Thursday, September 12, 2019

The end is nigh

Well we have arrived back in Amsterdam and making good to fly home to Australia tomorrow via Dubai.
Of course as we left Copenhagen, the weather was stunning with an expected temperature of 21 degrees - this is the last of the indian summer days they can expect I imagine.
The only problem with flying is the amount of time in the lead up to, the last minute gate changes and the trudge at the arrival gates to collect luggage and clear customs.  The flight was full, but with only a one hour flying time, that was ok.

We arrive at Schipol Airport and begin the very lengthy taxi to the gate - I got a giggle out of the thought of this being one hell of a big taxi cab!  At one point, the air hostess made an announcement about the driving, driving, driving to our gate.  She advises that it is a 7 km ride.
Finally we arrive and the plane disgorges the passengers and when we reach the baggage claim - as luck would have it, at the far end of the airport, there are not only our bags on the carousel, but 6 other flights as well.  Again, as luck would have it, our bags are in the last lot.  At least by the time we had collected them, most of the hordes had disappeared.

The final few souvenirs bought, we catch a cab to our hotel - another Tesla - Donna is thrilled. It amazes her that all the cabs are luxury cars. Our first Tesla taxi driver had explained that the running costs are so much less with the Tesla, that it pays the taxi company to make the initial purchase investment. 

The lines for taxis and the traffic from the airport today is unbelievable.  Turns out that the Congress is meeting in The Hague at the moment!

Anyway, its been a great trip, all the better because I have been able to share it with Donna.
Hope you all enjoyed coming along for the ride.  Catch you all when we are back in Oz.

Over and out (again).

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen

Yay, sunshine with just a few cotton wool clouds greeted us this morning.
Outside the IceBar (located in the same building as the Hostel), we catch the Hop On Hop Off bus again.  As we move through the stops, we wonder at the laid back attitudes of the staff - anyone would think that they are Aussies, and yet none we have encountered are!



We are headed into the Christianshavn area on a series of artificial islands within the harbour.  First founded in the 17th Century when King Christian IV extended the fortifications of the City, and at the time was an upper society residential area.  Description
Inderhavnsbroen - an opening bridge across the inner harbour.

In the 1970s a commune society set up in an area of the Christianshavn area that became known as Freetown in abandoned military buildings.  Later, many of these residents self-built their own homes, paying no regard to rules or regulations.  Following many attempts to make the residents conform to the laws of Denmark, finally in 2017 the 1,000 or so residents made their first payment to the state and so began the process of the area coming under the Copenhagen Council rule and home ownership status as opposed to squatter status.

But the area we have come to see is the magnificent Church of Our Saviour with its amazing helix spire that comprises 400 steps to the top.  Needless to say, we did not climb it!  This Church is definitely one of the more ornate and adorned churches we have seen here in Denmark.  The organ pipes dated 1698 and set in elaborate carved timber work borne on the backs of two plaster elephants. While the altar is stunning, and the carved pew heads amazing in their work - appreciated all the more because of my opportunity to watch the carving process of the Peace Pole being developed for the Rotary Club of Maryborough-Sunrise back home, it is the baptismal font that is the pick of the ornate statuary.  It is balanced at the other end by the austerity of the poor chests in the foyer.  The locks on these, as with the many other examples we have seen would seriously challenge any pick-pocket - old or recent!


From here, we walked back onto the City proper across 

Description

Inderhavnsbroen - the opening bridge that crosses the inner harbour, passing by the Børsen, the 17th-century Copenhagen  stock exchange, complete with its twisted spire of crocodiles or dragons - no-one really knows the inspiration.  The commentary on the bus yesterday wondered at how many crocodiles the locals of the 17th century would have seen.  We wonder how many dragons
they might have been witness to!!

We are looking for the Hop On Hop Off boat, only to discover that the ticket we have been given does not cover the boat - even though we specifically asked for it. Too bad.  So we decide to head for the Citadel and the Little Mermaid rather that waste any more time.

We alight the bus for the citadel in front of an amazing fountain, and the only Anglican Church in Denmark - much later, being constructed in the 1870s.  The fountain is the subject of a plethora of tour visitors making it very hard to get a good photo.  One of the standout features of Copenhagen as a city are the number of statues that are to be found at every turn.  This area is no different with artistic and commemorative statues almost every time you turn your head.  The Gefion Fountain features large-scale oxen being driven by the legendary Norse goddess, Gefjun. It is located in Langelinie Park next to Kastellet and is the largest monument in Copenhagen and used as a wishing well.  According to an ancient legend, Gefion was the goddess who ploughed the island of Zealand out of Sweden. The Swedish king Gylfe offered the goddess Gefion as much land as she was capable of ploughing within one day and one night.

