Backpacking through Europe: Denmark

A little over one week ago, we got on a train in Lubeck bound for Copenhagen. We knew we would have to cross water to get there, but we never thought it would be on a train - on a ferry. That's right! As we approached the water, the train announcer came over the loudspeaker and announced that we would soon be boarding for Denmark and would need to disembark from the train once on the ferry. And just as it sounded, the train transferred from train tracks directly onto ferry tracks (that's a thing) and all passengers got off the train and walked up three flights of stairs to the two main floors. The boat was quite large, though it definitely didn't seem large enough to hold an entire train, and there were two floors of shopping, pharmacies, ATMs, money exchange center, bathrooms and food courts. We bought a drink and snack to share, wandered out onto the upper deck for as long as we could handle the cold, then found window seats back inside where we enjoyed the rest of the hour-long journey. 

Once our train disembarked from the ferry again, and we arrived two hours later in Copenhagen, we were excited to get some more steps in and explore the city. Keith had read up on multiple things to do in the city on our ride, so once we dropped off our bags at our latest AirBNB apartment rental, we walked forty minutes back to the main square of town. In Scandinavia, due to budget, all our apartments are quite a distance from the old town or main squares, but thankfully all of the towns have great transportation systems, so we alternated between walking and taking subways and buses. We had heard a lot about Tivoli Gardens online, and from our AirBNB host, so we decided to spend our first afternoon at Tivoli, the second oldest theme park in the world. It was surprisingly lovely for a theme park! There were gardens and floral landscapes throughout, right beside roller coaster rides and cotton candy stands. I had also read online that there was an ice cream stand in Tivoli that was considered the best ice cream in Denmark. After riding a few coasters, we shared a cone of the Amerikana, two giant scoops, whatever flavors you want, in a waffle cone with jam, whipped cream, meringue, and a chocolate-marshmallow puff on top. It was delicious but a bit much honestly, and really aside from the presentation, not the best ice cream we've ever had. We grabbed dinner from a food vendor and then walked to Tivoli's peacock stage to end our first evening enjoying a harlequin and ballet performance. 

The following day, we woke to an overcast sky but braved the dreary weather for more exploring. We walked back into the town square and spent our morning exploring their City Hall, with a children's art exhibit on the main floor and bridal parties in each wing, waiting for their friends to marry. We then spent the next hour walking through the former palace's small, yet lovely gardens. The palace, that reminded me of a Victorian mansion, and now serves as a museum, is partly surrounded by a moat and has guards patrolling the grounds. Hans Christian Anderson, the children's book author, was Denmark-born and in one of their bays, there's a Little Mermaid statue in honor of him. We headed in that direction, but first walked through an old military base that rests below rolling hills and is surrounded by a lovely city park. There was a lovely, small yellow chapel on the base and when we followed the groups of people filing in, we stumbled upon a free all-girls choir concert. Both groups were from private all-girls schools, one from Denmark and the other from Slovenia. For the next hour, we were captivated by each group and particularly charmed by the Slovenian choir. They opened with a Slovic folksong that was haunting and beautiful, and I can still hear the soloist's booming, deep voice in my head. I need to hear that song again! As we left the chapel, it began to slowly drizzle and the rest of the day, we explored with soggy feet and cold hands. We braved the tour buses and crowds to capture a few photos of the Little Mermaid statue, much smaller than I expected but a sweet homage nonetheless, and from there, ventured north for more renowned ice cream. This time, it was for a popsicle. Keith had read online the evening before that Copenhagen is very big into ice cream popsicles, and there was one shop in particular that is especially revered. After twenty minutes of walking, our toes beginning to go numb, we finally found the shop just as they were cleaning and closing up for the day. The shop owner graciously offered to still sell us popsicles and then proceeded to explain all 30+ flavor options to us. Keith ordered a hazelnut with crushed pecans, and I ordered a dark chocolate with orange-milk chocolate shell. They were both divine! The Tivoli cone may have been a tourist treat, but the popsicles were a locals favorite, and they were by far, the best ice cream popsicle either of us has ever had. 

