One of my favourite parts of my trip earlier this year was making friends from all over the world. As a result one of my least favourite parts was having to say goodbye to them.
When I told Eva and Kristine, two girls I travelled with for 2 weeks in South East Asia, that I would be visiting them in Denmark some time, I don’t think they believed it would actually happen. But a couple of months later I was booking my flight to Denmark for the weekend and taking them up on their kind offer of free accommodation. Although I would have been happy to go alone, I was even happier when one of my best friends Amy (who had met the girls briefly in Bangkok) decided to come with me.
So Amy and I were up at 5.30am on a Saturday morning, eager to spend as long as possible exploring Copenhagen. Boarding the flight I felt that familiar feeling of excitement and intrigue that I had left back in Melbourne earlier in the year. One thing I love Amy for is her enthusiasm for the smallest of things, making her a brilliant travel partner. The first of these was the fact that we could sit at the front of the train from the airport to the city centre. She was excited about having such a clear view of the sights, which actually turned out to be the inside of a tunnel and a train track. She may have wasted her energy on that one!
Stepping out of the metro, the first thing I noticed about Copenhagen was the extreme number of cyclists and bikes parked at the side of the street.
There are wide cycling lanes everywhere, making it very easy, healthy and cheap to use this method of transportation. There are barely any cars around compared to the UK and it was surreal to walk around a capital city where the traffic was so dense. I loved it.
Copenhagen is considered one of the world’s most environmentally friendly cities and 36% of all citizens commute to work by bicycle. I wish that the UK were equipped to deal with cycling so well. The fact that the metro was quite difficult to navigate (one downside of the city) made it even more logical to own a bike.
The girls met us at the station (with their bikes, obviously!) and led us back to an apartment which Eva’s aunt had kindly let us borrow for the weekend. The apartment in itself was a work of art and Amy and I just could not believe our luck! It was right in the centre of town and decorated with fairy lights and quirky items – the kind of place I would like to own one day.
On our first day of sightseeing the girls took us through the centre, to the harbour and around the castle.
We were amazed to see that all the outdoor seating had individual blankets. It’s a testament to how trusting the Danish are compared to the British. Unfortunately in Britain there’s no doubt they would get stolen! Even some of the bikes were leaning against the wall with no lock, and the window of our apartment was constantly left open for the cats to come and go. Although it was pretty cold at this stage, we just had to get a hot chocolate at the side of the harbour in New Haven where pretty boats lined the dock. That’s where the free blankets came in handy!
Unfortunately, one of Copenhagen’s top attractions – Tivoli Gardens, were shut at the time we were there. Another disappointing part of our trip was that a lot of the city was under construction which really obscured what I’m sure would have been a far more impressive landscape. However, this didn’t detract from the view from my personal favourite experience of the weekend on our second day – climbing the twisted tower of Vor Fresler Kirke Church.
On Eva’s recommendation we had avoided the much visited Round Tower in the centre of Copenhagen in favour of better views at the church. I’m sure it was the right choice as I can’t imagine views of the city better than this.
I wouldn’t recommend climbing this tower if you are claustraphobic, scared of heights or extremely unfit. The climb involves a lot of rickety stairs and a very narrow spiral of them to the top.
The girls also introduced us to a chain of juice bars called ‘Joe and the juice‘. Now this is something I really wish we had more of in the UK (apparently there is one in Soho in London) as they are well known for only hiring good looking men who are basically hired to flirt with you! Obviously they have been heavily criticized for this but personally I don’t see the problem. It’s been happening with women for years (Hooters for example) and Abercrombie and Fitch manage to get away with it. The men must be okay with being objectified or they wouldn’t work there, although I do wonder what type of man would have an ego so big as to go for the interview in the first place! Every time we walked past a store we couldn’t resist a quick glance at the waiters and I can confirm that the rumours are true!
Another notable highlight was visiting Christiania, a self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood of about 850 residents regularly referred to as ‘The Freetown’.
It began as a small military squat in the 70’s and grew when inhabitants of the surrounding neighbourhood broke down the fence to take over parts of the unused area as a playground for their children. Some claim this happened as a protest against the Danish government at the time there was a lack of affordable housing in Copenhagen. It’s basically a small hippy village where they sell cannabis freely. The residents pay no taxes, have created their own laws and keep themselves separate from the rest of Copenhagen. Measures for normalising the legal status of the community have led to conflicts, and negotiations are ongoing. Unfortunately you’re not allowed to take photos beyond the boundaries, which was a real shame considering the masses of interesting graffiti, sculptures and artwork inside.
We also visited Copenhagen’s botanical gardens which were beautiful on a bright Winter’s day.
We even had time to spend a few unexpected hours in Sweden before our flight home on Monday. I did not expect to be visiting 2 new countries in 3 days but the 30 minute train ride to Malmo was just too tempting! We decided to skip a visit to Copenhagen’s famous little mermaid statue as I had heard from several people that it was underwhelming. Since we were on a limited time schedule we deemed it not worth a visit to somewhere that was time consuming to reach.
Eva and Kristine really made our visit to Copenhagen. They acted as our own personal guides and gave us intelligent insights into the city and their way of life in Denmark – something we never would have benefited from if we had been alone. It was so easy to be able to follow them around and not waste time map reading and getting lost. The full Danish breakfast they made for us on the Sunday morning didn’t hurt either! I really rate staying with residents of the place you’re visiting and it’s something I hope to do more of in the future. Of course I would also really like to return the favour and have them visit me. It’s lovely to hear about Britain from their point of view. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that British men aren’t all they’re cracked up to be – at least from my experience anyway!
Copenhagen has repeatedly been recognized as one of the cities with the best quality of life, and from spending just two days there I can see why. I love exploring new places and this was no exception. I like to wander around, gather my bearings and really get a feel for the place. But I have to confess that a lot of my feelings about somewhere new are formed very quickly. There are some places that I just instinctively love without reason. Within an hour of landing at the airport I knew this was one of them, and I’d love to return one day.
Some of these photos were stolen from Eva (her DSLR beats my compact hands down – I definitely need a new camera!). All facts in this article were taken from wikipedia.