Weekend visit to Copenhagen

Trip Start Apr 15, 2003
Trip End Sep 01, 2011

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Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Hi everybody!
Well, we started Dutch lessons this week. We each get 2 hours per week of individual training. We can now (sort of) say good morning, good afternoon, good evening, see ya later, please, and thank you. Sometimes we can successfully conjugate verbs, but that's a little dicey. And we have some clue how to pronounce things, but that's also not solid yet - especially since the 'g's are like saying a hard 'h' while clearing your throat (Chris is pretty good at the 'g's though). It's a hard language and is going to take a lot of time and effort to get even a little bit comfortable with it. We'll keep you posted on our progress.

We were originally planning to go to The Hague this weekend for the North Sea Jazz Festival. However, the Saturday tickets sold out before we could purchase them, so when KLM had a sale on airfares we decided to take Friday off and go to Copenhagen instead. It must have been ABN AMRO (the bank Mel works for) American weekend because there were two other couples that are from America working in Amsterdam and were also in Copenhagen at the same time.

After successfully getting to Copenhagen, we were ready to find our way to the private house where we were staying. Chris had written down the address and the metro stop, so we went to the information desk to see how to navigate this. The information desk suggested that a bus is more direct, so we got on the bus. However, the bus driver informed us that the route has changed so we will have to transfer at some point. So, we're on the bus riding through the suburbs of Copenhagen. At one point the driver tells us to get off and transfer, so we got off. Chris decided that we're close enough to be able to walk - despite the fact that the streets we are on do not appear on the map that we have. But, we looked at the map at the bus stop and agreed to walk, which in the end worked out well until we tried to find our lodging. Chris had written down "some street" 50 as the address. There was no "some street" on the map, so we tried something close. There was no building at number 50 on this street, so we thought maybe it was - the next street over. As we were walking toward number 50 on this street it started to look very seedy. Lots of graffiti and unsavory characters. We both agreed that it did not look like such a good place to spend the night and were getting a little worried. When we get to number 50, it is an apartment complex and the person's name that we are looking for is not on the door, so we decide we are still in the wrong place. Since all of the reservations had been done over the phone, we thought maybe the owner had said 15 instead of 50, so we went back down the street to number 15. We found it!! This was a much nicer neighborhood. There were flowers growing along the sidewalks, much less graffiti and no unsavories. We had the bottom floor of a little 180-year-old house in back of the house on the street - a room with table and chairs, a bedroom, and private bath. The owners lived upstairs. We were quite happy to have found the right place and to see that it really was quite nice.

We quickly learned that Copenhagen is much more spread out than we had anticipated. Our room was located in a nice neighborhood with some good jazz clubs, restaurants and bakeries, but a 15-minute walk from the closest main attraction. There really is no central area like there is in many European cities. This could be one reason that the city has 2000 free bicycles available during the summer. They are supposed to be locked at stands all over the city, but we had trouble finding them. 2000 sounds like a lot of bikes, but some do not work properly (chain is off or stretched) and when people get one they don't let go of it. If you are lucky enough to find one, you put 20 kroner (about $3) in the lock as a deposit and take the bike. When you return the bike to a stand and lock it, you get your 20 kroner back. On our second day in Copenhagen we were lucky enough to find 2 bikes. Actually we found 5, but only 2 worked properly. This enabled us to ride around and see much more of the city than would be possible on foot.

There are many pretty things in Copenhagen. Many of the buildings have twisting spires or domed tops.

There are a lot of fountains and sculptures everywhere and lots of little plazas or squares. The one sculpture that everybody goes to see is The Little Mermaid - created in tribute to the Hans Christian Andersen book.

