Copenhagen by Motorhome

Our two day flying visit to Copenhagen couldn’t have gone better really. There’s lots to see – we could easily have spent another few days there.

We drove down to Copenhagen from the sewage plant (see previous post) on Wednesday morning. We’d picked out a free parking spot to the south of the city centre. It turned out to be really good (much better than we’d expected).

We were on the edge of a large wooded area just past the last apartment blocks as you head out of the city (off Artillerievej on the island of Amager). We parked up in a small circular car park which, although there was a second, much larger car park available, seemed to be the most popular and had the advantage of a constant stream of dog walkers, cyclists and joggers passing through. There was plenty of space left, particularly in the larger car park, and no-one gave any of the vans so much as a second glance, so we really didn’t seem to be inconveniencing the locals at all.

As the day was wet, we decided to head to the National Museum for the afternoon. This was on the edge of the city centre closest to us and, as satnav said it was only 2.2 miles away, we decided to walk.

We really liked the museum. The prehistoric section has clearly been redone in very recent times and was beautifully presented. Mark jumped at the chance of a 45 minute guided tour of this section of the museum in english. This gave a very good overview, from the arrival of homo sapiens in Europe right through to the end of the iron age. Mark particularly liked the bit where the guide tried to explain how meat eating enabled homo sapiens to develop a bigger brain relative to other species. “Does that mean that vegans are stupid?” muttered Mark….

After the tour, we went round the prehistoric section again to have chance to look at all of the exhibits. The major highlights were all from the bronze age.

A horned helmet (900BC):

Lurs – wind instruments, typically found in pairs in bogs in Germany and Denmark (1200 – 700 BC):

You can keep your Bell Beaker and your Corded Ware pots – I really liked these bemused-looking little pots (there were two on display, found in passage graves dating back to 3000 – 2900 BC):

The Chariot of the Sun (1400 BC) in which the Sun is represented as being pulled by a horse (ships and other animals such as fish and snakes were also commonly depicted as helping the Sun in its daily trajectory):

They did have some quite nice ivory chessmen in the museum – but we were still surprised to see replica Lewis Chessmen and a Lewis Chessmen book for sale in the museum shop (no, there weren’t any of the actual Lewis chessmen on display):

We still had time to visit a very good exhibition called In the Steppes of Genghis Khan about the nomads of Mongolia, based around artefacts in the museum’s collection from expeditions in the 1920s and 1930s as well as items on loan from Mongolia. This could well be one of those exhibitions that goes on international tour, coming soon to a museum near you….

Other than that, we just managed to scoot through some later Danish history before the museum closed at 5pm. We never made it to Egypt or The Victorian House (or, needless to say, other parts of the museum that we hadn’t even noticed on the plan). You could definitely spend a full day in there…..

We trundled back to SOK and had a very quiet night on our free car park. On Thursday, we walked an untold number of miles around the city. We’ve seen many of the top sights from the outside; you’d need a few more days to go inside them all!

So, in the order in which we saw them….. after crossing the bridge from Amager, we walked through the Christianshavn (“little Amsterdam”) area. There were certainly plenty of canal cruise boats out plying their trade!

Christiansborg Slot, one of the royal palaces, is pretty austere-looking. The royals moved out when it burned down in 1794. It was rebuilt, and rebuilt again following another fire in 1884, but the royals didn’t move back in:

There are lots and lots of statues of men on horseback around Copenhagen. This one is Christian IX, the father-in-law of our Edward VII. Many of the statues are of Christians and Fredericks – as we noted in our last post, the two go-to names for Danish kings.

One statue we missed (but annoyingly walked very close to) was that of Christian IV who we came across a few days back at Fredericksborg Castle – he seems to have kicked off more building projects in his lifetime than either of us has had hot dinners… If you see an old building in Denmark and want to know whose idea it was, Christian IV generally seems to be a fair bet!

The Parliament building:

The Royal Library:

We both really liked the former stock exchange building, built between 1590 and 1640 (yes, on the orders of Christian IV). The spire on top is the entwined tails of four dragons. I’m not sure what that’s saying about stockbrokers!

We decided to actually part with money (not much – £6.50 for the pair of us) to go into the Round Tower:

It’s 35 metres tall and climbed via a 209 metre long cobbled spiral:

The tower was constructed to serve three purposes. It had an observatory at the top, a church at the bottom, and above the church a university library. When it was completed in 1642, the king (yes, Christian IV) apparently rode to the top on his horse. Peter the Great visited in 1716 and on the pretext of looking at the observatory, rode up and down several times. His wife Catherine supposedly went up in a coach pulled by six horses (surely that’s taking the story a bit too far?)….

The observatory at the top (the oldest functioning observatory in Europe):

The former university library (they ran out of space and moved to alternative premises in 1861) is currently housing a modern art installation consisting of “hundreds of circular plaster sculptures with varying diameters and profiles”. Apparently this can “both be seen as a work in its own right and as a huge architectural model of a monumental utopian land art project”:

“Art – Fart”, said Mark…..

