Copenhagen—also the Land of Hans Christian Andersen … and the Little Mermaid
Hej: Hello—Ja! Yes!
There was a distinctive lilt in the air the 1st of July when we stepped off the plane in Copenhagen, Denmark. Traveling to different countries in Europe and Africa has given us an appreciation of the diverse accents that trip off the tongues of other people in our world. We soon noticed that although English is our first language, whenever we tried to pronounce something in Danish, we did so as if we were native French speakers—dropping word endings and not putting the accent on the right syllable. Happily, we discovered that in the Scandinavian cities we visited, English is learned at a very early age and spoken almost without an accent. Communication?—no problem.
We had traveled from Grenoble to Lyon once again by the navette bus, this time at 4 am to catch our 7 am flight to Brussels and then on to Copenhagen. Like so many European airports, Copenhagen airport was an easy hub to take the train and then the metro to the exotic hotel that I had located online. . The Bella Sky Comwell Hotel (video-Spot the Celebrities. No, not us!) opened in May 2011 and is quite a place! Because of its newness, we got a fantastic deal and had a good time exploring the dramatic towers, ultra-modern facilities, and conference center with windmills twirling in the background. The jury is still out on how this hotel will be received, but from the advertising and hype, it’s off to a promising start.
We were giving Copenhagen two of our touring days to show us what she had. We weren’t disappointed. Although the weather started out cool and overcast, by the time we made it to the National Gallery of Denmark (Statens Museum for Kunst), the sun was peeking out, and the humidity was rising.
We had arranged to meet Emily Herbert, whom we’ve known since she was a wee girl in Durham, at the museum. Emily has been living in Copenhagen for the past couple of years with her husband, and she had a free Saturday afternoon to meet us in the museum café to trade living-abroad stories. She also gave us some insider tips on not to be missed spots in the city.
Small and distinct neighborhoods make up Copenhagen; so after bidding Emily good-bye and watching her pedal off on her bicycle, we headed out to explore them. First up would be the harbor in Nyhavn (New Harbor). This is picturesque, old Copenhagen with sidewalk cafés along the water and tour boats passing up and down the canal. The changeable weather started to darken the sky, so we hastened our pace a little as we marveled at the $500 million
Operaen (Opera House) built in 2000 on the shore of the harbor. The Gefion Fountain, with its legend of the Nordic goddess, Gefion, who transformed her four sons into oxen in order to use them to plough the island of Zealand out of Sweden, was our target destination. The water sprays out from one of the most beautiful and dynamic fountains we’ve ever seen. With the impending storm, we decided to skip a trip to the Little Mermaid statue in the harbor. It’s a copy of the original, and as there are several copies worldwide, we didn’t think we wanted to brave the lightning storm so close to water.
The The Copenhagen Jazz Festival was in progress during our visit, and strolling along the streets, we enjoyed the musicians who were set up to entertain and welcome listeners. They were not dampened by the showers that became frequent, but finally even they had to throw in (or pick up) the towel when the heaviest rain that Copenhagen had experienced in 30 years poured down on both the July 2 and 3. Wading through ankle-deep water, we headed for the metro station to return to the hotel. The water poured down the steps, pooling in the lower levels of the station. We tried to understand the garbled Danish announcements the transit authority was broadcasting. Our looks of incomprehension elicited friendly Copenhagen locals to volunteer an explanation—the flooding had closed many metro stops, ours included right next to our hotel. Amazingly, we were able to figure out how to connect with a bus through their excellent transport system and make it back to the hotel, soggy but unscathed. We hung up wet clothes and shoved newspaper in our sodden shoes (reminiscent of our Rome Forum soaking) to absorb the lakes that had formed there.
Elephant lover and pachyderm collector that I am (I have some elephant statuettes, not the real thing), I was delighted to discover the Elephant Parade Copenhagen 2011 going on July and August 2011 in the city center. All across town, 103 artistically, and sometimes humorously, painted baby elephant statues are on show to be auctioned off to help fund the ongoing efforts to save the Asian elephants whose numbers are being decimated by poaching and loss of habitat. Sadly, on our safari to locate the elephants, we found a comparative minuscule (20+) number during our rambles. As I was snapping a shot of Censor, #33, a woman appeared with the identical pastel-colored-checked hooded sweatshirt and posed next to the elephant for a photo. And some think that I’m crazy.
Sunday morning, we walked to the Vor Frelsers Kirke and admired its winding outer staircase that towers above its surrounding buildings. It has a 17th-century pipe organ and one of the most ornate altars we’d ever seen. Some visitors took the option of climbing the corkscrew spire, but we satisfied our curiosity with a peek at the inside..
On July 4, we boarded the Øresund train that took us across the bridge out of Denmark into Sweden and the city of Malmö. In a half-hour we were in another country! We had stuffed ourselves with delicious pastries and were ready to bid the elephants, good-bye! More on Malmö in a bit….oh, also Göteborg, our final destination.