My Summer Vacation: Copenhagen

A very brief anecdote of my very brief stay in Copenhagen, Denmark last August:

A couple weeks ago I embarked on my first and only summer vacation this year and the destination: Copenhagen, Denmark. To be frank, Copenhagen cropped up as a random choice at the time I was looking at choices of cities to visit. If I was to pick one for a summer vacation, Italy would be a better choice, but due to the peak summer travel season in Europe, prices hiked relatively higher than it was during the Easter break. Anyway, I pretty much got a good offer for Copenhagen from Easyjet Holidays which package included airfares, hotel and taxes. Upon closer research, the city itself is 15 minutes train ride away from the Airport, so time-wise, it was the reasonable choice. 

So the trip began on the 15th of August to the 18th, just a week after the Eid celebrations. Whilst the family back home were busy visiting houses to houses, my Hari Raya was busy opting for places of interest in a city Monocle dubbed at their most liveable city. 

World-conquering urban quality of life requires the trickiest of balancing acts between progress and preservation, stimulation and security, global and local. Perfection is unobtainable but Copenhagen is striking one of the best deals right now. -Monocle

While the statement reflects a bold description for a nation that initially started of as a fishing village, but the moment you set your foot in, you'll understand why. The city covers the area of only 77.20 sq. km, slightly smaller than Bandar Seri Begawan, possesses an extensive but efficient transportation infrastructure. As mentioned earlier, the airport is located just 15 minutes train ride away to the city and is in fact situated in Kastrup on the island of Amager. Railway and metro line as well as buses are available for use to get to the city. Most importantly, all the main city transport take relatively little time to get into the city from the airport. Its quite difficult for you to get lost or not having know your way, but if that moment does happen, help is duly available. Just ask fellow passengers or airport workers whom are available near the ticketing desk. The Danes learn English from the age of eight and so are generally extremely fluent, another fine example in which Denmark are excelling as a developed nation.

DAY 1

Stepping out from the Copenhagen Central Station, you'll be surprised to see more bicycles and less cars parking and roaming around the street. This is a common sight in Denmark if not the Scandinavia, as a means of putting their point across on the importance of environmental consciousness and easing of the traffic issues in a modern society. Architect Jan Gehl contributed much to this from the urban city planning philosophy of 'pedestrianising' the streets, moving Copenhagen away from the commonalities and archetypal features of urban cities of crowding out the spaces and vicious that are pandemic of most major cities around the world. Easing that, he believes in 'reclaiming' the streets back for the people, which aims at putting more people in the streets than cars. Similarly, apart from the aesthetic nature of his philosophy, without doubt Gehl's vision also possesses economic benefits for the city; for every kilometre a cyclist cycles his bike, the city gain a quarter of a US dollar, compare to when a driver travels the same distance by car, to which the city spends 16 cents more for. 

Opposite the Copenhagen Central Station, a tall feature standing prominent behind a large fence. As it turned out, there stood one of the oldest theme parks in the world, the Tivoli Gardens. Opened in 1843, the theme park serves not just an amusement park with various rides in it, but also as an important venue for various performing arts and as an active part of the cultural scene in Copenhagen. Euroinvestor revealed that last year alone the park received about 4 million visitors, making it the biggest attraction in Copenhagen. New to the city, and knowing that our hotel was situated just a kilometre away from the station, I opted for a walk and it was then that you truly absorb the air and life of the city.

Checking in at the Absalon Hotel, a name derived from one of Denmark's important historical figure, both an archbishop and statesman whose main legacy towards towards Denmark was attributed to the country's massive territorial expansion into the Baltic in the 12th Century. All in all, Absalon hotel in my opinion is a little bit past its prime state that was probably early 90s, but the room was clean and good enough. Decent price for a hotel-room in Copenhagen and highly recomended for short stays and travellers on budget and since I took a holiday package from Easyjet that included accommodations, it was to me worth the money. One advantage the hotel has is that its situated smack in the heart of the city, where all sights and hubs are literally just round the corner.

