Monday, March 26, 2007

København






To many of you, ”Köpenhamn,” but to most you, “Copenhagen.”

The capital city of Denmark, often overlooked because of Stockholm and grand continental European mega-cities, is the gateway from Scandinavia to the rest of Europe, lying at the southern-most tip of Sweden and bordering Germany. This marks the second Scandinavian country I have visited and, I assure you, “København” does not dissapoint. Like all Scandinavian countries, the Danes have some cool-looking letters like ”æ, ø, å.” Let’s give them a try…

Spending three nights and three days, especially on a weekend in spring, was møre than enough time to become familiar with the inner city, enough to actually feel at home. Copenhagen is small enough to walk everywhere and big enough to feel like a metropolitan city. There is a warmth and friendliness to Copenhagen that seems to welcome the traveler, something of which Denmark’s favorite son, Hans Christian Anderson, would be prøud. I stayed on a boat in Nyhavn (New Harbor) and, as usual when traveling, met people from all over Europe: Germany, England, Holland, Ireland, Sweden and more.

Perhaps it was the narrow, winding stræts, pastel-colored facades of centuries-old buildings, never-ending spires and towers that hover above a city without skyscrapers (I stopped counting after forty), the harbors and canals or the øutdoor cafes and restaurants embracing spring once again as temperatures hovered in the low-60s Fahrenheit, but one doesn’t need to spend much time here to get familiar and friendly with Copenhagen. I highly recommend this cozy capital, especially as a spot most Åmericans have not visited, but would remember forever.

Some highlights:

Sitting down to my first Danish meal, the classic “smorrebrød” open-faced sandwich of fish, meat and cheese, asking the sweet Danish waitress if she had time to show me around her city and subsequently getting turned down, all within two hours of arriving to Denmark!

Standing atop the Rundetårn (round tower) overlooking the city and continuing to relish this unæxpected European adventure when, off in the distance, I began to hear a marching band playing ”Stars and Stripes Forever.” Doing the equivalent of a triple-take with my ears, I soon saw the Palace Guard parading through the city as they always do when the Queen is in residence for the daily, and made-for-tourist, Changing of the Royal Guard. Apparently, ”Stars and Stripes Forever” is vintage parade music no matter where you are in the Western world. Who knew?

(Picture above) Walking out to visit ”Den Lille Havfru” or The Little Mermaid, Denmark’s national symbol and most vintage ”tourists only” site and, as always, being more entertained by the tourists than the actual reason for the journey. The main character in perhaps Hans Christian Anderson's most beloved tale, The Little Mermaid is always awaiting her prince, but is never lonely. I was there on a chilly Sunday morning in March and saw probably 75 tourists come through in just over an hour. Imagine a warm Saturday in July...

Walking aimlessly around the Latin Quarter, a university-type area just off the main thoroughfare of ”Strøget," stumbling upon a picturesque square and thinking to myself, “Now this is a very cool square. I wonder what the name of this one is.” Looking around I soon discovered that Scandinavian common sense was alive and well in Denmark with the naming of this area, “Kultorvet” or “the cool square.” Nice.

Leaving Christiania, a small section of Christianshavn just east of the inner city, which for forty years has served as a home to about 1,000 residents who are living a socialistic and communal lifestyle (simply put, but not totally accurate, a ”hippie commune”) and meeting ”Thomas, the Gardner” who proceeded for the next half-hour to share stories and familiarize me with the history and philosophy and current challenges of life in Christiania, possibly the most well-known living environment of its kind in the world.

(Picture above) Walking quickly through the "Statens Museum for Kunst" Art Museum, really just wanting to get to the Rembrandt area, but stopping for famous Danish painters and discovering a painting with a child that looks exactly like my brother when he was about nine years old (the one on the left). This painting, Still Life with Fish by Carl Bloch, was finished in 1878. An uncanny resemblance, minus the hat. I had to break the museum rules and snap a photograph. Our family will treasure this picture for a long time….yes, that brother, the one that makes all the blog comments and yes indeed this is one way of me “responding.”

Checking my møbile phone’s internet each morning and discovering my NCAA tournament teams (see last week’s entry) had won!

(First picture above) Strolling Nyhavn morning, afternoon or night, just embracing the newly-arrived springtime with all the Danes and tourists. Outdoor cafes, ice cream cones, sunshine, boats in the harbor, a nice bræze--a Scandinavian spring will be truly grand.

Some of you may be wondering, "What about Tivoli?,” the famous amusement park in Copenhagen? Closed until åpril. However, I do have a seven-hour layover in Copenhagen on my way back from the U.S. this summer where I plan to experience Tivoli for a few hours…

The other picture above is Rosenborg Slot, a castle that is full of Danish Royalty items worth a whole lotta Danish kronor and a fine-looking castle, too.

And, almost as soon as it began, my Danish experience had ended. A great weekend getaway and a great way to welcome a new season to Scandinavia. If you're headed to København any time soon, let me know. I will be very tempted to join you.

Finally, don't look now, but "LHC" is storming through the Eliteserien playoffs. Yes, hockey season is in full swing and the Linköping Hockey Club caught fire at just the right time.

Go UCLA.

Go LHC.

Go to Copenhagen.

3 comments:

Kiki said...

Hej Sean,

I'm a German, living in Seattle, and was stuck in a boring phone meeting at work when I decided to google Linköping, the place where I studied ages ago, to check if any interesting photos or articles would show up.
Your blog was a great surprise and distracted me from the meeting! It brought back lots of nice memories.
Enjoy your time there and once you are back in the US for good, there's always IKEA to fullfill the cravings for princess tårta, Åhlgrens bilar och dumle klubbar!

Todd said...

While I never remember live lobsters being a part of our childhood, I do remember Sean always wearing a hat similar to one in the painting. And Sean think that little boy looks like me because that's the look I would give him whenever I saw him. I think I still do!

Skhor said...

Wow Sean,

As always, reading your blog gives me more and more ideas of cities to visit during my summer abroad. (Also helps me procrastinate, as the MCAT is now official 7 days from now!) Keep up the good writing!

-Sarah