Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Scandinavia 2017 - I Scream, You Scream

After packing up our dirty clothes and newly acquired Scandinavian treasures we ventured out to the Nordhavn, the place where our Copenhagen adventure began. We had passed a corner ice cream store several times over the last few days and decided it would be a nice way to wind up our final night. The early evening sun made the brightly painted buildings glow. We sat at a table savoring our farewell treat and watched people enjoy the feeling of being outdoors after, like us, suffering through the confines of winter's cold.

A burly young man did push ups against a bridge post. Another large, young, handsome Danish lad sat a table away facing us, his shorts slightly hiked up stretching over his now ubiquitous powerful Danish thighs. Others dined and drank at the tables of the outdoor restaurants there, these also becoming ubiquitous.

Some, like us, snapped photos on their phones.I wanted to change my Facebook profile picture. Later I decided to eschew the shots taken that evening in favor of a view captured earlier in the day of me standing beside my rented bike, Copenhagen's beautiful, 17th century Stock Exchange building in the background.

Before returning to the hotel we took a final stroll down the 300 year old street and bridges of the Nordhavn, seeking out the residences of Hans Christian Anderson, he lived at three different addresses on the street, and enjoying for a final time the sights and sounds of one of Copenhagen's most iconic scenes.

Scandinavia 2017 - Bike, Bike and Bike Some More

One of the activities we had planned and looked forward to was a day spent biking through Copenhagen. After the egg run breakfast we took off on the bikes we had rented from our hotel. They were heavy, sturdy, upright affairs which forced us to ride like the wicked Elmira Gulch from The Wizard of Oz. In case anyone wonders, riding on cobblestones is a teeth rattling experience.

Copenhagen map in tow we cruised through Christiania, Copenhagen's most hip neighborhood. We circled a small lake with an island in it's center. Trees were in full blossom, masses of queen anne's lace clustered at the water's edge. The scene was bucolic, beautiful and peaceful, if one ignored the garbage, homeless people and occasional heap of feces.

We then headed out to a palace and it's grounds pointed out to us by the charming desk clerk at our hotel. We pedaled past block after block of venerable facades interspersed with verdant green parks. Ducks and swans swam lazily in small lakes. Swan shaped boats plied the waters in one, the spires and turrets of buildings in the background created a photo worthy moment.

We locked up the bikes by the wrought iron gates of the former pleasure garden of the palace.We wandered through the tree shaded, green oasis. We rested on a bench looking across a vast lawn through the plumes of a fountain at the royal residence this space had been originally created for.

Heading back we ate lunch, later than we should have, both of us heavily fatigued, after stopping at a bike store so my husband could purchase a bell for his much loved bike at home. Revived we headed to the waterfront and towards our hotel. We retraced steps we taken that first day. We past again the pavilions used by the Queen when boarding her yacht. The royal gold and white vessel could be seen moored in the harbor. We rode through the palace courtyard and returned to the beautiful street that had been our home during our stay in Copenhagen.

Scandinavia 2017 - A Tale of Tattoos and Eggs

For breakfast on our last full day we opted for a small restaurant across the street from our hotel located in the turreted brick building I had become so fond of gazing at from our room. The proprietor, a delightful Iranian gentleman who had emigrated to Denmark 30 years before, rose from one of the sidewalk tables to take our order. As we settled ourselves in the sunshine of the still cool morning air he went to a table and roused a heavily tattooed young man who had been huddling under the blankets that are ubiquitous in the outdoor restaurants in the city,.

The young man went inside. Shortly he emerged and sprinted across the street to the small shop on the corner which had proved itself a godsend on several occasions during our stay. Moments later he came up the small flight of stairs that led to the sidewalk from the small shop, which, incidentally, boasted that it always had 200 bottles of wine on hand. (we never bothered to count but took them at their word), carrying a 6 pack carton of eggs. Apparently our order had exhausted the restaurant's egg supply.  The breakfast was so good that we returned to it on our last morning in Copenhagen. I guess the  egg order had arrived overnight as there was no egg sprint witnessed that final day.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Scandinavia 2017 - Tivoli Gardens

Tivoli Gardens, the name is almost synonymous with Copenhagen. It is the second oldest amusement park in the world. Oddly, the oldest in the world is not to far outside the city. Perhaps this means that both Danes and blondes have more fun. Going through the historic gates we amused ourselves with the fun house mirrors situated on a wall near the entrance before moving on to the first of the rides we would go on that day, a roller coaster. It was one of three we rode during our visit, 2 of them twice. They were not scary so much as fun. I found myself gleefully laughing the entire time we were speeding along the tracks.

The rides are set amid lush, beautiful gardens, hence the name. As well as an assortment of waterfowl, peacocks, including an albino one, stroll the grounds and cavort in the water features. Flower beds are almost obscene with color.

