So what do I know about Denmark? It’s the bit of land that looks as though it’s about to be gobbled by Sweden and Norway, it had its share of Vikings in the day, Hamlet, Princess Mary and a friend I knew many years ago called Dane.
Armed with this extensive knowledge, my partner and I decided to take a trip to Copenhagen last weekend, for the simple reason that it was the weekend and it’s possible to get there by train in just under 4 hours. If you’ve never lived in Perth, or Australia, this fact may not seem exceptional to you. Take my word for it though, it’s pretty exciting.
Having been there, what is the strongest impression I have of the city? I would have to say it’s cityness. By this I mean not only the size of Copenhagen, but the permanence, heaviness and reality, the feeling that I got in Stockholm, Sydney, Rome and Paris. An entity unto itself. In comparison Göteborg seems cosy and small.
Then there are the bikes. Oh the bikes! They have double storey bike racks, and still bikes litter the streets. I had thought Göteborg was bike mad, but I knew nothing. If I’d arrived from another galaxy and was looking for the dominant life form in Copehagen, Ford Prefect style, I’d have been shaking handlebars and probably getting knocked over by a speeding Dane.
Jokes aside, it is good to see how people are embracing more sustainable and healthy forms of transport over here in Scandinavia. Copenhagen is apparently the Green City for 2014, and I bet if they could work out a way to make bike-powered heating they’d be set for centuries to come.
Aside from that, Copenhagen was a fascinating place to explore, rich in history and full of diversity. There were castles, some containing the current royal family, others open for tourists to wander around and see objects from what seemed an unbroken history of kings and queens. One that we visited was Rosenborg Castle, which had been built as a summer house by Christian IV, and in time became somewhere to store the things no one needed so much any more.
It was full of personal items, and paintings and even an old chair with a built in whoopee cushion which sprays water when you sit down, locks you in and then dribbles water onto the floor when you stand up, as if the victim had just wet themselves, no doubt with mirth at the hilarity they were undergoing. Oh the laughs they must have had.
A few floors up from the chair was the throne room, decorated with tapestries and leading to the coronation thrones of the absolutist Kings and Queens of Denmark. I take this to mean that in the modern era of reduced absolutism these aren’t required any longer, though they were still guarded by three almost life sized silver lions, whose duty it is to guard the body of the Danish King when he dies. The thrones were made of narwhal tusk, for the King, and silver for the Queen, and as I saw them and approached I had to resist the urge to curtsey.
Below these, in the basement, we found the treasury. There were casks and bottles of wine from the castle, elaborate saddles that a King had ridden to his coronation on and the crown jewels. There were 3 crowns, 2 from the recent past in the typical crown design with the red velvet cap, and one a bit older, with incredibly intricate designs of angels and flowers made out in enamel, pearls, jewels, gold and silver. There was also an orb and sceptre, and racks of beautiful and precious items.
The plan had been to also visit the Danish Museum, which is currently running an exhibition about Vikings, though for various reasons we went to the Copenhagen Museum instead. In addition to being free is also displayed items found in canals and moats with details of their origins and purpose, which turned out to be fascinating.
In addition to possibly having more time there than we had (and not staying at the same hotel…), I would recommend going on a canal boat tour. Not only is there the novelty of floating along the canals, but a lot of the city can be seen from the maze of canals that run through it. Unfortunately the one we went on didn’t include Christiania, which is on my list of places for a return journey, but we got to see a multitude of grand palaces, castle and city buildings, a 100 year old mermaid on a rock and the highest rated restaurant in the world.
So what other memories did I bring from this city? A very delicious dinner in Nyhavn, wandering the cold streets to delay the return to the hotel and diversions at a bar to soften the effects of the same, rain and a stately, very well organised city, that contains a lot of bikes. I hope to go again, and perhaps see the streets from the perspective that the locals prefer; on two wheels and at speed.