Sunday 18 August 2019 – Friday 23 August 2019 Copenhagen
We arrived in Copenhagen and parked at a motorhome and car parking area where we spent the next 5 nights. It was a great place to stay, as it was close to the train station, which took us into the heart of Copenhagen.
Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital, is located on the eastern shore of Zealand and is 42 kilometres northwest of Malmö.
On our first day we went on a free guided walking tour. Once again, it gave us a great understanding of the history and culture of the Danes.
Free Guided Walking Tour
Our meeting place for the tour was Rådhuspladsen (City Hall Square) which is one of the main squares of the city.
Here is where the (Rådhuset) City Hall is located. The facade and interior are trimmed with historic details from Nordic mythology. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit, but on our return trip it is one of the things we intend to do.
Also located on this square is the huge, detailed Dragon Fountain, which was completed in 1923, after 34 years of extensions to the original design. It has three dragons on the edge of the basin, sprouting water and a bull battling with a dragon. The original three dragons, which were quite large, are now on the balustrade in front of the Town Hall.
At the edge of the square is a bronze statue of Hans Christian Andersen, a very important part of Danish culture and a world-famous author and poet. He sits with a book and faces H.C. Andersen’s Boulevard.
On top of the Unibank building, across from City Hall is a unique bronze weather vane featuring a girl who appears on her bicycle when the weather is fine, and with an umbrella when the forecast is for rain, informing people to leave their bikes at home and take public transport. A very interesting concept of showing the weather, but after experiencing the bikes in Copenhagen, it is very apt. At present she is static between the two because the vane is broken and has been for the past five years.
The sights of Copenhagen:
The Lur Players is a bronze monument on Copenhagen City Hall Square, which illustrates two Lur Players playing a Bronze Age instrument. Apparently, the Lur Players should blow their horns when a virgin passes them. We didn’t hear them playing today!
The Courthouse was built between 1805 – 1815 with the work being delayed because of the bombardment of Copenhagen by the English in 1807 during the Napoleonic Wars. At the front of the Courthouse is Slutterigade (prison street) where a prison existed from 1805 – 1816. There is an area outside which indicates where executions occurred.
Magastræde (street) was created from the 1520s when the coastline was moved to present day Nyropgade. The first part of the name, Mag-, is an old word for lavatory, referring to the public latrine which flowed through this street into the canal behind. It has the oldest house remaining in Copenhagen. The houses and apartments that were built during the 16 and 17th century didn’t have toilets or baths. Today, these houses and apartments, which have been converted, use a very small space in the bedroom where they have placed a toilet and the shower which consists of a tub on legs has a hose attached to a tap coming from the kitchen and hangs from the ceiling. An interesting concept especially in this day and age.
Christiansborg Palace is on the tiny island of Slotsholmen and contains the Danish Parliament Folketinget, the Supreme Court and the Ministry of State. Parts of the palace are used by the Royal family for various functions and events. In the Royal Representation Rooms, The Queen receives kings, queens and presidents. Today, two beautiful, white horses, who pull the coaches, were in the Royal Stables waiting ready for an assignment.
Equestrian statue of Christian V at Kongens Nytorv Square is quite large and impressive. The statue was constructed in 1688 making it the oldest statue in Scandinavia and was originally made in gilded lead. At the base of the statue are four allegorical statues. Representing fortitude and prudence are the figures of Alexander the Great and Minerva and on the other side are Artemisia and Hercules signifying honour and strength.
Royal Danish Theatre built in 1748 and all performances are state subsidized, making tickets very affordable. If Her Majesty attends a performance, the audience is required by tradition to rise and remain standing until the queen is seated.
Magasin du Nord is the oldest department store beginning in 1869 and moved into its present-day home in the iconic building in 1870. At the time, the premise was a hotel where they rented rooms. Hans Christian Andersen had boarded here from 1838 until 1847. To this day, it is still a shopping haven among locals from all over Copenhagen.
Nyhavn Harbour was once a shady, sailors’ section of town but is now a picture-perfect spot. The name, Nyhavn, means ‘New Harbour’, although the canal, dug by Swedish prisoners of war from 1671 – 73, is one of Copenhagen’s oldest. Hans Christian Andersen penned his fairy tales ‘The Princess and the Pea’ and ‘The Tinderbox’ while dwelling at Nyhavn No 20.
Amalienborg Palace is the official Copenhagen residences of the royal family. The palace consists of four mansions surrounded by a monumental octagonal plaza. Originally, the mansions were the stately dwellings of four noblemen until a winter’s night in 1794 when the former royal palace, Christiansborg Palace, was razed by a great fire and the king needed a new home. Today, the only royal ensign flying was Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary. We thought that Mary, being Australian, might have invited us in, but alas we are still waiting.
This is where our walking tour concluded. Just as we were finishing up the royal guards changed sentry duty. This was a great way to end the day of investigating Copenhagen.
Other sights in Copenhagen:
I am Queen Mary statue was inaugurated in 2018 at the Danish West Indian Warehouse. The sculpture is a tribute to a 19th-century rebel queen who had led a fiery revolt against Danish colonial rule in the Caribbean. It is Denmark’s first public monument to a black woman. The unveiling was to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Denmark’s sale of the Virgin Islands to the United States in 1917. The statue depicts Mary sitting in a wicker throne with her head in a head wrap, bare feet and a torch in her left hand and a sugar cane cutter in her right.
