If ever there was enormous guilt resulting in severe withdrawal symptoms, it was after the most recent holiday that we spent in Switzerland. The beautiful visions of the alpine landscapes kept lingering in our minds well after we returned from the holiday, thus making it difficult to focus on our day jobs. So we decided to head out on another short holiday to recover from Swiss induced coma. Copenhagen - Capital of Denmark with a twist in the end - literally.
My son had made it amply clear at the start of the holiday that after lots of energy expended during the recent Swiss Holiday, he preferred a rather quiet time with an easy schedule. A holiday preferably with lots of rest and relaxation. To me, however, it translated to limited photographic opportunities!
We arrived Copenhagen a little past noon. Before we took the train from Copenhagen airport to the city, we picked ourselves a Copenhagen Card valid for 48 hrs. They are available as 24 hr, 48 hr, 72 hr or 120 hr card. We recommend this for anyone travelling to Copenhagen as they tend to be very economical with loads of free attractions or discounted price on attractions, restaurants and entertainment. This allows unlimited free travel on bus, metro and train for the validity of the card. By the time we arrived at our airbnb accommodation quarters it was a little over two in the afternoon. Our host was waiting patiently for us to hand over the keys to the apartment. We soon dropped our bags and freshened up and headed out into the city.
Initial impressions of Copenhagen - bikes, bikes and more bikes - everyone in the city prefers bicycles - there is a separate lane for bicycles throughout the city. It is part of the city's design. Using a bike is an easy way to commute and see the city. There are bike rentals everywhere in the city - at the hotels and almost at every intersection or a street corner. When you board and alight a bus, pay very careful attention to bikes as you have to cross the bike lane to get on the bus or on the pedestrian side.
We took bus Route 1A to reach Kongens Nytorv. We walked a further 400m to arrive at the iconic waterfront that Copenhagen is most renowned for - Nyhavn. It is a brightly coloured row of 17th and 18th century townhouses, Cafés and bistrots. We were a bit taken aback on arrival due to the sheer volume of tourists. But the place was buzzing with energy and whichever direction you turned, people were either taking pictures or taking selfies.
We queued up for one of the canal boat departures only to be told that with the Copenhagen Card, the departure is from Gammel Strand and not from Nyhavn. So we walked for a little over half a mile to reach Gammel Strand and we were lucky to have made it on time. The tour takes approximately 1 hour, which meant that we were able to see the city from an entirely different perspective. We were soon going through some idyllic canals and waterfronts. We soon reached Nyhavn, 10 mins later, and the place looked even more beautiful from the water.
Once the boat filled up with more tourists at Nyhavn, the canal tour started. We were soon passing by The Copenhagen Opera House, Amalienborg Palace, Black Diamond - The Royal Library , Christiansborg Palace (which houses the Danish Royalty, Folketinget - Danish Parliament, Supreme Court and the Ministry of State all under one roof). There was a bit of a flutter and excitement as we approached the famous Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid statue. We had a fantastic time overall and yet at a relaxed pace which made it even better. We soon found our way back to the city centre, where, we did a dinner take-away and headed back to our apartment.
The next morning, we decided to head out of Copenhagen to see a bit of the country-side while still trying to make the Copenhagen Card pay. We decided to go to Frederiksbørg Castle which is situated about 25 miles north-west of Copenhagen at Hillerød. It is a palatial complex built as a royal residence for King Christian IV in the 17th century.
As you entered the massive complex, you are greeted by the Neptune Fountain that attracted hordes of selfie-seekers. You then pass through an exhaustive courtyard into the Museum of National History with a considerable collection of artefacts like paintings and furnishings.
