We had one final day in Scandinavia, which we planned to spend in miscellaneous tourism of Copenhagen, with little specific plan or direction. Museums were closed on Mondays, so that kind of activity was not an option. We had considered returning to Bakken or Tivoli, but the weather looked no more favorable than it had been for the past few days and we thought it was unlikely we'd get much more enjoyment out of the parks than we had already. Instead we decided just to visit a few sights we were interested in. With such a flexible schedule, we didn't have to get up at any particular time, though I found myself up quite early.
Breakfast was less extensive at the Hotel Danmark than most of our fancier hotels, and even than a Scandic, but even they had items like brie virtually unseen in American breakfast setups. The room was crowded and we were forced to take a table that hadn't been cleaned in order to be able to sit at all. There was a chalkboard with the rather depressing weather report for the day, in spite of the cheery "Good morning!" also written on the board.
It was only shortly before noon when we left. We walked around the city hall first, and I heard the clock chime several times. Oddly enough I seemed to hear the 15 minute chimes every 5 minutes. Perhaps it was the approaching end of the trip, but time seemed to pass all too quickly.
After passing by a statue of Hans Christian Andersen, we went inside the city hall, but couldn't get into the central room because they were working on the light fixtures. This in itself was an interesting operation and we watched for a while. We also looked in a little garden courtyard in the back. The most interesting thing here was an odd fountain with a statue of a bear playing with its feet. Throughout the building were interesting decorative architectural touches such as stone dragon stair railings.
We re-emerged onto the plaza outside the city hall, Rådhuspladsen. There was a lot of construction. We saw a sign indicating it was for a subway station scheduled to open in 2018. Knowing the unpopularity of a subway station in Pittsburgh that has teaken about 3 years to complete, it led me to reflect on the apparent patience and public-mindedness of Europeans compared to Americans.
We returned to the Strøget as our base of exploration for the time being, stopping in shops every so often. I spotted a bakery, and we decided to give it a try. I liked some of the names for the pastries, such as Hindbaersnitter and Franske Horn (French horn, of course). I got something called Linse, a kind of cream filled pastry.
We saw many men and boys in Scout uniforms on the Strøget, and would see them throughout the time we were in Copenhagen. It appeared that the Scouting Jamboree was being held in Copenhagen that summer. It was interesting because we'd also happened to be in the same area as the Jamboree on our England trip in 2007.
There were several street performers out at that hour. We saw some "living statues" such as we'd seen in Madrid--people gilded with metallic paint and standing in very still poses. One was a little person. They were shy of having their pictures taken, but we snuck a couple.
Another guy was setting up to blow giant soap bubbles, such as we'd tried to do at Djurs Sommerland. Oddly enough he seemed to be having as many problems as we did. He spent a lot of time adjusting his mixture and we only saw him blow one successful bubble before we got bored and moved on.
We deviated from the main Strøget after this square, and came to a church called the Vor Frue Kirke. The most interesting thing about it to me was that it advertised free wireless and had QR codes on some signs.
Near the church was a square called Frue Plads. There was a statue of physicist Niels Bohr here. There was a small gelato stand with an enclosed eating area there. They had some odd flavors like Red Bull, but we got some anyway. I had pistachio and it was OK. The server was rather sullen-looking, one of the few service people we encountered there who didn't seem entirely friendly.
Though we hadn't planned out the day to any degree of detail, one of the things we did want to see was something we'd stumbled on almost by accident in 2004, a building called the Rundetaarn, or "round tower". It's an unusual structure; to get to the top one climbs a spiral ramp that winds 7 1/2 times within the tower. It was built as an observatory in 1642, as evidenced by the elaborate gilt letters on the exterior. I find it a fascinating structure and was pleased to have a chance to return to it.
We climbed all the way to the top. Along the way we made a stop at a gallery off to the side. It had an exhibition titled "After Babel" with book and paper-themed works of art. There was also an interesting display of a cannonball that had been fired during a war but broke into pieces when it hit a book called "Defensor Pacis". Another trip around the tower took us to a bell loft, for the church next door. There was also a display of the tower's original privy.
Throughout our climb up I noticed that there were more people there than on our prior visit, particularly parents with kids. There were also several racks with various brochures about aspects of the tower that I didn't remember from before. I wondered if whoever runs the tower had done some kind of upgrade to their marketing program that accounted for these differences.
