Copenhagen - Aug 9-14
Aug 14, 2010
|August 9, 2010
Our first foray into Scandinavia began really when we got off train in Copenhagen just before 11am, the train having arrived about 30 minutes late. We’d made a couple of brief stops in other towns along the way but with the curtains closed and being half asleep we couldn’t claim anything else! At the station we bought ourselves travel passes for the next 72 hours and hopped on the bus for the short ride to our hostel. The ride was only about 15 minutes but according to Google was around 5 or 6 kms into the city centre so we decided to make full use of public transport here rather than waste all of our days walking!
At the Southern Cross hostel we were met by Kylie, the owner who showed us up to the top floor (of course) and our room. The room was huge with a nice little kitchenette area, a couple of sofas and a double bed. The bathroom had two of everything – showers, toilets, sinks. The room was obviously big enough for a lot more than two people but when we reserved it we had reserved it as a private room but we felt almost guilty having so much space! Compared to the cramped 6 bed dorm we had in Amsterdam, this room could easily accommodate 8 beds without even using bunks! Oh well, we will enjoy the room while we have it!
We got our stuff sorted and then jumped back on the bus into the centre. We wanted to have a bit of a look around and get some ideas of where and what to eat. According to what we had read and some of the brochures we had collected, food here was going to be expensive and so we were on the search for cheap buffet lunches. We’d seen an advert for one in a magazine we had and so that was our first port of call. The restaurant was called Riz-Raz and it was a vegetarian buffet. This was great though as the salads were lovely, the falafel was good and the wide choice of dips and sauces was good enough for me to go through two plates of food! We decided to just have tap water with it but even this wasn’t free. In fact, one litre of tap water was 15 Danish Krone, about $3! Eek! For tap water! We learned our lesson pretty quickly on that score and decided that in future we’d just take our water bottles out with us. Still, the food was really good and as we’d stolen food from the hostel in Amsterdam for our dinner on the train last night and had only a banana for breakfast, we felt we deserved a bit of a treat.
After lunch we went to the Rundetarn, a large tower which overlooks the centre of Copenhagen. The inside winds around and upwards until you reach the final few stairs and head out onto the viewing platform at the top. The spiral ramp along the way up had plenty of little hiding places along the way and these were great fun for annoying children to hide in and attempt to scare their parents as well as being a pain in the bottom. Anyway, at the top there was a nice view over the city. The tower isn’t that tall but then none of the buildings in the city are either so you could still see all the way to Sweden!
In one of the rooms part of the way down was an art exhibit featuring works by a Tanzanian called Edward Tingatinga. He had decided to try and paint some of the images he remembered from his life and as a result he managed to make money selling these pictures in his unique style to some of the tourists who came through his village. He was unfortunately shot and killed just four years after taking up painting, at the age of 40, and the exhibit showed not only a selection of his works but also from other artists who had copied his style. The paintings were really bold and bright and full of colour but I couldn’t imagine hanging one of them in a room at home, bar maybe a couple which might suit a child’s nursery room! The ones of Dar es Salaam showing lots of people having sex certainly weren’t suitable for any room you might use for entertaining! Still, it was an interesting exhibit and something a bit different!
After the Rundetarn we walked across to the island of Christanshavn and to the hippy commune of Christiania. The canals and pretty waterside properties around Christanshavn quickly gave way to graffiti and semi-derelict properties as we finally found the entrance to the hippy hang out. For some reason, Elizabeth wanted to see this and I think she expected some kind of mystical society where everything is peaceful and everyone works together and works hard. What I saw was what I imagined – a load of scruffy looking unemployed people painting on walls, selling crappy “souvenirs” to stupid tourists (like us), a handful of people selling drugs and a number of shady characters I didn’t feel comfortable walking amongst with my expensive camera. You weren’t allowed to take pictures in the area but it wasn’t as if they had anything to hide – the hippies just preferred it if you paid $2 or $3 for a poorly reproduced postcard of the commune instead. No thanks.
After getting back on a bus towards real civilization we stopped at the cheapy supermarket to get some dinner provisions. Our kitchen only consisted of a toaster, microwave, kettle and fridge so finding and making dinners would have to be inventive! We managed to pick up some potatoes, some sausages and some soup stuff so we’ll see what we can do! For tonight though, we just had some cereal as neither of us felt very hungry after the big fat lunch!