Day three in Copenhagen was unfortunately the coldest and wettest of all four, so we tried to spend most of the day inside. In the morning, before the rain really started coming down, we walked through the older part of town a bit more and headed toward the former library tower for the local university, now turned into a mini museum. The climb to the top is a gradual flat stone walkway, and the top opens into a traveling art exhibit. On our way there, we ran into something quite unexpected - an enormous crowd of people (easily hundreds) crowding a city square with a stage at the front and performers singing Disney songs in Danish. We couldn't see the stage through the swarms of people, but once we spotted the thirtieth or fortieth little girl dressed like Elsa, we figured out it was a performance of Frozen songs. That movie is everywhere! There were even little girls with white-blonde wigs and makeup. It took us almost an hour to get through the crowd, but I felt especially bad for all the cars stuck trying to get around the square. Families were standing in the streets, on every corner, in shop doors and peeking out windows trying to see the stage. Apparently the city didn't realize how big the movie was, or how popular the performance would be either! After we left that area of town, we headed toward Christiania, a squatters' commune on a former military base. Keith had read about it in Rick Steve's book and our AirBNB host had recommended checking it out too. There are two makeshift entrances, graffitied and framed by brick archways. It seems strange to see tour buses parked nearby, but it's a very well visited area of the city. The old military buildings have been spray-painted and graffitied, and converted into apartments, with curtains in windows and plants on balconies. You are not really supposed to take pictures there, so we don't have many, but I recommend googling it to get an idea of the place. Keith loved it - he thought it was intriguing to see a place like that in the city, but so far removed at the same time. He liked the grungy feeling, the laid back atmosphere, and the small coffee shops with people smoking and scrawling in notepads. I didn't like it as much - it felt dirty and a little scary to me. I didn't like walking through the Green Light District (or "pushers street") where the illegal sale of drugs happens and the dealers all hide in teepee-like structures with their faces covered by bandanas so they can't be recognized. To be fair, a lot of drug and gang violence has happened here, and I made the mistake of reading about that before visiting. I'm a little surprised it's such a huge tourist destination, and while it wasn't my favorite part of our visit, I recommend walking through just out of curiosity. From there, we walked to the nearby Church of our Savior, and the scariest tower climb. Since it was drizzling, and the second half of the climb (to the very tip of the spire) is outside on a narrow walkway, it was pretty nervewracking. I barely made it to the top, holding onto the back of Keith's jacket, barely glanced at the very far-away street below and then we slowly made our way back down. We ended our rainy day at an indoor sculpture museum near the main palace, and then got dinner at a small restaurant well known for local specialty, smorrebrod. They had ten open-faced sandwich options to choose from, so I ordered meatball with pickled cucumbers and radish, and Keith had the pickled herring with raw egg. Both were delicious and surprisingly filling! 

Our last morning in Copenhagen, the sun came out, and since we didn't have to catch a train until after lunch, we walked toward the water. We bounced for a bit on some trampoline sidewalks (Keith may have wiped out and bruised a rib - we're getting old!) and then spent the rest of the morning and lunchtime in Nyhavn. It's a lovely street, along the water and with water running down the middle, and it was both our favorite spot in Copenhagen! We ordered lunch from a street vendor and shared a beer from an outdoor restaurant. Local tip - if you order to go, it's cheaper and you can sit by the water while you drink it! Once we had our fill of Nyhavn, we hurried back to main train station, where we had checked our backpacks in lockers while we walked, picked up our bags and boarded our 5-hour train to Sweden. 

I'm working on my Sweden post next and hope to get that up shortly! With just two days left in Europe, we're trying to be more cheerful about our trip ending by celebrating small things like packing our backpacks for the last time (yesterday) and our last long train ride (coming to Oslo). I can't guarantee I won't cry a bit on the flight back though - this trip has been absolutely amazing!