Scandinavia Summer 2008 travel blog

A happy shopper!

Up to the sky in the Star Flyer.

Night time in Tivoli.

The largest beer bottle collection in the world!!

Steph and Paul in Nyhavn.

The Little Mermaid.

An amazing sunset.


It was very hot inside our little hotel room. There was some rain at night, but nothing like we expected. As soon as the morning hours came, I opened up our windows and allowed the fresh city air to come in. The wet pavement was steaming as the sun rose above the city. Already a few cars and an incredibly large number of bicycles made their way along the glistening street. Copenhagen was waking up and slowly we were too.

Breakfast did not have the same selection we have become accustomed to in the hotels we've stayed in on this trip, but we still managed to eat enough to last us through a good chunk of the day.

We left the hotel room by 10 am and made our way to the pedestrian zone again, this time with specific stores in mind, including Royal Copenhagen, Georg Jensen, and Noa Noa. Although these designer stores were in mind, we did begin by perusing a souvenir store where we picked up a Copenhagen magnet for our collection.

After Stephanie found a cute dress in a store called Monsoon, we made it to Royal Copenhagen, makers of fine porcelain for centuries. The porcelain came in a variety of styles. This flagship store consisted of a museum on the 4th floor, three stories of merchandise, and the basement level with the “seconds” which “did not meet Royal Copenhagen standards,” but to an untrained eye look like the ones selling for twice as much upstairs. Peggy was looking forward to visiting the basement.

After much debating with herself, Peggy finally decided to buy a set of dishes. Stephanie and I helped her carefully inspect each dinner plate, salad plate, and soup bowl to complete a set of ten. The design she picked out is a new one--it came out last year to commemorate Royal Copenhagen's 250th anniversary. Thankfully, though, we were able to convince Peggy to ship them home, unlike the crystal that was purchased a couple of days ago.

It took us a while to complete the selection and purchasing of the china, so by the end we had built up an appetite. Before we went to search for food, though, we peeked into Georg Jensen's flagship store right next door. His silver jewelry and home décor sparkled in the store's lighting. Stephanie and I found a pair of candlesticks that we liked and bought them for ourselves.

Finally it was time for lunch! We wandered around the pedestrian area checking out the various cafes until, eventually, we came across a modern pub where we had sandwiches, salads, and beer.

Next came Stephanie's turn to shop. We found the Noa Noa store (a Danish clothing company that Stephanie had purchased items at when she last visited Copenhagen in 2001) and Peggy and I became fashion consultants/assistants to Stephanie. We must have spent almost as much time at Noa Noa as we did in Royal Copenhagen selecting items. But it was worthwhile for now Stephanie has some incredible outfits she can wear to school or go out.

It was almost 4 pm when we stationed Peggy in the town square near Tivoli while Stephanie and I took our shopping bags back to the hotel. Peggy was able to watch the festivities of the Copenhagen Gay Pride Week, while we walked the couple of kilometers to and from the hotel.

Stephanie and I eventually made it back to Peggy and we headed across the way to Tivoli, one of the world's oldest amusement parks.

We paid our entrance fee and made our way into the park. Unlike amusement parks at home, here one pays for each ride. At first we were going to only buy individual ride tickets, but while we were having a mid-afternoon snack at Vaffel Bageriet, I calculated out that it would be more worthwhile to buy an all-ride pass.

After Stephanie finished her Bailey's ice cream, me the rhubarb tart, and Peggy the “Tvoli Cake,” I went to purchase all-ride bracelets from the nearest ticket machine. Peggy decided not to partake in the rides, which made it easier for us so she could hold our stuff while we went.

One can easily see how Walt Disney was inspired by Tivoli and then created his own amusement park. The similarities to Disneyland are interesting, but on a much smaller and older scale. Stephanie and I enjoyed the rides tremendously. We started with one called the “Star Flyer.” It was a carousel-like swing that took us to a ridiculous height of about 10 stories. It was quite a ride and gave us a beautiful view of Copenhagen.

(What was interesting about many of the rides, but especially this one, is that the attendants made sure to have you take EVERYTHING out of your pockets and leave it along with your camera and purse in little cubbies next to the ride. Although things were safe, that made us a little nervous, so since the first ride we left everything with Peggy to hold.)