August 10, 2010
Today was our first full day around the city but, more importantly, our first proper night of sleep for quite a while! As a result of the latter, the former started a little later than we’d planned but we reckoned we’d earned a lie in! After a nice relaxed breakfast at the hostel we decided we’d not had a beer for a day so reckoned on rectifying that. Given it is around $10 for a beer in the city, we decided to do the brewery tour at the Carlsberg Brewery and make the most of the drinks included with that.
The brewery tour was quite interesting but it was very similar to the information displayed at the Heineken exhibit, just with a different family involved. The brew houses were still cool to see but I have come to the conclusion that these tours are much better at smaller places where they still actually brew the beer so you get the smells to accompany the sights. The smaller breweries too have a wider range of beers and the tour guides are knowledgeable and enthusiastic. The larger breweries just have self guided tours and at the end you drink a beer you’ve had many times before. Still, at the end of the tour we were able to enjoy two beers apiece and as they had four to try, we decided to get one of each one and share them. The beers were a regular Carlsberg, Tuborg, a Tuborg Classic and a Carl’s Special. The first two were just like regular pilsners and the Carl’s Special was quite a darkish ale. The Classic was more like an amber ale and was by far the best.
Back in the centre we found a restaurant called Jensen’s Bofhus, which are apparently a chain around Denmark and Sweden. That didn’t concern us too much but what did concern us was the steak and chips lunch they did for about $10 each! Foregoing the expensive tap water, we both enjoyed a decent steak with fried potatoes and their own special sauce and it was certainly good value for money.
Having had a couple of beers and lunch, we decided that was enough for the day and decided that no more arduous sightseeing was required today and so we hopped on the bus and went back to the hostel. There we enjoyed the surroundings and space in our room and relaxed in peace, something we are now enjoying more of when we get the chance to do it. We obviously want to see and do things in Copenhagen but we have nearly a week here and there is no need for us to rush around and do things, particularly when most of the major museums are free and we can fit them in anytime.
For dinner, we had frankfurter sausages and as we didn’t have a stove to boil water and cook them, I improvised and just boiled the kettle and left them in a covered container for five minutes to stew a bit and heat through. It was a decent little dinner and enough to keep us full after our heavy lunch. I’ll let you know if my cooking method was successful in the morning!
August 11, 2010
Our plan for today went out the window when we woke up this morning. No, we didn’t have food poisoning from the dodgy hot dogs but the weather was looking a little grim and the rain was falling pretty hard. We had planned a day trip to Roskilde but decided instead to see how the rain developed and just do some more things around the city. One of the museums was open late today so we could do a couple of museums today with no rush to go out too early. As the rain got heavier we decided to have a day of doing laundry as we certainly needed to do some of that as most of our stuff had been soaked last week in Amsterdam. The hostel owner had told us there was a launderette across the road and so we went to check it out to see how expensive it was before we dragged all our clothes downstairs. As we came out, the rain died away and the skies looked like they were clearing. Realising we’d need change for the laundry machines and we didn’t have any, we decided to quickly go upstairs and get ready and head out. As long as we could get to the museums before the rain came back we had a chance of staying dry today!
Our first stop was the Nationalmuseet which had a really good history about Denmark. We once again managed to do everything backwards and started with the section from the late 17th Century onwards. The most interesting thing for me was reading about how all the different rulers of the Scandinavian countries seemed to make agreements, change borders and gang up on others so readily. It seems that they couldn’t decide who to be friends and enemies with half the time! The more recent stuff about the 20th century was also interesting and documented Denmark’s status as neutral in both world wars, something which the Germans ignored during WWII, like they did in plenty of other places, too. The next section contained artifacts from Greek, Roman, Egyptian history and we went through that quite quickly. Why do so many national museums insist on having exhibits on these cultures which are nothing to do with them? The remaining two lower floors chronicled the Danish Middle Ages and Renaissance and Danish Pre-history, which was by far the most interesting. At school I remember studying about some of the bodies which were found in the bogs around Denmark and were aged back to the Iron Age. It was interesting to see some of the bodies they had here as well as some of the other items they had found. We are actually going to see two of the more famous bodies later on when we get back to Denmark. Anyway, amongst the things we saw were some amazing animal ornaments made from amber, the remains of a woman and child from around 5,000BC, a very detailed flint dagger, a massive collection of lurs (trumpet like instruments), the Egtved Girl (a young girl buried in 1370BC in an oak coffin grave meaning the body is quite well preserved) and another woman found in a peat bog who was savagely murdered around 100AD (savagely mutated, severing on her arm and string around her neck which were all preserved by the bog – unlike other bodies found, she was still fully dressed). Despite the needless information about the other civilizations, the rest of the museum about Denmark was really good and contained some excellent descriptions.