We also went to see it and really don't understand the big attraction. Yes it is cute and it looks nice in the harbor but it is not that great. We've decided that there must be a rule that every European city needs one goofy sculpture for the tourists to flock to. Brussels has the little boy taking a wiz, Mannekin Pis; Copenhagen has The Little Mermaid. We're not sure, though, why The Little Mermaid draws more attention than say the statue of the woman with two babies and water squirting out of her boobs (we couldn't tell if her kids were also whizzing). Some things we may just never understand. ;-)

While in Copenhagen, Chris got to visit 3 flea markets and, as usual, found some bargains. It also happened that there was a Jazz Festival in progress, so we were able to hear lots of live music. The festival was spread all over the city. Some performances were free, some required tickets; some were indoors, some outside on the plazas. We spent a lot of time in the plazas enjoying the free jazz and eating our lunch or having a beer and people watching.

The produce is amazing here. We found raspberries the size of boysenberries! Also had true Danish pastries - full of cinnamon and sugar and very yummy. And, of course, we did some of the tourist things - Tivoli, Christianborg Palace, and a harbor/canal ride.

Tivoli is interesting because it is the oldest amusement park in Europe - 160 years old. It is right in the middle of the city - beside the train station and across from city hall - and is like a very small, very relaxed Disney - sort of. There are beautiful gardens, lots of rides, the usual fair food and several places to listen to music - classical, big band, salsa, and jazz.

They have cotton candy that is still hand spun on the stick (not shoved in a bag) and they make caramels by hand. We saw whole extended families there - grandma, mom and dad, teenagers, babies.

It was really nice. At 11:00 fireworks were set off from the top of the music hall. We could see the people manually lighting the fireworks off. Another example of the Europeans not being as concerned (paranoid?) about safety issues as we are in America.

Before we came to Copenhagen, people had told us that it reminded them of Amsterdam. Here are some things we noticed in comparing the two cities:

Amsterdam: Everybody rides really old bikes and locks them securely to an immovable object with at least 2 very strong locks.
Copenhagen: A lot of people ride really nice European mountain bikes and lock them only with a flimsy axle lock that would take somebody 2 minutes to break.

Copenhagen: 2000 free bikes for tourists.
Amsterdam: What is a free bike? Oh, you mean a bike freed by a thief.

Copenhagen: Lots of push up bras. Cleavage everywhere.
Amsterdam: What's a bra?

Amsterdam: Belgian beer served in special glasses to allow the proper aeration. Very strong and heavy with complex flavors.
Copenhagen: Clean refreshing pilsners. No complexity, just clear and pure - just as a pilsner should be. Available in plastic bottles with pull top caps.

Copenhagen: Lot's of folks smoking tobacco in pipes.
Amsterdam: Lot's of folks smoking something else in pipes.

Amsterdam: Almost everything closed on Sunday.
Copenhagen: Really almost everything closed on Sunday.

Amsterdam: Soft drugs sold in "coffee shops" all over town.
Copenhagen: Soft drugs sold from booths/tables on one street only - Pusher Street.

Amsterdam: Really good coffee sold in really tiny cups.
Copenhagen: Really bad coffee sold in really big cups.

Amsterdam: Very condensed city center with lots of canals.
Copenhagen: Very spread out with canals mostly on the edge.

Copenhagen: Jazz Festival spread all over the city, including many free events.
Netherlands (ok, not really Amsterdam): Jazz Festival confined to one venue with payment of an entrance fee required to enjoy any of it.

Amsterdam: It's sunny and beautiful. No, wait, it's cold and rainy. Oh, no, it's sunny and beautiful again.
Copenhagen: ditto.

In the end, we enjoyed Copenhagen more and more as we spent more time there. Having the jazz festival in progress was a stroke of luck. We really appreciated that it was not confined to one venue and that we were able to spend so much time outside just listening to music and enjoying the day.

Our next long weekend trip will be to Prague, Czech Republic in several weeks. Chris found some photos from 1890 through 1950 of the canal house where we are living and we'll post those later this week.

Our best to all of you, hope summer in the USA is as nice as it is here.
Melanie and Chris

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