Saturday 28th November
I can’t remember if I’ve said this before so if I have I apologise. When I’ve spoken to Australians and New Zealanders it’s become a running joke that after initial enthusiasm they gradually tire of the castles scattered around Europe. Likewise when I was in those countries for just under 5 months my enthusiasm for waterfalls waned. Whilst they are both undeniably fantastic destinations, with some stunning natural landscapes, travelling across the vast distances with fellow Europeans made me appreciate the different landscapes, histories and cultures that were on my own door step.
I had made it a mini goal to have lots of mini breaks to see the different cultures of Europe in 2015 rather than a trek to a far flung corner of the earth. As a child I was desperate to go to Denmark due to Lego. It never happened and by the time it opened in the UK I was at the stage in life guys go through when they deny their imagination any pleasure beyond believing they may play for their favourite football team one day.
All this back story explains why, despite being emotionally drained after Germany the trip (explained in the previous blog) some advice from Kim in Greece had sowed a seed in my brain. As I quickly settled back in to my “old” Ealing life I got itchy feet. Searching skyscanner using a flexible destination and sorting by cheapest returns Dublin came up first then Copenhagen for £59. It wasn’t Lego land but it was close enough.
The flight was at 6.40am but I only had hand luggage and checked in online so I left it as late as possible before getting to Heathrow airport. There were only 7 people on my flight so I took over the entire and row and slept some more and had a complimentary coffee. All of that meant by the time we arrived in Copenhagen 2 hours later I was feeling fairly refreshed and eager to explore.
First stop was breakfast and as I wondered towards my hostel even though I knew I couldn’t check in I noticed La Glace, the oldest bakery in Copenhagen. The display of cakes had me drooling and so I stepped in for a treat. I ordered ‘La Glace Tea’ which had a vanilla flavour and the Sportskage which was their special, consisting of crushed nougat, cream and caramelised profiteroles. I can only imagine it’s called ‘sport cake’ because you’d have to do a lot of exercise to burn off the calories. It was as delicious as it looked, though incredibly sweet.
It was raining when I arrived and rather than clearing it gradually became heavier. A queue of tourists had built up outside and as I had been there quite a while I felt an obligation to give up my seat even though I knew Emilie was 20 minutes away. I had a look at a very touristy shop which had a display of polar bears playing instruments. Eventually I walked back to La Glace and stared at the wonderful displays of cakes and chocolates until I was woken from my daze by Emilie calling my name.
We walked to the end of the street and I saw my first Copenhagen Christmas Market. Naively I had assumed there was just the one at Tivoli but I was wrong. We walked around the city and there were 5. The second market we visited had a big Ferris wheel though the rain meant it was running empty.
We walked to the opposite end of the city and saw the Hotel D’Angleterre with its impressive Christmas display. It was at the Christmas Market opposite that we brought some of the famous Glogg (similar, if not identical to mulled wine) which was well received due to the rain. Next we walked to Nyhavn where we stumbled across another Christmas Market.
Emilie managed to talk one of the traders in to giving me a few samples of some Danish biscuits to try along with two types of honey one of which contained cinnamon. Emilie had told me about Apple slices, originally apple slices in batter, now just fried batter balls served with jam and caster sugar and as we went to leave Nyhavn she saw a pub selling them.
We ordered some more Glogg and the Apple Slices which were unsurprisingly delicious before we walked to the Hans Christian Andersen Christmas Market where someone dressed as Hans Christian walked around. Next we got some food and whilst the traditional Danish Christmas dinner sounded a culinary treat I was full on all my desserts so I opted for the Danish meatballs.
Emilie Had to go so we said our goodbyes and I made my way to the hostel. As I did so I walked past the Rundetarn and noticed it was still open and as it had stopped raining thought the views of the city would be nice lit up. So despite carrying my backpack I made my way up. I feared it would be all steps but it was mostly a ramp until the final section and the view of the Christmas lights didn’t disappoint.
I checked in to my hostel before heading to the Tivoli Gardens which were jaw dropping pretty and everything I had hoped. It would have been nice to walk around with someone and to ride the rollercoaster but it was still very pleasant and the light display to the swan lake music was stunning. I think I explored every inch of the site and even the biggest Christmas Grinch would have warmed to the atmosphere.
Even though I knew it was only 5.30 back home I stupidly checked the Watford score. We were leading 2.1 but there was still 15 minutes to go. As has become recent holiday tradition I found a quiet area and with rapidly decreasing battery cradled my phone. Deeney made it 3.1 a few minutes later and with victory seemingly assured I turned off my phone and went back to exploring. I checked the score 15 minutes later and to my horror the match was still going and it was 3.2. Eventually I got confirmation it was over and I could release a little ‘get in’.
I returned back to the hostel and met my housemates, a couple from Madrid. After the usual language barrier conversation I asked if they supported Real or Athletico. It didn’t really matter, either way I knew I’d proudly declare Sanchez Flores was manager of Watford and as he has God like status with both clubs I knew I’d make a good impression. Long may he continue helping me make Spanish friends.
I had planned to do a pub crawl but my battery needed charging and by the time I left I’d missed the start. I headed to the first bar but when I entered I knew it wasn’t right for me. Emilie suggested a few places the other side of the Queen Louise’s Bridge however I couldn’t find the main one she recommended and realising I wasn’t in the mood for a late night decided to get some food from a place called Spisestedet FEED before returning home.
