Thursday, July 14, 2005

Copenhagen - day 2

What a day!. jWe had breakfast (included in the price of the hotel)0utdoors and then strolled around the old part of Copenhagen. Then to the tourist office where we met none other than Hans Christian Anderson, looking remarkably good for someone who is 200 years old. He was leading a walking tour which we joined. He was well-informed. Copenhagen was founded in the 12th century by Absalom. The site was chosen for the natural harbour.
We started at the town hall where the name of every king and queen of Denmark is represented on the wall. Once out on the square we saw a sculpture of 2 Norsemen playing the lur, an ancient metal horn. We saw real ones later in the National Museum. They were used for sacred recitals and were at least 3000 years old. We continued on to the old debtor's prison and then the square near the old courthouse where we were treated to gammeldansk, a Danish alcoholic drink somewhat like compari. From there we wwent in the area near Christianborg - now the parliament, the state dining-room and the prime minister's office. Then there is the library from the 1600s. The garden behind had a nice fountain with a statue of Kierkegard nearby. He now has to deal with his angst in all weather, watching the water jetting up and splashing down - getting nowhere, with no purpose.
On past the old stock exchange - the oldest in the world, built in 1620. A spire of 4 intertwined dragons guards the exchange. It seems dragons are good at guarding gold and virgins (don't know how many of the latter were at the exchange). Took a bridge over the inner harbour and saw the new library - a modern structure which is made partly of Zimbabwean black marble which reflects the water.

Those are the highlights. We bought lunch at a bakery. I have never seen such a variety of Danish pastry. We feasted with our noses.

We then went back to Christianborg for a tour. We had to don slippers over our shoes to preserve the floors. This is a strictly NO SMOKING area, particularly because this is the 5th palace. The original was built in the 1200s. Then a second was destroyed in war. The third was built by King Christian - hence the name: Christianborg. It burned down, was rebuilt and burned down a second time. The latest was constructed in the early 20th century. The stables and indoor riding arena survived the second fire. All this to say that there is good reason for the NO SMOKING. However - one person is allowed to smoke an that is the queen, herself. Apparently she is a heavy smoker and when she is around, there are many ashtrays available.The palace is opulent and we visited several rooms - anterooms, dining-rooms, etc.
1) There is a set of 17 tapestries which were made for Queen Margrethe's 50th birthday. (they arrived 10 years later as they took 60 people 10 years to weave them). They are quite extraordinary. They tell the history of Denmark in vibrant colours, images and symbols. Each tapestry uses images and icons from the period in history it represents. The 20th century one includes episodes from major events in the century, portraits of world leaders as well as Danish leaders and people who were influencial in a variety of fields, again both from Denmark and other parts of the world. It would take a long time to see and absorb all the details in each tapestry.
2) There is a large painting done in the late 1800s representing the Danish Royal Family. The king at the time ( I think it was Frederik) was known as the father-in-law of the European monarchy. I cant' remember all the connections, but I'll try. He had 3 daughters and 3 sons. One daughter married Edward VII of England, 1 married Alexander II of Russia (she didn't like him too much) and the third married ( I can't remember). One son became king of Greece (they didn't have monarchs so they imported one) another was offered to become king of Bulgaria but he refused because they were often at war with Greece. He married a French countess who loved to help out at fires. She was an honourary firefighter and would don a helmet and rush away whenever she heard a fire alarm. The oldest son, of course, became king of Denmark. The royal families are so interconnected. Because we got so steeped in British history when I was growing up, I had always looked at it from the British side and there were many interconnections, but this one painting sure illustrates it.
3) Some things were reescued from the palace the second time it burned. One craftsman used wood from the bannisters to make legs for the tables which are in the second dining-room. It also contains 2 magnificent chandeliers which wre stolen from Poland by Sweden andf then given as a gift to Denmark.

We saw much more on the tour - but you will have to visit yourself.

After the palace we went to the National museum but fatigue only allowed us to see part of the ground floor - the oldest history of Denmark. While there were many interestingthings (largeboulders with runes, a 2000 year old chariot, glasses, pottery...) it was also quite ghoulish. There were a number of bodies in thousands of years old coffins and cases with body bits - skulls, leg bones, arm bones, illustrating some archaological fact. The scientist in me is curious, but the humanist greatly prefers the other artifacts. Finally we could walk no more and went back to our hotel to rest. With careful planning (and slightly lower temperatures) the temperature in the room was bareable and we rested.

Later we went to sit in a square just soaking in the atmosphere - taking time.

For dinner we ate in an outdoor cafe - agian with blankets provided. We tried the Danish fish platter - typical Danish fare - fried fillet of fish with a mustard mayonnaise, shrimp with a dollop of sour cream and caviar,fried pickled herring, smoked salmon and some salad. It was quite nice and the one plate was plenty for both of us.

Next stop: Tivoli. It was delightful. You could spnd a fortune there for rides and restaurants but we just enjoyed the concerts and entertainment that was part of the admission price. We ehard an orchestra play "Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen" (and we snag along quietly to ourselves) a pantomime show with some lovely dancing, a swing orchestra with 2 singers who alternated (they were very good) and finally a spectacular display of giant 10 foot tall puppets from Hans Christian Anderson's stories (there was Danish narration that went with it, but my Danish vocabulary is limited to 2 words). The puppets were worn on the shoulders of the people who manipulated them. They had lights as part of the puppet and were just magical in the dark Copenhagen evening (started at 11:00 so it actually was dark). At times fireworks accompanied the anrration. We went home t6ired from a long day.


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