The museum took a lot longer than we were expecting and by the end of it we were starving! Continuing our theme of cheap lunches, we had spotted a pizza place yesterday with a pizza and salad all you can eat buffet for about $12 each. We ensured we filled up good and proper on some actually very good pizza and decent salad, too. These lunchtime specials and buffets were proving to be pretty decent and although they aren’t cheap they are helping us keep within our budget. I wonder if the rest of Scandinavia will be so easy?
In the afternoon we headed to the National Gallery for Denmark. The modern art exhibits were interesting as always and it was good seeing some Danish artists take on it. The museum did have this habit though of filling every gap of the large walls with pictures which meant it was pretty difficult to see anything of the top ones. The rooms full of Danish Art from 1750-1900 didn’t take us a whole lot of time to go around and equally the “older foreign art” didn’t either. They had some Picassos, a Rubens or 20 and a couple of Matisse paintings but nothing special compared to what we have seen elsewhere. We’re getting really spoiled! However, amongst the modern art exhibits we were able to witness some video clips which were, well, rather weird. The first video was filmed by Bjorn Norgaard and Lene Petersen and related to the sacrifice of a horse and its mutilation by another artist as a message against the Vietnam War. The video showed the horse being walked around and then cut to the body of the horse lying dead on the floor. It then continued to show them cutting the horses head off and putting it on a stick and then dismembering the animal. We were both glad it didn’t show the actual sacrifice but were both left questioning what purpose the video was supposed to have and what effect a person really thinks they are going to have on a political situation by such acts.
The next was by a lady called Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen and was a clip of her singing a song which spoke of her nationality and how she perceived her relationships based on her being half-Filipino along with how most men saw other races. The video was really funny but the words (translated into English) were just really weird and quite crass, seemingly systematic of a racial divide which might’ve existed a generation or so ago but apparent in a song written and recorded in Denmark in 2005. I always imagined the Scandinavian countries to be quite laid back and welcoming to other religions, cultures and races but this video did make me wonder if that perception isn’t quite the truth.
The final video was just disgusting and didn’t have any explanation with it about why it constituted art of any kind. I didn’t note the name of the artist but the video consisted of a woman pissing into a glass and then drinking it. I know we saw scenes like this in the Sexmuseum in Amsterdam and I know people sometimes find such things titillating, but how is a video clip of such an act deemed worthy of being art? I guess it might depend on your description of what “art” actually is but for me it would’ve been more at home in the Sexmuseum or an adult video shop. There were plenty of children walking around the museum too and I saw one mother hurriedly point her child in the opposite direction.
There was also a small collection of photography which was pretty good although I still feel I’m reaching my limit on some of these kinds of displays now as so many of them just aren’t original and I don’t just mean to photographs. The art museums are all blending into one bar the odd really famous piece or two and many of these museums which have photographs don’t seem to have any kind of theme. I think the reason we enjoyed the photo exhibit in Amsterdam so much was the use of a theme and different photo techniques. I guess I am being spoiled.
Back at the hostel we settled in for the evening and cooked baked potatoes for dinner. It wasn’t very adventurous but still pretty good with some tuna and cheese and smeared with butter!
