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  • Writer's pictureChris Toepker

Copenhagen - First Visit!

One of the best ways to travel is to live there. Wherever you are quickly becomes a destination in and of itself. And when family or friends visit, you get to play tourist in your own “home” town. Even better, exotic locations are right around the corner - and so, after having been super lucky with my worldwide employment, we’re taking advantage of our Stockholm locale.

How? This time, with a weekend trip to Copenhagen, Denmark. A first visit!

The occasion? My sister, attending a conference, with my niece in tow! Made a perfect excuse, and excellent reason to go into full-on tourism mode.

I can now personally confirm, rail travel in Europe is terrific. I’m not just comparing to poor ol’ USA, either. The gleaming high speed network in China is great, to be sure. While I often feel traveling in Asia is like traveling through science fiction sets of gleaming metal and polished plastic, accompanied by a few million of only your closest friends, the few hours to Copenhagen was like riding a comfy cafe at high speed. An upgrade to one of those old movies, and no less picturesque!

The early 1900s train stations of course set the stage. Copenhagen’s 1911~1934 vaulted ceilings, buttressed by iron and wood speak to the power of that early industrial age, arted up with 1800s sensibilities of stained glass heraldry, chandeliers, inlaid stone and national flags. Outside, it has a real gothic feeling, which seems true for quite a few of the buildings of that period across at least Sweden and Denmark. No idea why, but you can tell - I was smitten with it immediately. What a train nerd, eh?!

Do be aware though, toilets are often pay around Scandinavia.

Arriving on a Thursday night, we stayed in a lovely AirBnB with a young family, who went away for the weekend. What a treat, their very nordic-designed apartment. The kitchen centered on a terrific wide, long thick wooden table that was perfect for sitting around and sharing meals. The entire layout was just so cleanly organized, including the play area for the toddler.

What would travel be without trying the food? Our first meal was a newly opened place, which was very fancy. The company was fun, as always (family, ammaigright?!). The service was excellent - attentive without being overwhelming, and plenty of funny observations. Clearly had a lot of touristy customers, and didn’t mind laughing it up at his and our expense, culturally speaking of course. We loved it. However, gotta’ tell ya - we weren’t so very impressed by the food. Sis had n’t had beef wellington before, so we got that. I’ve had better. Much better. Save your crowns. Sorry, Feed Bistro.

Time to see some sights! The first was the Church of our Savior, completed in 1747, including the inspiring spiral staircase tower. While I appreciate the history, I couldn’t help but bring my pop culture self and sing Led Zeppelin all the way up. I'm sure you can guess the tune! The higher you go, the narrower the stairs, and the sway-er the tower. I have to admit: I was quite freaked out by the top! But it was worth it. The view, of course. Even more so, on the way down, the interior really stood out. An old carillon is in place, alongside a modernized version. Equally, the clockworks can be seen albeit behind misty glass. There’s also a very sobering installation to the peace of the holy spirit. I don’t yet know much about it. Am very intrigued!

As for breakfast, we loved Mad & Kaffe. So much so, we went back the next day! Ordering was simple. Grab a menu, tick off what you want. Sip coffee and wait. Enjoy! Everything was top notch.

Confounding payment thing!

One thing that was super confusing: paying for public transport. We’re used to having a cheap, stored-value card that you just tap to get on (and off) and payment is subtracted. That’s the way HK, Taiwan, Beijing and even Stockholm is. But Copenhagen? The card is expensive, so we wanted to only get one card. Then we had to figure out how to do the options to pay for two passengers. We had to get help every single time. We never really figured it out!

We met up with the Famn Damily, and wandered around to the square and the piers, then the palace and Frederik’s Church. Something of a march: hup, two, three, four. But, a tourist gotta’ tour!

As we got tired, it was time to sit. And eat. Of course. We went for a fave common denominator, easy choice: pizza. Sadly, Pizza Luca did not really deliver. No, I don’t mean to our door. I mean, provide satisfaction. If we hadn’t been so tired, we probably would have moved on. The service was lackluster, and the pizza came all wet. Like, pools of water. I imagine someone just sloppily grabbed the mozzarella out of the water and it spilled all over. I was hungry. I ate it. The flavor was OK. But it was like eating a damp sponge. Delicious, sponge. Just super soggy.

On our last day, we went to the open air market on Frederiksborggade. With Pike Place Market back home, and the many, many markets of Hong Kong and Taiwan to compare - we really liked this place! Very clean, not over crowded. Easy to stroll the stalls and get food. We really liked CoffeeBar (used to be called OC Depot?), which says “serving friends since 2012.” They made two more friends that day, for sure. I couldn’t wait (insert lip smacking sounds)!

We then wandered past The Round Tower, Rosenborg palace and ultimately to my secret destination, Kastellet. I’ll probably write a lot more about this place (stay tuned), for now suffice to say: do go!

Kastellet citadel was started in 1626, as part of the greater earthen walled defenses of the city. It is complete, and has many of the broader walls nearby (just the other side of the Church of our Savior). It remains one of the oldest army bases in Europe and has soldiers stationed there today. Which is pretty cool to see, amongst all the tourists and joggers and photographers!

Why a longer article? Well! Since this was built in the Dutch baroque style, and the Dutch occupied Taiwan at about the time this was being built, it turns out there is a similar (if smaller scale) version outside of Tainan (AnPing old fort, or Fort Zeelandia). The way architecture finds its way through history, and around the world, and its implications simply fascinate me. Especially military and industrial architecture. It says a lot about where power was perceived to be, and even really was. Worth study and an article or two, no?

From the citadel, we wandered around and accidentally found the Little Mermaid statue by following the crowds. Who knew? Tourists congregate around attractions! We also came across the Ivar Huitfeldt column, memorializing the HDMS Dannebroge which, along with her crew, was lost fighting Sweden. The cannons and anchor in the pillar were brought up from the wreck itself. All pretty cool in and of itself! However, while admiring it, some other tourists came up and they were playing a very cool game. The Mystery Makers outfit has put together a sort of DaVinci code style scavenger hunt, and it’s really well done. These folks several props that had to align just right, based on the details of the column and only then could they solve a puzzle and know what other prop to turn to, and move on. Now I have a reason to look forward to our second tour of Copenhagen!

We'll see you out there!

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