Copenhagen, Denmark: part I

Those few of you who read my blog or know about me might know already that I have a great interest in Nordic culture/countries. So, there were no second thoughts about going when I found cheap flight to Copenhagen on a weekend. I had heard from many people before that Copenhagen is the most fun Scandinavian city. I asked a couple of people about joining me in the trip, but some were not interested and it was bad timing for others. I shrugged and thought I will do this alone.

I am able to travel frequently because I use affordable ways. Like using budget airlines and staying at places through sites such as airbnb. This time however, I tried Couchsurfing for the first time. I had always wanted to do it, but I rarely travel alone, so I and my travel companions always ended up staying at another place. CouchSurfing is found on a simple yet great idea – experience the city with locals while having a free couch to crash at night. I booked my place in Couchsurfing at a Danish girl (Sif)’s place and I was very much looking forward to it.

I flew to Copenhagen from Warsaw Modlin airport. The airport is actually about a good 1 hour away from Warsaw center but the airlines that fly from there (RyanAir mostly) use the name Warsaw-Modlin. I had to wait for 4 hours before finally checking in. The four hours I spent reading ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ on the airport floor, while charging my phone. Perhaps the long wait had drained my energy so much that I casually walked into a store and bought some Polish vodka for my host Sif. I was even dumb enough (?) to ask the woman at the counter if it was okay to board the plane with my purchase. She, of course, said yes and I, of course, smiled and left. But liquid/gel in container more than 100ml are not allowed to be taken on board, and I had to throw my untouched, new good liquor into the bin. I’ve never made such mistake of purchasing something over the limit before going through the security check, but I guess that night, I was exhausted after a full day of work, the travel and the waiting and also oblivious.

It was a short flight of about 1.5 hours and it was midnight upon landing in Copenhagen. It was chilly and rainy, just like I had expected.Β  The airport was quite big (the central airport of Copenhagen) and it took me about 10 minutes of walking to get out of the airport, to the metro station. In quick 10 minutes I reached to the city center by metro where I met Sif. It was a Friday night and hence crowded with partygoers and drunk people. We decided to get to her apartment by taxi, but we had to wait for around 15 long minutes to get a cab, because all cabs were full! Sif tried to call the taxi operating service but the line was busy. I however didn’t mind the wait as it was a new city and I was thrilled. Copenhagen, at first glance to me, felt like a mix of Helsinki (Finland) and Hamburg(Germany). So after finally finding a taxi, we were on our way to Sif’s place where she would be hosting me for my two days stay. The Danish language sounded like a difficult version of German to me. Not that I speak German. I met Sif’s friend at her apartment and co-incidentally he had worked in Lodz for a year not so long ago! I was pleasantly surprised because I rarely come across people who know Polish cities other than Krakow, Warsaw, Wroclaw and Gdansk, let alone people who’ve actually been to Lodz. We talked about everything from the Polish culture to the weed culture. I finally decided to call it a night and went to bed, or the couch, to be precise.

On my first day, I left at about 10 in the morning after a quick breakfast of my favorite kabanosΒ I had brought with me from Poland. I entirely relied on the people around to get to my destination and walked without any plans. I asked people along the way for directions to reach to the center. Getting around was so easy as the knowledge of English among the locals was ample. Welcome to Scandinavia.

The first place I went to visit, on Sif’s recommendation, was the free town of Christiania. I was told the night before by Sif and her friend that the self-proclaimed autonomous town of Christiana was right in the middle of city. The description was fascinating, a country within a country?! or similar? Just like Uzopis Republic, that I had been in Vilnius, Lithuania. Apparently, the place had been a military base before and later abandoned. As soon as I got into the neighbourhood, my senses picked the strong smell of marijuana in the air. The murals and lively cafes which all blasted music made the town look vibrant. As I was strolling forward, I snapped a few pictures only to later notice a sign which said ”No photos”. I heard that they’re pretty serious about it as the signs were virtually everywhere in the area. Luckily for me, I had taken a couple of photos before noticing the signboards. The place kind of reminded me of Thamel in Kathmandu because of the colourful stalls and shops which sold hippie clothing and accessories. I walked a little further and noticed Tibetan/Nepali prayer flags along the alley and was delighted; and no surprise, the cafe right next to it was owned by a bunch of Nepalese who had put up the prayer flags there. I chatted with them for a while before finding a little room which had photos, art, sculpture from Tibet and ‘Free Tibet’ slogans put on display. How multicultural, I wondered and moved further. There were many bars, pubs, cafes, shops and little shacks where people were smoking weed. There was a big stage at the centre of the place, but it had been morning so there wasn’t much activity. I was curious to explore more of Copenhagen so decided to come back to Christiana with Sif, as she sounded like she hanged out there very often.

I decided against buying a public transportation day-pass and explore the city by walking. I walk a lot, especially when I am travelling and despite the weather changing from light shower to cloudy to partly sunny to sunny all within 10 minutes, I was enjoying the vibes of Copenhagen and wanted to walk and discover the attractions. The day was lovely; the sun had finally decided to stay for the whole stay and despite being slightly hungry, I was enjoying the walk. After walking for about 15 minutes or so from Christiana, I reached to Christiansborg palace, which was lovely. I got on the top of view tower, which was free to climb (the perks of living in/visiting a country that taxes almost half of what its citizens earn?) and enjoyed beautiful panoramic views of Copenhagen. I could even see the famous partly-underwater bridge of Oresund that connects Sweden and Denmark. I could see Denmark’s famous windmills on a distance, the major attractions dotted around the city, the beautiful canal-front and the courtyard of the palace from the tower right below. At that point, I regretted not bringing my camera as I could zoom in and take some photos of the Oresund bridge (I so want to use the bridge one day!). Flying budget airlines also means that you’ve to pack very lightly, which often includes switching things like a bulky camera for just phone.

