At first Copenhagen seemed like a traffic nightmare, with cars and bicycles whizzing past in every direction. But very quickly we realized that everything was extremely well organized with lanes and lights and rules for cars, bikes and pedestrians AND everyone following the rules. No more jaywalking like we’re used to doing in the US! About half of the residents of Copenhagen commute to work or school by bikes. Since Copenhagen has about 500,000 workers, that’s a lot of people out on bikes.
There are even “bike SUVs.”
We decided to join the bikers – although we avoided the morning and afternoon rush hours. That would have been too stressful, for one of us at least. We rented bikes to get around the city at midday and see some of the sights.
Copenhagen has lovely parks, and many of them. We had a couple sunny days so the Rosenborg Castle and King’s Garden were very popular with young people, families with strollers, university students doing teambuilding, and older folks like us. We even saw a group of kids playing Kubb, the Scandinavian log-throwing lawn game Pat and Jordan gave us. With Danish charm, the kids invited us to play.
Statues are scattered throughout the park including several of Hans Christian Andersen or inspired by his stories. Rosenborg Castle was built 400 years ago by Christian IV. It was used as a royal residence until 1710, when the then monarch and subsequent generations chose other accommodations. (As an aside, one of the young people we met told us how approachable the Danish royals are. Queen Margrethe II waved to her outside a coffee shop where she – the young person, not the queen – was working. The crown prince delivered his kids to school by bike SUV, just the way everyone else does.)
The castle now holds the crown jewels, which require guarding even if there are no royals in residence in the castle. We saw the high-helmeted guards heading for a changing ceremony. They walk more than a kilometer from their barracks to the Rosenborg gate. We wondered how some of them could see where they were going. (Our young advisor had a friend who was a guard for two years. He told her they can’t see; “just follow the feet of the guard in front of you.”)
Nearby, the botanical garden offers a peaceful spot for strolling, with lots of trees, water, and greenhouses.
We stopped for a Chandon Garden Spritz (Chandon champagne with spritz added. Lots of bubbles!) at the Marchal Restaurant of the Hotel d’Angleterre, an establishment on Kongens Nytorv in the heart of Copenhagen that has been around for 265 years. It was a great place to people-watch as bike commuters whizzed past.
Continuing on, Tivoli Gardens is a theme park filled with thrill rides. It opened in 1843, making it one of the oldest amusement parks in the world. In fact, the park inspired Walt Disney to build Disneyland. The most popular ride is the roller coaster installed in 1914, one of the oldest wooden roller coasters operating anywhere in the world.
By night Tivoli Gardens becomes a magical place of lights and music.
For a change from the historical buildings and long-established parks, we cycled past a modern waste-to-energy plant. The power generated here is enough to heat 72,000 homes.
CopenHill is also a ski resort with an outdoor dry, green ski run. The green refers not to the beginner rating but to the color and eco-friendliness of the Neveplast fibers used instead of snow. This is the kind of innovative thinking Scandinavians are known for; turn something functional into something fun!
With the inside of the “hill” used to generate power and the top of the hill used for skiing, what can you do with the side? Build a climbing wall! At 279 feet tall, it is (currently) the tallest man-made climbing wall in the world. Impressive and very formidable. Not sure how you belay someone to this height.
We have to mention our rest breaks for food. One of the Danish specialties is smørrebrød, an open-faced sandwich that is as much a work of art as it is a meal. Deconstructing this one: Rye bread (not the soft rye we get in the States, but a hard, dark sourdough with cracked grains), remoulade (basically mayo with seasoning and turmeric or chili for color), deep-fried plaice (flatfish), salmon, shrimp, and microgreens. What? No ketchup?
It wouldn’t be a trip with Michael without visiting various churches of the day. We stopped at Grundtvig’s Church and Frederik’s Church.
The farthest point of our cycling trip was the beach at Amager Strandpark. At less than a half-hour bike ride from Rosenborg Castle, it’s quite accessible. The water temperature was reported as 60.8°F, but it seemed much warmer, at least as warm as Keuka or Tahoe, even swimmable. Alas, we didn’t have our suits with us.
From here we could see the Øresundsbron (Øresund Bridge). The cable-stayed structure is about 10 miles long, with a top level for cars and lower level for trains. We will be crossing by train to our next destination, Malmö, Sweden.
Before we leave Denmark, here’s a collection of Danish coins, kroner, that are still in use today. We did a trade of US dollars for kroners with our young advisor who is on her way to Florida in December. She told us that Denmark chose not to adopt the Euro, even though they joined the EU, because they liked keeping the coins with Queen Margrethe II on them. After all, she’s so approachable! (She’s even a film set designer, at the age of 81, no less.)