Monday, May 30, 2011

Copenhagen: Day 2

Sunny and gorgeous...and HOT today. Perfect!

We're off today to see Amelianborg Palace, the Nationalmuseet, and the City Museum, and whatever else happens to fall into the path-- of course, I misread the notes and the Nat'l Museum is not open on Mondays. Lots of things are closed on mondays, actually -- check the schedules carefully.

At any rate, fortified with several lovely frosted pastries and a sugary, round bun sort of thing, we ventured off into the old town again, this time to check out a few of the church interiors that mark wouldn't let me go into yesterday (even if they weren't having services, we were never sure!) and visit a few museums. It was actually too warm for a fleece vest by about 10am, i spent the day with it looped through my daypack, keeping the side of my leg warm. Ugh.

Amalienborg Palace contains a small museum of memorabilia from the previous kings and queens of Denmark -- a series of rooms that are decorated and left just as the monarch had lived in them (compared, I think, to the photographs that were taken of the rooms when they were in power -- including photos from the 19th century, when the whole process of photography was pretty new. it's interesting to compare the rooms as they are now (even behind glass) and the early photograph. The whole place is -- as several guide-books noted -- a paean to the Danish monarchy, a bit more like an avid collectors hoard of Elvis memorabilia than museum-pieces, but it's a nice visit. There is a whole room devoted to the recent christening of the royal twins, who are now fourth and fifth in succession to the throne. All sorts of traditions were upheaved by the birth of twins -- the single christening gown that has been used for the last dozen or so ceremonies was not enough, the whole 'enter into the list' of succession thing was confused.

We watched the beefeater-hatted guards march around in the palace square, but we didn't stick around for the formal 'changing of the guard',which should include a full military band and all sorts of yelling and saluting, since the flags were out, signalling that the royal family was in residence. They moved here from Christiansborg Palace after the last major fire (in 18-something). From within the castle square (or pentagon, really) you can see Marmorkirken (Marble Church),which is currently half-concealed by scaffolding and surrounded by workers and cranes and trucks. It looks like they are re-doing the gilding on the copper dome, among other things. Inside, the main part of the church lies under the dome, so it's round. It's quite a spectacular dome, too -- painted and lit brightly in the center as if it had an oculus there, like the Pantheon. Very un-church-like, except all the latin inscriptions.

It was a bit early. but the day was so lovely that we decided to walk along the original harbor of Copenhagen, Nyhavn, and look at all the boats and then pick one of the two dozen cafes to have lunch at. We sat in the sun, drank wine and beer, and people-watched..ate lunch...more people-watching and sun-basking. And then we had ice cream. See? Such a tough day so far!

We walked to Christianshavn and admired the truly stupendous houses on the island, and discovered that my book lied and the Orlogsmuseet (Naval Museum) was closed. Considering that the book was the guide that came along with the Copenhagen card, published by the city...well, I was a little disappointed. But, since we were nearby, we took a brief walk into Christiania -- the squatters free-state in the middle of the city, which is a sort of hippy, artsy, alternative-lifestyle sort of place. It gets a lot of press as "free christiania", and there is a lot of discussion about it, but in general I just found it dirty, completely covered in graffiti, and simply a curiosity. I guess I just don't grok the whole bohemian/art-y lifestyle thing. The main drag, Pusherstreet, has been cleaned up by police raids, so you don't really see many drugs being sold, but there are some cafes and art exhibits that you can see. We made just a quick detour. I was contemplating climbing the 400 steps (the last of which are on the outside of the steeple) of the Vor Frelsers church next door, but there was a funeral in the church and so we passed.

I wanted to check and see if the National Museum really was closed, since the book said it was, but it also said that the Navy museum was open, so it has a lousy record of accuracy. it was indeed closed...I'm a little irked, actually, that I didn't check more carefully -- that was one of the museums that I really did want to see (their prehistory exhibits are suppoesd to be very good), and we're deciding if we want to stick around in town to see if tomorow (opens at 10) or if it's more important to get to Roskilde and see some of the sights outside of Copenhagen. We'll probably move on, but we'll play it by ear tomorrow.

We did, however, want to go to the city museum for Copenhagen, which is out in the boonies in Vesterbro -- it's a bit of a confusing museum, with exhibits on the history of Copenhagen from it's founding to the last decade with lots of displays of old stuff from the excavations of the city and collections of modern pieces that show the evolution of Copenhagen from a port city to a medieval power to the modern day. A bit hard to follow, since timelines and explanations of the history are mixed in with displays of typewriters and record jackets but it's a very neat museum. They also have a high-tech multimedia exhibit on "being a Copenhagener" which we were engrossed in for a long time. Interviews, movies, letters, personal histories and artifacts with immigrants to Denmark and what it means to be a Copenhagener -- focusing a lot on recent immigration from muslim countries, and the history of integration in the city. It was fascinating.

Since we'd already walked about 6 miles (Mark has a pedometer in his iphone), we figured "what's a few more?" and decided to go look at the Elephant Gate at the Carlsberg Brewery. We didn't really want to go on the tour (one brewery is much like the other, really, and it's too hot to drink beer and then walk back!) but the gate is quite famous. We walked along the main shopping street for this area of the city, around the Central station and out into the boonies. Frankly, I didn't really like the street much -- sure, lots of shopping, but it's a four-lane busy road with narrow sidewalka and other than the fact that all the signs were in Danish, it could have been any commercial zone in any city. Not my cup of tea, really. It was a really ugly street, to be honest. But, it got us out to the brewery with little fuss, and we discovered a handy bakery at the end, so we could have a tasty pastry and recover from the walk...before walking back to the hotel.

We picked a different route and went up a parallel street towards the main part of the city, and walked through the remaining bits of the Red Light district near the train station. About half of the shops on our side of the road were sex shops (with their wares prominently displayed in the windows -- it was hard not to stop and examine things, "what on earth IS that?", and as we neared the station,t he rest of the spaces were filled in with gambling establishments and topless bars. It was quite colorful. I'm not sure I'd want to walk around here after dark, but we got a bit of a laugh out of it.

Forty-five minutes later, we were back in the hotel to shower and laze about. We summoned enough energy to go out for pizza again for dinner, but that's about it. At the moment, we're stitting inthe little garden atrium of the hotel -- although a man with a pipe just sat down at a nearby table, so we're going to vacate pretty soon and get out of his smoke cloud. Ugh. For a country that is so focused on healthy living and such, a whole lot of people smoke. We were really excited about the outdoor seating at nearly every restaurant, until we realized that they can still smoke ata those tables -- they are outside, so fair game.

I was talking to mark about my comment yesterday on the number of bikes in the city, and we both commented on the fact that only a few people wear helmets -- kids do, nearly always, and especially when strapped in to the child seats on bicycles, but adults? Maybe 10%. Most people manage to hold umbrellas, or talk on cell phones, or carry briefcaes and bags and still maneuver their bikes without incident. In the morning, they have a rush-hour and traffic jams all of their own.

Tomorrow? Off across Denmark. Nah, don't be so impressed, you can do it in about 3 hours, coast to coast. But we're going to Roskilde to see the Viking Ship museum (and possibly row in a viking boat) and across Funen to visit Odense and then to the mainland and across to Ribe on the west coast. Probably with a stop in never know.

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