Copenhagen – The Merchant’s Harbour

Two weekends ago I embarked on a somewhat impromptu trip to Copenhagen to see my friend Heidi who is studying there for a few months and who was celebrating her 21st that weekend. I had never been to a Scandinavian country before and the sun was shining, the air was freezing and the people were smiling – all in all I have nothing but good things to say about the ‘Merchant’s Harbour’.

So I arrived extremely late on the Thursday and was really tired, was met by Heidi who I hadn’t seen since March, jumped on the underground and sat at the front of the driverless trains gazing at the tracks and sort of pretending we were the drivers – that is, until we realised we had gone about seven stops too far and had to get the train back in the other direction! We finally arrived at Heidi’s place where she is staying as a lodger to a lovely Danish couple and baby, at about midnight, and went to sleep ready for the exciting weekend ahead.

We put the sight-seeing on hold for one day and decided to head to the city’s most exciting theme park – Tivoli. With crazy rides, lots of places to eat and a live outdoor gig every Friday evening, it was a great day (and evening!) out. We were joined by Heidi’s Italian friend Chiara and we did all sorts of things that included sitting in the grass and performing magic card tricks, eating sandwiches, chicken and chips, pizza and fruit on a stick covered in chocolate, and of course, sampling the rides! There was one ride in particular that we got pretty fond of – an old-fashioned type of train with several drops that we went on no less than eight times, definitely providing a highlight of the day. At 10pm, Danish pop group Alphabeat – famous for their hit songs in the UK Fascination and 10,000 Nights of Thunder – took to the Tivoli stage which was great fun, and was also included in the price of an entry ticket. A nice bargain in a country that is not exactly cheap.

The next day Heidi awoke a whole year older, and I gave her the presents I had bought her, each of which came with a post-it note on the front with a clue as to what was beneath the wrapping paper – yes, I like to make people guess and work for their gifts. After the room was basically turned from a lovely clean space into the remains of a bombing ground, we set off to explore the city of Copenhagen. The first place we visited was the beautiful Nyhavn – the famous 17th century waterfront lined by brightly coloured townhouses. These houses have now all turned into a great selection of bars, cafes and restaurants, and so we decided to sit outside in one of these, watching the incredible historical wooden ships that are moored in this area.

With blankets draped around us (nearly all of the restaurants in the city with outside seating areas provide blankets for customers to keep off the biting chill!), we ordered some smørrebrød – traditional Danish food. Smørrebrød which translates from Danish into ‘bread and butter’ are open sandwiches that come with all sorts of toppings and are very visually appealing. They consist of a piece of buttered rye bread and come with toppings including smoked eel. As a cheese lover, I decided to sample the Danish brie, grapes and celery one which was delicious. Heidi opted for eggs and tomato which also looked very good to me!

From Nyhavn we jumped on a boat for an hour-long canal tour. The tour was worth it as we saw lots of famous buildings of the city including the Black Diamond – a striking building which is an extension of the Royal Library, and the Church of Our Saviour – a baroque church famous for its unusual corkscrew spire which can be climbed up. You also get a tour guide giving a history of the area – useful and amusing when they pronounce words like ‘castle’ and ‘yacht’ phonetically. Although I shouldn’t laugh – I am useless at other languages!

So next, we tried to find the famous bronze statue of The Little Mermaid, but we had difficulty as there was a march going on about legalising marijuana which meant that a lot of roads were closed and bus routes were diverted. We did eventually find it, and the little statue that sits on a cluster of rocks by the shore was, as expected, swamped with tourists. It was later in the day however, so we managed to get our photographs with it. The statue is of course based on the fairy tale of the same name by celebrated Danish children’s author Hans Christian Andersen, who also wrote tales such as The Ugly Duckling and The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Once we had watched some lovely tourists touch the poor mermaid in a slightly inappropriate way, we headed for the beautiful Langelinie Park which contains the citadel Kastellet – one of the best preserved fortifications in Northern Europe. We strolled around, visiting the Gefion Fountain which is huge and the largest monument in Copenhagen. It features a group of animals being driven by the Norse Goddess Gefion. After we had finished taking photos of anything and everything, we jumped on the bus back to the flat to get ready for a nice evening meal out for Heidi’s birthday! This wasn’t very successful by most people’s standards but as we’re not very normal, we had a fun night that included being turfed out of a restaurant as the chef feared we’d get fat, being laughed at and thought of as drunk due to some very high, uncomfortable and wobbly shoes on Heidi’s feet and then giving up, getting a kebab, going home and watching half a film.

The next day we met up with Chiara again to take an exciting day-trip across the bridge to Malmö, Sweden. Thankfully we had our own fun selves for entertainment because, well, it turns out that Malmö isn’t all that exciting! I did, however, manage to add another country to my growing list of 26! Anyway, we walked around in the bright sunshine and cold winds, found a couple of nice squares, saw the famous Twisting Torso building from afar, went for a stroll in a nearby park, tried to get into the castle (but got there too late!) and had an expensive lunch in a posh restaurant. It was a fun day but I wouldn’t personally recommend going to Malmö -explore more of Copenhagen! I’m sure Stockholm and Gothenburg are more entertaining as cities, so I certainly wouldn’t write off Sweden at all!

On my last day in Copenhagen, Heidi was a great tourguide and showed me all of the places in the city that we didn’t get a chance to see before. As my flight was late – 8pm – we had the time to do so! We went to the Rundetårn or Round Tower, a 17thcentury tower that has amazing views over the city. It was originally built as an astronomical observatory but today houses art and historical artefacts. We then made our way over to the Amalienborg Palace – the home of the Danish royal family during the winter months – for the changing of the guard. This became amusing when the soldiers marched along the plaza and tourists marched behind them, with the politi standing nearby and making no attempt to stop it. It was hilarious.
In the afternoon we visited Chiara in her apartment as it was her birthday as well! We had yummy cake made by the birthday girl herself, strong Italian coffee and a nice chat, before catching the bus straight to the airport. It was a great weekend filled with laughter, culture, great food and friendly people. I could happily live there!

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