The most picturesque part of Copenhagen, the Nyhavn Canal quarter, is one of the 17th century legacies of Christian IV. Known as Christianshavn, the sun sparkling on the water alongside the long row of colourful old gable houses is fronted by sidewalk cafes….ahhh, our first cappuccino stop is truly pleasurable. Wooden boats at the waterway’s edge are reminiscent of the city’s maritime history.
Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875), wrote his first fairy tales in #20 of this canal street around age 30, having moved here from the village of Odense where he was born. I can remember at age eight being giddily shocked by the Emperor’s New Clothes. His fairy tales have been translated into more than 125 languages. It was interesting to learn how well-travelled he was and that he published travelogues. What fun it would be to read one!
Go to Our Copenhagen Photo Gallery to see more sites of Copenhagen
The long pedestrian streets are another of our favourites with the bustle of people, shops and eateries of every description (“pedestrian” used loosely as often the crowd divides like the red sea to allow for passing vehicles).
After our first sunny day, the change in the weather is like someone threw a switch. We are faced with cold rainy days with violent wind gusts, but we resolve to not let this deter us, and relish the sun making an occasional teasing appearance, with Rick camera-ready to catch some blue-sky shots.
We can hear the fun exuding out of Tivoli Gardens from the street, and decide to meander through. An amusement park that has been around for 160 years must be doing something right…and it is! Everywhere is blazing with colour and action – carnival games, rides with names such as Demon and Vertigo, and of course a twisting, turning, scream-inducing roller coaster. There’s also an aquarium, theatre, and food pavilion after food pavilion.
Another day we follow the harbour front to the grandiose Gefion Fountain, depicting a scene from Norse mythology. Goddess Gefion ploughs through waters with her four sons, which she has turned into oxen, to create the island of Zealand. Alas the beasts perish from exhaustion after this daunting feat. (It is the1908 work of Danish sculptor, Anders Jensen Bundgaard.)
A little further we come to a forlorn lady sitting on a rock at the water’s edge – The Little Mermaid. Which of course is in honour of another Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, yet this fair maiden has been given grief over the last decades. She was painted over by feminists in the 70’s, beheaded by renegade artists, and was saved in the nick of time from being blasted with explosives. It is no wonder she looks so forlorn.
The Copenhagen royal district’s Amalienborg Palace is the official residence of the Queen of Denmark, Margrete II and her family. The palace’s four Rococo mansions originally were home to noblemen, until 1794 when Christiansborg Palace was razed and the Danish royal family were in need of a new home.
It is easy to see why Rosenborg Castle was Christian IV’s favourite palace – which he built for himself in Dutch Renaissance, with a moat and expansive gardens. It is now a museum showcasing 500 years of Danish history through portraits, paintings and furnishings.
Rick’s eyes light up seeing the Old Stock Exchange, imagining the fortunes won and lost. It dates back to 1640, built by Christian IV, in what else?…his beloved Dutch Renaissance style. Four dragons with their tails twisted upward grace the spire on top, as well as three crowns representing the common union between Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Trade and commerce was carried out here until 1974, and the original wooden pylons still support this expansive structure.
National Museum (Nationalmuseet)
Ancient Burial Remains! My archeological passion spikes in anticipation of seeing the remains of people that walked the earth as long as 5,000 years ago – people that worked, played, laughed, cried, were amazed, and were bored.
From these excavated bones X-ray analysis and CT scans can show their health during different periods of their lives, and sometimes how they died. Carbon 14 dating reveals the time period when they died. From those whose soft tissue remained in a preserved state, DNA and other technologies can reveal other biological factors (such as malnutrition and even what their last meal was), plus information is gleaned from the clothing and jewelry and items left in their coffins.
Out of nine bodies in this museum, eight were found buried in sand or clay, and one in peat bog, but all were discovered on one of the many islands that make up Denmark. Here are three, each with their own story (find others in our flickr photos).
The Vedbaek grave, found in Northern Zealand (one of Denmark’s largest islands), held a woman of about 40 and a 3-year-old child. There is a hairpin and a bird’s bill by the woman’s head. The child is believed to be a boy from the two flint knives by his side. Both wore tooth and bone beads around their necks made from deer, wild boar, elk, and bear. The cause of their deaths is unknown, although the woman had suffered an earlier heavy blow to the head.
This man was found in an oak coffin near Arhus Jutland. His high level of preservation was due to the unique qualities of the turf mound in which he was encased. His death is said to have occurred in 1345BC! He must have been a handsome fellow with his thick dark curly hair.
Now for Huldremose Woman – the bog body – found in Jutland in1879. She lived 2,300 years ago, and died around the age of 40. Her last meal was rye and seeds. It is thought that she was strangled as the woolen string used to bunch her hair was also around her neck. She was dressed in a plaid skirt and scarf of sheep’s wool and two large leather cloaks; her quality attire browned by the bog was once blue and red. New chemical analysis of this clothing indicates she travelled a long distance.
A bit of bog science – the preservation is due to the bog’s inhospitable conditions for the survival of bacteria that decomposes human bodies, and as Huldremose Woman exemplifies, this cold, wet, acidic peat also preserves clothing and leather, as well as wood and metal.
We move through the museum’s displays of Denmark’s Viking Times (800 to 1050AD). Most interesting are the Rune stones – used in memory of the dead. Transcribed from Old Norse, the inscription on this one reads, “Thorgor Toke’s son raised this stone in memory of Mule, his brother, a very good pegn.”
In total this sizable museum spans Danish prehistory from 13,000 BC (plus antiquities from other countries, including an Egyptian Mummy) right up to Danish 21st century stories.
If you can think of food after the burial remains….it is traditional food time!
Smørrebrød – These open-faced sandwiches are Danish to the core.
We partake of this traditional fare at Café Europa, near Copenhagen Town Hall. Each piece of black bread is heaped with a different topping. One has chicken salad with asparagus and bacon. Another has fish fillet with remoulade (which our server explains as, “a type of mayonnaise sauce that we Danish love, and you will too”. The third has sliced hard-boiled egg and hand-peeled shrimps with mayo and fresh dill. A wonderful medley of tastes! We shared one order with two glasses of Tuborg beer, for $70CDN… but that’s Copenhagen.
I glance over at my Finance Minister Rick shortly before we are to leave Denmark. His calculator is emitting smoke…or is it his laboured breathing? With a look of consternation he tallies, shakes his head, then re-tallies…until there is no mistake – our 5 days in Copenhagen came to $2,113 or $422 CDN a day – including accommodation, food, entry fees, and travel (a whole week in Lithuania was a total $447 CDN).
….But sometimes if you want to see something GREAT, which is our summation of Copenhagen – you have to say, “så må det være” (so be it.)