Thursday, October 23, 2014

Copenhagen

20130708_101714_7D_IMG_26310

We were very fortunate to be able to stay at houses our friends owned in several places, and Copenhagen was one of those.  We made friends with several of the people on the cruise we took in the Galapagos, and we’ve kept up with them by email and Facebook.  We met lots of amazing people along the way, and when you meet other people who enjoy travel as much as you do, and you’ve had shared experiences with them as well, these are people you want to hold on to.  For all the crap people talk about Facebook, it’s been one of the easiest ways for us to casually keep up with friends we met along the way on our trip.  While in Budapeşt Lana shared a photo of her gelato (big surprise) on Facebook.  Our friend Judith, who we met on our Galapagos cruise, commented to ask if we were planning to visit her hometown of Copenhagen.  When we said yes and told her when we’d be in town, she then offered to let us stay at her apartment, since hotels there are quite expensive.  We were thrilled, both just to see a friendly face, but also because as we quickly discovered, she was absolutely correct about the price of hotels. Money aisde, the notion of a stay in someone’s home and access to their kitchen was always a most attractive option.  We accepted immediately.

20130706_123430_7D_IMG_26297



Her apartment was lovely—quite hygge—and it was also centrally located in the Christianshavn neighborhood, but very quiet.  We were able to cook most of our meals (we only ate out twice for lunch) in her well-equipped kitchen, which was also a huge help to our stretched budget.  Restaurants in Copenhagen are even more expensive than the rest of Denmark.  And it was very inviting and relaxing; a perfect retreat after exploring the city.  After showing us the apartment and giving us access to the wifi , Judith left to stay with her mother outside the city.  Her generosity toward a couple she’d met for a few days nine months’ prior reminded us how wonderful people are, and how much karma we have to repay. We are forever in her debt!

20130706_163649_G12_IMG_7993_thumb

We took the metro subway from the rental car return at the airport to the station just a block from the apartment.  It was very simple and convenient, but we were within walking distance of most things we wanted to see, and so we proceeded to explore on foot.

20130706_163812_G12_IMG_7995_thumb[1]

One of the first things we noticed was the bikes.  We’d seen a lot of cyclists in small towns in Jutland, but they outnumbered the cars in Copenhagen.  The picture above was not at all unusual; 20 cyclists waiting at a red light, and not a running car in sight.  Apparently there are 5 times as many bikes as cars in Copenhagen. 

20130707_195349_G12_IMG_8037_thumb[1]

Along major routes, bikes have their own lane which is separated from cars and pedestrians by a curb.  Cyclists, cars and pedestrians all obey the law almost religiously, and are very polite to one another.  That may partially explain how few helmets we saw; mostly it's probably more cultural.

20130708_160003_310HS_IMG_8948_thumb[1]

We saw all manner of bikes; even the post office and shipping companies make deliveries using cargo bikes.  Bicycles will get their very own post in the near future.

20130708_101346_7D_IMG_26306_thumb[1]

Copenhagen is a beautiful city at the worst of times, but we managed to arrive during a singularly sunny and hot week.  The weather was gorgeous, and everyone was out and about enjoying it.

20130706_181657_G12_IMG_8003_thumb
20130707_154000_310HS_IMG_8908_thumb

We wandered across an exhibit of amazing sand sculptures, although they were roped off and you had to pay to see them up close. We admired them from afar and kept walking.

20130707_165229_G12_IMG_8005_thumb

One of the things David remembered fondly about Copenhagen was the Tivoli Gardens.  We decided to revisit it while we were there.  Tivoli is an old school amusement park; the kind with actual gardens, which are quite beautiful.

20130707_173908_G12_IMG_8018_thumb

It's an old amusement park, from 1843, and has changed over the centuries, by design.  One of the changes we saw was the addition of retail stores, though there were not very many.  We stumbled on a Bodum store, which we hadn't previously realized was a Danish company.

20130707_172443_310HS_IMG_8913_thumb

Of course, there were plenty of places to eat.  One of David's recollections from his previous visit was watching Danish families get off a very tame ride, then sitting down for a little coffee and a pastry while talking, and after a while, moving on and try another very tame ride, and repeating.  Eating is still very much a part of Tivoli, and the places to sit and eat outnumbered the rides; the area devoted to gardens was also much larger than the rides.