Looking across the moat to the citadel, you can clearly trace the outline of the five pointed star.  Michael and I first saw an example of this type of fort in Blaye in south-western France.  Today, they are mowing the grass sides - with a domestic mower attached by a rope to a tractor riding along the top of the mound.  It looks so comical, and yet is so practical.

 The Citadel, o

Description

Kastellet, is one of the best preserved fortresses in northern Europe, and like much of the existing city, dates back to the early 17th century.  This is still a working facility with mess houses and the normal workings of a military establishment.  It should have been easy to walk through the fort through to visit the Little Mermaid on the other side, but the City, among all the other places, is
undertaking works here - this time to protect the fort from flooding!  So back outside we trudge to wait for the next bus to take us around closer to this iconic symbol of 
Copenhagen.

The Little Mermaid sits on her rock pensively looking at you, pining for the loves she never.  Not often spoken of alternative mermaid - the Genetically Modified Mermaid - is found off a new Square at Langelinie.  She represents a tortured soul, albeit with feet,but still without a love.

The day is getting blustery now and darker clouds are moving in.  We decided to ride the bus around to Nyhavn and have some early dinner before returning to the Hostel.

In the dying light of the afternoon, this colourful canal community is stunning.  A 17th-century waterfront, canal and entertainment district, it is lined by brightly coloured 17th and early 18th century townhouses and bars, cafes and restaurants.  Hans Christian Anderson lived in this district at the time that he wrote most of his fairy tales.

Not having had any lunch, we stopped at No.19 Nyhavn at the Skagen Restaurant where we feasted on seafood tapas (Donna) and Fish Soup (Maria) followed by Surf and Turf (Donna) and Rib Fillet (Maria).  It is raining as we eat and the wind has really come up, so we take advantage of the blankets the restaurant offers.

From here it is a 5 block walk back to the normality of the hostel.
Tomorrow we begin our journey for home, flying first to Amsterdam from Copenhagen.  It would have been nice to go by train, but it is an overnight trip and the train gets in a little to close to our departure for our Sydney bound flight.
One more night - this time back in Amsterdam.




Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Chocolat

This morning started with a sleep in, courtesy of constant rain.
While the rain has been forecast, our luck to date has brought predominantly clear weather.  Today, our luck ran out.


Yesterday we stopped at the local Netto store - a convenience store across the road from the hostel and bought some staples to see us through breakfast.  The breakfast available here is very basic for the cost.  As we ate today, we are planning the rest of the day.  The weather is bleak and has cooled considerably


There is still a lot to see, so we decide to purchase one of the Hop On Hop Off bus tickets.  There is a stop right outside the hostel, but the street is very congested and is in a state of road-building.
When the bus arrives, there is a large delivery truck blocking the end of the road and it eventually falls to the polis (police) to move it on so that traffic, including our bus, can traverse the street.

Copenhagen is congested with traffic at all times of the day, and when you add the one real constant - bicycles, and the significant road works currently being undertaken, it is slow going through the City.
In the inclement weather, we ride for a full circuit on the bus, getting an idea of what we can still achieve in the time we have.  Normally a 90 minute trip, it takes almost 2 hours to complete.

The tour presents the many faces of Copenhagen - the proud, old history of the Danish kingdom, the strong military life that accompanies this.  The alternate lifestyles and the growing striking architecture of  a modern city.

There are lots of statues celebrating and commemorating important personage and notable events. Then there are the quirky, including, notes Donna, "the only bike that doesn't actually work!"

One full circuit done, we arrive back at the hostel street, this time to find it blocked by an ambulance. Even when one of the paramedics appears after about 8 minutes waiting, he was in no real hurry to make space for the now impatient traffic jam.

We have agreed that we will hop off here and walk back into the City area and go to the Guinness World Record attraction.  I was hoping that we might find reference to Maryborough's 'Most People on a Pub Crawl' record, but no such luck.  In fact, we are decidely underwhelmed by this 'attraction'. It is tired, dusty, very 1970s and with many mistakes in translations etc.

However, once outside and just across the street, our spirits are lifted when we find the Hotel Chocolat and its Café with the motto 'It's all about Cocoa'!  A cold chocolate drink - mine blood orange based and Donna's, mint, and some chocolates soon cheered us up.

