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Thursday May 10, 2018: Copenhagen, Denmark, Day 1
The Zuiderdam arrived around 6 o'clock, but we were in no hurry to disembark as we had the whole day to get over to the B&B that Linda had booked for us. Instead, we had a relaxed, final breakfast on the Lido buffet and then waited until our 'Brown 1' luggage tickets were called to disembark, go through immigration, collect our luggage, and trundle down the quay to a Tourist Information shack built into an old metal shipping container. The guy there was very friendly and told us to take Bus 25 to Norreport, transfer to Bus 5C, and take it 4 short stops to the west. From there it was a 1 block over to Griffenfeldsgade and about 2 short blocks south to number 28, where our B&B was located.
I didn't realize at the time what a BIG favor he had done us by giving us a TRANSPORTATION map of Copenhagen that showed all the stops for all the bus routes and all the stops for all the subways. That transportation map was absolutely critical for our getting around Copenhagen for the next several days, and I found taht the "tourist" maps that just list the sights to see, are absolutely useless for getting around the city. So if you visit Copenhagen, for heaven's sake get that transportation network map wherever you can--I looked high and low for another copy of it for the next several days and was not able to locate one. With the help of our transportation map, the bus sequence to the B&B went quite easily, and when we rang the bell at our Airbnb the custodian buzzed us right in. But then we had to haul our luggage up 10 flights of stairs to the 5th floor! That took a while, but our host was there and showed us the layout of the apartment. Then we put down our luggage into each bedroom and rested a while before setting off again. Our first foray out was to buy bread, meat, and cheese plus beer at Aldi for a lunch, and then we were ready to see Copenhagen a bit.
Canal Boat Tour
So after lunch we set off to see some of the sights and our first attempt was a canal boat tour. Using the transportation map we had obtained at the Tourist Information shack on the pier, we found that a combination of 2A and 3A buses would get us to a stop across the canal from the departure point for the boat tour marked on our map. Curiously that bus route circled the Tivoli amusement park on 3 sides of the block before going northwards into the old downtown area and the canals. We saw two departure points, and chose the one with the shorter waiting line. Our Copenhagen Card was accepted and we climbed aboard to await departure.
The tour took us down the canal and out onto a major canal or river leading to the harbor, where we saw the Zuiderdam docked in the far distance. Along the main canal we saw the opera house with its huge overhanging roof, and the national theater as well as taking a quick peek down the street into the Amelianberg Castle complex of 4 buildings.
We also passed by the statue of the Little Mermaid, although we could only see her from the back as she was wistfully facing inland just like in Hans Christian Ansersen's fairy tale, and we were floating out in the harbor. On the shoreline we saw crowds of tourists all trying to take pictures of the little old bronze statue that was donated by Carl of the Carlsberg Brewery fame and fortune.
Along the way, we also saw the Danish royal yacht that we had also seen departing the harbor of Aabenraa on Jutland during Wanderung 30. It really seems to be a nice, big yacht.
The final loop of our boat tour was through an old, gentrified section of Copenhagen where we found many houseboats and sailboats moored on both sides of the canal. We also had a closer view of a church steeple with a very odd external staircase to the top, which we later learned was a total of 400 steps. Our boat curled around some very narrow canals, back to our embarkation point, where we disembarked. Checking our map, we saw an easy bus connection to Christianburg Palace and decided to pop over there to see what that was like.
After first mistakenly trying to get into the Danish Parliament (not allowed) and then wandering around the stable area of the palace, we finally worked our way to the correct entrance for the royal "Reception Rooms" area of Christianburg Palace. One wing of the palace now houses Denmark's Parliament (hence the confusion), but the palace was originally constructed to be a royal residence just like the three previous versions of the Royal palace that had burned down in the 1700s and 1800s. Pieces of the older palaces had been saved from the fires, though, as we saw the scorch and soot marks on a beautiful carved stone frieze in the first hallway that we visited. The frieze was one of Alexander the Great of Macedonia triumphantly conquering Egypt or some foreign land, and was apparently supposed to remind the king of how great he really was.
That might have led to delusions of grandeur, because in the 1920s the king tried to dissolve Parliament and appoint his personal picks to all positions of power in the government. Sounds familiar? A constitutional crisis was averted when politicians fashioned some kind of compromise with the king that managed to satisfy both sides, and Denmark remains a constitutional monarchy to this day.
