A wintery spring in Copenhagen – Day 11

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A 7am bus out of Gothenburg made for an early wake-up call. Mercifully, whatever I pulled or twinged in my back the previous day seemed to have improved, as I was able to walk around again. For some reason, our tickets to Copenhagen included a 15 minute bus ride to Mölndal before transferring to a train. We were lucky we were at the bus stop a bit early as that enabled us to get a seat. Either there were multiple buses back-to-back or they’d overbooked substantially, as there was a line of at least 20 or so people at the stop as our bus pulled away. A short ride later, and we were at Mölndal, awaiting our train. We had a bit of trouble to find the correct train car, as they weren’t numbered simply 1 through X in ascending order. We later discovered the first car was 11 and went through 14 or so, then going from 21 and up. Finally, we settled into our seats for the roughly 3.5 hour journey.

We actually passed through Lund (D’s final destination and the site of his conference) on our way into Copenhagen, as it’s just across the Øresund Strait. We had a few administrative things to deal with in Copenhagen Station, so D waited with our bags while I ran around trying to find things. I’m not sure if the station was less well-organized as others we’d been to, or if my brain wasn’t working, but it took a fair bit of effort to find an ATM (our Copenhagen hotel only takes cash) and the place to buy transit passes. We were both starving so we popped into the McDonald’s for our usual bout of quick and cheap sustenance. It was a cold and blustery day in Copenhagen, and it appeared we’d have to wait a bit for spring (or at least spring-appropriate weather). We hopped on the bus bound for our hotel to drop our bags off. It’s always exciting riding through a new city, and I was ‘ooh’-ing and ‘aah’-ing at the fanciful buildings we were passing. Our excitement was marred briefly by an exceptionally rude lady and her enormous stroller, who, as we were trying to move our bags out of the way, rudely informed us “people before baggage”. We mercifully got off at the next stop, as that had, unsurprisingly, annoyed us both to varying degrees. Nevertheless, we would not let it get to us, for there are, alas, ill-mannered folk everywhere.

We were buzzed into an apartment building that was home to the hotel Rent a Room Copenhagen. We found out we’d actually be staying in a building a few doors down, but we left our bags there and promised to come back to check-in later in the afternoon. We decided to walk back in the direction of the city centre, through Christianshavn, which, during the 1970s, was a bohemian district and home to Freetown Christiania (a hippie enclave). D noted that the abundant bike traffic and canals lined with picturesque homes reminded him a lot of the Netherlands. We soon crossed over onto the island of Slotsholmen in the Indre By (“Inner City”) district and were soon faced with some fabulously ornate, spire-topped buildings. D appreciated their fondness for copper rooftops, as it made for a colourful skyline. We wandered over to Højbro Square, which was lined with cafés and fashionable shops. There was a lively pair of musicians from the Pavement Orchestra, which is apparently normally a quartet), on guitar and some kind of instrument with a string attached to what looked like a broom handle and a box (he’d beat the string and adjust the tension by moving the handle). They were very good, and admirable for their hardiness for playing outside while it was snowing. D was particularly tickled because they were playing covers of songs he enjoys (e.g. the Decemberists, etc.). We popped into a café on the square, Europa, for a drink to warm up. As they started to pack up, D quickly ran over and bought their CD. Good music and always nice to support local artists.

Given that it was snowing, we thought it might be a good idea to check out Christiansborg Palace, the seat of Danish parliament, which we’d just passed. We poked our head in the palace chapel first, a beautiful, neo-classical building whose dome had been destroyed in 1992 and re-built again. Upon entering the palace, we were amused that we had to place little plastic booties around our shoes, I assume to protect the floors. We looked somewhat like crime scene workers (CSI: Christiansborg, I supposes). I’m a sucker for a good palace, and my excitement was whetted immediately as we entered the staircase. D and I eagerly went through the Royal Reception Rooms, marveling at the richly-furnished rooms and soaring ceilings. It was so unlike the other palaces we’d seen–bright and opulent, and comparatively modern looking (the palace was built in a Neo-Baroque style). I was amused by the Queen’s reference library, that stylistically reminded me somewhat of the library in Beauty and the Beast. The pièce de résistance of Christiansborg is, of course, the Great Hall. At 40 metres long and 10 metres high, it was lined with modern, brightly-coloured (sometimes even fluorescent) tapestries, some of which were kinda creepy-looking.

After we’d finished our tour of the palace, we went across to the Royal Stables, which, upon entering, you knew immediately were in current use–nothing like that unmistakable smell of horse. We both happily went around and greeted each of the horses, who were all calm and patient. We then toured the carriages, and D proceeded to explain, in meticulous detail, their mechanical workings to me. Happy with our fix of royal opulence, we meandered through the snowy streets of Strøget, pleased with the number of pedestrian-only roads. After a quick pit stop for food, we eventually wound our way back towards the hotel to check-in.

The host showed us to our room in a building just down the street from the main building. We had a shared bath again, but also access to a full kitchen, which was handy. Our room was furnished with antiques–I’d never slept in a four-poster canopied bed (though I’d always wanted one). We rested for a bit and worked on figuring out where to have dinner. Unfortunately, wifi at this place was shaky, and had crapped out completely by the time we went searching for a restaurant online. I’d had collected a few suggestions from the Lonely Planet guide, but usually I like to check out their website first for their menu and a sense of their prices. I settled on a restaurant that was apparently just across the bridge called Bastionen + Løven, which was purported to do good Danish home-cooking. It was a bit hard to find, as we turned the street it was on and went all the way to the end without finding it. I read the description in the guide more closely and determined that it was actually on one of Christianshavn’s bastions. We went back out to the main road and chanced that it might be in the other direction. And in fact it was! While we rejoiced at our ability to find it, it was, regrettably, closed. I figured we’d have problems finding an open restaurant on Good Friday (or Easter weekend in general).

We decided to check-out another restaurant recommended in the guide book, Café Victor. We hopped on a bus up to the neighbourhood we had walked through earlier in the day. After a bit of circuitous wandering, we once again validated that we were semi-competent at reading a map. However, the menu was a bit on the pricey side, so we moved on. D suggested just taking a wander through the area to see what kind of restaurants were available. For whatever reason, we were having a rash of indecisiveness because we proceeded to walk around for the better part of an hour, looking at menus and having nothing really grab us. The only other place where we were really excited about the menu was a little French place that, upon entering, was fully booked. It was getting ridiculous that we couldn’t decide on a place, and, as I was getting increasingly cold, ultimately decided that we’d have a bite at the café we had coffee at that afternoon, Europa (right where we’d started our little culinary odyssey).

Greeted by what looked to be the Danish Robert Pattinson, we grabbed a drink and warmed up. We opted to share a few appetizers, namely a bowl of seafood bisque with lobster, liver paté and roasted herbed potatoes with aioli. Everything was fine–nothing special–but I was relieved to just be eating something. We commented on the change in travel style that had taken place with the rise of wifi. Our earlier travel selves would have had no trouble not having vetted and picked out restaurants and gotten little Google map screenshots of their locations. Not that I didn’t plan my trips before wifi became rampant; it was mostly the big ticket stuff–flights, accommodation and transportation, if I could book it in advance. But I’d always left the little things like restaurants and the like to be found out in-country, usually through wandering. In the last couple of years, however, there has definitely been a shift, as the availability of wifi in hotels has meant that I could essentially continue to plan more thoroughly during the trip itself. In any case, it was enjoyable to take a walk through Strøget and get a feel for the place.

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