When I got to the courtyard of the palace, I just wanted to sit there, bask in the sun and look at the beauty, which is exactly what I did for about half an hour. I was really liking Copenhagen. I exited from the palace and asked a couple of people directions to some tourist info point. But there wasn’t any nearby, or so they told, so I just decided to wander along. I love the water, and hence I take instant liking to cities with plenty of canals, rivers, or sea. I loved how they had those cute wooden piers on the canalside which offered good view of Christiansborg palace on the other side. I could hear so many languages on the street; the city was buzzing with tourists and locals alike on a sunny day (which I reckon is rare in Copenhagen). Soon I entered into a commercial street (with the aim of going to Little Mermaid, but a nice Danish woman convinced me that it’s too far to go by foot), so I decided to stop for food before going to the famous Little Mermaid. I found an Asian noodle place soon further and enjoyed a light lunch of delicious Asian noodles. After the lunch, I headed to the bus stop for going to Little Mermaid.

I didn’t have to have to worry in case the bus driver forgot to drop me off at Little Mermaid, because he announced the stop’s name upon reaching there as the place is the most popular attraction of entire Denmark. I followed the direction signs and entered what looked like a lovely park. On walking a little further, I could see the back of a beautiful church, which I later discovered was St. Alban’s church. The sunny day probably added more beauty to everything. I was elated. I talked to a couple of people along the way asking them to take my photo, and all of them were friendly. Soon I entered a fortification site called Kastellet, which is now used as a military establishment by the Danes. Only some parts of the area were open to public. Inside, there was a quaint main street and Church Square. The red and yellow buildings shined in the sun and the oldest flag in the world fluttered happily in the breeze. After absorbing the sun and pondering about life while sitting in front of a beautiful yellow house on a sunny day, I moved on. The Little Mermaid statue was just a further bit away on the shore of North Sea. Before reaching there, I clicked some photos of the beautiful harbour. The Little Mermaid statue was a small human-like figure on the shore. I do not know why it is Denmark’s biggest tourist attraction as the statue in itself is nothing grand. The Little Mermaid statue is a character based on famous Danish author Hans C. Andersen’s fairy tale of the same name. I have never read it but I hear that it’s based on a young mermaid who falls in love with a human prince.

The site was swarmed by tourists, as expected. The sea looked beautiful and so did the surroundings. The sunshine amplified the beauty by a great deal and I was really loving the trip although my feet were starting to ache because of good walking. I lazed in the park for a good amount of time and started a new novel called ”The Beach” – it looked very interesting. After my feet were healed and my stomach started to grumble, I decided to walk further. There was a very beautiful, large fountain called Gefion Fountain in front of St. Alban’s church. The fountain was very cool looking; it had the animal figures being driven by Norse goddess Gefjun. I read later that it’s used as a wishing well. The Gothic architecture of St. Alban’s church, built with limestone, also looked very pretty. I had seen pretty much everything the area had to offer and decided to walk back to the city.

Along the way, I saw a number of other interesting monuments such as The Marble Church, a catholic church and a fashion museum the names of which I don’t remember. The exteriors of the dome-style Marble Church looked impressive and I decided to go inside. The church was just about to close, the priest announced in his flawless English. On walking along the main street, I reached to the famous colorful, vibrant, waterfront of Nyhavn after a while. It was very crowded but I didn’t mind. The colorful houses from the 17th century were just too elegant. There were lots of bars, cafes and restaurants along the canal and many Copenhagen canal-tours started from here. I took my Carlsberg out of the backpack and enjoyed the view along with my Danish beer, which surprisingly tasted worse than anywhere else. I decided to do the canal tour the other day as my phone was running low on battery. I returned back to the Christiansborg palace area of Copenhagen and enjoyed my beer and chips on the canal-side wooden pier. I was enojoying my solo travel to a great extent, as I could do what I pleased and schedule my activities spontaneously. Or lounge in the sun for 2 hours, without any care in the world.

I ate some noodles at the same Asian place again and bought some souvenirs from Copenhagen: a cute fridge magnet and a small viking ship model in a ridiculously expensive city. But I couldn’t compromise on souvenirs, as I’m now serious about my collection of fridge magnets from around the world Europe. I took a relaxing stroll back to Christiania, the free town, and spent some time exploring the residential area of the town. So apparently, some 5000 people permanently live in that area. Hm. I called it a day and took a long bus ride back to Sif’s apartment and couldn’t fall asleep until 2 in the morning because of too much excitement.

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3 thoughts on “Copenhagen, Denmark: part I

  1. Ah, one of my favourite cities and my ancestral homeland. I love that you fiscovered kastellet. It is a peaceful part if the cuty. Did you walk around the top of the earthen walls? Even though I had been many times to Denmark, I only went to Kastellet 2 years sgo! You should go to the Royal copenhagen shop and Perchs tea shop. Iconic places.

    1. Hi Amanda. I didn’t know you had Danish ancestry πŸ™‚ I knew it was Scandinavian, Dutch and possibly Polish from what I read from your posts on the blog.. Oh I think I did walk around the earthen walls in Kastellet. You’re right, it was very peaceful! It was a beautiful, sunny day when I visited too. Thanks for the recommendations. I don’t know if I will visit Denmark anytime soon, but I always think how nice it’d be to revisit all the places I’ve been to after many years..

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