A Travellerspoint blog

Royal Copenhagen

sunny 18 °C

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The canalside port of Nyhavn is the picture-perfect heart of Copenhagen today, but it wasn't always this way. Not so long ago this was a rat-infested area of slums and dilapitated wharves. Today, its quays are lined with ancient sailing boats, (some a little worse for wear), while the quaysides are home to a plethora of bars and restaurants where a couple of the local Tuborg lagers will set you back $30Cdn. Location, location, location! But not everything in Nyhavn will break the bank. An hours guided cruise along Copenhagan's waterways cost only $11 and took us past many of the city's regal sights including the Christianburg Palace which has been taken over by the parliament and the supreme court. But, we should not feel sorry for H.R.H. Margrethe. She and the rest of the Danish Royal family seem to have more castles and palaces than Queen Liz and her boys in the U.K. Palaces like Amalienborg where we watched the changing of the guard – several times...
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Amalienborg consists of four almost identical palaces surrounding an octagonal plaza in the city centre. One is for the queen; one for her son, Prince Frederik, (a musical ironman who races motorbikes, hunts, shoots and is an arctic explorer); one is now a museum; and the fourth, we guess, is just to stop the place looking lopsided. There are many palatial rooms in the Amalienborg Palace but some of the grandest have been given over to an exhibition of theatrical costumes and sets designed, and even made, by the present Queen Margrethe...
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The chain-smoking Danish queen seems far more down to earth than her English cousin, Elizabeth. Our apartment is very close to the palace and we are told that the queen often walks past alone in the morning, although we haven't spotted her yet. And, at the age of 78 she is still working as a professional designer for the Danish Royal Ballet and for pantomimes performed at the Tivoli Gardens theatre. When the Queen wants to get away from the hub-bub of city life, and the cyclists using her palace as a shortcut, she can always retreat to one of her country pads where she keeps her jewels...
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The Rosenborg Palace is just a short carriage drive from Amalienborg and, although it's surrounded by beautiful gardens, it's hardly in the countryside today. But Copenhagen is a green city where you are never far from a park. At this time of the year the autumn colours reflect wonderfully in the city's many lakes...
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Another place for reflection is Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerod, (40 minutes by train but only a couple of minutes in the royal helicopter)...
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This aristocratic pile of bricks was first built in the late 1500s but has been burnt down and rebuilt several times since. A mere seventy of the rooms now house the National History Museum of Denmark with enough exhibits and paintings to keep your head spinning for a week. This is the incredibly ornate Royal Chapel where Danish Kings were crowned until 1840...
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And this is the Royal bedchamber...
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If you think the bed is a little over the top then how about this ceiling...
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With three palaces and several museums under our belts you might think we have done Copenhagen - Oh no...Not yet.

Posted by Hawkson 07:03 Archived in Denmark Comments (4)

Biking Vikings!

sunny 19 °C

Whenever we go to take a photograph of some important building in Denmark there always seems to be a biking Viking in the way. We get the camera set up with the perfect shot of a castle or palace; somewhere like Fredericksborg Slot, the Danish Royal castle in Hillerod north of Copenhagen, and bingo...
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Yup – a biking Viking comes screaming around the corner and spoils the view. And then it happened again at the Amalienborg Palace in the heart of Copenhagen. The late afternoon sun was perfectly illuminating Queen Margrethe's stately abode; the royal standard was flying – she was at home; the tourists had all gone to their hotels; it was just us and two smartly dressed guardsmen – then this happened...
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Biking Vikings have managed to get themselves and their machines into almost every picture we've taken in Denmark There's no getting away from them – they are everywhere. And when they are not scaring us by riding furiously on the footpaths and jumping traffic lights they are using them to block our view. Just look at this famous building – if you can...
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And how on earth are we supposed to get to the subway station through this lot?...
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Most Danish cyclists are, in truth, very considerate of motorists and pedestrians and they generally stick to the cycle paths. However, they are not always conscious of the impact they may have on the aesthetics of 500 year old buildings in somewhere like Koge...
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Although, when when they are symmetrically parked in front of an ancient building they can create a pleasing work of art that marries ancient with modern...
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There are 4 bicycles for every 5 residents in Denmark, (a percentage only beaten by the cycling crazy Dutch who, statistically, all own a bike). The Danes cycle on average 1.6 kilometres a day and they generally take their bikes with them wherever they go – especially on trains and subways where it is free...
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Cycling is obviously good for health and great for the environment – it's just lousy for tourists who want to get shots of beautiful old buildings in Ribe for their travel blogs...
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However, we have no such quibble with horses and we greatly enjoyed watching a horse-ploughing competition on our way from Aero to Copenhagen...
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We will be in Copenhagen for the rest of the week and the weather is absolutely beautiful. So we are hoping to get some great bike-free shots of the castles, palaces, gardens and, of course, the Little Mermaid. Stay with us and keep your fingers crossed.

