The train ride to Copenhagen was delightful as always. The train attendant could not have been any more quintessentially Swedish. She was the spitting image of Pippy Longstocking with two braids spiraling out the side of her red hair and a freckled face that not even the best of connect the dot artists could conquer. The scenery from Western Sweden to Kobenhaven is flat and full of small farms and residential suburbs. Once arriving in Malmo we got onto Europe’s largest bridge which took the train across the sea and onto mainland Denmark (if there really is a mainland in this country full of islands!) and into the capital.
From Central Station I walked outside and noticed I was right in front of Tivoli Gardens (Europe’s oldest theme park). The streets are lined with bicycles as Kobenhaven has more bikes than it does car (remarkably the streets have designated bike lanes and the traffic lights also have individual lights just for bicyclists). Along the streets I saw many sausage vendors and was amazed to see that the way to eat a hot dog here is with three scoops of mashed potatoes and fried onions of all things! My first stop was the National Museet as the Museum was free today. The museum is full of Danish artifacts such as Rune stones (huge stones that ancient Danish Royalty etched pictures and a linear language onto in order to be remembered in years to come). The museum houses the Royal Coin Collection which is absolutely huge. The largest coin is the size of a new born baby (I know odd choice of words but the first thing I thought was “you could fit a baby on that”). Along the top floor of the museum were several rooms decorated as traditional Danish interiors from Medieval times to present. Most interesting were the Danish wooden Crucifixes and incredibly detailed carved wooden triptychs (painted in gold).
From the museum I walked to Christiansborg (Parliament) which is surrounded by canals (and many long tourist site seeing boats). In front of the Parliament is a huge equestrian statue and fountain where I sat to eat an apple and feel the mist of the wind pushing the fountain water onto my face (today was a hot day with brilliant sun!) I walked down to the main shopping square and noticed everyone sitting out on the street eating iced cappuccinos. Walking east you reach the national library and three huge churches. The architecture here has mesmerized me even more than Paris ever could. The Danish are unique, creative and really wacky in how they dress, design buildings and create art work. My favorite church is to the left of the Parliament and consists of a steeple which is made up of two tree trunks reaching for the sky as they weave in and out of each other. I walked the long Stroget which is the shopping street comparable to the Champs in Paris. I reached the Municipal building made of dark orange bricks with a glorious clock tower and sat at a nice cozy bar to drink a Danish Carlsburg beer! I hadn’t eaten all day so once I got up I made sure to walk in a straight line to the best of my ability and find a place to eat. It is impossible to find Danish food in Copenhagen (or at least it takes a lot of work!) I ended up sitting at an outdoor cafe for a Tuborg and Croque Monsieur (I was happy that I had tasted the two most famous Danish beers in under 30 minutes). I went back to my hostel to clean myself up and organize my things before I took a nice long walk through Orsteds Parken which turned out to be a bit of a sketchy area to the north. There is a large bridge that passes over the main lake in the park and apparently it is where men and women go to cruise for relationships. I noticed someone following behind me but thought nothing of it until they continued to follow me around the entire park. My little tourist angel sat on my shoulder and told me to get out of there. So I left the park and the stalker continued to follow me onto the street. From the street (which I realized was empty) I ran to find a main street and thankfully lost the creepy stalker in my wake. After such a thrill like that I had to stop at a bar for an Amaretto and Cranberry! Its like a post stalker fix. I sat right bellow the clock tower and talked to a few lovely Danish guys who tried to explain why so many Scandinavians who don’t have blond hair actually bleach their hair (if you aren’t blond you aren’t cool apparently). I walked home at around 11pm through the dark and brightly lit main streets of Kobenhaven.