At the CourtyardIntricate workmanship There is also a chapel inside the museum consecrated in 1617. This part of the castle escaped the great fire of 1850. As with any chapel, it was quite dark inside and I had to rely on exposure bracketing to make the below image. It is a composite of 3 handheld images each shot at 3 stops of exposure apart, at ISO 1600 and blended together using HDR Efex Pro 2 and Adobe Photoshop CC 2015.5
After going through numerous maze of corridors and halls and generally looking lost, we stumbled upon the exit. As is customary during our travels, we stopped by to pick up some fridge magnets at the shop before we left the complex and entered into the gargantuan castle park. We were told of the Frederiksbørg ferry that sails Denmark's most beautiful nautical mile on the castle lake. We found the pier and managed to catch the ferry in the nick of time.
Frederiksbørg Castle LakeView from Hillerød Torv We alighted at Hillerød Torv and walked back to the train station. Along the way, we indulged in a bit of window-shopping (no we did not buy any windows). The charming town was irresistible, so I had managed to get some shots there - one of them below.
We returned an hour later back at Copenhagen and entered the famous Tivoli Gardens. This is a famous amusement park in the heart of Copenhagen and the second oldest operating amusement park in the world. We wandered a bit, sat down a lot and had ice creams and had a relaxing time before deciding to head back to the apartment. On a couple of occasions, earlier, when leaving the apartment, we had noticed a pizza place within two minute walk from the apartment, so we decided to try out the place for dinner. The place was run by Turkish migrants and the pizza was absolutely brilliant. When in Copenhagen next, do try out Bari Pizza at Dybbølsgade. You will not be disappointed.
The next day, after breakfast, we decided to head out across the Øresund Bridge into Malmö, Sweden. This is a 2 part journey - one from Copenhagen Central Station to Copenhagen Airport and from there a change of train to go to Malmö. There was a brief document check at the train station at the airport. The journey to Malmö is about 25 minutes from the airport by train and roughly 20 miles. And just like that we were in Sweden!
Malmö was so very different to Copenhagen. While Copenhagen had hordes of tourists and bikers, Malmö had far fewer tourists and one did not feel like getting run over by bikers. It is a city that reinvented itself from a post-industrialised town to a thriving educational and cultural hub. Apparently Malmö is made up of 150 nationalities making it by far the most cosmopolitan of the Swedish cities. As one of the fastest growing Metropolitan centres in Sweden, the city is dotted with beautiful artwork and futuristic looking buildings. The below image is of Kvarter Niagara - high-rise buildings are fast becoming part of the cityscape, this one is part of the Malmö Högskola University.
We soon found ourselves in Gamla Staden (Old Town) which is encircled by a canal. We walked around one of the three principal squares - Lilla Torg. The place is full of boutique shops, al fresco dining and a babble of many different tongues. The Hedmanska Gården, below, is perhaps the oldest in Lilla Torg constructed in 16th century. Other structures were added to it in the 17th and 18th centuries. It has a spectacular courtyard and now houses the Form/ Design centre showcasing innovative architectural designs.
We managed to grab some lunch along and headed out towards the canals to do a tour of Malmö. A very pleasant one hour canal cruise where the captain of the boat who doubled up as a tour guide, regaled us with trivia about the city. We soon passed by the most popular sight in Malmö - the Turning Torso or the twisted torso, some locals call it the "giant toothpick." It is the tallest structure in Scandinavia with 54 storeys and a 90° twist.
At the end of the canal tour we returned to the train station and headed back towards Copenhagen. On arrival at Copenhagen, we had a quiet dinner and retired for the day. We had to wake up very early the next morning to take the return flight to London.
On our return, we reflected how the two port cities from two different countries separated by the Øresund Strait are very different from one another yet the people are able to co-exist peacefully. We found the people to be very warm and friendly - given the fact that it is pretty cold seven to eight months of the year. Above all, there was not a moment that we felt constrained by the language - for everyone seemed to converse in fluent English, may be even better than some native English speakers!
We promised ourselves to return to another part of Denmark - Aarhus or Billund and may be to Gothenburg or Stockholm in Sweden. The northern lights tour is long overdue - it could well be Iceland, Norway or Sweden - only time will tell.
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