We then walked over to the “Demon,” an Asian-themed modern roller coaster that took us topsy-turvy. We then subdued it quite a bit by visiting “The Mine.” It was based on a story where little gophers help keep a dragon happy. it reminded us of “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Splash Mountain” for you get in a log shaped boat and float through the story. Next was the old roller coaster that has been there since 1914 (one of the oldest roller coasters still in operation in the world). An actual worker sits with the visitors on the train on this old wooden roller coaster and controls the speed of the train with a handbrake.

One of our personal favorites was “The Flying Treasure Chest,” in which (similar to “Peter Pan” and “Haunted Mansion” in Disneyland) you get in a chest and are flown through all of Hans Christian Anderson's stories, such as the “Emperor's New Clothes,” “Ugly Duckling,” and “Thumbelina.” We actually went on that ride again for we enjoyed it so much. When getting in, one has the option to pick English or Danish for the recorded storyteller. His voice was soothing and perfect for the magical ride!

There were a ton of rides for children, bumper cars, and more spinning and twirling rides. We went on a few more rides before it was time for dinner.

Stephanie picked out a cute restaurant next to the lake with the pirate ship across the way called Faergekroen Bryghus (Ferry Inn Brewery.) Our waiter was a character from Portugal, but had lived in New York and now in Copenhagen. Peggy and I had the lamb shank and Stephanie the Wiener schnitzel. We also had some of the brewery's beer and Peggy had some wine. We opted not to have dessert after dinner in the hopes to find something in the grounds of Tivoli. Unfortunately, though, since the cotton candy guy closed by this point, there was not much of interest for dessert...at least for me (plus it was getting a little too chilly for the ladies by this point.)

Stephanie and I enjoyed a few more rides on the “Demon” and a couple of other ones, such as “Odin Exress” and the Ferris Wheel before Tivoli was closing at 11 pm. By the time we left, the lights of Tivoli sparkled in the warm summer evening and made it a pretty walk out of the park.

We dragged ourselves down the busy street to our hotel and were VERY happy to see our beds. Even Peggy looked forward to her cot!

***************

The garbage truck at the base of our hotel woke us up at 6 am. Although we managed to doze off for a few more minutes, we started our day shortly thereafter.

We began our second full day in Copenhagen. After breakfast, Peggy did not wish to join Stephanie and me to visit the Carlsberg Brewery and Visitor Center about 2 kilometers from our hotel. So she decided to wait for us at the hotel, while we walked to Carlsbeg and enjoyed the center.

Carlsberg is one of the Nordic region's oldest breweries and tells a story about the founder and his son who created a beer empire. Although they do not export much to the United States, they have a huge Asian market and the brand (or its subsidiaries) are found all around Scandinavia. We both purposely waited to not enjoy any Carlsberg beer until we made it to its home country of Denmark.

We purchased our tickets (equaling ten dollars) and made our way to the “largest beer bottle collection in the world” totaling over 17,000 filled beer bottles. We saw the oldest bottled beer known in existence, as well as the most expensive that sells for over $400 a bottle due to its limited production. Not a single U.S. beer made it into the collection, which is surprising since we do have a large number of micro-breweries that create pretty decent and comparable beers.

Jacobsen, the founder of the company, was quite a philanthropist as well. He donated large amounts of money to the arts as well as having his laboratories share any “theoretical and practical discoveries” with the rest of the world. Thanks to this, we have better brewing techniques that allow all of us to have a better beer!

After the huge bottle collection, we visited various rooms dedicated to marketing, history and vintage advertisements, and the entire beer process from malting to bottling. The sculpture garden in the middle had a smaller version of the famous “Little Mermaid” (since he sponsored the larger one that we saw later) and a couple of Rodin's statues. Then came the stables with the brewery's draft horses. They were of a specific Danish breed of which only 1000 remain in the world. They are beautiful chestnut colored horses. Eight of them where in the stables enjoying their lunch when we came through.

Then came the first bar of our visit. The tickets included two beer coupons for each of us. This bar allowed us a choice of Carlsberg or Tuborg beer (Tuborg is accompany owned by Carlsberg now). We had one of each and enjoyed their flavor while sitting in the original beer bar of the Carlsberg brewing company.

