The City of Spires

Trip Start Sep 07, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Flag of Denmark  , Zealand,
Friday, February 18, 2011

Nadia and I decided to take a day trip out to Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark.   The city itself has just over a million inhabitants.  We took a high-speed train from Gothenburg straight to city center Copenhagen that buzzed through suburban Sweden which was mostly filled with hundreds of modern windmills.  After a ride over the extremely long Øresund Bridge which connects Swedish Malmö to Danish Copenhagen, we had arrived in very chilly and unfortunately overcast Copenhagen.

Not to be thwarted by the weather, we started off our high-speed tour by stopping by the Københavns Rådhus (that's Copenhagen City Hall in English).  The building is from the early 20th century, and is one of the tallest buildings in the city.  The inside featured some exhibitions, but we were there mainly to venture to the top of the tower.   Now, Nadia speaks Swedish and English, and Swedish is somewhat similar to Danish but not too similar.  Either way, we figured that most people spoke English quite well, but when Nadia tried to ask the policeman at the counter what we needed to do to buy a ticket to enter the top of the tower, she got a very strange response in return.  She started to ask him in English, but he interrupted her, in Danish, to tell her that she didn’t need to speak English because he understood Swedish very well.  Now, as he continued talking on and on and on to Nadia, she was only understanding every fifth or so word seeing as how she doesn’t speak Danish at all.  After the language debacle, we finally found out that the tour begins later in the afternoon, so we decided to get lunch first and explore a bit.

We meandered through the little charming streets on our way to Slotsholmen (The Castle Islet) where Christiansborg Palace resides.  The palace is where the Prime Minister and the Danish Parliament reside, as well as the Supreme Court.  The island that the edifice stands on was created to house the city’s first castle in the 12th century.  From that time, the site of the palace has changed significantly over the years.  The building today is from the early 20th century, but there was an array of palaces and castles that came between.  Like London, Copenhagen’s history is littered with fire and most of the palaces and castles that formerly stood on this spot succumbed to the flames.

As usual, photography is not allowed inside the building; however, my hands may have slipped and accidentally fired the shutter once or twice.  I managed to capture the King’s throne and other works of art in the palace, including a hallway filled with extremely modern artistic interpretations of Denmark’s lengthy history.  Underneath the palace are the remains of Absalon’s Castle (the first castle built here in 1167) and Copenhagen Castle.  Copenhagen Castle was the second castle built on this spot in the late 14th century after Absalon’s Castle was demolished.  Copenhagen Castle itself was demolished in 1731 to make room for the new Christiansborg Palace.

After our visit to the palace, we returned to the Copenhagen City Hall to climb the tower.  The views from the tower were spectacular, a full 360 degree view of the city.  They had paintings on the walls inside the bell tower to compare the size of the tower to other notable buildings around the world.  They also had the mechanism on display that calculates the time and when the bells will chime.  After we finished up at the tower, we finally had the opportunity to take the trams in the city.  The trams in Copenhagen do not serve the downtown area very sufficiently (like they do in Gothenburg) which meant that we had to walk a lot more than we really wanted to.  Either way, we were able to take the tram from where Copenhagen’s City Hall is located further north to the other side of the city.

We got off the tram near the Kastellet, a fortification built in 1662.  Today the fort is a public park that stretches along the waterfront.  Beside the fort is the famous statue of the Little Mermaid, commissioned in 1909.  Thankfully, the statue had just returned from Shanghai where it was on display in the Danish Pavilion during Expo 2010.  The statue, a symbol for Copenhagen, has been the victim of significant amounts of vandalism over the years.  The vandalism usually involves her decapitation or other body parts being sawed off.  Twice she has been covered in a burka and Muslim dress in protest of more Eastern ideologies.

We walked along the waterfront until we arrived at Amalienborg Palace, where the Danish royal family resides.  The palace courtyard could be freely wandered by pedestrians, but the guards stations in front of the palace walked along the sidewalks armed with quite large guns.  The palace, as a whole, is actually 4 identical palaces arranged in a square.  In the center of the square is adorned with a large statue; however, this statue was under renovation while I was there (of course).  Aligned with Amaliengborg Palace lies Frederik’s Church, also known as The Marble Church.  Construction began in on the church in 1749 but was hampered by budget cuts.  After over 100 years of neglect, the church was finally completed in 1894.  The church also has the largest dome in Scandinavia.

The last stop on our tour was Nyhavn, a charming waterfront built largely in the 17th century along a canal.  The canal is lined with large wooden ships and colorful restaurants.  We wandered around this area for a while before heading back to catch our train home.  Overall, Copenhagen managed to preserve its city over the years quite well.  The narrow streets lined with colorful buildings were very charming and beautiful, even in the sub-par weather.  I would love to see the city when the canals weren’t frozen over.  During the warmer months, Tivoli, the amusement park downtown, is open, and there are numerous parks and gardens located on the east side of the city that were also closed when I visited.

PS: If you haven’t caught up on yet, Copenhagen is the English name for the city.  In Danish, it is written as København and is pronounced something like "Kup-in-hown".

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