“Where are we?” someone on the street asks me.
“Copenhagen,” I reply.
It was a smart-alecky thing for me to say. It’s my first day in town, and I don’t know anything. The first thing I’ve noticed about Copenhagen is there are a lot more tourists here than there were in Norway. They are the summer holidays kind of tourists, too. There’s construction going on along the canals downtown, so any directions you get require an improvised detour. Still, what are people asking me for?
The second thing I’ve noticed is the bicycles, lots and lots of bicycles, some of them moving very fast. Young people on bicycles, old people on bikes, women in high heels peddling along. If you’re not careful to stay out of the wide bike lanes, you might get run over.
The third thing I’ve noticed is the canals, of course. They are my first destination, jutting off from both sides of the harbor. Regular as clockwork, tour boats pass by on their circuit, and houseboats are moored here and there.
Canals and bicycles remind me of Amsterdam. It would be easy to say Copenhagen is just like Amsterdam, but without the red light district and pot cafes. But Copenhagen isn’t Amsterdam. It’s where Nordic and German influences come together. It’s a capitol of design, and it’s fast becoming a big foodie center, with Noma leading the new Nordic cuisine movement. That’s not to say that it’s still not about smogresbrod and schnapps, but Copenhagen’s become a happening place.
I take a canal cruise to get my bearings before diving in. The boat is relaxing and the circuit takes in the modern opera house, the shipyards, the royal yacht, the Little Mermaid statue, and Christianhavn. On the boat with me is a family from Kansas, with dad the hobbyist photographer wearing his University of Kansas polo shirt and mom and several well-behaved kids of high school and middle school ages enjoying the sunny day.
The weather is fine, and summer finally is in bloom.Roaming around Nyhavn, a popular tourist spot along a canal lined by tall wooden houses painted in primary colors, I encounter lots of American, British, German, Italian, Spanish, and probably Swedish families, couples, and best buddies wearing shorts, sandals, and souvenir t-shirts. They pack the lunch spots and jostle to take every photo they can. After Norway, it’s all too much. I miss the calm and open spaces. But there’s much to do and I’m settling in.
Here’s what I saw:
Museums. The Nationalmuseet and Statens Museum for Kunst (art) are both free of charge. The former covers the full spectrum of Danish history and prehistory, from primitive hunters to Vikings to the royal Danes to modern times. The Statens museum houses four centuries of Danish, Nordic, and other European paintings and sculptures, as well as some ultra modern art installations. There was this motor caravan installation I particularly liked.
The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek isn’t free, but it contains a combination of each of the other two museums’ specialties, including archeological finds from the Egyptians, Etruscans, Greeks, and Romans, plus a wide array of classical and modern art. Fans of Danish furniture should check out the Design Museum Danmark. It’s a good place for children, too.
Palaces. The Christianborg Palace is the seat of the national government, with several museums and great views of the city from atop its tower. The four residences of the Amalienborg Palace along the harbor front are home to the Danish royal family. Just beyond them is the grand golden dome of the Frederikskirken church.
In Kongens Have park, Rosenborg Slot provides a glimpse of the lives of the Renaissance-era Danish kings.
Places. People-watching in Kongens Have, shopping along Strøget, strolling the canals of Christianhavn.
The weather is fine, and summer finally is in bloom. There’s a throng of people lined up to enter Tivoli on a Friday evening. I never was one for amusement parks, no matter how novel. Further along in the Vesterbro, the sidewalk tables outside hip restaurant MadKlubben are filled with young people and there’s only a little room for me to eat at the bar. The waitress is friendly and the steak hits the spot.
Back outside, the sun is starting to go down. The bars are picking up, and young blonde women in too-short skirts are heading out for fun.
I feel a weekend coming on.