We then walked through another collection of items exhibited relating to the company before we reached the souvenir shop.

It was crazy!!

The bus load of Polish tourists we saw coming in shortly before us where all in the souvenir shop frantically searching through all the items, clothing, and other paraphernalia before they had to jump back onto the bus. The men were trying on all of the shirts in a hurry and tossing them back onto the shelves if they did not fit. Women were collecting key chains and magnets as if the items will be lost forever.

I froze....

Stephanie nudged me out of my daze and she decided to keep me moving before I had a shock from all the chaos.

We made it to the much more serene “aroma room.” There we sampled 20 different aromas (from honey and apple to sulfur and smoke) to discover which ones are our favorite smells and how to use them to find a matching beer.

Being nerds, we were very happy smelling each of them and precisely calculating out some of our favorites. We could then use our other coupon to taste the beer in the Jacobsen Brewery Bar. We got a dark ale and the brown ale and took turns tasting each of them. We sat in the bar area for a while and watched the many tourists go by. Eventually, though, we had to move on.

We assumed that the souvenir shop was calmer now and carefully peeked in. Thankfully, the tour bus had left allowing us to comfortably peruse the merchandise. We picked up a magnet for our collection and a t-shirt for me.

Feeling well-educated on the brewing process, as well as having a much greater appreciation for Carlsberg beer, we left the visitor center. Before we turned down the street to go back to the hotel, we stopped to take a few photos at the “Elephant Gates.” The four life-sized cement elephants hold up one of the Carlsberg brewery buildings and offices. They are quite a sight to see and well worth the detour.

One of the most entertaining tidbits we picked up from our visit was the Carlsberg slogan: “Probably the best beer in the world.” Not THE best, but only PROBABLY the best. Very Un-American!

After picking up Peggy at the hotel, we walked downtown toward Christiansborg Palace. We were unable to visit the palace since it was only with a guided tour, but we did get to visit the ruins under the palace.

This Christiansborg Palace is the fifth to stand in its place. Since the first castle built in the 1100s, the site has undergone war, two fires, and reconstructions. Thus, the ruins below the castle showed remnants of all those eras and gave us a great amount of historical detail of the Danish line of monarchy.

Following the arrows, we weaved past the remains of what once belonged to magnificent structures: toilets, garbage chutes, pipes made out of hollowed tree trunks, and a couple of chapel stones.

There were poster displays telling us much about the history, life, and culture of the times. One interesting one is about Leonora Christina, daughter of King Christian IV. Her husband was branded a traitor but managed to escape. She, however, was accused of conspiracy and confined to the Blue Tower—which remains are seen in the ruins—for nearly 22 years. She was released when she was 67 years old! Her husband was never caught!

Peggy decided to sit on a bench by the canal, while Stephanie and I made our way to the Christianhavn district across the canal to visit “Our Savior's Church.” This church's spire and tower are incredibly impressive for the tower spirals to the top similar to a corkscrew. Although this was quite a bit out of our way, I really wanted to see it after I saw a picture of it on a postcard in one of the souvenir shops. The gold spiral and the large ball on top looked brilliant in the sun.

After meeting back up with Peggy, we returned to the main part of Copenhagen and walked along the canal through the Nyhavn (New Harbor) district to the King's Garden with its elegant palace Rosenborg.

It was built by King Christians IV from 1606 to 1634 and used as a summer castle. (He was rather full of himself, although, perhaps his son, Frederick III, may have outdone him in self-love and ego). The palace is incredibly ornate and filled with antiquities, paintings, and furniture fitting for royalty. The castle was often used as a storage area for items that the royals wished to keep but did not have a place to put. It became a museum in 1863 after Frederick VII died, making it the first museum of contemporary culture in Europe. Thus, we were able to see some incredible displays of ivory, lacquer, and porcelain collections, along with fine tapestries and intricate clocks and carved sculptures from the 1600 through the 1800s.

Nothing compared to the Treasury, however, that is housed in the basement. Past the modern camouflage-dressed Royal Guards with machine guns, some of the crown jewels of the Danish Crown are kept.

