A visit to Denmark (3 days) and Norway (11 days) was surprisingly sunny and hot. The weather was nice as were the people and the food. Copenhagen is a very flat city – perhaps not the first thing everyone notices until you realize that the hundreds and hundreds of commuters on bicycles really aren’t working to hard. They will build a road with lanes for cars and another lane for busses; then along both sides they build a lane for bicycles and lastly another for pedestrians. The bicycles zip along their lane knowing that they have the right-of-way and they growl and grumble if you venture into their travel-way. Hundreds or even thousands of commuters on bicycles will come into the city to their jobs every morning; it is quite remarkable.
Kobenhaven as it is called locally is a very intimate city. Quite walkable and mostly built low to the ground. I walked pretty much across the whole town one afternoon and my iPhone said that I walked about 17,000 steps. That seems a lot but I ambled mostly and remember that its is flat land, no hills. Aside from the older building there is an array of lakes to walk along., The lakes are scattered remnants of the old moat that surrounded the city (constructed for the most part in the 1400s). I had nesting great crested grebe on one lake along with a few other urban birds.
The mermaid statue (officially The Little Mermaid; Den Lille Havfrue) is based on the image developed in a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of the same name. It was commissioned in 1909 and out for public viewing in 1913. The man who commissioned the state was the son of the Carlsberg beer founder and he asked that the state be modeled after a ballerina of the time; Ellen Price. She allowed that her head be part of the stature but her body was not to be unveiled to the sculptor – so Edvard Eriksen created the body using his wife, Eline Eriksen, as the model. The statue is quite small at about 4’1″ (1.25m) in height, but it attract tourists ands tour busses all day every day. Despite the age of the city and the size of today’s coaches the layout at the Langelinie promenade where the statue sit is quite amenable to visitation. You would expect continual traffic snarls and snarls of all sorts…but it is quite efficiently managed.
The Royal Life Guards is a 470 year old group of Danish soldiers (they are actually much younger, many receiving training right after high school) tasked with protecting the Danish monarchy. They are also considered as a regular front line unit in times of war. The Copenhagen contingent is bivouacked at Rosenborg Castle and each day march through the city streets to Amalienborg Palace where they monitor activities in and around the royal residences. Their passage through town, when the Queen is in residence, is accompanied by the Royal Guards music band. The changing of the guard is a noontime activity every day. They wear bearskin hats that require the entire pelt of one black bear. The pictures, both above and below, looks into the courtyard at the palace where there are four large buildings used as offices and residences. The palace is domed and the statue just in front of the palace is of King Frederik V on his horse.
It was cute to see little school kids visiting their national buildings. We saw school children in palaces, museums, and parks. The wearing of the yellow vests seems a good idea and probably works on many levels. Both Danes and Norwegians are very fond of their homeland. The civic and national pride displayed in these countries was both charming and remarkably simple; as in not complicated by politics and sharp cultural edges. Immigrants were welcomed (at least received) and brought into small towns where they were taught their new national language and given jobs and provided the social benefits that these countries are famous for.
The guardsmen are not conversational but they are a real part of the experience. You can get close and gawk and take pictures. They are on duty for twenty-four hours before being relieved; two hours on duty and four hours off duty throughout their time at the palace. The outfit and the trappings are a collection of war-won items (French swords) and traditional gear, some of which goes back hundreds of years.
The men are color-coded to a certain degree, or that is the story that we were provided. The red tassel means the guard is over 6″3″. There are three colors of tassels each encompassing a few inches of height; however when you wear a heavy bearskin hat that is probably 18 ” tall your height is not likely to matter to much.
You can walk to the palace; you can walk just about everywhere in town. But the locals use bicycles, lots and lots of bicycles. A ride of a few miles on flat ground will take only 10-15 minutes and people of all ages, sizes, and sexes ride daily. Bicyclists have their own travel lanes and their own sets of traffic lights. It is odd at first to see a looming mass of bikes and riders waiting at an intersection only to pour toward you as the light turns green. Most bikes are parked near to the place of employment but there are massive parking areas scattered about. I have no idea how you find your own bike in order to start home. I never heard anything about larceny but it seems likely that people will occasionally take a bike that isn’t their own either by mistake, or out of frustration, or thievery.
An iconic look down a canal in Copenhagen. Within the old city limits the buildings do not exceed five levels, making it very comfortable and homey.