Sunday 19th February, 2017 – Copenhagen, Denmark
A and I started our second day of sightseeing by making an early start to get across to the Round Tower for its 10am opening so we could get up to the top ahead of the crowds. A short metro ride (having finally learned to spot the metro stations, which tend to be very unassuming and not at all obvious) later and we were over at Norreport, emerging into a fairly nasty downpour.
I realised we were right next to the two new market halls of the Torvehallerne market and as we were too early for the Round Tower we wandered inside. I was almost immediately struck by the owl hanging from the ceiling. It seemed to be constructed almost entirely from bits of vacuum cleaner and what it was doing there I have no idea. Possibly it was practical, possibly it was just there for fun. Whatever the answer, I liked it very much.
We were even too early for the market really (it too opens at 10) so we nosed around the few stalls that were ahead of the game, and then made our way, crab-wise, via the awning of a coffee shop, to the tower where we weren’t quite the first people in but weren’t far off.
The Round Tower is a fantastic structure, with a curving slope leading up most of the way. It’s wide enough to drive a car up (people have tried), or a bike, or even ride a horse up or down it (yep, people have tried that too). In fact there’s something about the sloping pathway that seems to bring the insanity out in a great number of people. I can see why.
The first thing we discovered was the amazing collection of graffiti of varying vintages scratched into the window panels, a fact that most people seemed to miss. The fact that the information was available was fascinating, with some sweet and some less than sweet messages scratched into the surface.
A. suggested we should walk all the way to the top first, and then stop off at the various points of interest on the way down. At the top the view was perhaps somewhat obscured by the weather but it’s still impressive nonetheless.
Perhaps the distraction of the view is the reason – in a country that really doesn’t seem to worry overmuch about health and safety – for this sign:
A. was delighted to find that the observatory on the top was open; apparently the last two occasions she’s been up there it was shut. It’s a lovely little room and although it’s no longer state of the art it is still used regularly by amateur groups.
From the top we drifted back down with the Bell Loft our first point of call. Here you can see the original timbers that hold the structure together. It was rented out for various purposes over the years, including as a place for the locals to dry their laundry. The beams are massive and the metal pins sticking up provide a bit of a hazard, but there’s an interesting small exhibition of finds from the tower and also, behind a glass screen, a massive clock dating from 1731. It’s all quietly intriguing and understated, including the constellations set into the ceiling.
Down on the next level is the Library, which used to hold the entirety of the Copenhagen university library collection! It’s a big space but obviously no longer big enough… it’s also had a somewhat chequered career until it was refurbished not so long ago, and now it houses exhibitions, a cafe and shop, and at the time we were there, an intriguing and unsettling collection of photos, Liminality I by Kajsa Gullberg.
Also in the library, in a display cabinet set in the floor, is the remains of a cannonball and a book. In 1807 the British bombardment saw a direct hit on the library. The cannonball was one of four bombs to land in the library and it was stopped by the book, Marsilius of Padua’s aptly titled “Defensor Pacis”!
Next to the library, to the amusement and entertainment of many small children, is the original toilet, next door to a rather more modern facility. Given that Hans Christian Andersen apparently worked in the library, it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that he also used the old facilities. A. likes to think so anyway! Oddly enough, it’s not mentioned in the official website, though there are leaflets in English and Danish so it’s not completely ignored.
Also of great amusement to most children (though the utter terror of one little mite) is the centre of Denmark. In effect there is a hole in the central tower with a glass floor over it which enables you to stand and look down 25 metres to the ground. Apparently “the glass is more than 50 mm thick and can carry up to 900 kg per square meter”. It wasn’t reassuring the small child at all…
We rolled back down the last part of the ramp and headed to Amalienborg with intent to watch the changing of the guard at midday. Given how cold it had been the poor devils who’d been outside on duty for 8 hours at that point would probably be pretty relieved to get back inside in the warmth.
The new cohort came marching along with much noise, music and drumming, and after a certain amount of stomping round the parade ground, where the only thing keeping the not very big crowd back was a pair of very polite policemen, they eventually swapped over and the freezing children who’d been on duty were allowed back indoors. I did see a couple of them waving at their newly-exiled colleagues through the window, which seemed a bit harsh.
They’re all very smart. It’s just they all look about ten years old!
