Saturday, 14 June 2014

Copenhagen, Denmark

Another long weekend, and again a perfect opportunity to step outside Germany. In summer like this, there is no better place to go to than one of the Scandinavian countries. We chose Copenhagen, Denmark.

Beside Netherlands, Denmark is the most English friendly non-English speaking country I have visited so far. Every age group spoke fluent English that made me think whether English is really one of their official languages.

The first impression: the layout of the city was bit similar to Finland but most of the houses looked like the mixture of Manchester and Netherlands. From outside, the houses looked really clean and tidy as if all the houses had been smoothed by a trowel by a same person with accurate measurement after construction. Copenhagen has a target to become greenest city in the world soon and by the look of it, they are actually not far away. The city looked very clean. 

Amagerstrand Beach
On the day we reached there, we decided to spend time in beach area. I was quite surprised not to see many people there. Only few people who came for evening jog/walk were seen and few other individuals who looked like they came to forget their hard day. I remember in UK, at time and weather like this, most of the beaches are overcrowded. The water was really clean though. It was evening time but the reflection of the visible lights from the depth of the sea resulted the outcome of green, pink, blue and purple colours. It looked like a rainbow. 


Nyhavn is the most popular place in Copenhagen. Nyhvn means New (Ny) Harbour (Havn). Similarly, Copenhagen means buying ( Copen) and Harbour (Hagen). Nyhavn was built in 1670. During that time, Copenhagen had lots of international visitors to sell their stuffs. Most of the businesses used to take place in Nyhavn. It is known that it once used to be a red light district as well but all changed in 1970s and now it has become one of the most popular harbours without of course red light district.

Apparently, the famous Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen, who is popular for writing fairy tale stories used to live in this street because the national theatre was so close to this place.

There is a cruise running frequently in the river that spreads and finds its way through the city, just like Amsterdam. It costs 40 Krone but free with Copenhagen card. You can explore and relax at the same time. If you indeed decide to go for cruising, I would recommend not to miss Black Diamond building and Christianhavn. The Black Diamond building is one of the Royal libraries built in 1999, with black granite and glass. It stands by the lake and on clear sunny day, the sunlight gets reflected from the material of the building. Hence, it sparkles like a diamond. Not only that, the reflection of the building can be seen in the water, just like Macchapuchre's in Phewa LakeYou can actually go inside this building. Christianhavn, on the other hand is a 17th century neighbourhood. When Christian IV first built it, people didn't want to live here because it was so far away from the city centre. So the King decided to make this place tax free zone that appealed many people to live here eventually. Now, things have changed. Everyone has to pay tax because its not far from the city due to the improved transportation facilities.

After a cruise, sit by the harbour and have a coffee or beer, there is nothing better than that. If you want to see Denmark's narrowest house, its house number 4 in Nyhavn. By the way, there is one famous tree by the harbour, which is known as the most photographed tree in Denmark. Shame I didn't take picture there :(.

                                              The Queen's Palace
Just like UK, Denmark also has the Queen because King Frederick IX (father of the Queen) only had daughters. The Queen's Palace is one of the attractions in Copenhagen but I was quite surprised with the location and operation of the palace. I was expecting it to be something like Buckingham Palace (Grand and surrounded by tall walls) but the palace is quite small and people can actually step up to its doorstep. There were other similar houses around it and these houses with a palace are located in a round shape, making a big open ground in the middle. People can go in the ground and take pictures whichever angle they want. The house shown in the picture below is where the Queen lives. Apparently, she is a heavy smoker and that's why the house has 5 chimneys. Another interesting thing about the royalties in Denmark is, every king is called either Frederick or Christian. If a father is Frederick, a son is called Christian. Royal daughters are also given classy and royal names like Elizabeth, Emilia, Louise or Margaret.

The Round Tower
The Round tower is also one of the attractions built around 17th century by the King, Christian IV. The tower is 34.8 metres tall with spiral way as shown in the picture that takes you to the top. From there, you can see the whole Copenhagen. Most of the places I have been so far, I was always excited to visit these kind of towers but this time I wasn't that interested. In Berlin or Prague or even Hamburg, I went to the top but I couldn't actually see the difference between them. Only if there were famous places like Eiffel Tower or Statue of Liberty or even Sydney Opera, it is worth it otherwise, its like looking down from the plane. Everything looks same. We only went there because it was free with Copenhagen card and we heard we can see even Sweden in blue and sunny sky like this. However, watching Sweden from there was like watching France from Dover Cliffs. Nothing interesting apart from a murky horizon across the sea where the sky meets the land.  

The Blue Planet- National Aquarium
Near Copenhagen airport is the home of 20000 aquatic animals of about 470 species. It was actually the first time I visited any aquarium and I was over excited. However, compared to how big the building is from outside, I couldn't see much inside. I thought may be they need extra room for the operation of this building. Its free entry with Copenhagen card and without, it costs 160 Krone. The only bad thing is, the nearest train station is in an airport which is about 15 minutes by walk. This is one of the main attraction and there is no proper transport service? I couldn't believe it, but later I found out that there is a regular bus service. So be familiar with bus route if you are going there.

The Little Mermaid
This statue is known as a symbol of Copenhagen. The Little Mermaid is actually a fairy tale story written by Hans Christian Andersen. It is known that Andersen was very fond of ballet dancing that inspired him to write this story.The story is about an aquatic creature woman who has a fish tail. She attempts to live like a human once she sees a prince and falls in love. The statue built in 1913 sits on the big rock by the harbour, making me think what happens to it if ever the water level increases. The statue of Little Mermaid turned 100 years last year. During this century, her head and hand were chopped off twice. The 2nd time, they couldn't find the head so they built it again. Apparently, on her 100th birthday, 100 virgins jumped into this lake (but not sure it's true).

Overall, it was a good break. Weather was really good and I am tanned a lot. Just that the city was too expensive compared to other European countries (except UK). At some point, I felt like I am actually eating money there. We had altogether 2 days. So we thought 48 hours Copenhagen card would be good investment but it is too expensive ( 67 Euro for 48 hours :( ) and most of the Museums (which are free with Copenhagen card) are closed on Monday. We also had bit of difficulty in understanding train time tables and destination. In the information centre, they say one platform and when you go there, the platform screen shows something else. Later, we came to know that the train actually separates during the journey and goes to different destinations. There was no train numbers and destination written in front or at the side of the train but only 'Free internet' everywhere. The 'free internet' logo was as big as people from Sweden can also see it but its actually only free for subscribed customers. However, Metros were really good. Be extra careful if you are travelling via train. 

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