August 12, 2010
We took a trip out of the city today to the small town of Roskilde. We were able to buy an extension on our travel passes which saved us quite a bit especially as our travel passes ran out this morning and so we were basically getting a cheap return trip! The train ride only took about 25 minutes but it seemed much longer. We were engulfed by a group of old ladies out on a day trip and they seemed intent on having noisy conversations and they all had an inability to sit still. This is fine when you aren’t 80 years old and can stand alright but trying to walk up and down a fast moving train isn’t easy with those old, aching joints!
Anyway, the small town of Roskilde was really nice to wander around and we started off at the Roskilde Cathedral. The cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site, like so many others (!), and over 20 ruling monarchs of Denmark are buried here including every monarch since 1534. The royal tombs inside the church range from being quite understated to huge and ornate and most of the kings are accompanied by their queens (some more than one). The earliest tomb here, depicted by a column within the cathedral, is that of Harald Bluetooth who died in 986 and has no connection to wireless communications. The inside of the cathedral is in stark contrast to many we have seen – the walls and ceilings were predominantly white and the items around the church which were gold seemed to add to the ambience rather than create a mass of tackiness and an egotistical show of the wealth of the church. The original church on this site was erected by Bluetooth himself although this was wooden and was succeeded by brick construction later in the 11th and 12th centuries. The building, both inside and out, was impressive and certainly took over much of the small town skyline.
From there we walked through a large parkland area which was the site of the old medieval town here in Roskilde. It wasn’t long before we were at the end of the large Roskilde Fjord and faced by the Viking Ship Museum. After paying the hefty entry fee, we saw a blacksmith at work making nails, some partially reconstructed Viking ships and some life-size, floating models of others. The models were available for you to take a sail around the fjord in but we decided to skip that extra fee! Inside the main museum we watched a video about one such ship which had been rebuilt and then used to sail from Roskilde across the North Sea, around the top of Scotland and down to Dublin. This was done over about 45 days in 2007 and after a load of repairs and rest, the crew continued onwards in the summer of 2008. This time they headed around Land’s End towards Portsmouth before heading back across the Channel and North Sea back to Roskilde. It was amazing seeing the vessel in the open sea and some of the conditions were awful with really large swells and waves.
This vessel had been made based upon a ship called Skuldelev. At a time when the Danish and Norwegians were not on great terms, it was thought that the brothers of the Danish king who were in exile in Norway were planning to attack their own country with the help of the Norwegians. The Danish decided to build a barrier across the fjord and to make this barrier they scuttled five large boats. This particular boat was the largest of those scuttled and was thought to be an ocean-going warship. The five ships were discovered under the water in the mid 20th century and excavated not long after. The parts of each ship which were excavated were fitted to frames replicating the size and shape of each vessel so that we can now see what they would’ve looked like. It was impressive seeing the size of some of these ships but even more so seeing the film of a full size model taking on the North Sea!
I had said this museum was quite pricey but it didn’t turn out too bad in the end. We were given a survey to fill in and were told we could get a drink when we handed them in. We had plenty of time and thought sitting down with a drink would be a good idea so we sat down and filled them in before collecting our tea and coffee. We were also given a voucher for free admission to some other sights around Denmark and a couple of them were near to places we were hoping to go to. As it turned out, many of these other sights were quite expensive and just by filling in the form we reckon we have saved ourselves about $35 plus we got two drinks free which were each about $4!
After walking back through the town we jumped on the first train back and were grateful to board just as the rain started. Back in Copenhagen we renewed our travel passes, buying just a one day ticket for Saturday and then getting a bus back to the hostel, stopping briefly for some groceries along the way.
Dinner consisted of a very yummy goulash soup and a baked potato, accompanied by a couple of Tuborg Classic beers and was followed by some chocolate and “From Russia With Love”! We’re living the high life here in Copenhagen!
August 13, 2010
Today was a rubbish day, for more than reason. Having decided we needed to do laundry today we woke up to find a beautiful sunny day. Unfortunately the big pile of laundry hadn’t disappeared so we continued with that plan. The laundry didn’t take too long a thankfully the launderette was across from the hostel and by lunchtime we were done. It was still annoying that after yesterday’s rain we had a lovely day and had nothing to do. We’d even not bothered buying a travel pass for today as we knew we were doing the laundry so we had a long walk to get anywhere!
