Denmark is one of the places I wanted to go on this trip. I’d read a lot about the country and culture and thought it would be interesting to see it for myself. I also have a friend living in Copenhagen who studied at Mizzou last semester. My friend, Sarah, also has a friend living outside Copenhagen so we decided to book plane tickets and head out the weekend of April 8-11. I have to say Denmark is one of the most interesting places to visit. Although I didn’t get to see any of the countryside, Copenhagen definitely embodies all things Danish.
It started once again with an early Thursday morning. Sarah & I met up around midnight to walk to the bus station. 1 am we left and headed for Madrid. 6 hours later, we hopped on the Madrid metro and headed for the airport. Our flight to Copenhagen was 3 hours but the interesting Argentinean businessman next to me kept it interesting. He travels to Denmark and the U.S. to bring hunters down to Argentina to hunt doves. Apparently its a lucrative business and he gets business from a lot of Danes. Who knew? We touched down in Copenhagen and were met by Sarah’s friend before I found mine. We set up a meeting time and place for Sunday afternoon and went our separate ways.
One of the first things any outsider would notice about Copenhagen is how incredibly quiet it is for a city. I read somewhere that there are more bikes than there are people and I totally believe it. Hardly anyone has a car and bikes rule the road. There are bike turn lanes and stop lights and the bike lanes are as wide as the sidewalks. My friend also mentioned that its illegal to honk your car horn unless its an emergency. What a switch from Spain where people lay on their horns if someone is crossing the street too slowly. As a result of less gasoline in the air, there’s obviously less pollution. The city just feels cleaner.
We got to my friend’s apartment, I took a quick shower, and then we headed out to pick up an extra bike for me. I never thought riding a bike would be hard but I wasn’t used to a taller seat and riding a bike in a city just as you would a car. After figuring out how to start pedaling and then hop on the seat, I felt a little more at ease. It was still a bit scary so we stayed on the back roads. It was a drizzly outside so we decided to stay close by for dinner. We went to a little cafe called The Laundromat Cafe which was quaint and cozy. I noticed a poster of Obama that read something like “Barack Obama and his family are welcome at The Laundromat Cafe anytime they wish.” I should have taken a photo. We spent the rest of the night hanging out and watching Romeo & Juliet.
Friday (April 9) we slept in a bit. Had a nice little breakfast and set out to find the Royal Danish Guards before they marched to the Palace for the changing of the guards. We got there in time to see them march out of their barracks in step and out of the big gates onto the street. Everyday, the guards march from their headquarters for about 20 minutes through the city to Amalienborg Palace where the Queen & her family reside. My friend was a trooper and played tourist with me as we followed the guards to the Palace. They literally take up a lane of traffic, stop at stop lights, turn corners, and don’t wait for people to get out of their way. They’re all very disciplined as you would expect, marching in step and looking straight ahead. Can you imagine not knowing that happened everyday and suddenly the Royal Guards are stopped at the red light next to you?
Danish Royal Guards
We got to Amalienborg Palace, saw the changing of the guards, and then stood in line to tour the section of the Palace that had just been renovated and redecorated for Prince Frederik VIII, the crown prince, and his family. I was lucky to be in Copenhagen then because it is only open to the public for a short while. We couldn’t take photos inside but it was expectedly beautiful. It was obvious that it was designed by a younger generation, the art retained the feel of a royal palace but definitely had a modern twist. It was nice to see something updated in such an old traditional building.
Amalienborg Palace with the Queen inside
After our tour, we headed for the Marble Church which might possibly have the largest dome in Europe, at least in Denmark. It was MASSIVE. We found a little cafe nearby to have smørrebrød, traditional Danish fare of an open faced sandwich with lettuce and meats or potatoes. It was delish. Then we did possibly the most touristy thing to do in Copenhagen, a canal tour. The main canal makes it onto most Danish postcards for a reason. Little narrow houses all lined up and painted in different pastel colors. How very Danish. We did the canal tour, saw the Opera house, a few military places, a house where H.C. Andersen once lived, among other things. We hopped off and walked down Strøget, the longest shopping street in the world. We walked down by city hall and then headed back to pick up a few things for dinner.
We had a lovely dinner of pasta and chicken which I have missed dearly in Spain. We hit a few bars that night and I tried Danish beer. Tuborg is delish.