Posted by Hawkson 10:48 Archived in Denmark Comments (3)

The Toilets of Paradise Island

sunny 15 °C

After a few weeks of variable weather we finally hit the sunshine on Denmark's Aero island and simultaneously stepped into the future and slipped into the past. Where else can you find a state of the art wind turbine powering the lights in a beachside thunder-box...
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But when it comes to lighting a public loo in an unusual way, what about the lighthouse at Soby on the west coast of the island...
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The small island of Aero is a pastoral paradise and has the best climate in all of Denmark so its understandable that many tourists visit here. It is especially popular with wedding parties, particularly for Germans with a romantic bent, but weddings tend to lead to excessive drinking so guidance may be needed – although this sign might confuse anyone already half-drunk and desperate...
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It appears that there are public toilets everywhere on Aero, some are even combined with historical artifacts to give them a more romantic appeal...
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But we are not here for the weddings, the booze or the loos. We came to see the beautiful thatched cottages...
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...the cobbled streets of 18th century houses...
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and the parade of colourful beach huts that line the shore...
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Aero is only a relatively short hop on a ferry from Germany and all but two cars that accompanied us from the port of Fynshavn were German. Denmark is generally more expensive than Germany so why is Aero so popular with the neighbours? Maybe it's because of the large flocks of swans, (the national bird of Denmark), the friendly locals and the beautiful scenery. But maybe it's because it only takes a week to get a wedding licence in Denmark while it can take three months in Germany. So, any German wanting or needing a 'quickie', need only slip over the border to Aero island to get hitched in one of the quaint whitewashed churches...
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Denmark is a generally flat land with many windswept islands scattered throughout the Wadden Sea and the Baltic. As a result, more than two-thirds of its electricity comes from renewable sources – especially wind power from legions of giant turbines. There are thousands of windmills, both on and off shore, and the latest has a giant wingspan of 164 metres, (twice the wingspan of an Airbus A380 super jumbo jet). However, none of today's turbines compare in beauty to this ancient thatched windmill in Aeroskoping – the historic centre of Aero...
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The island of Aero is not only self-sufficient in electricity, it has enough spare to power battery operated car ferries that are in the works to replace the aging fleet of polluting diesel vessels. This leads us to wonder which other islands in the world could follow Aero's lead and use the wind to cleanly drive their ferries!

Posted by Hawkson 08:57 Archived in Denmark Comments (4)

Denmark's Doorways

semi-overcast 16 °C

The southern Danish town of Tonder lies within howitzer range of Germany and has been back and forth over the border so many times in the past that the inhabitants must wonder which way to turn at times. The town was officially bilingual until the end of the second World War when the Germans were given the boot. However, Tonder survives on tourism these days and judging by the car licence plates in the parking lots, the Germans are back in force. The doorways of Tonder have a distinctly Teutonic look...
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...as does the medieval Renaissance church with its richly decorated pulpit carved in 1586 and its amazingly ornate organ...
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Tonder was German throughout World War 1 and some of the Zeppelin airships that bombed British cities were based here. The base and the airships were destroyed by aircraft from a British aircraft carrier in 1918 but the town remained unscathed and there are many shops and houses dating from the 18th century...
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We were expecting to visit the Friday market in Tonder, (as per the guidebook), but discovered that it had closed sometime ago. However, there were plenty of shops in the cobbled streets for those with deep pockets. This nice little chair had been reduced to a paltry five thousand six hundred and fifty Canadian dollars. (but that could be for a pair)...
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The Danes love their bakeries, and so do we, but it's no good asking for Danish pastries here in the oldest bakery in Tonder – these are all Danish pastries...
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And after lunch we headed to the beach to walk off some calories...
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Yes - those are cars and people at the other end of the beach but you may need binoculars to see them.
This is Romo; a small island in the Wadden Sea which can be reached by a lengthy causeway. It has miles of the widest beaches we have ever seen and, despite the time of year and the relatively murky weather, there were actually hundreds of German holidaymakers on the sands. There were also signs warning us not to use binoculars...
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At first we thought that was because we might be able to see the island's nudist colony from the top of the dyke, but then we discovered that a large area is a military zone and they didn't want us taking too close a look at their war games. We did manage to get a shot of this enormous tank in the distance...
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But, if you were hoping, we didn't see anything of any size worth photographing on the nudist beach.