I fell asleep reading my book and the Spanish couple were as surprised to see me in bed as I was to be woken up by them returning. There was still an empty bunk and just as we had decided it wouldn’t be filled a German girl from Bonn came in who had been separated from her friends due to a mistake with the booking. We spoke limited Deutsch before she went out with a her friends and the rest of us went to sleep.
Sunday 29th November
The hostel was pretty poor, certainly compared to the one in Berlin and the bunk was pretty uncomfortable. I woke up a number of times and when the nearby church bells rang early next morning I realised I wasn’t going to get much extra sleep. I hoped someone else would stir first but they didn’t so I got down, had a shower, packed my bag and took off my bed sheets.
The receptionist at the hostel was incredibly helpful by printing my boarding pass for free and she became particularly excited at helping me find out what time the Crown Prince and Princess would be lighting the Christmas tree. After that I stocked up on a good continental breakfast including the triangle cheese and Nutella (not mixed together).
When I left the hostel for my walked towards the Little Mermaid there were grey clouds but it was dry and I didn’t think it would rain. As I wondered along I saw the Royal Danish Theatre and the French Embassy with a memorial of flowers to those killed a few weeks before and poignantly reflected on how even Copenhagen had been a victim of a terrorist attack earlier in the year.
At Nyhavn a couple asked for me to get their overheard them asking about canal cruise and realised one was about to leave. The canal boat tour had been recommended to me by a few people and it ended up being perfect timing because as soon as we left Thor unleashed a thunderstorm which included hail. I was thankful I had taken a break from walking and wasn’t in the rain.
The tour guide was also really good and had a good sense of humour and did well to disguise his frustration when people on the deck outside ignored his warnings about low bridges and refused to sit down. One guy came very close to being de-capitated because although the guide said sit down low bridge in 5 langugaes including Russian, the guy just smiled back. Despite the rain it was a pleasant journey and I got my first glimpse of the Little Mermaid where a small crowd had braved the elements.
Amazingly when we arrived back in Nyhavn the clouds had been replaced by blue sky and a golden sphere which wasn’t radiating much heat. I dashed over to Amalienburg slot, home of Royal Family for the changing of the guards at 12.00pm. I imagine it must be very busy in the summer months and whilst it felt fairly busy in the centre by the statue of Frederik V on Horseback I still got a front row standing position looking towards Frederik’s Church, the Marble church. By complete luck on my part this was the street the Royal Guards came up.
As the guards passed me I walked in the opposite direction to most of the crowd who ‘followed’ them. I stood facing the arch and the guards I assumed were being replaced. My hunch was correct so again I had a great spot for the actual ceremony where the band played various tunes and the soldiers went through their various drills one of which involved them shuffling over very quickly which caused a few people in the crowd to snigger loudly.
After the ceremony was over I continued my walk to the Little Mermaid but first had a walk around Kastellet the old fort which is one of the best preserved star fortresses in Northern Europe. It was free to enter and I ended up more of the site than I had expected and climbed to the top of the mound so that I could get a good view of the site however unfortunately the Commander’s House, the main centre piece was covered in tarpaulin.
I finally arrived at the Little Mermaid which was crowded but it must be utterly horrendous in summer when there are loads of coach and cruise tours lining up. The Little Mermaid disney movie is one of my earliest childhood memories so I was glad to make the effort to see it and I was prepared for it to be as small as it was. In fact if anything because I had been warned to lower my expectations, I was actually quite impressed with it.
I walked back towards the Rosenborg Slot which is home to the Danish Crown Jewels. The group in front of me were turned away because it shut at 2 and the ticket office had closed 1 minute before they arrived (at 1.45). I used some English charm and the lady kindly relented, let me in and then even looked after my backpack for free. I wasn’t fussed about viewing the apartments and I had ample time to view the Crown of Christian IV and the other items.
I continued my walk this time heading for Christiansborg Palace, the seat of the Danish Parliament but walked via the Rundetarn and the Cathedral of Copenhagen the Vor Frue Kirke (Church of our Lady). There appeared to be a small gathering outside the Parliament and continued to Christianshavn to see the famous spire of Vor Frelsers Kirke (Church of our Saviour). I didn’t have the time to see the eco settlement Christiania however I wanted to see the lighting of the Christmas tree by the Crown Prince and Princess of Denmark.
I hurried back to the Københavns Rådhus (City Hall) to see the Christmas tree and on the way I got a famous kanelsnegl (a danish pastry but not the type we have here) from a bakery before passing the parliament where the small gathering had turned in to a big demonstration about climate change. I arrived in plenty of time and had a fairly good view despite the big crowds which had gathered and waited in anticipation with locals and tourists.
Mr and Mrs Clause arrived on a fire truck and due to my ignorance I thought they were the Crown Prince and Princess of Denmark thinking they had thrown down the gauntlet for William and Kate. I wasn’t alone in thinking this and after they had shaken hands with members of the crowd and waved regally to the crowd, the actual Princess Mary stepped out of the City Hall however Frederic was not with her so I still believe he was the one dressed as Santa Clause.