At the top we finally came to some stairs to take us to the observation platform. There was also an astronomical observatory that offered programs for the public, but it was closed. I noticed that all the programs in July were about the sun, which made sense in a country that had a lot of daylight in the summer. The steps were wide at first but got narrow enough to only let people through in one direction, which caused trouble with the crowds.
The observation platform gave us a nice view of Copenhagen. From here we could see back to Tivoli. On a clearer day, we might even have been able to see Hven, according to the informational signs. Unfortunately it was too misty to see that far.
After climbing back down we went to Trinity Church next door. It wasn't too memorable compared to some of the other churches we'd seen on the trip, but one interesting aspect was the organ console. It was made of wood, which I proved by knocking on it, but was painted to look like marble. A guy who saw me knocking asked what I was doing!
It was time to plan our next moves, which we did while sitting in the church corner. We decided to visit the Our Savior's Church, with its very notable spiral tower. It required us taking the Metro to reach, but from there we could walk back to our hotel.
We had a bit of trouble with the Metro. First we went into the wrong station (the Norreport station had a side for the intercity trains and another for the Metro). Then we had to determine how to pay for our tickets. The machines apparently did not take bills, and we certainly didn't have enough coins to pay in cash, so eventually I had to use my ATM card, which I hadn't really wanted to do. In any case, the Metro seemed to operate on the honor system, as we never had to present our tickets to anybody or use them in a turnstile.
The church was on the island known as Christanhavn. Once off the Metro it was easily reached. However we found that we were too late to be able to get inside; we'd thought it was open an hour later than it was. We walked all around the church to see if there was an alternate entrance, but no luck.
The church may have been closed, but the tower was still open. There was an admission fee, but having been denied the interior of the church, we decided we might as well get something from having taking the time to get there. It was a long climb, but wound up being worth it. The first part was within the tower, passing by the bell loft. The bells must have been used at times, as there was a light to indicate when they'd go off, which surely would have been loud if one was so close.
About halfway up we were able to get to the spiral ramp around the outside of the tower. The last steps to the outside were so steep they were more like a ladder. To get back down, I wound up climbing backwards as I would have a ladder. From there I continued up the spiral to the very top. I noticed that the tower was configured so that the outer rail at every level was just above the inner rail of the level below. At the very top the steps narrowed to the point that they couldn't really be walked on. I just put my foot on the very last step. Coming down it was amusing to see a kid (Australian by his father's accent) that seemed quite fearless on the long stairway.
We could have gone from the church to the nearby Christiania neighborhood--an army barracks that had been taken over by squatters and turned into a sort of independent hippie enclave within Copenhagen. However we felt we'd had enough of tourism for the day and so began to walk back toward the hotel. Along the way we walked along some major and some more minor streets. On one we saw a house that looked distinctly crooked. We noticed because another woman was taking a picture of it. A guy standing in the doorway gave her the finger! We also got to pass close to the unusual spiral dragon tower, which was atop an old stock exchange building.
We continued back to the neighborhood around the Strøget, viewing some of the sights. Near one canal was a statue of an old woman named "Fiskerkone". A beer shop had Goose Island from Chicago on display, a bit to my surprise.
After some relaxation time at the hotel, we went back out to wander the same area to look for a place to eat our final Danish dinner. We were hoping just to find something but this turned out to be a poor strategy. Our desire to find decent food at modest prices didn't work out very well, at least not in the Strøget area. It was also getting late, so that our options narrowed the more we delayed by just looking around. Many places seemed to close at 10, a bit to my surprise. Though it was a weekday, I figured that European restaurants in a heavily tourist-oriented area would state open late.
In the end we wound up at a place called Shawarma, which served Middle-Eastern food. (There were at least two of these outlets along Strøget.) I had a shish-kebab platter, with a glass of red wine. The food was all right, certainly not what I'd expected to be eating but about the most reasonable option still readily available to us besides going to McDonald's again.
Once or twice during the trip, our friend Chris had commented about the "surreal" nature of some of the experiences. I wondered what he would have thought if he were there, for though the atmosphere of the restaurant was pretty generic overall, there were a couple of odd touches. First, a guy walked out with a Chihuahua on his shoulder. Later we heard the Godfather theme wafting in from some busker playing outside. These odd little touches made it a more memorable dinner than it otherwise would have been!
We went back to the hotel. We could see and hear Tivoli's rides still running as we passed by, but we didn't go in, though we were sorry that it was our last night.
This post is one in a series. For the other installments, see: