Copenhagen Trip Recap

Trip Start Oct 24, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Denmark  , Zealand,
Wednesday, October 24, 2012

After just about two months of working at the new job, we were rewarded with a five day holiday at the end of October in celebration of the "sacrificial" holiday (called Kurban Bayram here, and Eid al-Adha in the rest of the Islamic world). During this holiday, families traditionally buy a sheep, goat, cow, or other animal to slaughter and share with their family and others. Fortunately for us, we'd been able to get out of Istanbul every year during this time, so we hadn't been subjected to the bloodshed thus far (though, to be fair, I've been told that you wouldn't encounter it on any street in our part of town).

In late August, we started searching for possible destinations. After consulting the school calendar, it looked like we would have five days off, so we made sure to keep in mind the short timeframe and the likely weather in late October. I considered places I thought would be relatively warm; Konrad opted for those in the northern reaches that would probably be chilly and short on daylight. In the end, I conceded and we agreed to give Copenhagen a try. The weather there is typically more mild that time of year than in neighboring countries, and we were both keen to check out Scandinavia. Worried that the fares would increase if we waited much longer, we bought our tickets at the beginning of September.

The next day at school, we were chatting with our coworkers about everyone's travel plans and came to the horrible realization that Wednesday the 24th was only a half day for us, meaning we would finish school at 12-1pm. We had booked ourselves on the morning flight from Istanbul, leaving at 8:40am -- an obvious problem. Fortunately, after checking around the department, we were able to use a personal day and get that Wednesday off: crisis averted. 

In the end, none of it mattered: a few weeks before the holiday, the government declared the whole of Wednesday the 28th an official holiday, officially canceling school for the day and effectively saving one of our precious personal days. Below is a short recap of how we spent our time in Denmark and Sweden; more detailed entries will follow with pictures later.

Wednesday, October 24th - Copenhagen, Denmark: 
We flew into Copenhagen and had the whole of the afternoon and evening to explore the city. With the remaining daylight hours, we toured the university's lovely botanic gardens (full of gorgeous autumn colors), the neighboring Rosenborg Castle and its gardens, the city center, and the famous Tivoli Gardens (which were all decked out for Halloween). Once night had fallen, we made our way to the Round Tower to take in the view of all the city lights at night, then capped the day off with vegan sushi and organic Japanese beer (oh, Scandinavia, you so crazy).

Thursday, October 25th - Copenhagen, Denmark:
We decided to stay in Copenhagen one more day to better orient ourselves, and opted to move out of the city center. Our first stop was the fabulous Copenhagen Zoo, where we spent a good almost three hours oohing and ahhing at the adorable animals (even a baby leopard!!). We were in the right neighborhood to check out the Carlsberg Brewery from there, so took the self-guided tour and imbibed in a few delicious, complimentary cervezas while learning about the rather impressive history of the Tuborg, Carlsberg, and Jacobsen family of beers. The sun finally came out while we were admiring the beer bottle collection, so we decided to make a move to one of the outdoor locales we wanted to check out. A bus and some fancy footwork later, we found ourselves in hip Christiana: a liberal, laid-back neighorhood/commune/community enclosed within an old military barracks/base (I'm clearly a little vague on the specifics).

Friday, October 26th - Lund, Sweden: 
Since we were little more than a stone's throw away from Sweden, we wanted to make it over there for a day at the very least. Based on a former Istanbul expat's advice, we chose the university town of Lund instead of the bigger city of Malmo. After exploring the campus and the beautiful cathedral with its astronomical clock, we threaded our way through Kulturen, the town's outdoor museum.

The town was fairly small, so we were able to cover it and still have a little bit of time left for something else. With the mere two days we had left, it seemed like a good idea to try and tick off one of the other things on our Denmark list, so we trained it back across the water and up to the city of Humlebaek and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art for a spectacular self-portrait exhibition.

Saturday, October 27th - Hillerod and Helsingor, Denmark: 
We initially didn't have any intention to explore Denmark apart from what Copenhagen had to offer. However, during our visit, we learned a bit more about some of the castles outside of the city that were covered on our Copenhagen Card and became intrigued. As a result, on Saturday, we spent the entire day outside of the capital. First we took the train to Hillerod, a very charming town northwest of Copenhagen, and home of the splendid Frederiksborg Castle and Baroque gardens. The afternoon was occupied in the northeastern town of Helsingor and at Kronborg Castle, also known as the castle from Shakespeare's Hamlet. A splendid day all around, to be sure.

Sunday, October 28th - Copenhagen -> Istanbul:
Our flight left Copenhagen in the early evening, so we tried to squeeze in the rest of the things we'd hoped to accomplish, but to no avail. With the time we had, we were able to check out the harbor in Nyhavn, the Little Mermaid statue, a canal tour around the city, St Frederik's Church, and the National Museum, but had to skip over a number of things still on our list -- more reason to make a return trip, I suppose! 

Despite our attempts to keep it cost-effective by renting an apartment and making our own food most of the time, it was impossible to completely avoid the costs associated with expensive Scandinavia. That said, I'd do it all over again (even in spite of the absolute freezing temperatures!): the people were crazy friendly (and oh so organized and polite), the architecture was eye-catching and unique, and the history was rich and varied. We had a wonderful time and are intrigued to see the rest of Scandinavia!
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