Our tour of rural Denmark continues with almost unending vistas of arable land being grazed by cattle, sheep and pigs, and we are enjoying the bounty of pork, bacon, butter and cheese for which Denmark is renowned.
The answer to Thursday's blog question is that the boxes are Indian brick moulds. We have no idea why they are so popular in Denmark. Were they imported to make bricks, or did someone pick them up cheap in Delhi in the hope that the Danes would find a use for them? Answers on a postcard please ... Oh - never mind. We probably can't afford to buy you lunch in Denmark!

Posted by Hawkson 10:30 Archived in Denmark Comments (6)

History, Bloody History

overcast 14 °C

The Danes may be best known for their modern designs, clean living and respect for the environment, but it is obvious that they still cherish their rather murkier past when they were considered the pirates of the north. However, people have lived on the fertile coastal plains of Jutland since the end of the last ice-age about 10,000 years ago, so there is a lot of history to cherish – and we have just scraped the surface. First stop: Aarhus, Denmark's second largest city, to visit Grauballe Man...
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This iron age man died 300 years before Christ and his perfectly preserved body was uncovered by Danish peat diggers in 1952. The discovery was a worldwide sensation because the corpse is completely intact with skin, hair, teeth and nails. A gaping wound in his neck suggests he was either murdered or sacrificed, (although the end result is pretty much the same).

Near Aarhus is the ancient fishing village of Ebeltoft where we jumped forward a couple of millenia to stroll along the cobbled streets and survey houses built in the 16th and 17th centuries...
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This was Ebeltoft's elegant town hall in the 1600s...
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The dungeon under the Town Hall was a prison where, in 1686, a number of women were tortured until they confessed to being witches or died of their wounds. Another form of torture in the middle-ages was to be press-ganged into the navy, although the seamen who sailed this ship may have been professionals...
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This is the Fregatte Jylland, a steam assisted three-master that is one of the biggest wooden ships ever built. She was launched in 1860 and on 9th May 1864 she engaged in the Battle of Heligoland against the Austro-Prussian Empire. The battle resulted in something of a draw, with many killed and wounded on both sides, but the Jylland survived and today is a very interesting living museum in Ebelstoft harbour. Here are some gunners loading the cannons...
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Denmark is very rural with only one city of any size, so we will be spending our time in small communities and seeking out roads less travelled. To start our road trip we have strayed off the beaten track entirely and are staying in a converted schoolhouse on a duck farm in southern Denmark. Nearby is Denmark's first recorded city, Ribe. The cathedral was begun in 1110 and finished in 1134 and, despite the fact that parts of it have fallen down and been rebuilt several times, it is still an impressive sight. However, we have no idea what the locals were thinking when they commissioned an avant-garde artist, Carl-Henning Pedersen, to repaint the medieval murals that had been removed from the apse walls...
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Today, Ribe is a historic town close to the German border and by lunchtime the streets and numerous restaurants were packed with visitors despite the weather. Luckily we got some photos before the crowds arrived...
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Now for a blog question...
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We have seen dozens of these small wooden boxes, (approximately 8 inches by 4 inches), for sale in antique shops in Ribe and other towns and assumed them to be traditional Viking artifacts. But do you know what they really are?
First prize is a lunch for one in Ebeltoft, (airfare and coffee not included).
P.S. Only one lunch because we thought Norway was expensive until we got to Denmark!

It is October 4th so, 'Happy Kannelbullen Day' to our friends in Sweden.

Posted by Hawkson 11:11 Archived in Denmark Comments (14)

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