The hollow core of the tower was used as the centre point from which all distances were measured when surveyors started constucting an accurate map of Denmark in the 1760s. Hmmm, I wondered, where is the geographical centre of London then? I looked it up – it turns out that it’s the site of the Eleanor Cross at Charing Cross (interesting for me as I recently went to look at one of the surviving Eleanor crosses in Northamptonshire). A statue of Charles I on horseback now stands there….

We got a good view of Copenhagen from the top of the tower:

Kongens Nytorv (King’s New Square – Christian V this time, not IV):

Nyhavn – a canal built in the 1670s to allow ships to get right into the centre of the city to unload. Nowadays, it’s very pretty, with wall-to-wall restaurants. Definitely a good place to head for lunch if (unlike us) you haven’t brought sandwiches:

Amalienborg Slot is the Queen’s official residence in Copenhagen. It’s an octagonal square where four matching mega-mansions for the very wealthy were built in 1760. When Christiansborg Slot burned down in 1794, the royals took over all four residences, and they’re still there – sort of like a royal housing estate!

It’s very attractive – I can see why the royals dug their heels in here and stayed! The guards did a bit of marching around but to be absolutely honest, they didn’t quite have the je ne sais quoi of the Queen’s Guard at Buckingham Palace:

The statue in the middle of the square apparently took 30 years to complete and cost as much as the rest of the place put together. Really? Now that’s what I call dragging a job out!

The Marble Church nearby:

The dome’s a very similar size to the one at St Paul’s in London….

Phew, on we trundled towards the Kastellet (citadel) at the Northern end of the city centre. Just outside it, we came to St Albans Church, a gothic-style Anglican church built in the 1880s after an English congregation in Copenhagen, wanting a church of their own, appealed the the future Edward VII and his Danish wife Alexandra for assistance.

A nearby bit of green space was named Churchill Park in 1965 in commemoration of British assistance in the liberation of Denmark during World War 2:

The nearby Gefion Fountain, the largest fountain in Copenhagen (turned off when we visited):

The Kastellet, a fortress built in 1629 and rebuilt later that century – a five point star surrounded by embankments and a moat. It’s still used by the Danish military, and there’s a list of rules on a big sign as you enter to walk through it.

Further north again, heading out into the back of beyond, we finally got to the Little Mermaid. It’s by the shore about halfway between the little jetty and the horizon:

I found it all pretty disappointing. I’d imagined the Little Mermaid to be in a nice bit of harbour, lit up at night for you to gaze at from the terrace of a nearby bar or restaurant…. As it is, tour buses turn up here en masse, disgorging crowds armed with cameras:

It’s not even as if it’s the most attractive statue I’d ever seen:

Oh well…..

Heading back through town, Rosenborg Slot IS one of the nicest royal palaces I’ve seen. Built in 1606 by, yes you guessed it, Christian IV as a summer / pleasure palace, it’s more sensibly sized than most:

In the park next to the palace, our task was to hunt down the statue of Hans Christian Andersen that we knew was in there somewhere:

The square in front of the Town Hall was absolutely packed with Polish football fans dressed in the green and white stripes of their Gdansk team (which, it turned out, was playing a Danish team that evening in a qualifying round of the Europa League – the Danes won 4-1):

Flipping heck, here he is again, round one side of the Town Hall:

After a long day of pounding the pavements, we walked the couple of miles back to SOK – and then headed across the road to the local Rema 1000 supermarket. Mark’s first task was to post all of our empty bottles into the returns machine, which then spat out a voucher for our refunded deposit:

This European recycling lark can get a bit complicated when you move from country to country in reasonably quick succession. In Germany, you have to pay a €0.25 deposit on bottles – but if you take them across the border to Denmark, the machines there won’t recognise them or give you anything back. You then have the extra problem of trying to get rid of them appropriately – there are no plastic recycling bins as all the locals are, of course, feeding their bottles back into the machines and getting their deposits back! So we were determined to claim our Danish deposits before leaving the country….

After spending our remaining Danish cash, we were ready to head back to SOK, have something to eat, and then drive back up to Helsingor (about a 50 minute drive). We’d decided to spend the night there and then fettle the van at the free port facilities before taking the 20 minute ferry hop across to Sweden on Friday morning. The main alternative option was to take the Öresund Bridge from Copenhagen across to Malmö in Sweden, but that would have worked out £40 more expensive and we wouldn’t have got the van fettled as easily (the driving distance would’ve been the same as we’d have had to drive the equivalent distance up the Swedish coast instead of the Danish one)…. Choices, choices…..

And so it was that we left Denmark on Friday morning. Our two day trip to Copenhagen had gone swimmingly well, and we’ve decided that Copenhagen really is a good city break destination, with more than enough to see and do for a few days’ stay. Sweden here we come!

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