Happy Birthday Mum (and Copenhagen visit)

Happy Birthday Mum!  Hopefully you think a surprise visit home by Mike and I is a good birthday present.  To ours friends, I know it is short notice but we will be in Toronto from June 22 – July 2.  Give us a call.

Since we needed to get to Copenhagen to fly home on very short notice we skipped a large part of the middle of Denmark.  Copenhagen is on an island called Zealand.  So far we have spent 2 1/2 days in Copenhagen and will spend a little more when we return.  We also plan to go north in Zealand but our time in Denmark is coming to an end.

Even with only a few days experience, it is enough to know that Copenhagen is great!  We bought a bus tour ticket and it included an additional boat tour and walking tour.  We indulged in all three.  Copenhagen has 5 bicycles for every 4 people.  Almost half of the commuters use a bicycle to get to work.  Driving to the airport in rush hour this morning, it was interesting to see all the different attires on the bikes from business attire to lots of skirts for women on bikes to the very casual.  Some parents had their children on their bikes.  I assume that they were taking them to a day care.  It would be interesting to find out if many of the businesses here provide onsite day care.  It wouldn’t surprise me. I would guess that 10% or less of the cyclists had helmets and as I mentioned previously, we didn’t see a single mirror on any bicycle.  Our campground is about six km north of the city.  The first two trips we biked in and out of Copenhagen.  Since we are riding down to the water coming home uphill at the end of tiring days was a bit much.  On our third day we got on our bikes and the wind was so strong that before we left the campground I gave up and we went back for the car.  Let me put uphill into perspective for you.  There is a long (and expensive) toll bridge to get to Zealand.  The top of the wires supporting the bridge are supposed to be the highest point in all of Denmark.  It really is a flat country.  Our walking tour guide had casts on both arms.  He had fallen off his bike when someone turned into him without looking.  Following our tour Mike and I had the pleasure of riding back to the campground during rush hour.  We are not very good on our bikes and being in the middle of a pack of riders was uncomfortable especially after meeting our tour guide with his broken arms.  Picture a novice rural driver during Toronto rush hour on the 401 (major highway) and you will understand.  Not only does Copenhagen have bike lanes almost everywhere, it has traffic lights just for the cyclists, it has bike left hand turn lanes.  With almost 50% of the commuters on bikes they take it very seriously and are well prepared.

Copenhagen has about 1 million people in the city itself and 2 million if you include the surrounding area.  It is a fairly small city, very nice for walking and biking.  It is on the water.  One area with man made canals was designed somewhat based on Amsterdam.  There is the Latin Quarter with many university students, the “hippy” area and of course the large pedestrian area.  In pedestrian areas bicycles have to be walked, they cannot be ridden.   Copenhagen has a lot of museums.  In addition to their main art gallery, there is a lovely private art gallery called Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek.  The founder of this museum, many years ago, decided that all people should be able to see the objects that he donated to start this museum.  The museum today continues this trend, and every Tuesday it is free to visit.  We chose to go there because it is known for its collection of statues which I really like.  Their Rodin collection alone seemed almost as large as the Rodin museum in Paris.  The carvings on the various ancient sarcophagus were great.  In addition to the statues they have a super art collection that really suited our tastes.  They have an extremely large exhibition of French painters from the 1800s and 1900s.  It was an excellent size for a museum without being so large that you needed a week to see it.  We stopped in the café twice for great cappuccinos and to give our feet a break between different types of exhibits.  It was a excellent day but I was glad that we had come in the car.

Right in the middle of town is an old but updated amusement park and gardens.  Since Mike doesn’t like rides we haven’t been in but it looks interesting.  You can see the rides soaring above the rooftops in the area.  They have a very old wooden roller coaster from the early 1900s still in operation. It is supposed to be lovely and we may yet visit it.

During our tour, the guide said that we would soon see some large house boats.  Being North American we thought that he meant the type of boat that you can rent for a few days.   What he actually meant were some old ferries that have been turned into extremely large houses (single family dwellings).  ‘House boat’ was very accurate but somewhat misleading to us.  As a coffee addict, I find it interesting that the phrase “Coffee to Go” appears to be an international phrase and no longer considered English specifically.  Since, outside of North America, coffee is usually cheaper when you take it with you, you see this on signs on all sorts of cafés.  I haven’t drunk much regular coffee here because there isn’t usually real cream available.  I have drunk a lot of cappuccinos.  I like weak coffee so I was very concerned for my addiction but I have been quite pleased.  The cappuccinos have been great and not too strong.  How surprising.

Hans Christian Anderson is probably Denmark’s most famous son.  I re-read some of his fairy tales one evening.  Some are cute but others are quite dark.  In the Tinder Box, which is one of his most famous ones, the hero starts out by cutting off someone’s head because he doesn’t want to pay his debt and wants to steal their tinder box.  Lovely kids story.  For those that don’t remember he also wrote The Little Mermaid and The Emperor’s New Clothes and obviously many more but I can’t think of the other titles and I can’t check the internet while writing this on an airplane.

My mother’s birthday dinner starts in about 8 hours and assuming no major delays we should just make it.  Of course, to make this flight we had to get up at midnight Toronto time.  We may be tired but we will be there to say Happy Birthday.  Since this wasn’t planned Mike and I will have no phone, no internet, no wifi, and no television possibly for the full 10 days.  At least our chairs for the living room arrive tomorrow morning so we can sit and watch a black screen on our tv, hopefully I can find our antenna.  My mother and sister should expect more visits than usual.

The Little Mermaid

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