Danish fairy tale
18.05.2019 - 18.05.2019 19 °C
Lonely Planet describes Copenhagen as “the coolest kid on the Nordic block, edgier than Stockholm and worldlier than Oslo, the Danish capital gives Scandinavia the x- factor “.
After a short 108 nautical mile sail from Warnemunde, we woke to the frequent blasts of the ship's fog horn and on looking out, discovered Copenhagen had the fog factor rather than the x-factor.
The first stop on our 2 hour guided bus tour of the city and its major sites was the statue of the Little Mermaid, a Copenhagen icon which is based on the fairy tale of the same name by famous Danish author Hans Christian Andersen.
The Little Mermaid on the shore of a foggy Copenhagen Harbour
Next stop was Amalienborg palace, home of the Danish Royal family, which consists of four identical, classical palaces set around a large cobbled square. One of these palaces is home to Queen Margrethe, another, next door, to Prince Frederique and our own Princess Mary from Tasmania. While we were there we were lucky enough to see the changing of the guard and also Fred driving out with his daughter.
Fred & Mary’s place
On the opposite side of the harbour, in alignment with the Amalienborg Palace and Marble Church, sits the Opera House, a very modern building in stark contrast to the classical lines of the Palace. We first saw this through the fog from across the harbour but later close up when on Holmen Island and looking back across the harbour to the Palace and Marble Church.
Amalienborg Palace showing Queen Margrethe’s home on the left and Mary and Fred’s on the right with the Marble Church in the middle
On the way to the Opera House we passed the highly acclaimed two Michelin starred restaurant Noma, an unlikely looking restaurant to have been voted the Best Restaurant in the World in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014 and in an unlikely location on the island of Christianshavn.
Our tour also took us by Tivoli Gardens, the world’s second oldest amusement park, set in beautiful grounds near the heart of the city and another famous Copenhagen landmark. Would be a nice place to visit if you had another day or two to spare.
From our short tour we were able to get a good impression of the city and after returning to the Viking Sea for lunch and to check the progress of the Federal election (big shock!), we were eager to get out again to further explore. As with many foggy mornings, it cleared into a lovely sunny day which allowed us to fully appreciate the many attractions which this lovely city has to offer.
Prime amongst these is the famous Nyhaven Canal which is fronted by the few remaining wooden fisherman houses - the neighbourhood that was once home to Hans Christian Andersen - and their quaint old fishing boats. As it was Saturday, it was a popular place for Danes and tourists alike to be congregating and there was a very pleasant atmosphere.
Copenhagen is a great walking city with its small islands divided by canals. Some just a stone’s throw from the city are quiet residential neighborhoods with boats tied up along the canal banks.
One of the most interesting buildings was the 17th century stock exchange, Borsen, with its distinctive spire in the shape of four intertwined dragon tails built at the height of the city's prosperity.
Nearby was another grand building the Christiansborg Palace, which as well as housing some royal reception rooms is now also home to the Danish Parliament.
Before walking back to the ship along the harbour front where we passed the Royal yacht, we enjoyed a wander around the pedestrianised downtown area with its vibrant atmosphere on this sunny Saturday.
The Royal Yacht
As with all of our port visits our ship board briefings followed by our guided tours gave us an insight into the history of the Danish people and development of Copenhagen as an important city. Fundamental to this is the location of Denmark on the southern side of the Baltic Straits, the entrance to the Baltic Sea. Whoever controlled the straits held enormous power and the ability to tax passing ships. Settled by the Vikings about 500AD the Danes used their ship building prowess and fighting abilities to control and conquer nearby states including Sweden, Norway, Northern England, Estonia and northern France. In particular control of southern Sweden provided total control of the Straits. Tension over these straits resulted in numerous wars between the Baltic states and neighbouring countries for the better part of 800 years and some Vikings still roam the streets today.
Copenhagen, as the Capitol of Denmark and home to the King developed as both a major trading port and military stronghold. Like many of the cities we have visited Copenhagen has been ravaged by major fires which destroyed most of the old wooden buildings which were replaced in the 18th and 19th centuries with modern stone buildings which blend harmoniously with the old and contribute to the beauty of the city today.
Geographically blessed with a beautiful harbour, this compact, clean and uncrowded city (population just 1.99million) with its distinct lack of high rise buildings, certainly did have the x-factor for us. Our brief visit left us feeling that this was a city, and country, we would have loved to have spent more time in.
Suffice to say we thoroughly enjoyed our short visit to Copenhagen.