Saturday, I hit the city by solo. I decided to not try to find my way around on a bike by myself in the city, so I figured out the bus and got off somewhat near where I intended. I started out at the Statens Museum for Kunst, The National Art Museum. They had a great modern art collection which I really enjoyed seeing. After walking a bit and getting my fill of the galleries, I walked through Kongens Have (The King’s Gardens) for a while. I came across Rosenborg Palace where the crown jewels are held (I think) but decided not to go in and keep moving. I walked to a little grocery to get a few things to snack on for the day, waited in line for about 20 minutes, then got to the counter and the cashier wouldn’t accept my card. I look more Danish I suppose so everyone spoke to me in Danish first. It was a little embarrassing to be up at the counter, not understanding Danish, and having everyone wait on me before I realized I just had to leave the stuff I was planning to buy. The nice thing about Denmark is that nearly everyone speaks perfect English and is very polite. I decided to find an ATM and get a little cash in case I needed it. I got 100DKK out (~$18) Foreign currency is always cool to see. Some of the Danish Kroner have holes in them! So cool!
I hopped the metro to the Christianshavn neighborhood. I was excited to go up in the spire of the Church of Our Savior. It is the tallest in Copenhagen and just reopened. I got off the metro and walked towards the tall spire. The inside of the church was absolutely gorgeous and unlike many of the cathedrals I’ve seen in southern Europe and the UK. There also was a choir practicing inside which added to the environment. It was nice to sit and relax and listen to the music. I headed for the entrance to the spire and had no idea what was in store. 300 feet to the top and 400 steps, you can climb all the way to the tip top of the tower. To get to the top of the spire required rickety wooden staircases that were incredibly steep and full of people. At times I couldn’t see where I was stepping, just putting one foot in front of the other. I made it too the very top and had great views of the coast and Copenhagen. The skyline of Copenhagen is pretty flat and dotted with red tiled roofs. The only things towering above them are the characteristic church spires. Another thing to notice are all the wind turbines. Denmark is well-known for its progressiveness with the green movement and the wind turbines are a visual reminder.
Spire, Church of Our Savior
Church of Our Savior
Choir, Church of Our Savior
View from Church of Our Savior Spire, Copenhagen Skyline
After climbing back down the rickety stairs, I made my way outside and set out to find the famous Christiania neighborhood. Christiania is the hippie neighborhood that is associated with squatters and anarchism. Its full of organic delis and people sitting outside (mostly high) playing their guitars. Pusher St. is the main drag and is famous for the marijuana sold there (although its illegal now). There’s little stalls set up selling everything from pipes to bongs and the area smells of hash. There’s also a large sign warning people not to take photos. Bright graffiti covers every inch of space and the houses are made of things gathered from the city and set in bombed out buildings. Although to some outsiders it might seem like a scary area, everything I’d read before said that the people there are friendly and peaceful. It was such a crazy experience to walk through but I never felt unsafe, even by myself. All the people who live there are proud of their community and want people to come check it out for themselves. There’s a large sign over one entrance reading “You are now entering the EU.” It really is a beautiful place, full of bright colors and “trash” turned into functional things. Everyone recycles and there are huge bins everywhere you look full of wine bottles and paper. All the walls surrounding the commune are full of street art and I stopped to watch a few taggers as they added to the colors. Christiania is seriously one of the most interesting, coolest places I’ve seen.
Say NO to Hard Drugs
I headed back toward the main part of the city and walked down some side streets. I loved all the architecture. I ended up back by Amalienborg and the embassies and decided to try to find the American embassy. It was a FAR walk and totally not a pretty enough building to be worth it. I did come across a military enclosure island area thing that had a really pretty windmill and church. I spent about 30 minutes walking all the way around the island to get to a bridge so I could get to the windmill. IT was worth the walk. I finally found the American embassy, took a picture, and then an important looking man yelled at me to stop. I walked back through a different part of the city and saw more pretty buildings. I headed back to the main plaza and city hall by Grand Central Station before stumbling upon the correct bus stop to head back to the apartment.
Flats in Copenhagen
Windmill I stumbled upon
Possibly the UGLIEST U.S. Embassy ever!
More Danish Flats
The next morning (Sun. April 11), we had a leisurely breakfast before heading to the cemetery where Hans Christian Andersen is buried on our way to the metro stop. The cemetery was really pretty and we got a few shots of me riding a bike. My friend dropped me at the metro and I was on my way to meet Sarah at the airport, make our way back to Madrid, then hop the bus to Sevilla before getting in at 4am. Home at 4:30am…as usual.
Tomb of H.C. Andersen
I’m so glad I was able to make this trip. I learned a lot and it was cool to see what I had read about. The city is unbelievable and more Americans should visit. We could definitely learn a lot. My friend was a great host and we had lots of conversations about our shared experiences of being a student abroad. Everyone go to Copenhagen!