Kastellet (The Citadel) was founded by Danish King Christian IV in 1626 and is one of the best-preserved fortresses in Europe. It is constructed in the form of a pentagon. Today, the buildings inside the Citadel are used as military barracks and offices. However, the area is open to the public where you can walk around the ramparts.
St Alban’s Church, affectionallyknown locally as ‘The English Church’ is an Anglican church built from 1885 to 1887 for the growing English congregation.
The Gefion Fountain is a large fountain featuring a large-scale group of animal figures being driven by the legendary Norse goddess, Gefion. According to an ancient legend, Gefion was the goddess who ploughed the island of Zealand out of Sweden. The Swedish king Gylfe offered Gefion as much land as she was capable of ploughing within one day and one night. She transformed her four sons into immensely powerful oxen and had them plough so deeply in the ground that they raised the land and pulled it into the sea. This is how the island of Zealand was created. An interesting theory.
King Frederick IX statue was unveiled in 1982 for the 35th anniversary of his accession to the throne in 1947 and in the tenth year after his death. He was succeeded by his eldest daughter, Queen Margrethe II, who is still reining today. He was very respected and well liked by the Danish people.
The Little Mermaid Statue is a statue inspired by the literature of Hans Christian Andersen which turned into a national landmark. Apparently, it has been decapitated three times, covered in paint on at least seven occasions and dressed in various outfits by vandals and political activists since she first made the scene on a rock by the waterside at the Langelinie promenade in 1913. It is quite a small, forlorn statue because she is depicted suffering for her dream prince.
Assistens Cemetery is the final resting place of famous Danish fairy tale writer, Hans Christian Andersen who passed away in 1875.He originally was buried with his good friend, Edvard Collin and Collin’s wife, Henriette. Around 1920, when public criticism arose concerning the Collin’s treatment of their ‘adopted son’, H.C. Andersen, a descendant of the Collin family had Edvard and Henriette’s tombstone moved to the family plot, so now Andersen’s tombstone stands alone. Today, there were students gathered around near his tombstone listening to another reading a story of Andersen.
Rundetårn (The Round Tower) is a 17th century tower and observatory and is the oldest functioning observatory in Europe. The observatory is encircled by an outdoor platform from which great views of the old part of Copenhagen can be seen. To get there, you have to walk up the spiral walk, which means you walk around 209 metres to get to the top even though the tower is only 36 metres tall. Today, there is an additional attraction of a glass floor, which enables you to see the tower’s core. Unfortunately, it was too late in the day to visit.
Our Saviour’s Church was built in the 1690s, with the spire added in the mid-18th century. The exterior spiral stairway has no less than 150 daunting steps. Crowning the spire is a golden globe with a 3-metre figure of Christ wielding a victory banner. Unfortunately, when we arrived the church was closed for visits and the line to climb the tower was huge. Maybe next time! Evidently, Jules Verne climbed the spire in the 1880s and was inspired to include it in his ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’. I have seen this movie, but I will revisit it to see the inspiration.
Christiania is the city’s district of alternative living. It was a former military base that sat abandoned for many years. In 1971, a group of hippies broke down the barricades and began squatting there. Now, around 900 people live in the area which is a car free zone. The community has its own rules and regulations completely independent of the Danish government. It has been operating for nearly 50 years with a certain amount of turmoil, mainly due to the illegal cannabis trade taking place in its famous ‘Green Light District’, known as Pusher Street. We walked through the area just to see and it reminded us of Nimbin and Byron Bay back in the early 2000s.
Bridge Street Kitchen is an outdoor area where there is a melting pot of street food kitchens and bars serving tasty food and drinks from around the world. It is in a beautiful location at Inderhavnsbroen bridge with a view to the waterfront.
The National Museum
This museum is the largest museum of Danish culture and history and is located in The Prince’s Palace, built in 1743-44, but is no longer used by the Royal family. It has exhibitions from the Stone Age, the Viking Age, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and Modern Danish History.
We took two guided tours, Denmark’s Prehistory tour, and Meet the Vikings.
Denmark’s Prehistory tour
For one hour we were immersed in the Stone, Bronze and Iron Age history, which was fascinating. The guide put into context the difference between each of the ages, the tools and their uses and the changes in the way of life as mankind evolved.
Meet the Vikings tour
Was also an hour tour with a student who was completing his history major in the Viking Age. It was a very interesting session where we explored one of Denmark’s largest treasure troves of gold and silver jewellery, as well as hearing about the facts and myths of famous ancestors. The Viking Age was characterised by sea travel and expeditions to foreign territories. Even though a lot is known about the Viking Age, there are still many unanswered questions.
We spent the main part of a day walking through the collections and could easily have spent another three hours here. It is an extremely well set out and the collections are displayed chronologically.
During our days in Copenhagen we caught up with a friend, Lisa, whom we went to high school with and her husband Mick who are here visiting their son, daughter in law and grandson. It was interesting to hear a couple of things we had heard about from our guide reinforced by them. One was the inclusion of a toilet and shower space being added to apartments and the other was how trusting Danes are with leaving their children sleeping downstairs with a monitor while they are upstairs in their third-floor apartment. Apparently, apartments only have stairs and carrying anything upstairs is an enormous effort.
Copenhagen is a lovely city with many colourful buildings and a lot of history. We left Copenhagen and drove to Frederiksborg Castle.