In the morning I realized I had brought the bad weather from up north with me. The entire day it rained and I knew it was inevitable that I would get soaked so I only wore my t-shirt in an attempt to let nature clean out the mustard spots from the day before. Today was a serious food pilgrimage. I only had one more day in the city and HAD to eat traditional Danish cuisine or all would be LOST. The tourism board explained to me that it is very hard to find true Smorebrod (Danish open faced sandwiches) as they have become a delicacy. Globalization had destroyed the most sacred and made Culinary Tourism a back breaking effort. The streets are lined with Chinese take away, McDonald’s and Kebab stands…no open faced sandwiches could be seen. I had the lady at information mark on my map every possible area for me to search and set out for a day of wet culinary adventure. My first stop was across the bridge to the island of Christianshaven. On my map I had a little x that represented the best Danish bakery in the city and thanks be to God I found it easily. I took a copious number of pictures and purchased two Danish treats. Kanelkrans which is a huge Cinnamon, icing and nut braided pastry and Chokoladebolle which is a huge spherical treat made with choix paste (similar to an eclare) the center if a custard filling and on top you will find hardened dark chocolate! I marched east to the ever so famous State of Christiana. One of the waitresses explained the history to me: the government in the 1960s wanted to conduct a social experiment. They walled the perimeter of Christiana and called it a separate state which had its own currency and coins, no taxes and individual laws. The area became a haven for hippies (who still live throughout the area). As I entered I thought of many of my Guelph friends who would absolutely die to live here. Everything is painted by artists; beautiful graffiti on the walls, garbage buckets, bridges etc… The city is a haven for the relaxed pot smoking Bohemian. Within the square of the city is a hilarious statue made of chains that resembles the statue of liberty. Apparently every night at 8pm the statue has gasoline poured onto it and is lit on fire (an ode to Capitalism and America, maybe not). The bars in this area were full of happy Danes at 10am and the sounds of Bob Marley could be heard everywhere. The area has a huge skate park, bars that sell local brewed hemp beer and a long main street that has about 10 large trampolines on it so that you can literally bounce down the street! This is hippy art culture at its finest! I was most interested in the several graffiti-ed walls with huge signs that exclaim SAY NO TO HARD DRUGS! They enjoy pot but crusade against hard drug use, interesting. As I walked out of Christiana and walked past the Free Tibet Shop I laughed as I past the banner over the exit. “Welcome to the EU”. These hippies are excellent jokesters poking fun at the heart of anti-establishment and the European Union (which they clearly are not a part of)!
I reached the main center of the eastern side of town after leaving the island Kongens Nytorv. The streets are lined with outdoor cafes and the main canal leading up to the Opera House at the end is decked with ships and expensive yachts. I walked up to the octagonal shaped Palace which has a brilliant equestrian statue in the center. I couldn’t help but laugh as a huge hoard of tourists ran after the 6 marching guardsmen. At the entrance of the Palace is a huge domed Church similar to St. Paul’s in London and on the adjacent side toward the harbor is a famous huge water fountain that looks over the newly built ultra modern Opera house.
I continued to walk north and passed through the Kastellet which is a flower shaped man made island used in the past as the house of the guard. The island is surrounded by several moats and lily filled rivers. The rain was pouring down on me so I ran up to the top of the island where a huge authentic Danish Windmill stands. I could barely see through my wet eyelashes as I took a picture of the windmill and ran back down the hill to catch a glimpse of the ever so famous HK Anderson’s “The Little Mermaid”. After leaving the statue I laughed as I saw a municipal Gardner watering the flowerbeds (only in Denmark do they water plants in the pouring rain!).
The following two hours would prove to be an inherently heroic adventure! I spent these 120 minutes walking all over town trying to find a decent Smorbrod shop! I found the one listed in my Lonely Planet called Ida Davidson which is the most famous place in town (and the only one I knew of). I almost cried when I walked into the front door like a wet whining dog only to find out that you need to reserve for lunch at least a week in advance! The entire restaurant was packed and the waiter kindly let me walk inside to take a few pictures of the absolutely beautiful open faced sandwiches that this restaurant serves for over 200 Kro a piece (that is about 28 euros for a slice of bread and toppings)! As if a call from God hit my ears, I left the restaurant in the depths of despair thinking I may never actually have the opportunity to eat this national treat. It hit me. Right in front of me was a huge sign that said “M Fine Dining Smorbrod.” Jumping to the facts: the restaurant was amazing and very well priced. The interior is rich red painted walls, black leather seats and white table cloths. I was sitting in one of the swankiest places in the city eating by myself with water dripping from my hair onto my nose. For 101 kro I had TWO delicious open faced sandwiches! My first was Rye bread buttered and topped with two huge pork loins (with the crispiest salted skin fat I have ever had). On the side I had fresh pickled cucumber and red cabbage. The second sandwich was Rye bread with roast beef slices, pickled onion and cucumber, fried onions and remoulade (a Danish Curry). I could not stop smiling. I had worked so hard for this, running through huge puddles, fighting my way through sheets of pouring rain to enjoy this delectable Danish upscale treat! This was a great way to say goodbye to Denmark. I will always relish in my fond memories of the brilliant architecture, cute store fronts and cafes on the canals and my culinary tourism pilgrimage in the wettest conditions. Perseverance has tasty rewards!
Now I have to say goodbye to Scandinavia, what an amazing trip it has been through this quirky area of the globe! Tonight I sleep well (hopefully) and take a 7 hour train from Kobenhaven to the south end of the island, onto a ferry to mainland Germany and a train from Hamburg to Berlin. The world Cup semi finals…three days…this will be unbelievable (don’t hate me)!