From Greenland Back to Copenhagen, Denmark

My flights have all been delayed for ‘technical reasons’. I’m not too upset, as I don’t have to rush breakfast now, but it means a very late arrival back into Copenhagen from Greenland. It really is due to technical reasons today. Air Greenland’s one Air Bus is out of action and they’ve had to borrow one. The white and navy fuselage of Titan isn’t nearly as pretty. It seems that the thing to do at the airport while you wait is knit or crochet. The women are creating complicated Fair Isle type patterns in khaki, grey and sea blue, the wool bobbing out of their back packs.

It’s nearly two in the morning by the time I get to bed, - I’ve also gone forward four hours. Just time to decide that my hotel room, is very pretty, with beams and view over the canal. It’s a converted warehouse on the happening part of town - Nyhavn. The taxi driver was very chatty and the reception clerk has upgraded me. I’ve already decided that the Danes in Denmark are much more sociable than the Danes in Greenland.

Copenhagen, the Capital of Denmark

It’s a very long time since I visited Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, located on the island of Zealand. It is connected to Malmö, Sweden, by the Øresund Bridge (of TV series fame). Copenhagen was originally a Viking fishing village, established in the 10th century in the vicinity of what is now Gammel Strand. It became the capital of Denmark in the early 15th century and during the Renaissance the city served as the de facto capital of the Kalmar Union, (with Sweden and Norway).

Nyhavn, Copenhagen

As far as I can recall Copenhagen was mainly historic royal palaces and the iconic “Little Mermaid” statue, so I’m up really early, despite the late bedtime, as I’m going to scoot round and see what I can revisit today. There's a little snow on the ground and some patches of ice floating on the canals. It's dark, damp and chilly. But it's balmy compared to Greenland. I’ve downloaded two walking tours from the internet and I’ve adapted them to make a figure of eight trail around Nyhavn. Nyhavn was once a boisterous sailors' quarter, but now it’s definitely the most charming part of old Copenhagen, with its old canal and colourful eighteenth-century houses. It’s also Restaurant Row.

Kongens Nytorv

First stop Kongens Nytorv, (too many cranes to go across) the biggest square in Copenhagen. The "King's New Market" dates from 1680. It's the home of Magasin, the biggest department store in the capital, the French embassy, the Royal Theatre and the Hotel d'Angleterre (so is that French, Danish or English?); plus (if I peep over the barricades), one of the many statues in the city, an equestrian statue of Christian IV. This one’s only a bronze replica of the 1688 original.

Højbro Plads and the Christiansborg Palace

South, through narrow streets between the canal and the main winding shopping street, Stroget, with old merchant houses, baroque, rococo, crow stepped gables and a lot of cafes and cocktail bars. On the way some churches with blue-green copper spires (St Nicholas is reflected beautifully in the glass of some of the adjacent modern architecture) to another huge square - Højbro Plads - where there are more statues and views of the Christiansborg Palace (now seat of the government) and the Borsen, the old stock exchange (with a great twisty spire) and more building works and cranes.

Tivoli Gardens

The Tivoli Gardens, the oldest amusement park in the world are quiet at this time of year and day. There’s no-one shrieking from the terrifying rides.

Hans Christian Anderson

Working north again from the Town Hall Square, it’s obligatory to photograph the bronze statue of Danish author and poet Hans Christian Andersen. He was actually born in Odense and lived in Nyhavn, but this boulevard has been named after him. Now along Stroget itself, across more squares and past more churches and some incredibly stylish shops and department stores.

Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen

Back through Kongens Nytorv and up to the Amalienborg Palace with its attached gardens. The queen actually still lives in this one, which is composed of a quartet of nearly identical grey baroque mansions surrounding another statue - of Frederik V.