Unbelievable emeralds, sapphires, rubies, and other fine gemstones sparkled among the diamonds, gold, and silver. I have never seen gem stones of that size before. If one did not know better, they almost looked fake because of their size and color. I guess only the British have greater splendor in their collection, but the Danes sure outdid the Swedes in the gemstones.

We eventually tore ourselves away from the glitter and made our way through the bulkhead doors and the final security check point. (I sure wished that some of the gold, diamonds, and gemstones could have found their way into our pockets!)

We walked back to the Nyhavn area to find a restaurant for early dinner since we skipped lunch entirely. We found a restaurant that served things to our liking: beef for Peggy, swordfish for me, and salmon for Stephanie. We also enjoyed the restaurant's own brewed beer and Peggy had wine from Chile.

Dessert was a chocolate mousse with raspberry sauce for Peggy, a pear tart for Stephanie, and me a glass of fine cognac.

After dinner, Stephanie and I parted ways with Peggy. She returned to the hotel while we still had to see the most famous site in Copenhagen: The Little Mermaid!

Along the way, we passed through the Amalienborg Palace, the official residence of the royal family and sneaked a few photos of the palace guards. We then wandered through the Kastellet Fortress along the waterfront. A Carnival Cruise Lines ship, the “Splendor,” was about to leave from the cruise ship terminal and the last tour buses were pulling in with the ship's passengers.

We eventually made it to the famous “Little Mermaid” statue sitting on its rock in the harbor. Contrary to popular belief, she is not created by Walt Disney, but rather the children's author, Hans Christian Anderson. Funded by Jacobsen (of Carlsberg Brewery fame), she was built in 1913 meaning that she celebrated her 95th birthday earlier this year. Interestingly, the statue was based on the sculptor's pregnant wife. According to the story, she is destined to sit on her rock for 300 years before entering the world of humans—not quite the Disney ending! Sadly, vandals have decapitated her twice (once in 1964 and again in 1998), she lost her arm in 1984, and she is often covered with graffiti and paint. Nevertheless she still sits there allowing visitors all around the world look at her fragile figure and her softly expressed face.

Stephanie and I really enjoyed watching all the tourists taking turns hopping in front of the statue for photo ops. There were the usual forced smiles from some, while others genuinely seemed excited. There were the teens rolling their eyes as their parents ordered them to stand before the statue. We heard many languages and saw many wardrobes, from shorts and t-shirts (like ourselves) to full on headdresses and coverings. All, however, even the teenagers (despite the rolling eyes) took joy from seeing the beautiful harbor maiden.

The sun was beginning to set, so we began our return toward the hotel. Across the water of the harbor, the Copenhagen Opera House gleamed in the distance. Copenhagen is very proud of this new building. It cost 2.4 billion kroners to build—about 500 million dollars—but the money was entirely donated by the owner of a Danish Oil company. With gas prices around Scandinavia, that should not have been too hard to come by! :-)

We again returned through the Kastellet, or Citadel. It was originally part of the 17th century fortifications of Copenhagen, but now its military ramparts stand quietly in the evening breeze. We walked past a huge fountain called the Gefion Fountain. Also donated by Jacobsen (a theme we noticed throughout Denmark) and built in 1908, the fountain had two massive bulls with steaming nostrils pulling a carriage with a formidable armored goddess at the helm. The water spurted in all directions as if they just crashed out of the seas. Apparently, the fountain illustrates the myth on how the island of Zealand—upon which Copenhagen stands—came to be).

We then passed again through Amalienborg Royal Palace. At this point, the sunset made the sky literally look on fire. (I got some great pictures to prove that!) The buildings of the palace stood magnificently in the evening light. No wonder it was home to the royal family since 1794. Unfortunately, they were not in residence since the flags were not waving above the palace towers.

We eventually made it to the main pedestrian zone where we found an open spot among the Friday night revelers at Cafe Europa. We each ordered a beer and watched the people walk by in the square across from Royal Copenhagen. As time passed, the camera toting tourists were replaced by the well-dressed locals that were ready for a good time.

Eventually, the activities of the day caught up with us and we managed to carry our sore feet back to the hotel. Stephanie and I had a great time in Copenhagen. It is a beautiful city with lost of things for everyone. Stephanie and I have placed this as one of our higher ranking cities to visit. But then again, we are easily impressed!

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