While I enjoyed my time in Denmark, truth be told, I feel that we were robbed of a proper visit. It alternated between pouring and sprinkling for about 90% of our visit, trapping us inside a HoHo (hop on, hop off bus) for a majority of the day. What I love most about the city of Copenhagen is that it is very old – and very cool – but unfortunately, I don’t believe that we got to experience it in all its glory.
Copenhagen was our very first stop on the cruise, and the infamous European rainy weather was in full swing. It was dark and gloomy from the second we woke up and remained that way throughout the day. Nonetheless, Copenhagen was still my introduction to my first, real European city, and it did not disappoint. We had flown into London the previous day and drove the 2+ hour drive to Dover, England, but it was such a whirlwind that I never got to stop and appreciate anything. Copenhagen was the first city where we could really take in what Europe was offering. I had heard for years about how old Europe was, and how different their architecture was to the newer, younger, United States, but experiencing it in person was exciting. The medieval style architecture of old Europe remains one of my favorites to this day.
In fact, had it not been for the endless rain, spending the day here would have been an absolute delight for me. As mentioned, it’s old and medieval looking, the kind of place that’s right up my alley and there were also lots of gargoyles. I’ve heard for years that “over in Europe” they had architecture that involved gargoyles, and I’ve always been fascinated with the concept. Seeing them in person was a highlight of the trip for me.
After taking not one, not two, but three different HoHo lines, we had pretty much seen all that Copenhagen could offer from a double-decker bus. We typically would not have done this had it not been for the endless rain. After the back-to-back-to-back HoHo rides, the rain had dwindled to a drizzle and we decided to walk around. Our first spot was where the world-famous Little Mermaid statue should have been.
Key words: should have been.
The Danes apparently thought it was a great idea to “loan” it to China for the World Expo at the exact same time we were visiting. I did not know countries could, or would, loan out one of their main tourist attractions, but as our luck would have it, it was the first time Denmark had removed or loaned the statue, literally ever. In its place was a screen with a live shot of the statue in China, with Chinese citizens walking around it. So, what we got to see was the world-famous ‘Little Mermaid’… on a screen… in real time… in a country halfway across the world from where we were… while standing in the exact spot where it should have been… in its home country… which is already halfway across the world from where we live. Talk about a sick cosmic joke.
When it is at home in Copenhagen, it’s located at Langelinie Pier, out on a rock. Created by Edvard Eriksen and unveiled in 1913, it depicts a mermaid becoming human. The head of the mermaid is modeled after ballerina Ellen Price, but since she would not agree to model in the nude, Edvard used his wife, Eline, as the model for the body. There are more than 13 replicas and copies of the statute, most notably in Solvang, California; Kimballton, Iowa; Piatra Neamt, Romania; Torrejon de Ardoz (Madrid), Spain; Seoul, South Korea; Copenhagen Airport; the International Peace Gardens in Salt Lake City (the Danish contribution to the garden); Larvotto Beach, Monaco; Sicily, Italy; Calgary, Alberta, Canada; and one sits at the grave of Danish-American entertainer, Victor Borge.
While the original Little Mermaid statute being on loan was a bit of a bummer, all was not lost, as there was a smaller, less famous replica located inside the world-famous Tivoli Gardens (“I lov it” spelled backwards). Tivoli is probably by far the most famous draw to Copenhagen (aside from the Little Mermaid… when she is actually there), averaging 4.5 million visitors a year (I’m sure post-Covid those numbers are way down). It’s in the heart of downtown and right next to the Central rail station, so it’s easily accessible. Tivoli was opened in 1843 and is the 3rd oldest still-operating amusement park in the entire world (behind Dyrehavsbakken, also in Denmark, and Wurstelprater in Vienna, Austria). It is also the 2nd-most popular seasonal theme park in the world after Europa-Park in Germany, and the 5th most visited amusement park in Europe.
