Hello, Copenhagen!

Oh, Copenhagen, aren’t you lovely?

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This was my second time in the renowned European city, and it felt so good to be back. The last time I was here was 7 years ago and at that time, I hadn’t learned to appreciate a city’s culture, history, and background when traveling. So this time would be different, and I was excited to explore the city more in-depth and to see the things I had missed out on last time.

We arrived in Copenhagen at around 9 am local time after a seven-hour overnight flight, and our first stop was our hotel to drop off all our luggage and get cleaned up. We were staying at the gorgeous Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers hotel. Green Key awarded them the EcoTourism Award in 2010 as the “world’s most environmentally friendly hotel.” The interior of the hotel was stunning, and the view from our room even more so.

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Picture taken by IHG

Despite having had very little sleep on the flight, we didn’t want to waste our only full day in Copenhagen so we took off again. We had a whole day of exploring ahead of us.

First up was the Amalienborg Palace, which was the royal palace and official home to the royal family. Our hotel, though splendid, was about a 15 to 20-minute drive from the central part of Copenhagen, which wasn’t too convenient. So, we hailed a cab and made it to the palace by 12 pm, just in time to see the changing of the guards. This is something we (and hundreds of other people) like to watch, and it’s always a good show. Get a good spot, and you can get some really great pictures for the scrapbook.

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After the guards were all settled, we made our way to the statue of the Little Mermaid, perhaps Copenhagen’s most famous attraction, created by Edvard Eriksen. The statue is based on the fairy tale ‘The Little Mermaid’ by Hans Christian Andersen. 7 years ago, the statue was on loan to Shanghai for the 2010 World Expo in the city, so in place of the statue was a huge LED screen that projected the statue in Shanghai in real time. Because I only got a virtual glimpse of the statue the last time, I was excited to see the real thing up close.

When we travel in a city center – typically in Europe – we like to walk everywhere. No cabs. No subways. Just us and our legs. It’s such a great way to see the city because you get to explore the untraveled paths, the roads not taken. I have to admit that yes, we can often get lost. But then all we do is stop to talk to somebody who we assume is a local and ask for directions. They point us in a direction, and maybe a half kilometer later, we stop to ask for more directions. It’s always an adventure in and of itself. Next time, if I’m ever back, I want to explore Copenhagen by bike. You can rent bikes for about 30 KR per hour, and it’s another great way to get around.

So we walked from the Amalienborg Palace to the Little Mermaid – a walk that took about 20 minutes. During the walk, we found ourselves in a park with an amazing statue, too. It’s all about the little things you can find along the way.

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Finally, we reached the famous mermaid. My first thought? It is a lot smaller than I imagined it to be — it’s only about 1.25 meters tall. I was so struck by how contemplative it looked. With her head turned to one side, she looked so at peace, so reflective. Watching over the sea, and struggling with a tempest in her mind. I kept wondering what she was thinking about. She was stunning.

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Now, to Nyhavn, one of my favourite parts of Copenhagen.  This is like any typical European street that you see on any postcard – colourful, tall and slim buildings lining the two sides of the river flowing in the middle. There was so much life on that one street. Cafés and restaurants occupied the space on the two sides, and everybody was outside eating, enjoying a glass of wine, laughing, and listening to the music. The sun was shining, and if people weren’t seated at a table, they were lounging on the stone platforms.

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This was the Europe I had fallen in love with so many years ago, and the Europe that keeps pulling me back.

This is the Europe that I can never abolish from my memory.

Seeing all the hungry locals and tourists started to make our stomachs grumble too, so we walked a couple blocks to find a restaurant that offered great local Danish food. We shared some Danish meatballs, other Danish meats, and finger foods.

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A hearty burger! 

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Traditional Danish meatballs and potatoes

DSC_0132DSC_0135DSC_0136 Stomachs full and happy now, we were in search of some exercise. Climbing to the top of the Round Tower, or Rundetaarn, was perfect. The climb wasn’t too bad – it was just walking up a gently upward sloping cobblestone path that was about 210 metres long. The top was probably the best viewpoint of the city you could get, and it’s the oldest functioning observatory in Europe. I have to admit, it wasn’t as great as the bird’s eye view of Prague I had 2 years ago, but still stunning nonetheless. Red rooftops, bustling streets below — it was definitely a sight to see.

 

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The sightseeing was still not over!

Christiansborg Palace, the Danish Parliament, was next on our list. We merely popped in to take pictures, but you can actually climb to the top, too, free of charge! Part of the palace is used by the Royal Family for various functions and events, and the Prime Minister of Denmark also uses certain rooms for when foreign state leaders come for a visit.

Then, we walked all the way to the river bank to visit the library, or what they refer to as the Black Diamond for its modern architectural design. It’s a modern extension to the Royal Danish Library’s old building and construction was officially completed in 1999. The inside is just as stunning as the outside. You can go inside to walk around, but when we visited, much of the actual library was not available for just anybody to walk in and out.

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We were getting tired and our fatigue and jetlag was starting to catch up with us so we decided that our last major stop of the day would be Freetown Christiania, a pretty famous but lesser known attraction in Copenhagen! Adhering to our “walk only” habit, we would walk all the way to the other side of the river to get to it. It was about a 30-minute walk.

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Along the way, we saw Tivoli, the very famous amusement park, and we passed by the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, which is said to house amazing paintings and sculptures. Our Saviour’s Church was another attraction we passed by, which is found in Christiania too.

 

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Our Saviour’s Church in Christiania

 

Finally, we reached Freetown Christiania. This is a very secluded and individual part of Copenhagen and in Christiania. It was established by the hippies during the 1970s. It has its own set of “rules” and it is a self-proclaimed autonomous neighborhood.

When we walked in through the painted stone archway, I was not expecting any of what we saw. Freetown Christiania is essentially a place where the locals go to drink and smoke marijuana. Marijuana is not deemed legal in Copenhagen, but because Freetown Christiania operates on its own, they are “allowed” to smoke there. Everywhere we turned, we were greeted by the smell of marijuana, and along every path were vendors and booths all selling the drug. It was certainly unexpected, but it was a different view of the city. I found it strange how Copenhagen – a city bustling with tourists – was just about 1.5 km away, but it and Christiania were so different.

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Christiania has constantly been a source of controversy since its creation. The cannabis trade was tolerated by authorities until 2004; however, after that, measures for normalizing the legal status of the community led to conflicts, police raids, and negotiations.

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The official entrance into Freetown Christiania

I found it very interesting to walk around, see the locals, and witness a life so different from the one we’re used to on a day-to-day basis. Travelling, after all, is getting the chance to look at the world through a fresh pair of eyes, and this, no doubt, was one of those opportunities. You see different people, different cultures, and more. This is why we travel.

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So, that was our end to this very tiresome day. We took a taxi back to the hotel and called it a night. We would be boarding the Azamara Journey tomorrow, and we had to be well rested.

Also, if anybody’s interested in what the pedometer read at the end of the day? 26,000 steps!

Copenhagen, thank you for being so great to us. Until next time.

 

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