The best place to visit in 2019 says Lonely Planet.
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Five years earlier the most livable city in the city proclaimed a survey in the style bible Monocle. On a personal note it held a lure on me since childhood, when on a (forced) Sunday morning walk mum and dad pointed out the skyline across the sea to me and my brothers. To a first grader it lay like a mirage in a far off land.
The far off land was later reached in two hours onboard mythological ferries named “Gripen” (“Griffin”) or the Shakespearian “Hamlet” and “Ofelia”. In days long before the single market Swedes left Malmö with pockets full of cash and empty hands to return with bags of bacon, butter, wine and cigarettes bought tax free onboard or in Copenhagen
Years passed before I became one of those annoyingly loudmouthed teen agers on a rite of passage at the end of nine years in school. Shirtless on the sun-soaked deck with an Elephant beer in one hand it was all about impressing the girls in my class. Needless to say it failed long before black tire fenders softened the berthing at the Copenhagen quay. We streamed out of the terminal passed the first stores luring with sweet Kirsebærvin (Cherry Wine), Carlsberg and Tuborg. The mob headed up by Nyhavn where “Tattoo Jack” imprinted three dots, naked ladies and anchors on bare sailor’s arms long before Tramp Stamps became fashion. Serving some of the sailors (or tourists) were a few scantily clad women perhaps working towards a next hit. In short it was not the clean family friendly tourist attraction it is today. We headed up Strøget, passing plastic pasta, Chinese restaurants (still a novelty), tourist menus and cigar stores.
Soon we streamed across Rådhuspladsen heading for the gates to Tivoli, the historic amusement park. Screams from the wooden rollercoaster, flashes from the bumper cars, squeaks from carousels mixed with rattles from one armed bandits (slot machines) and cigar smoke from the Danish ladies who played them. Which girl to ask for a ride in the “tunnel of love”? Never happened, but “røde pølser” with crispy roasted onion, an “American” (a large soft ice cream with a cream puff on top) and more beer stuck in my memory.
Decades later, the ferries killed off by the “the bridge”, Copenhagen can be reached in 35 minutes on the cross border Öresundståget, from Malmö, Sweden. Today the trek from the Hovedbanegård (Central station) goes opposite to yesteryears. Ignoring Tivoli across the street and rounding two corners to admire the imposing brick palace Rådhuset (City Hall). In its shadow sit H.C Andersen of fairy tale fame. His eighty-two year old tale of the “Emperor’s New Clothes” is a metaphor for a world leader today.
Along Strøget what used to be local and Danish is now much the same generic chains stores of Anycity. Luckily Danish stalwarts Georg Jensen, Royal Copenhagen and Illum’s Bolighus still hold out by Amagertorv. Sadly Disney instead of LEGO has splintered the Danish defense.
The promenade ends by Kongens Nytorv where beyond masonry and masts meet in Nyhavn (New Harbor). From feet to floating we grab the last two seats onboard a tour boat with the plan to see Copenhagen from sea and canal side.
However a record storm surge, a result of the last few days of stormy weather (climate change anyone?) prevents the boat from fitting under bridges and into the canals. Instead we are taken for an extended ride in the harbor passing the water front theater where the guide invites us to peak into the top floor dressing rooms. Across the harbor the new Opera house with its white pointy cap and there beyond in the pouring rain the highest mountain of Denmark. “Of course it is not a mountain, Denmark does not have mountains”, he confesses jokingly, but rather a modern garbage incinerator and power station with a roof fit for a ski slope.
After a peek at luxury house boats the captain so steer for the symbol of the city and one of its largest tourist attractions. Between a fond of paddling swans and a backdrop of tourist buses she so sits perched on a round rock, in pouring rain, a few yards from shore. Umbrella toting Chinese tourists point camera phones in her direction, some turn their backs for a “look I was here” selfie. She may be the largest in Denmark, the guide explains, but also one of the world’s most disappointing tourist attractions. She is the “Lille Havsfru” (the little mermaid) and indeed she is not bigger, size matters...
Leaving her bronzed body, the boat head along the harbor by the Royal Pavilions and as we pass the State Art Museum a rainbow arches the sky. Not the only one in this town. Under the new sleek Inderhavnsbroen (Inner Harbor Bridge) where one is supposed to kiss, we do.
Significant revival and exploitation of large areas along the water front is proof of a healthy Danish economy. Monumental public buildings like the Opera, Theatre and the “Black Diamond” glitters in the sun. The genius of Danish architecture is proven by the seven degree slant of the Royal Library. It converts a lifeless smoke tinted glass façade to a shimmering diamond as it picks up reflections from the sea below.
Another example is the Kalvebod Bølge laid out over the water in an office area pass Langebro. Normally abandoned on weekends the area is traversed by bikers enjoying the very scenic bike path.
As we return to harbor we again pass the rounded green roofed shape of a building. It was through this the former ferry terminal; those rowdy teenagers passed what seems like eons ago. The former customs hall is now a restaurant with quay side café tables. Magnifique!
After a forgetful lunch (not us, them who forgot our main course) at “the Fish market” we headed out for some (window) shopping along Gammel Mønt and Møntgade. We strolled through the Kongens Have (Royal Gardens) with the picturesque Rosenborg Slot (Castle) but skipped the museum. A stroll back to Strøget and a peek inside the Illum’s Bolighus, capped a wonderful day in Copenhagen. Can it be better in 2019?
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