20130707_173551_310HS_IMG_8918_thumb

This was something we'd never seen.  Self-service "udders" of yellow mustard, ketchup, and brown mustard.  We were fascinated enough to take a photo of it. The rides have actually changed; while they still have many rides that Americans would classify as "kiddie" rides, they also have modern, high-G rides as well.  One of their game stalls offered archery, with actual, tipped arrows; another example of how the Danes expect people to behave reasonably. 

20130707_182509_G12_IMG_8021_thumb

We'd bought the inexpensive general admission tickets, and didn't pay to try any rides.  Of course we had some ice cream, which was excellent.  We just wandered, sat, and watched--it was interesting just to watch who was out for an afternoon of amusement park fun. It was a different cross-section that we'd expect at an American amusement park--an elderly woman out for an afternoon in her wheelchair, older couples holding hands. There were the requisite groups of teenagers draped over each other and shrieking over something that perplexed the rest of us, and of course children. But the attitude of everyone was ease and enjoyment rather than the insatiable rushing from ride to ride, thrill to thrill that amusement parks are here in the States.

20130707_195204_G12_IMG_8034_thumb
20130708_101714_7D_IMG_26310_thumb

On our final day we made the trek out to the harbor to see a famous lady.  She was smaller than we thought she was and it was possible to walk right out next to her on the rocks. Traveler's tip: it is nearly impossible to get a photo of Hans Christian Anderson's Little Mermaid without some idiot tourist throwing up a peace sign in front of her, or a boat of tourists behind her.

20130708_105420_7D_IMG_26329_thumb[1]

We also managed to catch the circus--the flea circus. It was admittedly all in Danish, but it was broad enough not to need much in the way of translation.

20130708_105349_310HS_IMG_8935_thumb
20130708_110121_7D_IMG_26334_thumb

The summers in Denmark may be short, but they embrace it with the vigor and enthusiasm of the recently converted.  The flowers were everywhere, vibrant and voluminous.

20130708_110134_7D_IMG_26335_thumb
20130708_110424_310HS_IMG_8939_thumb

After killing some time we realized we were near the palace, and near the top of the hour, just in time to watch the changing of the guard.

20130708_113704_7D_IMG_26355_thumb
20130708_115825_7D_IMG_26365_thumb

They line up so perfectly like toy soldiers.  We saw a miniature version of these guards at the Tivoli, which is guarded by the 10 year old version of these guys (the ones at Tivoli are also a musical troupe, at certain times of day). 

20130708_121516_7D_IMG_26405
20130708_121448_7D_IMG_26403_thumb

We spent some time touring the royal palace, which was fascinating in its position among the royal houses of Europe, and demonstrated the interconnectedness of all the royal families with the Danish Crown.

20130708_144455_7D_IMG_26435_thumb

It had been sunny and warm--but not even close to hot--and we noticed that our definition of hot was for a much higher temperature than the Danes.  In parks, it was common to see younger people stripping their shirts off and sunbathing in their underwear.  

20130708_151150_7D_IMG_26446_thumb
20130708_153247_7D_IMG_26467_thumb
20130708_160442_310HS_IMG_8949_thumb

On our last day Judith was kind enough to take us to the airport, and took us by a quaint seaside town where we had lunch and wandered around. It was great to spend time catching up with her, and seeing a part of Denmark that she loved.

20130709_121214_310HS_IMG_8955_thumb

Lana ordered a simple soft-serve cone, not expecting the monstrosity on the left.  David got hard scooped ice cream, which was then topped with soft serve and his choice of cookie. He chose the mallomar concoction that had to be squished down to get it to stay. As you can see, even the elderly pushing their walkers get a big ol' ice cream cone. These Danes have got their priorities straight.

20130709_134630_310HS_IMG_8958

And with that, we headed off for a few days in Amsterdam, our last destination in continental Europe. We were hoping to connect up with a dear old friend of Lana's and maybe enjoy some tasty Dutch cheese.  Stay tuned to see whether or not our hopes were dashed!