Freezing ourselves we bolted over the road to the Fredriks Church, otherwise known as the Marble Church. It dominates the palace, especially from the river, and is currently surrounded by building work, as is much of Copenhagen (mostly on account of the Metro City Ring project) and while the sites are being used as temporary art spaces wherever possible, they still prevent you getting up close and personal with a number of well-known Copenhagen landmarks. Apparently the Marble Church has a lot of artworks around it – you just can’t get to them at present.
Luckily the inside makes up for it. It’s quite spectacular though more austere in its colours than you might expect. It’s also busy and noisier than it ought to be given the notices all round requesting silence.
It was time for coffee and cake now and so we moved back towards Nyhavn, stopping off at Mormors cafe. This is a wildly eccentric establishment with some very wacky decor, as well as a lot of photos of famous Danes who’ve been in there. I didn’t recognise all of them but I did at least know who most of them were. A fresh application of hot chocolate, and a scone were enough to get us back on our feet again.
From there we walked to the Kastellet, a stunningly well-preserved fortress, and the rather wonderful Gefion statue, which some suggest is more impressive than the little mermaid (you’ll get no argument against that claim from me). Even without water in it it’s quite a structure.
All of this is next to the Churchill Park, which contains a bust of Winnie himself, and also a couple of interesting memorials to Danish armed forces men who served in the British forces during World War II, Anders Lassen and Kaj Birksted. It was all a bit unexpected as was the English church. St. Albans, tucked away in the corner, which really does look as if it’s been transported direct from Sussex.
A. decided she’d reached the limit of her knee’s ability to cope with the cold so we hopped back on the harbour bus and I got off at Nyhavn with intent to walk up to Rosenborg and see the crown jewels. I bargained without the Winter opening hours however. Arriving at the entrance at 15:01 I found they closed at 15:00 in February! It’s very pretty on the outside…
Anyway, I decided I would therefore cross the road to the Botanical Gardens. They seemed to be open for another hour yet. And I liked the look of the Palm House. Except the gardens might be open but the Palm House also closed at 15:00. Disgruntled I took myself off to Torvehallerne and a smørrebrød at Hallernes Smørrebrød.
From there I was tempted by the tapas stall, Tapa del Toro where a portion of manchego cheese, and a couple of salt cod balls proved too much to resist.
It was getting close to dusk when I came out and I debated trying to get back by bus but decided I’d walk. It would get me warm and I could go at my own pace without needing to allow for A.’s knee. I wished I hadn’t by the time I got as far as Tivoli but by then it wasn’t worth waiting for public transport, not when the hotel looks so close. I was pleased to find the rather splendid fire station behind the town hall so it was as well I chose to walk. I’d not have seen it otherwise.
I probably wouldn’t have found the seal/walrus on the back of the town hall building either.
On the subject of oddball items, I also wouldn’t have encountered the mobile Finnish sauna by the theatre if I hadn’t decided to walk. It’s odd what people will do for fun in Winter is all I’m saying…
That evening A. and I ate at Scarpetta, where I’d been during week 1 with the rest of the students. It was just as good this time round. We started with a glass of prosecco each and a lovely, gooey plateful of stracciatelli with lumpfish roe and a dash of olive oil. It was a fresh mouthful of pleasure on a wet, wintry night.
It was accompanied by an unexpected round of garlicky pizza-bread, before the “real” bread showed up.
The second course continued the theme of white food, with a repeat of the mussels and scallop dish, a soup perked up by the addition of tiny chunks of kohlrabi and apple, and strands of dill. It’s a very Scandi/Italian dish with some of the best aspects of both food cultures.
Thinks stayed white (or at least pale) with home made orechiette shot through with salsiccia, broccoli and a scattering of chilli. A. opted to not have the chilli but it really wasn’t fierce. It just gave a warmth to the dish.
It was all going swimmingly and we were thoroughly enjoying the meal. I deviated from the main menu at the meat level when pork was on offer and went for the cod instead. A. had the pork, which was grilled belly with carrots, crumblino and oregano.
My cod came with potatoes, leeks, trout roe and chives and was heavenly, even with an extra charge for it over and above the pork.
We finished off with the non-wobbly vanilla panna cotta, with cantucini and a blood orange sorbet, a delightful combination of tangy sourness and sweet crunch. It was a fine way to end a meal.
Afterwards we got them to organise a taxi back to the hotel, a good day concluded in a good way.