02 September 2007

Weekend in Copenhagen

On Friday, 17 August, we caught an evening flight to Copenhagen. Our cruise ship was departing from Copenhagen on Monday, so we had decided to spend the weekend exploring the city and the surrounding corner of Denmark.

We chose to stay in the "thick of things," smack dab in the city center at the historic Palace Hotel.

Bit of a mistake. Across the square from the Tivoli and right next to the long pedestrian street that includes most of the nightclubs in Copenhagen, we got very little sleep while we were there. Especially as some of the clubs don't close until 4:30 am.

But on the bright side, I was able to catch the sunrise...

My recommendation? If you want to party all night, stay here. If you are past your Party All Night Era, stay somewhere else.

But since we were up bright and early anyway, we headed out to explore the city before it became thronged with tourists and locals out doing their shopping. We walked about for a bit until it was late enough for things to be open.

Our first stop was Rosenborg Slot (Slot is Danish for "castle.")

Rosenborg was built in the early part of the 17th century by Christian IV as a summer residence. It eventually was used as the primary royal residence until 1710 when Frederick IV decided it was too small and he needed a bit more "elbow room." It still houses the Royal Jewels, however.

After Rosenborg we walked up the street a bit to visit the National Museum of Art. Then we walked towards the Amalienborg area and Amalienborg Palace, the current royal residence.

Nearby is the Marmorkirken, which we were informed has one of the largest domes in Europe. Haven't a clue myself, but it did seem pretty big...

After a traditional lunch of smǿrrebrǿd, an open-faced sandwich with lots of different stuff on it, we headed back to the hotel for a much-needed nap.

When we awoke several hours later, we went for another walk and ended up in Nyhaven (New Harbor), where we ate at an outdoor cafe before catching the last boat tour of the evening.

By the way, the harbor and canal boat tour is a must in Copenhagen and one of the best ways to see the city. However, I strongly recommend you pay close attention to your tour guide's warnings to duck as some of bridges are a mite low...

After another sleep-deprived night of listening to 20-something's partying, we used a rental car to drive out into the countryside. Our first stop was Roskilde, the capital of Denmark during the Viking era. And the home of Vikingeskibshallen (Viking Ship Museum). We arrived just as the museum was opening for the day.

The focus of the museum are five Viking ships which were skuttled (deliberately sunk) in Roskilde Fjord around 1000 AD in order to protect the town from marauding Norwegian Vikings. The wrecks were discovered by divers in 1962, raised from the bottom of the fjord and reassembled.

The museum also has a ship building area in which they use Viking-era methods to recreate the ships found as well as other Viking-style boats. The recreated boats are used daily and you can sign up to be a crew member for an hour or so. Although it seemed like an awful lot of rowing and hoisting of sails to us, so we skipped it. The largest of the recreated ships is currently on a longer journey to recreate a Viking sail from Roskilde to Dublin. Although I expect this time they didn't do as much looting and pillaging along the way.

You can commission your own Viking ship, if you have the inclination and the cash to do so!

Roskilde is also the home of Domkirke, a highly recommended Medieval-era cathedral to visit. But as church services were still happening we didn't have a chance to see inside it.

From Roskilde we drove to the town of Hillerod, the site of Frederiksborg Slot.

Another of Christian IV's palaces.

Note: With his habits of castle-building and starting wars with the Swedes, is it any wonder he nearly bankrupted Denmark?

Originally built by Frederick II, Christian IV's father, it was greatly expanded by Christian IV from 1599-1622. It was used a a royal residence for over a hundred years until later generations decided it was a tad too grandiose for their tastes. Eventually it became a museum.

Our final stop on Sunday was Helsingor, home of Kronborg Slot.

Built by Erik of Pomerania, King of Denmark, Norway and Sweden in the 15th century, the fortress enforced a toll on all shipping through the Øresund, a narrow strip of water linking the North Sea and the Baltic. Quite a profitable endeavor, I imagine.

However, Denmark's most famous castle was actually made famous for a completely different reason. William Shakespeare used it as the setting of Hamlet.

In subsequent years the castle was destroyed by fire, raided by the Swedes and used as a barracks for the Danish military. Therefore, the inside is not much to see. So save your krone for something else.

Unless you are feeling adventurous, in which case you may wish to pay for admittance to the basement to see Holger Danske (Holgar the Dane).

Legend has it that he sleeps in the basement until Denmark is in need of protection. Although he seems to have fallen down on the job, because he kept sleeping through several invasions by the Swedes. Not to mention the Nazis back during World War II!

But if you do go down to the basement, remember to bring a flashlight. Light is provided only by a couple of openings such as this one...

On Monday morning we set out on a Shopping Expedition.

At nearly 6 feet tall (182 centimeters) and with size 12/13 (European 43/44) AAA feet, finding shoes and clothing is enough of a challenge in the United States, but has been an impossibility for me thus far in Europe.

I reasoned that as I acquired my height from my Norwegian ancestors and since the Danes recently surpassed the Americans as the tallest people in the world, surely I would be able to find something in a Scandinavian country! I was further encouraged by the fact that many of the people I saw in Denmark were about my height or even taller. Although admittedly, there weren't many women as tall as me. I especially needed new walking shoes. With all the walking we do here, I am wearing out my walking shoes after only about 6 months of use.

I am sorry to report that I was wrong. I was unable to find things that fit. Since I had such a desperate need for new walking shoes, I did purchase a pair of men's shoes that run a bit narrow and aren't excessively "masculine-looking." With an extra insole put into them, they nearly fit me.

That should hold me over until we go to the US next.

Ah well, at least it's cheaper in the US! And I generally shop in Minnesota, where many people are as tall or even taller and there are multiple store options for clothes and a few options for shoes. And, of course, Minnesota does not tax clothing. Although the cost of the flight does negate the cost-savings on the clothes...

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