I had thought we would just visit a couple fancy rooms and then bop back out again, like the abbreviated tours of the White House in the USA, but we were guided through at least 10 rooms, although our guide only stopped to explain things in some of them. One of them was a dining room with a table for 50 people, which looked grand enough to me but was in fact too small for the usual guest list of 200-300 people, and also too large for the intimate small-party type of political event. So now the beautiful table, built from steps salvaged from the wood staircases from the previous Royal Palace, was just used for food preparation for the state dinners that were actually held in a much larger room called, coincidentally enough, the "Queen's Dining Room".
That turned out to be my all-time favorite room of the entire palace, because although it had no table (maybe stored?), the walls were covered with beautiful, vividly-colored woven tapestries. The tapestries were commissioned on the Queen Margaret's 50th birthday, and finally completed and installed for her 60th birthday shortly after 2000. Since the tapestries were less than 20 years old, they retained the absolutely stunning colors that the old medieval tapestries must have had hundreds of years ago, and I treasure that insight. The tapestries showed events and people of different eras. The last one covering the 20th century, with wars but also great achievements.
Another favorite was the salon with walls covered in red velvet flocking of some type, which meshed nicely with the ivory-white walls. A grand staircase in a huge atrium with old, faded tapestries hanging on the walls was also very nice. The Throne Room, curiously enough, is really never used as a throne room because the King and Queen's thrones symbolize absolute authority and thus cannot be used any longer by the Danish royalty as Denmark is a constitutional monarchy. So the thrones are still there, but sit unoccupied. We finally exitted past a hallway with a nice gift shop and, even more importantly, nice bathrooms!
Tivoli Amusement Park
So what next? Well, having passed by the Tivoli on the way in, we knew where it was. So the third major attraction we saw today was the Tivoli Amusement park, a 175-year old part of Copenhagen that is truly a focus of the city and beloved by the locals as well as tourists. Although it has several typical amusement park rides such as a roller coaster, drop rides, and the whirligig type of rides, we were more interested in seeing the layout of the park, which is a rectangle about 3 or 4 city blocks in size, located right across from the Copenhagen main train station.
We walked past a reconstruction of the Taj Mahal, saw a white peacock, and a statue of Denmark's favorite son, Hans Christian Anderson.
We kind of walked and snacked our way through the park, first stopping off to see a group gymnastic type of performance on the main stage. The group consisted of first women, then men, then children, and finally mixed groups, each of which would do some graceful type of routine. They had choreographed their movements to music and were sometimes using the balls or ribbons or other props as part of the routines. It was fun to watch, but also clearly a bit amateurish as they seemed to be students at some type of exercise school.
But we also chanced upon a theater just down the walkway, and they were putting on a mime show. Some of the scenes involved slapstick performances, but other scenes were quite serious and involved dancing, including beautifully executed ballet performances. The basic story line was kept simple as the whole performance was geared so that children could easily follow the action and become involved with the story. The local Danish kids down in front did in fact get involved,judging by their enthusiastic reactions at key points.
To summarize the plot: the hero, a harlequin, wants to marry an upper class woman, but is rejected as a suitor by her father as he has no wealth. He signs an agreement with the devil to get wealth, marries the girl, and they have a child. The devil then comes to collect the child and add him to his ring of demons. BUT, the harlequin repents and, aided by the supplications of an old beggar he had donated food to, he successfully gets an angel to charm his sword so that when the climactic battle occurs he defeats the devil and rescues his child. Which is to say, "Good triumphs over Evil"!
Walking the paths of Tivoli afterwards, we found a wide variety of restaurants, including one built into a pirate ship in the small lagoon (shades of Pirates of the Caribbean!), and some very nice, but quite small, gardens. That pirate ship is, however, a real, floating wooden ship as the two previous versions of it sank in the lagoon, the first one in the early 1900s and the second one in the late 1940s, I think. The newest incarnation has, in comparison, lasted quite a long time. But we were getting really footsore by this time, and decided it was about time to take a bus back to our Airbnb.
From the Tivoli, we retreated back home for a late dinner of ham and cheese. Afterwards, we were really exhausted by so much walking so we turned in as soon as we could after dinner.
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