
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