For lunch we walked along our road and stopped at another location of the steak house we had gone to the other day, both again picking the cheap lunch special! The service was better here and the food just as good although I managed to annoy the waitress a little by paying in mostly 1 Krone coins! (We had a bit of an issue with one of the laundry machines and it gave us about 60 Krone in change!)
After that and a brief supermarket stop we headed back to the hostel where we lazed around and did very little. I was able to get my travel journal up to date as I was a couple of days behind and also got the Amsterdam entry uploaded to the internet. We are still trying to keep up to date but some days you just can’t be bothered and, like right now, I am about 4 days behind so trying desperately to catch up during a bit of down time!
In the evening we had more baked potatoes and both agreed that we’d had just about all we could take of that particular dish! We also watched “Inglorious Basterds” which was pretty good and quite funny and fairly typically Tarantino – a good way to spend a couple of hours!
August 14, 2010
As we thought, we woke up today to the glorious sight of rain but unlike yesterday we had some stuff we wanted to do. We spent a lazy morning having breakfast and listening to the rain hitting the windows but we eventually decided we should just head out. We headed first for the tourist information centre where we wanted to find out a couple of things about the ferry schedule for tomorrow and whether they had luggage lockers in Helsingor – the guy at the info centre wasn’t able to answer either question so that was a bit of a waste! We popped into Hard Rock and bought a magnet (god knows how many we have now!) and then jumped on another bus heading towards our furthest stop for the day – the Danish Resistance Museum. This was similar to the Dutch one in Amsterdam and had some interesting detail on the Danish involvement in the war from a position of neutrality during WWI and then an attempt at the same in WWII. The Germans claimed they needed control of Norway to create a good northern coastal base for their navy and as a result the Germans were soon occupying Denmark on their way north. The Danes didn’t resist too much as it was almost seen as a short term thing but as the conflict in Europe wore on the Danish royalty and government was slowly removed from the picture. The people didn’t like this and gradually small pockets of resistance formed. It was interesting seeing the small tactics they used, like sabotaging sections of railroad to slow German trains and how the Allied forces would often parachute in equipment such as explosives for the resistance to use.
Just outside the museum was the large Gefion Fountain which is right by the harbourside. Just along from the fountain is where the statue of the Little Mermaid usually sits but at present she is in Shanghai for the World Expo. We walked long the harbourfront and there were lots of military ships around and plenty of people queuing to get aboard for a look around. We went on to one of the larger ones and were just in time to watch a helicopter rescue operation. A dinghy dropped a man into the harbour water and the helicopter maneuvered overhead and winched down a rescuer who brought the “stranded” man back to safety. It was quite funny seeing the large crowd which gathered to watch the display and everyone giving them a big round of applause afterwards. Just at the end of the main harbour was a small canal where the area of Nyhavn stood. This is an area we had seen is postcards a lot and were trying to find. The canal is lined with various brightly coloured houses and, along with the boats in the canal, they all look so picturesque lined up.
By this time it was well into the afternoon and even though we’d had a late breakfast we were getting quite hungry. We got a bus back into the centre rather than walk as the rain was still coming down. The traffic was heavy so the bus seemed to take an age but we were glad that it stopped right outside the bar we wanted to go into! Even better was the fact the bar had a happy hour between 4 and 6pm and with the extended bus ride the clock had just ticked past four! The bar was called Streckers and it was part of the Vesterbro Bryghus and served its own brews. Happy hour was 2 for 1 beers and this meant that rather than paying nearly $10 for one beer it was just $10 for two! We ordered two of the wheat beers to start with, deciding not to do the sampler as two if the beers it included were Carlsberg and Tuborg which we’d tried at the brewery. Of course, we weren’t just thirsty but hungry also and the burgers here were priced pretty reasonably so we put our order in for a couple of those. The burgers turned out to be really good and you could actually taste the meat unlike the crap you get at many places while the bun was a ciabatta roll which was very tasty.
After that we carried on our attempts at rain avoidance by jumping on a bus back to the hostel and getting inside before we got completely soaked like we did in Amsterdam! Back at the hostel we just hung out and enjoyed having so much space before we moved on to somewhere new, finishing off whatever food we had leftover for a late supper.