Travel 2017 – Copenhagen, Weekend 1, Day 1

Saturday 11th February, 2017 – Copenhagen, Day 1

Being in Copenhagen for work again, this time for three solid weeks, I was in the fortunate position of being able to fly home or have my partner flown out to me for one weekend of the two. I opted to stay put and let the company fly Lynne out the first weekend (especially as it was also her birthday weekend) and stay put the second weekend when a friend, A, was going to come out at her own expense and join me. As she’d been to Copenhagen twice before it seemed I’d get to see her version of town as well.

Lynne arrived on Friday 10th (after a very snowy week) and we spent the evening at the Alberto K restaurant, as already documented pretty comprehensively. Saturday morning I got up early and went to volunteer at Amager parkrun, the oldest parkrun outside the UK, which went ahead despite the snowy conditions. I was made warmly welcome there (the only thing that was warm about the event) and would heartily recommend it to any runner in Copenhagen. It’s flat too…

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It was a lovely – if bitterly cold – day so I walked back to the hotel and we got ready to go sightseeing, choosing to first go on a canal boat tour. We set off towards the town centre, heading for Torvegade, admiring some of the domestic architecture along the way.

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We were aiming for Nyhavn, but failed to get far enough along to find the landing stage. We changed our minds and headed for Gammelstrand where I knew I’d seen boats in action back in January. If they were running then, they would surely be running now. After all it was February. And so it proved. A quick discussion and we headed in the opposite direction than originally planned, walking past the wonderful Stock Exchange building towards the centre of town.

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A quick check of timings and we decided we needed to have a pit stop first and so I led the way to Cafe Norden, where we managed to grab one of the few available tables in the upstairs room. Lynne fancied the carrot cake and I chose to have a chicken sandwich expecting something relatively modest. Not a bit of it…

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The carrot cake could have fed four and as for the “sandwich”, it was vast, with three thick slices of chicken breast, and half a greengrocer’s shop, in a curry-mayonnaise.

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It was good but there was no way I could finish it. In fact it didn’t look much smaller when I’d waved the white flag and given in!

We made it back to the boats just in time for the 12:50 sailing, and settled in, Lynne taking a seat inside and me opting to take my camera outside, despite the intense cold. We set off out past the Stock Exchange again, then headed down towards Nyhavn, the captain/guide entertaining us along the way. It was a very useful way of getting our bearings, and in fact really brought home to me that Copenhagen isn’t that solid a piece of ground. I hadn’t realised you could get all the way round and back to your starting point just by taking to the water. Suddenly things made a lot more sense!

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On the way we passed an experimental student housing development, using old shipping containers, which looked very smart to me.

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Maybe we need more solutions like these in the rest of Europe too. Next stop was Nyhavn where we stopped for more passengers. After the lovely houses (and tourist restaurants) of Nyhavn we sailed out again into open water, past the new-ish Royal Danish Playhouse:

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Past Noma and past Papiroen (Paper Island) where Copenhagen Street Food is based:

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Past the Opera House:

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Past the splendid vista of Amalienborg with the Marble Church looming behind it:

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Past some loitering Naval vessels:

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Right down to the Little Mermaid and the Kastellet:

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And the pavilions used by the Danish Royal family to receive guests who arrive by water.

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After a face full of freezing cold water that came over the prow I eventually decided the front end of the boat wasn’t the ideal place to be. We were quite a long way out now, and that was about as far as a shallow draft vessel like the canal tour boats could go so we turned round and sailed back, past the Black Diamond (of which more another day):

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And from there into the canals again, coming back alongside Christiansborg and the Parliament and finally mooring up around an hour after we’d set off. I wasn’t at all surprised to be told that many of the canal side buildings we saw were based on building styles in Amsterdam, and in many cases built for Dutch or German merchants. Even aside from the obvious picture-postcard cliché of Nyhavn, there are some utterly delightful stretches of waterside in the Danish capital.

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The weather had started to change, and not for the better, while we were out on the water, and my hands were so cold I couldn’t contemplate anymore sightseeing without getting warm first. An Irish coffee in a nearby café proved the solution (and made it clear why this is such a regular feature on café menus all over town), and a wander into Illums Bolighus let us indulge in some Scandinavian household goods window shopping that we managed to avoid turning into something more expensive! It’s a glorious store, even to someone who doesn’t really like shopping.

We decided we’d pop over to the National Museum from there and after realising that for a few quid extra I could get a year-long pass, we set about working our way through Danish pre-history.

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The museum is well laid out, and some of the exhibits, in particular the bog-people and the Egtved girl, are utterly fascinating.

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Before we knew it we’d passed a couple of hours and the tannoy announcements were informing us that we had 15 minutes left. This was slight frustrating as we’d only really just made it to the Viking age, via the fine collection of runestones in the atrium, which luckily perhaps had very big, very clear, very unambiguous “Do not Touch” signs.

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I managed to keep my hands to myself, but it was a bit touch-and-go for a moment. Oh, and I found the item I would have taken home given the choice – although it was a bit big!

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I got sucked into the Museum shop, of course, and ended up leaving with a couple of books, An Early Meal – A Viking Age Cookbook & Culinary Odyssey and a good – and funny – guide to how to be a Viking. We’d pretty much run out of options and so retreated to the hotel for a couple of hours.

Dinner was not about Michelin stars tonight. Instead we headed across town to a little Brazilian establishment called O Tempo. I’d booked a table but even so there was an element of good-natured confusion when we got there. Eventually we were seated and supplied with one of Copenhagen’s greatest bargains, a pair of caipirinhas, which cost the less than princely sum of 100kr, around a tenner, which for Copenhagen is incredibly cheap.

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Half of what was on the menu was not available, which might have been because they’d only just reopened after a holiday, or may just have been because they’re Brazilian and things happen when they happen. It’s a small, two level restaurant and there seemed to be a party downstairs, and with just two people working the space it was surprising how efficient things were. A second round of caipirinhas followed, the waitress wondering why she always spent half the night making them (the price, I’d say) and we decided what to order.

We started with the Brazilian snacks of the day which turned out to be two types of coxinha and were very tasty indeed.

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For mains we had a tiger prawn moqueca, which was spicy and rich and gorgeous.

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We also had a beautifully fried whole fish, coated in cassava flour and cooked to perfection, the crumb coating crunchy and adding texture.

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We had rice, of course, and two side dishes we really didn’t need, in the shape of a small portion of feijoa fradinho (beans mostly), and an okra-based dish, caruru, and ended the evening with a very small bill and very full stomachs.

For entertainment the next table was occupied by a party of three, including a spectacularly tall Mozambican woman in the tightest of hot pink dresses, thigh high boots and incredible hair extensions. They were all very friendly and we ended up having a pleasant conversation with them though they were also the most colourful people we met all weekend.

We set off to walk back to the hotel but it was so cold outside that when a taxi appeared with its “For Hire” light on, we cracked and flagged it down. It was time to be wearing a warm hotel room.

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