Half an hour later I began my tour around the city, familiarising with nearby streets and main attractions around. First impression: small but not compact, with many interesting historical renaissance buildings and architecture. Most prominent of it all was the heart of the City, the City Hall, a brown bricked building with green rooftops and spots of gold in the centre-top of the building. A clock tower stood tall, perhaps the amongst the tallest structures in Copenhagen city centre. Ahead and across the street, was Strøget, one of Europe's longest pedestrian shopping street, perhaps one of the most crowded places you'll end up being in Copenhagen. The street stretches down at about 3.2 KM with more hundreds of shops that sell everything from clothing's, food and drinks, specialty shops and even Legos. I managed to spend my time at Lego, since after all, the brand was established in Denmark some 60 years or so ago. By the time I return back to my hotel, it was already late, where I had a late dinner and readied myself for the next day's events.


DAY 2

I woke up extra early on Day 2, as the breakfast time at the hotel ends at 10, which was quite early for my liking. Anyway, what to see in Copenhagen? Well, you'd be surprised to learnt the number of attractions around the City. Importantly, if you're travelling on a budget like I was then, a good tip would be to visit on Sundays where museums are opened for free. If not, then there are other free attractions in other parts of the City. Myself, I started with the National Museum, located at  Vestergade. The museum houses a very large ethnographical collection, a collection of classical and near eastern antiquities, a coin and medal collection, and a toy museum. I was however most impressed with the Viking Exhibition, an exhibition where they documented places and dates as well as rituals that the Vikings carried out and believed to have settled in and around Northern Europe and North America.

From Vestergade, I made my way across a bridge to the Christiansborg Palace, the seat of the Danish Parliament, the Danish Prime Minister's Office and the Danish Supreme Court, all situated on a islet at the heart of Copenhagen, the only building in the world that houses all three of a country's branches of government (i.e. the executive power, the legislative power, and the judicial power). Unfortunately for me though, much of the areas were heavily cordoned with construction walls probably due to renovation works. So I didn't really see much in there. A quick walk outside the gates of the Palace, is the Børsen, apparently the world's first stock exchange building. Whats unique about the building is the fact that it has a pillar, which was resembled a Dragon Spire shaped as the tails of four dragons twined together, reaching a height of 56 metres. From here, I made my way to the city quarter nearby, Christianhavn, Copenhagen nautical part. From there, I made a brief walk to Church of Our Saviour, a baroque church , most famous for its corkscrew spire, more larger and higher than that at the Exchange. I learnt that the Church also provided a tour high up to the spire, where visitors are offered extensive views over central Copenhagen. Inside the Church music from the carillon, which is apparently the largest in northern Europe.

My final stop before heading back to the hotel was Tivoli Gardens, which reminded me a bit of Jerudong Park during its heyday. Its a rarity though for Tivoli, an amusement part, to sit in the middle of a city centre. Inside, the gardens offered a vast array of entertainment options, such as the pantomime show, breath-taking views of gardens and lakes, rides, live show as well as large options of food choices of various international cuisines. One building that caught my eyes was the Moorish Palace, a hotel and restaurant that resembled the Taj Mahal. A day in Tivoli, admittedly wasn't enough, even if you're they only for sightseeing, as I was then.

After a long day of touring, I headed back to the hotel and called it a day.

DAY 3

Its my final day in this awesome city. The flight was due in the late afternoon, but I decided that I spent the remaining hours visiting more places. Also, the benefit of vacationing in a small sized city, like Copenhagen or Singapore is the airport is just nearby. Since it only takes about 15 minutes to reach the Airport from the city, there was no rush at all. And there are plenty of options to get there like trains or the metro, so the thought of getting stuck in a jam was highly unlikely, at least that was the case for me.