We were spun around and turned upside down by the thrill rides. On one of the roller coasters, the cars fashioned like an old train, riders are taken on two almost sideways loops, picking up speed on the second one. That was one of the ones we rode twice. The most popular attraction is a roller coaster called The Demon. We were welcomed by a laid back young man, his feet kicked up, as he checked for the ride admittance bracelets on the people going through the turnstile. "Have fun" he said, flashing an adorable, teenaged smile. The mercifully short ride features three complete loops, coaxing constant screams and squeals from the passengers. There is something for everyone, even the youngest visitors. A carousel and mini roller coaster provide parents with a way to distract small children. On a small, child-sized version of an adult drop ride a young blonde girl laughed with delight as she rode it several times, on her final go around getting her handsome, well dressed father to climb aboard with her. There is also a children's fort and climbing wall in one corner of the park. Restaurants featuring everything from upscale dining to the usual midway fare abound.

Even though the park is open till 11 p.m. on Sundays by 9 we could feel the park, and the patrons still left, begin to close down. Only the most popular and thrilling of the thrill rides were operating, just a handful of people, mostly teenagers, on them.

After taking photos of the extravagant light displays on the rides and themed buildings in the dusk not quite dark of the evening. got did the sun go down late there, we climbed aboard the first roller coaster we had ridden that day for one final thrill, ending our visit where it had begun.

Scandinavia 2017 - Marathon Shopping

While lying in bed Sunday morning enjoying the cool air from the open window wafting over us I began to hear the sound of cheers and applause from the street below. I got up, looked out the window and saw a number of recumbent bicycles go by a half block from our hotel. We discovered that it was the day of the Copenhagen Marathon. After showering and getting dressed we walked to the corner to watch the runners. The elite pack passed us followed by others, some in groups carrying balloons. Some wore bright pink in support of breast cancer research and those suffering through or having survived the disease. One particularly cheeky woman sped by wearing a pink tutu, her large, muscular, barechested male running companion in pink bike shorts,

We returned to the shopping mecca we had discovered the night before to search for mementos of our trip. Shortly we had bags filled with Christmas ornaments, a toy for our cat and amber jewelry. At one point in our wanderings we discovered a glass covered atrium surrounded by shops. Inside sculpted figures looked down at us from above the centuries old doorways of the stores there.

The tower of the late 19th century Copenhagen City Hall came into view. Across the street was the world famous Tivoi Gardens amusement park, which we had plans to visit late that afternoon. We checked our watches to time the walk from the park to the hotel that we would be taking after grabbing lunch and a cat nap.

Scandinavia 2017 - Hot Danish Sausage - An Aside

After a short while I noticed that the Danes are overall a tall people. If, in the middle ages, they were as proportionally tall I can understand why the Vikings were feared so much by the residents of the towns and villages they pillaged. I also noticed that they possess a larger than average number of larger than average powerful thighs. Perhaps this is a result of the Danish devotion to the bicycle. Our cab driver on the way to the airport said it was almost a religion.

These strong thighs, showcased in an assortment of shorts, tight slacks and snug jeans are a definite must see on anyone's Copenhagen checklist. In front of us on several of the lines for rides at Tivoli was a towering young man with exceptionally large teeth. I eventually came to the conclusion that their purpose was to balanced out his bulging quads crammed into stretch jeans like overstuffed sausages.....just making an observation, not complaining understand.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Scandinavia 2017 - Copenhagen By Night....Sort Of

Because of the somewhat challenging location of our Stockholm hotel our nights in that city tended to end early, so we decided to take a walking tour of Copenhagen by night. Well, sort of by night, sunset does not occur at that time of year until after 9 p.m.

Ever present city street map in hand we began by exploring a park near the hotel. It contained the imposing Rosenburg Have, a massive, moated affair dating from 1624. The surrounding park is the oldest and most visited park in Copenhagen with 2.5 million visitors per year. That evening there was a group of young women dressed like the Pink Ladies from Grease. We had no idea why. The park was originally a royal pleasure garden as well as the place where the fruits and vegetables for the intimidating palace were grown. We strolled through the grounds and took the obligatory photos before forging on.

We found ourselves in an area, largely closed to cars,  where "mall" stores, 3 H&M's, one for men, one for women and one for kids, Footlocker, Zara et al were located. A banner stretched across a storefront announced that Sephora was coming soon. Kitchy souvenir shops were sprinkled in between the name brand stores. A singer performed in a centuries old square.

This was the moment when our Copenhagen maps became invaluable. We were not "lost", we were just not sure exactly where we were. This was also the moment when, due to the late sunset, we realized we had miscalculated the hour and the restaurant by the hotel, where we had planned to eat that night, would be closed by the time we got back.

So dinner was foraged from the small store on the corner and eaten in the room before, once again, falling into bed exhausted, having walked well over 10 miles that day.