The Danish Opera House

The strip of sea that divides the main island of Zealand from Amager acts as the main harbour for the city. Across the water from me, the Danes are keen to draw attention to the most recently constructed building in town, the Danish Opera House. Designed by the architect Henning Larsen, it has a soaring rooftop which is supposed to evoke the outspread wings of a dove. It’s been built in a direct line with the palace and another church, with a huge dome - the Marmorkirken (Marble Church).

Kastellet and the Little Mermaid

The last leg involves a stroll alongside the harbour through the pentagonal star fortress, Kastellet, with its red brick barracks. This is still used by the Danish army and has an old church and a windmill inside.

To the most famous statue of them all, The Little Mermaid. It’s still a lot of fuss about very little, but I’m prepared this time. She is disappointingly small (it’s a bit like seeing the Mona Lisa for the first time.) She’s also now nicely framed by a power station, with huge smoking chimneys. This is the only place where there’s any kind of tourist crowd and I have to request a break in the stream of selfie taking (mainly Japanese visitors) so that I can get an unobscured picture.

The Kindest People in the World?

This is also where I take my eye off the ball and (yet again) my purse is stolen. I discover it is missing, when I get back to my gorgeous hotel and order lunch. Although it’s another distressing discovery, with the usual self-flagellation for not being more careful, (but it was so quiet everywhere and I was so tired), it’s a very different experience, to when my money was taken in Rimini last year. The hotel staff are absolutely wonderful, filing reports and calling credit card companies. The manager insists on paying for my lunch and my taxi back to the airport. The taxi driver even offers me coins to buy a drink for me to take on on the plane. The Danes may or may not be the happiest people in Europe (or the most sociable), but they are certainly the kindest.

Read more about Denmark here.

Denmark - Geography

  • Denmark consists of the Jutland Peninsula and 443 named islands. About 70 of these are inhabited,
  • The Kingdom of Denmark also includes the self-governing territories of the Faroe Islands and Greenland.
  • This is a relatively flat country with the highest natural point, Møllehøj, rising to just 170.86m and the country's average height above sea level is only 31 m.
  • Denmark is part of the European Union, but the country has retained its own currency - the Danish krone.

History of Denmark

This is the oldest monarchy in the world. The kingdom of Denmark emerged, as a nation, in the eighth century, a maritime power winning the struggle for control of the Baltic Sea. In 1397, it joined Norway and Sweden to form the Kalmar Union, which continued until Sweden left the union in 1523. The remaining Kingdom of Denmark-Norway then entered into a series of wars in the 17th century, which resulted in further loss of territory to the Swedes.

Following the Napoleonic Wars, Norway was absorbed into Sweden, leaving Denmark with the former Norwegian territories of the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Iceland. In 1849 a parliamentary democracy was introduced, ending the absolute monarchy.

Facts and Factoids

  • According to medieval legend, Denmark is named after the mythological King Dan.
  • First acknowledged in 1219, the Danish flag is the oldest state flag in the world. It's is called the Dannebrog ("Danish cloth” or “well made material". Legend has it that the Dannebrog fell from the sky, in Estonia.
  • International surveys often rank Denmark as one of the happiest places in the world based on standards of health, welfare, and education, maybe because the Danes have a special word "hygge" for that cosy feeling of togetherness. It means relaxing in great company
  • LEGO was invented in Denmark. Legoland and the company headquarters are located in Billund, on the Jutland peninsula
  • As well as Copenhagen, I've visited the Renaissance Kronberg Castle in the town of Helsingør, on the extreme northeastern tip of the island of Zealand. Shakespeare immortalized it as Elsinore Hamlet. It was strategically important, as the Sound, between Denmark and Sweden is only two and half miles wide here.

Is Denmark Expensive to Visit?

 Denmark  has high wages and high taxes, so is definitely more expensive than many southern European countries, but it is also less expensive than its northern Scandinavian neighbours, Norway and Sweden.

Is Denmark a Safe Country?

Denmark is generally considered an extremely safe country to visit. It is a country with almost no risk of natural disasters and with average crime rates. Nevertheless, my purse was stolen in Copenhagen!

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