For most of us, the older we get the more we value each and every moment, procuring a heightened appreciation of that which will never be returned to us: our precious time on this planet. Consequentially, and from my own perspective, when a person chooses to allot this most valuable commodity to enhancing my cultural experiences abroad, there is no material equivalent I can think of and my gratitude is absolute. From the moment we arrived at the airport, Maria and Margus dedicated their valuable time to enriching Teresa and I’s journey through Copenhagen while allowing themselves to become inquisitive tourists in the city they call home.
When we awoke the following morning, we headed to a café for a hearty breakfast and some strong espresso. The spot is called Café Navnløs, run by some friends of Maria. A lot of students hang out here and everyone was so friendly and happy to meet two Canadian travellers. In the days to come, a few of them would help us in our tragically difficult search for an automatic car to rent and take out into the countryside.
We headed out for the day and got a lot done in a surprisingly short amount of time. Maria took us everywhere. We began by walking though Copenhagen Central Station and right into the downtown area. The core had some similar characteristics as Amsterdam: cobblestone streets, canals, row upon row of apartment buildings and condos. The city is rustic and beautiful.
After walking through the tourist district, past city hall and east down Frederiksberggade (which turned into Nygade and then eventually Vimmelskaftet and Amagertorv), we turned north and stopped at the famous Rundertårn, or Round Tower. Connected to Trinitatis Church, the tower serves as an astronomical observatory tower. It was constructed during Christian IV’s reign of the kingdom and rather than stairs leading up, the tower is characterized by a spiralling ramp in which the king used his chariot to wind his way to the top.
Connected below is the beautifully designed church that features some incredible interior architecture and masonry. As far as I could tell, it serves primarily as a tourist destination rather than holding regular Sunday services.
Afterwards we continued to walk through the city, winding up at Kongens Have, or the Rosenborg Castle Gardens, a beautiful spanning area in central Copenhagen. Like the Round Tower and Trinitatis Church, the history of this park goes back to Christian IV who established it as a “pleasure garden” and a place where fruits and vegetables were planted and harvested and used to create some royal cuisine. Plotted in the northwestern region of the park is the Rosenborg Slot where numerous royal artifacts, including the crowns of former rulers, are displayed. Around the semi-moated outside was a troop of guards performing some sort of ceremonial duties, rifles slung over their shoulders.
Exiting the park, we headed across the street, to the corner of Øster Voldgade and Sølvgade where we visited Statens-Museum-For-Kunst or the National Gallery of Denmark. It was free to enter (unless you go on a specialized tour) and is home to hundreds of paintings and sculptures spanning centuries. Some of the more contemporary artwork spoke to me, but the sinewy muscular bodies painted during the Renaissance era was appealing to the eye as well. Several school groups were present from elementary youth all the way up to college/university level. A great experience all around.
After departing the museum, we sat on a bench outside and enjoyed our prepacked picnic lunch. To this day, Teresa and I have been trying to recreate the kinds of breakfasts and lunches we had in Europe, but just can’t seem to find the kind of soft grainy bread and buns that were available in large quantities and in ordinary grocery stores in places like Denmark. Maybe we’re just too caught up in the nostalgia to feel as though the present could match the past.
After lunch, Maria took us to a canal where we began an hour-long boat tour of the channels of Copenhagen. The sights were incredible, and we even passed by the famous “Little Mermaid”, the most photographed object in the city.
After the boat dropped us off, we walked through some of the laneways that would lead us to one of the coolest coffee shops I’ve ever visited. Called Paludan Bog Café, it’s got some comfy sofas, lots of places to sit, and the walls are lined with enough books to keep a man like me occupied forever. Paludan is awesome and Teresa and I were so happy Maria and Margus took us to this spot.
Afterwards, we continued walking through town, trying to figure out what to have for dinner. Teresa and I wanted something authentically Danish; heavy, meaty, and lots of potatoes. I can’t remember the name of this great restaurant Maria suggested, but they had exactly what we were looking for. Maria and Teresa shared some crispy pork while I ventured for the rump roast, fresh green peas, beans, roasted cocktail onions, and an incredible cranberry sauce. When I came home from Europe, I stepped on the scale to find that I gained nine pounds!
That night, we headed back to Maria’s place for some R&R. It was only our first full day in Copenhagen and we’d managed to do so much, thanks to Maria and Margus. We wound up chilling on their couch watching some nature shows on TV before crashing for the evening. Teresa and I knew how lucky we were to meet these two incredible Danish friends of ours who opted to become part-time tourists in their own town, just for us. The days ahead would be no less eventful.