Monday, July 13, 2015

Copenhagen the beautiful

We didn't have much time in Copenhagen -- two nights and one full day -- but we made the most of it. The Copenhagen airport, first of all, is so fancy! (And it merits saying, here, that there is free wifi all over the place except in the US, where it's just another way to make a bit of money off people. But everywhere else, there is free wifi in the airports, and at coffee shops and restaurants, and many public spaces.) Baggage claim in Copenhagen is very high tech; there are electronic signs indicating how many minutes it will be before the bags from each flight arrive. It was fifteen for us, so Marc did a bit of scouting to figure out the situation with buying a ticket for the trains. I wish Newark would institute the same kind of electronic notification at their baggage claim.

Anyway. So we got our bags, navigated our way through (a) figuring out which of the several different types of ticket-purchasing machines would work, (b) buying two train tickets, and (c) finding the right train. And miraculously, given who we are, we got on the right train and made it easily to our destination, Central Station in Copenhagen -- ~15 minutes on the train from the airport.

from the back -- where all the trains come into the station
such a magnificent building, with turrets, even
Our hotel was a very short walk from the station, good planning trip planner! It was a semi-fancy boutique hotel, with all-organic everything, including a big basket of organic apples on the floor by the front door, free for the taking.
the front of our hotel -- Axel Guldsmeden
the lobby area -- furs for fancy lounging, I guess
a school across the street -- sturdy old Danish architecture
on the corner -- I'd have loved to see the lights atop that building lit up,
but we never did
Unfortunately, the wifi was entirely unreliable when it was even available, and it was hot in the room, and there was no hot water in the sink. But the location was so great it was fine. The afternoon was very windy, and cold ("We prefer to call it 'fresh,'" said the guy at the front desk) so I wrapped my scarf around my neck and put on a coat and we headed out for dinner at Kodbyens Fiskebaren, a place recommended by the 'we call it fresh' guy.

bread too salty, and unusual whipped butter to start
we shared this cabbage, which sat atop mashed potatoes and was accompanied by parsley sauce
(the small green blobs -- VERY good)
a "medium plate" -- the best fish and chips I've ever had, and in the foreground
that's some kind of mustard and horseradish accompaniment
Marc's seared mullet, with radish ribbons on top and a lovage sauce, SO good
We started with "snacks," which was a small plate of four deep-fried cod cubes, extremely delicious and presented in a newspaper cone, and two pieces of super crispy fried fish skin. We were both surprised that I ate that, but it was very good. The wait staff were all super skinny young people dressed in black and sporting tattoos -- they'd have fit easily in Austin. And the music? Benny Goodman, Stomping at the Savoy, which made me think of my kids when they were little because they loved that.

The next morning we took a canal boat tour to give us the biggest bang for our buck, time-wise, and we're so glad we did. We got to see the highlights of the city -- the parts that front the canals, anyway -- and learn a bit about the place too.

here's where we caught the boat -- such a leafy, beautiful place Copenhagen is
the new harbor, carved out by some king, which one I've forgotten by now
but he loved the look of Amsterdam, so that's what he went for

the spire there on the copper-topped building is made of four dragon's tails -- and this building
(coincidence, they wonder?) has never burned down, unlike the one next to it which burned three times
the drawbridge went up so that sailboat could come through, while we waited.
sudafed and a Tuborg to the rescue against my headache
the oldest building we saw on the tour -- 1600s, 1634 maybe? -- a brewery, which was an important building
because the navy paid its men partly in a beer ration, something like 10 liters a day. The tour guide
said that wasn't as much as it sounded, because the beer was very weak -- just slightly more
alcoholic than water, and in fact the alcohol was there to kill the bacteria. Yeah. Sure. :)
the fancy new opera house, built and financed entirely by one rich guy who donated it to the city.
it's enormous -- two football fields could fit on that roof, and it goes 5 floors below ground/water.
and this is the new theater. When it opened, the first performance, quite appropriately, was Hamlet.
the queen lives in the dark-roofed mansion on the left, but I was interested in that domed roof beyond
that Deco-styled green building used to be the terminal for the ferry to Sweden, but since they built a bridge
and tunnel, the building has been converted to hold restaurants.
This "storm bridge" had extremely narrow openings -- in fact, the boat barely squeaks through, less than an inch
on either side. This is the bridge that determines exactly how wide and long boats on the canals can be.
It was designed to limit foreigners' attacks (i.e., the Swedes) on the city.
After our boat ride, we wandered around some more and then found our way to Freetown Christiania. Squatters took over the place in 1971 and just wanted not to have to follow anyone else's rules, and they wanted to smoke all the pot and hash they wanted to smoke. The city finally just let them be after a bunch of efforts to get everyone out of there, and tourists flock there. We walked through and stopped for a batch of hummus and a shawarma sandwich.

exalting one drug and crying out against another.
There's a big beautiful church nearby -- we stopped in to see it, too:

a big, fancy organ inside -- held aloft by a pair of elephants (??)
and you can see the church's spire from so many parts of town -- and if you're a different
kind of person than we are, you can also climb the stairs that spiral it, to the top
After a rest, we did some research and found a little restaurant for our last dinner in Copenhagen -- Chez Bruno, House o' Meat (OK, La Maison du Boeuf). I had a gorgeous and so delicious vegetarian dish, and Marc had grilled tuna steaks. SO good, I especially loved mine.

there it is, next to Det Ny Teater
Marc's grilled tuna steaks, beautifully prepared
And mine -- and gosh, I wish I were eating it right now! Goat cheese and olive tapenade in phyllo, and then a
spread of perfectly cooked vegetables, with some cold cucumbers and radishes for contrast. SO good.
After dinner, we walked back to the old part of the city for one last chocolate waffle (which sadly didn't actually have chocolate in it) and an ice cream cone. There was a kind of scary busker nearby so we walked on a different street and came across the sheer wonder of a Dixie jazz band playing Sweet Georgia Brown. I nearly fainted from happiness -- what a funny world, what an easy shot of bliss. Me, a Texan/New Yorker, standing in a square in Copenhagen on a warm summer Sunday night, listening to a Danish Dixie land jazz band playing Sweet Georgia Brown. Isn't that the funniest combination?? People were dancing and the night was soft and I was laugh/crying. I love that.

As we were going to sleep, there were fireworks going off in the neighborhood of the hotel for some reason we don't know. The next morning we were up and out for the train to the airport, Copenhagen to Toronto to New York. Travel days themselves are rarely fun, and that one was no exception, though nothing truly horrible happened -- and our luggage arrived with us, a newly appreciated treat.

So I learned that I really love Copenhagen, which was a surprise. It's such a beautiful city, filled with lovely people who love to bike no matter the weather. There were a great many homeless people begging, I hadn't expected that. And of course it was expensive (though no match for Norway, nothing could be). We had two cinnamon rolls and one cup of coffee for $35, just to give an idea.

This is one of my favorite things about traveling, the way you can find new places to love.

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