Anyway, I began my day departing for the Little Mermaid statue, situated at Langelinie promenade. However, upon arrival I noticed a stack of buses with tens of tourists heading to the direction of the statue, and sadly I ended up cancelling the famous statue. The relevance of the Little Mermaid with Denmark is all due to Hans Christian Andersen, the Danish author of the fairytale story. Apart from the Little Mermaid, he had written hundreds of tales, books and poems along, which had been translated into various languages and depicted in moving pictures, and his works have become culturally embedded in the West's collective consciousness.

Good thing for me though, nearby the promenade, there are a few other attractions worth visiting, that take advantage of the breathtaking views of the promenade in the backdrop. From there I made quite a long walk to Frederik's Church, situated in Frederiksstaden. You can't really miss the Church, as its large green dome, one of the largest in Europe, can be seen from a far. West of the Church is Amalienborg Palace, where I headed to afterwards, the winter home of the Danish royal family, consists of four identical classicizing palace façades with rococo interiors around an octagonal courtyard, and in the centre of the square is a monumental equestrian statue of Amalienborg's founder, King Frederick V. One glance on the square will immediately reminds you of Saint Peter's Square in the Vatican. The palace was mesmerising, pity though that I wasn't able to visit the interior, since that option was not available, as the Palace is still in use.

Moving on from there, I headed to the famous Nyhavn, the scene in which most of what you see of Copenhagen in pictures or movies were based from. Literally translated as 'New Harbour', Nyhavn is a 17th-century waterfront, canal and entertainment district in Copenhagen. The harbour is lined by brightly coloured 17th and early 18th century townhouses and bars, cafes and restaurants and serves as a "heritage harbour". By this time it was almost noon, after a few photo shots, I headed for Baresso, Denmark's answer to Starbucks.

After a quick break, I made my way along Gothersgade towards the Davids Collection, a museum of fine and applied art in Copenhagen, Denmark, built around the private collections of lawyer, businessman and art collector C. L. David. Interestingly, this free museum is situated in a very conspicuous location, and you won't believe that a normal-looking building houses an array of various art collection ranging from Islamic and Victorian age Denmark. After an hour visit, I made my way to Kongens Have, the oldest and most visited park in central Copenhagen. Established in the early 17th century as the private gardens of King Christian IV's Rosenborg Castle, which was situated nearby. Basking the beautiful sceneries and air in the gardens, it suddenly dawned on me that it was my last day (last few hours, in fact) in this awesome city. Took a few shot as usual of the surroundings, something that I actually rarely do when I go on holiday. Due to time constraints, I didn't manage to take a tour to the Castle itself.

From the Gardens, I headed off to the hipster district of Copenhagen, University. Well, from the name itself you won't have difficulty knowing what is situated there, but the student-friendly district has a number of vintage and second hand shops, both high-street and high end, which I found worth looking at. Though I don't for a second admit I am a hipster of any kind, but I was in love with some of the items sold in a few of the shops as well as the decors and interiors of the shops itself. I was particularly impressed with one, Studio Travel, which offered a minimalistic concept for the store front. The shop offers clothes for men and women with a selection that will make you unique, and allows you to 'travel back' in time and bring back the style that was made for you, hence the name Studio Travel. From University, I was reunited with Strøget, where I began my walk to the train station for the Airport.

It was an awesome time well-spent for me in Copenhagen. Will really look back at how 'different' Copenhagen is. An interesting blend of the old and the new can be seen in every part of the city. Tour a building that, on the outside looks traditional and old, but in the inside, is as modern as any space you will find anywhere. The city really made a mark with me, it is small and very compact, and has more bikes then cars, which coming from a person that comes from Brunei, where cars are literally everywhere, a place where I appreciate being in. When the weather is nice, strolling through the streets of the inner city, and finding yourself at a cafe or restaurant somewhere near the water is a pleasure. Hard to find a table sometimes, because every one else is doing the same thing. The people was awesome too, never did I not feel in any way less welcome than in any other European country I have visited in the past few years.


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