WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL COPENHAGEN
I am in Copenhagen, just outside the main railway station. It is dark, chilly and despite the city’s reputation for being easy to navigate, I am hopelessly lost. Eventually, more by accident than design, I stumble upon my hotel, the Ascot, which is tucked away in a little lane and is, as I discover later, a mere ten minute walk from the station. Duh!
The next morning, fortified by a cup of steaming latte coffee and armed with my 24 hour “Travel Copenhagen” card I venture out into the city. Arterial roads pinwheel around large pedestrian squares, and cyclists, undeterred by a boisterous wind, stream past in shoals along bike designated lanes.
I’m here for just a brief one-day stay, so for starters I scope out the city on a hop-on-hop-off red double-decker bus. They run every 20 minutes, and I settle into a comfortable front seat, don a pair of complimentary headphones with a recorded commentary, and have my camera at the ready.
The bus route runs through diverse neighborhoods and we bowl along a boulevard flanked by luxury hotels on one side, and the Tivoli Gardens on the other. I peer eagerly out of the window as we pass the house where Denmark’s beloved author Hans Christian Anderson once lived, and goggle at the Amalienborg Palace (the Queen’s winter residence) the Christianborg Palace. I decide to defer exploring both buildings as well as the once bohemian, pot-stoked, Christianshavn neighbourhood (which, according to the commentary, is now an upscale locale), and to stay on the bus through its entire circuit. However, when we draw up beside a canal, where a tour boat is filling up fast, I’m tempted beyond my strength and scramble down to the pier in time to grab a seat on board.
For the next half an hour, we cruise leisurely under bridges where passersby lean over the balustrades and wave to us. We putter past the Danish royal family’s yacht, and a construction site where a daring bungee jumper is bouncing off a gigantic crane. One of Copenhagen’s most unique structures, the Church of Our Saviour comes into view, its corkscrew spire soaring against the sky. Our guide Jan says, “It is ninety meters tall and if you climb to the top, you’d better not suffer with vertigo —the last 150 steps are on the outside!”
We catch a glimpse of Frederik’s Church with its iconic green dome—the largest in Scandinavia with a span of 31 meters—its architect having been inspired by St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Neat rows of glass fronted apartments slip by, and so does one of Copenhagen’s most distinctive commercial buildings: the Maersk Shipping Company’s offices with deep blue window panes dubbed, “The House With A Thousand Blue Eyes”.
No visit to Copenhagen would be complete without a visit to the statue of the Little Mermaid made immortal by Hans Christian Anderson. The promenade has young couples strolling hand in hand, kids licking ice-cream cones and cyclists whizzing by. I squeeze my way between camera-toting admirers to grab a quick shot of the wistful Little Mermaid. Disappointingly she is in shadow as the sun has gone behind a cloud.
I decide to have lunch in trendy Nyhavn, where the buildings flanking the river are like children’s building blocks – coloured red, green, blue and yellow they stand one against the other, their oblong windows neatly aligned, their rooftops A-peaked in rows. Being a weekend, the sidewalk tables alongside the canal are thronged with folks chatting, quaffing beer and enjoying what the Danes term hygge – meaning warmth, goodwill and happy times. My rye bread smorrebord (open-faced sandwich) is stacked with a crisp fried fish fillet, topped with crème fraiche, and garnished with chopped dill and parsley. Scrumptious!
As darkness falls over the city, the world famous Tivoli Gardens entrance is spangled with twinkling lights, and children’s shrieks of delight from the distant play area lie faintly on the air. I stroll along a lantern-lit pathway leading to a pool with coloured fountains that dance against the backdrop of a Moorish style fairy-tale castle, its cupolas and turrets outlined in thousands of red, blue and green lights.
Diamante-lit hedges and trees shimmering with stars surround bowers where elegantly dressed diners sit at candle-lit tables, and the murmur of conversation lingers on the air. At an open-air amphitheatre a troupe of ballet dancers twirl to a Strauss waltz—a magical fantasy of romance and beauty. I am dazzled!
As the song goes this truly is, “Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen!”
IF YOU GO:
PHOTOS by Margaret Deefholts
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