Since my last post about Tromsø, I have been to many places and travelled quite much. I went to Brussels and Berlin, to Milan and to Munich and roamed in and around Stuttgart almost everyday. Travelling is addictive. Even walking around your own city, you maybe struck by serendipity at some unknown corner you never saw before. You meet people from all walks of life and when you listen to their experiences, the perspectives you hold about your life changes. You become less judgemental and more accepting. You know you cannot do anything to help a person but a soothing word can inspire confidence, in you as well as the person you’re talking to. You may also get the best kisses and hugs if you’re drunk enough. And you make friendships that will last a lifetime.
Travelling gives you a chance to be with yourself and better understand yourself. When you’re sitting besides the sea on a jutty you can reflect on what you have done and what you want to do. Every once in a while, a man must be completely on his own with nothing but his limbs and his own brain. Severe all connections with the world to reconnect in a more personal way that touches your existence. On this note, I took a journey to a city which has topped the list of my favorite cities.
Copenhagen, the Danish capital, is one of the most beautiful cities I have been to. I find that Scandinavia is quite different from Europe. The people are more traditional and more cultured and have a sense of “coziness”. I found Danish people very approachable and once you get to know them… they are fun loving and hearty. They are quite family oriented like we Indians and love to spend time with family and friends. And Danish girls are… well, beautiful. I went to Sweden and have been to Norway too. I cannot comment on Sweden because I did not linger there much but Norwegians are simply lovely. I found them helpful albeit reserved.
Copenhagen is located on the island of Zealand. It was a 10th Century Viking fishing village. The nearest Viking site (yet) to explore is Roskilde which I will cover in my future travels. Legend has it, that the Swedish king Gylfi offered all the land that the Norse Goddess Gefjun could plough in a night. The goddess turned her four sons into oxen and carved out the island of Zealand. You can see the likeness of the goddess sculpted as a fountain in the Nordre Toldbod area. It is a lovely place with vast open sea to look upon and breathe in some fresh sea breeze whilst smoking a cigarette.
Nyhavn (New Harbour) is one of the best and the poshest areas of the city. Fortunately, I got a hostel here and I didn’t mind spending EUR40 for 2 days for a bunk bed there. With colorful buildings lining the banks of a canal, the “new port” is full of awesome places where you can eat and have the famous Carlsberg beer while soaking in the sun. From the numerous restaurants that line the canal, I ate an excellent chicken salad and a decadent Creme Brulee Tart in the Heering restaurant. Established in 1695, the restaurant has an history as old as the Harbour itself. In mid 1660s, Nyhavn was notorious for beer, sailors and prostitution (recall Tortuga). Over the years, Nyhavn has become colourful and a major tourist attraction and one of the start points of the famous Canal tours (must take!). You can buy a combined ticket which includes a hop-on hop-off bus tour and the canal tour.
The bus tour was informative and I got to see many cool places. It was quite fascinating to see famous spots like the “Lille Havfrue” or the little mermaid. The part naked body of a mermaid inspired Disney to make the famous movie: The Little Mermaid. It is a tribute to the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen and the real story of the Little Mermaid is quite heartbreaking. The sculpture was mutilated several times and resurrected. The sculpture is the part of the Langelinie Promenade (or park). On a sunny day, one can sit (or sleep) on benches on the pier or at the end of the pier facing the sea.
Going around the city in the tour bus, I also saw the famous Niels Bohr Institute. History has it that when the Nazis attacked Denmark, they were taking every thing that was shiny and valuable. So was the Nobel prize held by German Physicists Max von Laue and James Franck. Along with chemist George de Hevesy (who himself became a Nobel Laureate) they dissolved their medal in Aqua Regia and were able to keep the medal safe from the Nazis. Later, the gold was precipitated out and the medal was moulded again.
Another main attraction is the Tivoli Gardens. Constructed in early 1840s by Georg Carstensen, it seems something right out of a fairy tale. It is the oldest (and still functional) amusement park in the world. It still houses an old wooden roller coaster and if you’re brave and adventurous enough, you can take a ride. I’m not, so I didn’t.
The most famous, part-illicit, part-hippie area of the city is the Freetown Christiania. Consisting of former military barracks, the town is a totally autonomous neighbourhood near Christianshavn. After the barracks were abandoned by the military in the 60s and 70s, it became a safe haven for homeless people. In 1971, it was declared a “free town” by a prominent Danish journalist Jacob Ludvigsen with a mission statement saying that the idea was to create a town where everyone is responsible for the well being of the entire community. Nowadays, the town is famous for the sweet smell of independence and happiness of an illicit herb *wink wink*. Photography is prohibited inside Christiania sadly.
The best thing about my abode there was, Christiania was just a 20 minute walk. It was good because I was able to compensate for the prohibition of photography inside Christiania by taking some good photos of the “kissing bridge” and the new Opera House. The kissing bridge, completed in 2016 (yes!) is named so because it resembles two tongues entwined in a kiss!
Apart from being a tourist destination, Copenhagen is economically well off too. Life Sciences is a key area of research and Copenhagen is scattered with companies dealing with biologique and biotechnology. Apart from that, Copenhagen (and Denmark in general) is also known for it’s shipping industry. Maersk, the largest shipping company in the world, is headquartered in Copenhagen (Vikings were themselves erudite ship builders and navigators anyway). That being said, Denmark has some of the highest per capita income and with their recent economic reforms, is an attractive place for “foreign labours”.
It is a beautiful place and I believe that this is how an ideal city should be. I find that, a city which has the sea nearby is usually jocund. My previous experience with Mumbai was the same. When you’re feeling down and out, you just sit on the bank on some pier and let the sea breeze take all of your worries away… . I saw much but there is still left to see much more!