Back outside, the drizzle is setting in again and as the early evening light is creeping in, we return to the relative comfort of our room, we set about planning the stops we will make from the Hop On Hop Off bus tomorrow to maximise our time left in Copenhagen.  We plan to visit a different part of the City than where we have concentrated thus far.

Monday, September 9, 2019

When the rain is opportune

The Generator Hostel is certainly not some of the more luxurious hotels we have stayed in,but it does have two special redeeming factors - it has a laundry and it is very central to most of the site we want to see in Copenhagen.


When we were travelling here, we had checked the weather forecast which advised three days of rain / showers.  But we have been very lucky, bringing sunshine everywhere we have travelled thus far 🌞🌞🌞 so much so, that people have commented on the unseasonality of the sunshine - trust the Aussies! 

After a lighter breakfast that we have gotten used to, we got ready and headed out - sans umbrellas into a beautiful autumn day.  Then we stepped outdoors and were greeted by the breeze!
Still, it was sunny and we were out for a stroll.

The streets of Copenhagen house an amazing array of beautiful buildings - residential and commercial.

First we made tracks for Rosenborg Castle, a royal hermitage set in the King’s Garden in the heart of Copenhagen and about four blocks from here.  The Castle features 400 years of splendor, royal art treasures and the Crown Jewels and Royal Regalia.  It was built by one of the most famous Scandinavian kings, Christian IV, and completed in the early 1600s.  


I got excited as the steps to the next floor are quite navigable, until you get to the first landing are are greeted by the dreaded spiral staircase which continues up the next two floors, so Donna gets the photos of the balance of the building.

The main attractions include the Knights’ Hall with the coronation thrones and three life-size silver lions standing  
guard. Tapestries on the walls commemorate battles between Denmark and Sweden.  The Castle was abandoned as a residence in the 1700s and became a place where the precious and the priceless relics of following monarchs were stored.  It opened to the public as a museum in 1838.  Today, it is presented as a timeline of Danish and Scandinavian history from the early 17th century to the present day.  



The attached Treasury holds the greatest riches including the crowns, tiaras and Crown Jewels. They are truly a sight to behold and were only ruined by some pompous American 'guide' imposing his political views not only on the couple he was guiding, but on everyone else within the two chambers that his rasping voice carried across.  After 'bumping' him so we could take photos, he takes his leave, promising his guidees that he would see them tomorrow - bet they are hoping he doesn't!

The Kings Garden that the Castle is set within is a picture of manicured lawns, partierre gardens, espaliered trees, avenues of mature trees and lots of statuary.  There are lots of people enjoying the early autumn sunny weather.

Their are soldiers on guard duty at various points around the Castle and Treasury.  And in a Parade Ground next door, there are two groups of soldiers being put through their paces with the orders(in Danish) barked out loudly enough for anyone watching from the Castle grounds to hear.  Good set of lungs that man had!

From here we head towards the centre of the City and Trinitatis Church, where there are a number of people sheltering from the weather that has now started to turn.  Inside their is an orchestra and choir practising, but we are unable to take photos.  It is sprinkling, but we are not really missing our umbrellas.


At the end of this building is the Round Tower, which we had considered going up to get a birds-eye view of the City.  It is a spiral walkway going up six floors.  No stairs, just a constantly graded brick floorway.  It is when we see people coming back down, almost on their tiptoes trying to stop hurtling forward, that we decide against it.  Too bad, rooftops are always very interesting.

From here we meander through the pedestrianised inner city.  The closure of streets to traffic commenced in 1962, meaning the Copenhagen has favoured pedestrians and bicycles for a long time now. 
We had read about, and Siobán had told us about Strøget, one of the main pedestrian malls with an amazing tiled pattern running across one of the squares.  While it is impressive at any time, anyone who has seen it will tell you that it is at ist most impressive when wet - and so, the gentle rain that we have half dodges for the last half hour or so has become . . . very opportune!

Strøget is one of Europe's longest pedestrian streets with a wealth of shops, from budget-friendly chains to some of the world's most expensive brands. The stretch is 1.1 kms long and runs from City Hall Square (Rådhuspladsen) to Kongens Nytorv.  While looking around the amazing architecture here, and photographing one of the stunning buildings, I realise that I am standing in front of none other than the Royal Copenhagen display and outlet centre.  Joy of joys!  After a thorough visit, I even selected a keepsake and had it freighted home - you'll have to come and visit to find out what it is!


We manage a quick glimpse inside the Helligaands Church before all the visitors are ushered out as the church is being closed for the day.  Again, quite austere, although there is a touching memorial to the unknown concentration camp victims in its grounds.


