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The traveler: An expected journey This time it's the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden & Norway before England again for several weeks and on to Croatia.


DENMARK | Monday, 20 August 2018 | Views [95]

View from the top of the tower after 400 steps.

View from the top of the tower after 400 steps.

Like all cities there are certain similarities wherever they are; the hustle and bustle of daily life as thousands of people go about their business, even as you set out to explore the place with new eyes. In Copenhagen I learned to look left and right before crossing the streets not just for the cars, but for the extra lane of bicyclists going each way on their separate bike lanes from the vehicles. Apart from being convenient, and fun bikes are also a much cheaper option than a car, which carries a hefty 100% sales tax with its purchase or “Buy 2 get 1” as our tour guide said. 

I’m loosely following Rick Steve’s travel suggestions for Scandinavia with the American/Canadian friend I’m traveling with for most of the next two weeks. However we took Rick Steve’s suggestion in Copenhagen somewhat in reverse and ended our stay there with the city walking tour. For almost an hour and a half we learned about the great strides the Danes have made in providing for their society as a whole while walking around the sites of Copenhagen. Apparently in Denmark not only is college free, but students are paid $1,000/month as a stipend in college completely free from return payment. When someone goes to jail they receive training for a career upon their release with only a 10% recidivism rate. Half of parliament is composed of women, who passed the laws including the provision of 6 months fully paid maternity leave with partial pay beyond that, and in pre-school Danes are taught to appreciate each other’s differences. Those are just a few of the amazing things the Danes have done, and it extends to how they treat refugees as well.

Several hundred years ago things were a different story. Denmark was an absolute monarchy, and no expense was spared on splendid castles like Rosenborg, and places like Christiansborg, which are much more enjoyable when you let the tour group in a different language get ahead of you. In the Rosenborg palace the most memorable room for me was the small room covered from floor to ceiling with tile, each one depicting tiny scenes, and the room itself housing “the secret” an early version of the toilet we take for granted. Back in the day this wastewater led directly into the moat. Perhaps another very good reason not to try breaching it. 

At the Christiansborg place the room we spent the most time in was the banquet hall (seating literally hundreds of people) with tapestries created over 10 years by 31 weavers in what I would call a modern art design of Danish (and world) history by a contemporary Danish artist. It’s rather like looking at an eye spy picture; the more you look the more you find. Even American JFK made it into the one for the twentieth century, which also depicts soldiers in gas masks, golden jewish stars, and the heroic effort the Danes made to take the Jews to safety via boats to Sweden.

It’s hard to believe, but after walking through the crown jewels gold starts to seem rather meaningless and commonplace (along with the other rare stones, ivory, and amber). There was even one elaborate pendant that had a “tooth pick” on the left side and an “ear pick” or little spoon on the right side. The impressive ivory display, including a 1-2’ model ship is rather a double edged sword: admiration for the craftsmanship, and sadness at the enormity of the tragedy for the elephants that died for this collection hundreds of years ago.

Long before even the early Danish royalty though the nordic peoples in Denmark had a fascination with gold and created dozens of golden bracelets, bowls and other items on display in the National Museum. Considering they were created over a thousand years ago (I don’t remember the exact date) their craftsmanship is very impressive. At this point in time they revered the horse as a divine creature that pulled the sun across the sky each day.  

As a break from all of the museums and reading we started the second day off in the Botanic Gardens and Butterfly house. One of the first glass houses had a distinctly sweet spicy smell, while another rather a bitter smell that we couldn’t quite place. Among some of the plants was a vanilla been plant, banana plant, and plants which apparently can have a stinging affect for a year after you touch them! Stepping into the butterfly house was amazing as dozens of butterflies fluttered around, as light as a dandelion fluff in the air. By far the most impressive butterfly was the Blue Morph. An iridescent blue with probably a 4” wing span it would rival almost any jewel. Unfortunately for me it closes it’s stunning wings to reveal the rather less striking brown exterior as soon as it lands, so it’s very hard to photograph

However from the top of the tower at the Church of Our Savior the scenery stood perfectly still what seemed about 100’ feet below. Four hundred steps earlier we started up the wooden staircase feeling the wear in the center of each step from two and a half centuries of shoes making the same journey. The stairs became increasingly narrow until they were almost a ladder coming out of a very small door onto the spiral staircase on the outside of the tower (with a sturdy rail of course) for the final ascent. I loved it, but my friend was a little more way of the height. All of the steps were well worth it because below you lies all of Copenhagen.

For a different view of the city we also took a canal boat tour, which actually inspired the climb to the tower after seeing it from below. Though a bit touristy, it was a great ground map for the other things we visited in the city. With a Copenhagen card, like the ones we got that morning (about $100 for 48 hours) it’s free, like so many other top places of interest. If you take the canal boat tour be sure to sit on the right side so you have fewer heads in front of you for most of the sites you pass.

For lunch we had a couple open faced sandwiches or smorrebrods, not to be confused with the large meal known as a smorgasbord. It would be nearly impossible to be vegan here, vegetarian would be hard, but vegetarian with the exception of fish is easy. It’s hard to see your bread under everything that’s pilled on top, and a fork is a necessity! 

The best place we ate was our final evening out when we headed out to the Refshalevej area of Copenhagen, clearly an earlier industrial zone, but now being transformed into an up an coming place. After finding one place too expensive, and one place primarily serving drinks we ended up at the Reffen, a food market with dozens of choices between the impressive collection of little food trucks, even including some organic offerings. We ate our respective dishes of crepes and Thai noodles on one of the many picnic benches with a view of the harbor and background music from the stage at the food court. We both agreed we definitely be back again if we were in Copenhagen.

Tags: botanical gardens, christansborg, church of our savior, city walking tour, food, national museum, reffen, rosenborg


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