Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Europe Day 2 to 5: Copenhagen

With H.C. himself, next to the City Hall

Aaah...Copenhagen. I arrived there with a huge inward sigh of relief. You don't even know how happy I was to see my friend, Ms. R! I doubt she even knows. She met me at the airport, and I felt so spoiled and lucky to have such a good friend.

As soon as we got in her car, I knew it was going to be interesting. Right in front of me, stuck to the windshield, was a manual clock (kind of like the ones boutiques use to let you know what time they will be back). From what I understand, these manual clocks are used for parking in the way that we use meters in the US, but they are on-your-honor. Interesting, right?

While Ms. R. explained to me that many restaurants would be closed because it was Easter (I arrived on Good Friday), I noticed how empty the streets were around Copenhagen. It was a strange sight since any holiday in Southern California is an excuse to be out and about. I should note that it was cold, and by "cold," I mean colder than Amsterdam.

After settling in to my very own room, we went out for lunch (food story later), and then on to Christiansborg Palace. This is when the snow really started to come down, and actually stick. But, touring the palace was an indoor thing, and the only other palace I have ever been in is the I'olani Palace in Hawaii. I was impressed with Christiansborg. Everything was so rich in color and decor; and twice fire threatened it. I believe it was during the second fire that fire fighters were not allowed in because the palace floor had just been cleaned. This is why I love history.

Christiansborg Palace

My Copenhagen stay was nice and easy. Ms. R. gave me the best directions and so I got around by myself quite easily when she needed to rest (she's going to be a mom soon), or when she had errands to run (in Copenhagen you need to do your grocery shopping on Saturday, if not, on Sunday, you are SOL). This was also an easy city because everyone I encountered willingly spoke English. But what fascinated me most were the runners. Apparently, Danes like to run. They run even when it's ridiculously cold. I must admit I am a little envious at their dedication and level of fitness.

There were also a lot of people on bikes. I was thinking about doing a bike tour, but it was too cold. Shucks.

Even though it was too cold for me to be on a bike, I did get to see a good amount of sights as I adjusted to the nine-hour time difference. I walked from the Gefion Fountain and the St. Alban's Anglican Church (it's made of flint) to the Little Mermaid statue. The fountain is a pretty cool sight - it is enormous for one, and while it was not running when I was there, I am sure it is amazing when the water flows. The Little Mermaid is kind of a let down. She's not very big, and of course there are tons of people all around. I suggest you read the Hans Christian Andersen version of the story - it is much darker and more interesting than Disney's version.

The Little Mermaid

From the Little Mermaid statue, I walked along the water, and came across a pair of swans! How ironic, considering I had just come from the Little Mermaid statue. In the event that it's not obvious, Hans Christian Andersen also wrote the Ugly Duckling. I continued until I reached the Amalienborg Palace (which is next to where Queen Margarethe II and her husband live). As I walked through the square, I noticed the mass of people to my left - they were waiting for the guard to change. I continued walking toward a copper dome, because I thought it was the palace. Really, it is the Marble Church. It is beautiful - inside and out. I loved the box you see as you exit the church. It reads, "Til de Fattige," which means, "To the Poor."

Interior of the Marble Church

We also visited the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, an art gallery founded by beer brewer, Carl Jacobsen. The collection was interesting, but even more intriguing was the tropical garden. I forgot for a moment that it was cold outside. This is where I saw my first Rodin sculpture. Rick Steves says they have one of the original Thinker sculptures; it is miniature compared to what lives in Paris.

The highlight sight of my trip was experienced on a beautiful and sunny Easter Sunday. Ms. R. drove me out to Frederiksborg Castle (I think about 30 minutes outside of Copenhagen). Despite the cold and semi-frozen bits of land and water, this place is beautiful. I cannot even imagine what it looks like in the spring and summer. There are gardens, a moat, fountains...oh, and the castle itself. I recommend you use the free audio guide provided by the castle - the interior of the castle is essentially a museum exhibiting paintings, furniture, and history.

Frederiksborg Castle

What blew me away the most was the Royal Chapel. I have not been in many churches, and this was my third European one. Wow. The chapel dates back to 1620, and while it is ornate, it is breathtaking. The upper level walls are adorned by coats of arms (so cool), and the wooden organ is as old as the chapel. It is still used for royal and commoner weddings.

The Royal Chapel in Frederiksborg Castle

The last day of my Copenhagen stay was my birthday. We ate lunch at one of the city's top-rated restaurants, visited Nyhaven on a sunny day, and I walked to the Stroget (their giant shopping mall). This also happened to be opening day for Major League Baseball in the states, so my friends had a party. We watched the Yankee game (thank goodness for things like, and ate a ton of food.

Nyhavn on a sunny day

I am so glad I got to see a part of Scandinavia. I love that I got to watch a city go from cloudy weather to bright sunshine. It is amazing to watch a city come alive with people just because the sun is shining (something I take for granted living in Southern California). If it was not for my friend, Ms. R. and her husband, Mr. D. living in Copenhagen, who knows if and when I would have visited. I know it was cheating a bit on the solo trip thing to stay with a friend, but it was just what I needed.

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