Setting foot in Denmark today satisfies my standing New Year's Resolution for 2007, as it is my first visit to this country. I am here with my friends Paul and Scottie -- they just finished working a convention in Berlin and we are all on holiday now. We landed at Copenhagen's airport around 10am to a beautiful, sunny day -- albeit a bit chilly (40's and 50's, fahrenheit). We cleared customs, but I did not get a stamp in the passport since we came in from another EU country, dammit!
Our taxi to the hotel was my first price shock. It was about $40USD, far more than was predicted by the tour guides I had read (estimated at 25USD). We're staying at the Kong Arthur Hotel, but were unable to get into our room, as it had not been made up yet.
Students protest with porn dolls at Rundetarrn
So, we checked our bags and took off on a walking tour of Copenhagen. First stop was the Rundetaarn, a large round tower that was part of an old university library. It has a spiral walkway to the top. At about the halfway point, we saw what was an old "out house" that functioned as a toilet in the time of Hans Christian Anderson. The plaque on the wall said that he used to use it! It also said that they used to clean out the toilet twice a century. The stench in the tower was reportedly unbearable, despite having no glass in the windows at that time. That is definitely a mental image that I tried to erase as I climbed to the top of the Tower!
When we arrived at the top of the Tower, we encountered a a student demonstration.
View of Nyhavn and canal
Students upset with a recent decision about student housing at the University showed their displeasure by climbing over the safety rail, unfurling a large pink banner and hanging large blow up plastic porno dolls. It was a curious demonstration, but seemed to get a lot of attention. Paul and I were interviewed by the local press to get our thoughts, but we did not really know what they were protesting, so we were not very good subjects! At the bottom of the Tower Danish Police dressed in riot gear stopped all who exited the Tower and took down identification information from each of us. Definitely a memorable first experience in Copenhagen!
We walked on toward the city center and then over to Nyhavn. Nyhavn is one of the most famous views of Copenhagen and is in all the postcards and travel guides for this area.
My traveling buddies, Paul and Scott at lunch in Nyhavn
It has very picturesque views of brightly painted buildings on the canal front. We had lunch at a wonderful sidewalk cafe here, the Hyttefadet. We dined on traditional Danish open-faced sandwiches called "smoresbord." Mine was an open-faced sandwich with roast beef, cheese and a fried egg. It was delicious with an ice cold Tuborg beer!
As we were on the canal, we opted for a boat tour along the canals to get our bearings. We had a very nice tour -- catching sights of the new Opera House and the new National Theatre. Both were very modern designs (Danes are known worldwide for their design work) and right on the water. We also got our first glimpse of the Little Mermaid, Copenhagen's most famous statue and icon.
Little Mermaid, soiled by the Student Protesters
The tour also went by the Queen's Palace and the Royal Yach. It as about an hour long and really did a good job of orienting us.
We continued our walking tour locating the house where Hans Christian Anderson lived and wrote. We ended up down at the Little Mermaid for a closer look and were very disappointed to find that she had been vandalized! It was purportedly done by the same student group from the protest at the Tower. Someone had thrown a bucket of red paint on her! Evidently she is quite the target of vandals -- we learned she had been beheaded at least three times in the past!
We continued to walk and explore -- finding lots of intersting statues to imitate, churches and palaces. We eventually worked ourselves back to our hotel, got checked in, and drank a bottle of German wine that Paul had brought along from Berlin. For dinner, we went out the courtyard of our hotel and ate tapas at a Spanish restaurant called Pintxos. It was quite good -- but not very Danish!
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