The Lego store isn't too far away, and so this is where we head next, in increasing showers.  Bit disappointed when we get there as this really is nothing more than what the name suggests - a Lego sales store.  Nothing that we can't buy in Australia, or online, so we leave here empty handed but for a photo.


By now the rain has set in and we dodge in and out of doors and dash across squares and the evening peak hour traffic.  We take refuge in the largest department store in Copenhagen - Magasin - and sit for a few minutes at the Coffee and Juice Shop - Joe and the Juice - with a cold drink before heading back to our accommodation.

Another big day of walking with more to come in the next few days.
Copenhagen, it appears, has much to see, find and do, so we are glad that we have a full three days to explore at least some of it.  Perhaps the Little Mermaid and the Fort tomorrow, weather dependent, or if not, perhaps the Guinness World Record Museum!









Sunday, September 8, 2019

Dogs on trains . . .

The Scandic Crown Hotel in Göteborg is huge.  Seven floors and 338 rooms.  So breakfast is a frenetic, noisy affair.  It is surprising to see the number of Swedish families staying here.  We guess that they come in for a weekend in the City.  We had missed out on the pancakes yesterday and were determined to have some this morning.  Got down to the buffet breakfast about 9 am and true to form, plenty of food.  No pancakes.  Doesn't help when there is a male sports team there and some of those 'growing boys' were taking 6 pancakes or more - each!  We could see however that the staff were in the process of refilling and so, waited at a nearby table.  By the time more were delivered there was a queue waiting with 11 people ahead of us.  Thankfully the boys had had theirs and we managed to get two each this time.  Lovely crepe style pancakes, not the stodgier fatter ones.  Maple syrup, cream and jam did the trick!

We had not bought a ticket for Copenhagen as there is a train every hour - even on a Sunday - from Göteborg.  A short walk to the station and Donna goes from the Tourist Office, to the booking Office to the local Pressbyrån convenience store where she was told it was cheapest place to buy them.  Cost us the princely sum of $83.10 for each ticket - for a journey of 3 hours 38 minutes.

It is interesting to journey by train because it allows you to do a few things.  You can watch the scenery and compare how it changes over distances.  You can people watch - and in this instance, also dog watch.  Yep, we were accompanied by six dogs at various points along the journey an in this one carriage alone in this train of 13 carriages!  Once seated with their owners, they were all well behaved, but the gauntlet was thrown down by two as others passed them.  Takes a bit of getting used to.

The land between Göteborg and Copenhagen is flat.  Much of it is under crops, and there are plenty of wind turbines being farmed as well.  We see corn and strawberries, wheat and hay, just-ploughed fields, and others lying fallow.
There is the North Sea coastline, locks and canals and channels.
And dotted right along the coastline there are lots of caravan and camping areas, small hamlets that appear to be holiday homes, parklands and well serviced beach areas - everything that you would expect coastal areas to have.


We cross a bridge that is 8 kms long that crosses the Øresund Strait that is the border between Sweden and Denmark. It's hard to get photos between the pillars, but we manage a few.  And as we near Denmark there is a sight that I've only seen once before in northern Scotland - a sea-bound wind farm.  


Obviously in this area of the Strait, the coastline is well protected - otherwise you would have to question the investment in significant rail infrastructure that hugs the coast - and I mean hugs it.  There are times when there is nothing between the train line and the water other than about a 20 metre strip of sandy grasses.

We needed to be on our wits as this train does not terminate at Copenhagen.  Needn't have worried as there were lots of people getting out here.

The Station is a beautiful piece of engineering with exposed iron beams supporting a predominantly glass domed roof.

It sits across the road from the Tivoli Gardens and our taxi driver insists that even if you do not want to partake of the amusement rides, that it is worth a visit for the gardens.  We'll see.

Our hotel (hostel) is a little way from the railway station - too far to walk with the luggage in tow on cobblestones, but it is very central to much of what we want to see.  Copenhagen is one of those cities where you could spend a year and still not see all that is on offer.  The driver gives us tips on where to eat and see and take tours.  It sure helps to chat to the locals.

And finally, we have access to a full laundry.
We were starting to get sick of recycling our clothes after airing, and of washing smalls in
bathroom sinks. Donna makes four trips to make sure that everything in our suitcases is washed and dried - what a trooper!

So tonight we rest because tomorrow we hit the ground walking again.  It has done my poor feet a world of good having a quieter day today without too much cobblestone pounding.

Ciao.  See you all soon!