Not only is Tivoli an amusement park, but it’s also a “pleasure” park, which is more-or-less a giant forest-type space with gardens, shops, concert venues, restaurants, an aquarium, and wild peacocks roaming around. There is also a hotel on the grounds called Hotel Nimb. We didn’t bother with the amusement park side of the gardens and only focused on the pleasure park side. It was nice, and I wouldn’t have minded spending a full day there in nice weather. Tickets cost 122 DKK each, which translates to roughly $20.13 USD. If you want to ride the rides, that costs extra.
Last thing about Tivoli, it does have some dark history. First, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they used to host human exhibitions there. If you are unaware of what this dark stain on history is, in frank terms, it was human zoos. People for these “zoos” would come from various areas of the world, notably Africa, South America, India, Turkey, Moors from the now-region of Spain and Portugal, and Tartars from Russia. People in white European nations during the late 1800’s/early 1900’s had rarely seen “darker” people from other parts of the world and viewed them as “savages”, completely different from themselves and “lesser”. It was an extremely messed up time in history, to say the least. The second, Tivoli was a target of Nazi sympathizers during WWII, with many of the buildings and areas of the park looted and burned to the ground. As with any place that is 177 years old in Europe, there is bound to be some dark times.
Nyhavn is a 17th-century waterfront, canal and entertainment district. It’s known for it’s brightly colored 17th and early 18th century townhouses, bars, cafes and restaurants, which remind me greatly of Bryggen in Bergen, Norway. Many of Copenhagen’s historical wooden ships live in the harbor of Nyhavn. It was ordered created by King Christian V and built between 1670 to 1675 by Swedish prisoners of war captured from the Dano-Swedish War (which raged from 1658 to 1660). Also, the world-famous Danish author Hans Christian Andersen lived on Nyhavn for around 18 years.
The Amalienborg Royal Palace was built between 1669-1673 and the current home of the Danish Royal Family. Outside, in the center of the palace square, is a statue of Amalienborg’s founder, King Frederick V. He was king of Denmark and Norway for almost 20 years, from August 1746 to January 1766. The palace is actually four separate, “smaller” palaces, which was originally built for four noble families. However, the Danish Royal Family purchased the palaces in 1794 and officially moved in.
The guide on the HoHo explained that Freetown Christiania is a “shanty community of weed-smoking, free-love hippies, who describe themselves as anarchists”. It was created in 1971 as a squatting situation inside a military area and approximately 1,000 people call it home. The cannabis trade and usage was tolerated by Danish authorities until 2004, which then strained the relations between Christiania and Danish authorities. Beginning around 2010, the situation has somewhat chilled and Danish Law is now enforced. The rules of the “town” forbid stealing, violence, weapons (like guns and knives), bulletproof vests (for some reason), only hard drugs, and bikers’ colors (whatever that means). Also, taking pictures and videos is forbidden inside Christiania (but we were outside 🤪).
A couple other sights we saw from the HoHo were Carlsberg Brewery, a famous brewery in Europe that makes beer for a lot of European and Asian countries, and the Copenhagen Zoo, which was founded in 1859 and is one of the oldest zoos in Europe. It averages an annual 1.1 million visitors per year, and is the 4th most visited attraction in all of Denmark.
I wish I could report on these places because I actually went to them, but as I explained, the sky had different plans…
Even though we were robbed of these sites, I still experienced enough of Denmark and her people to get the feeling that they were very hospitable and welcoming. We stopped at a McDonalds (we ended up eating at McDonalds a handful of times in various countries – the food is pretty much universally the same everywhere, and they have restrooms 🤷🏻♀️), and the workers were polite. I also spoke to a woman who worked in the Hard Rock Cafe near Tivoli, who had just moved to Copenhagen from Brazil a few months prior, and she had nothing but great things to say about the city. If I ever had the chance to go back to Copenhagen, you better believe I’d jump at it!
*Side note: While writing this blog, I became curious as to how much rain per year Denmark really gets. From what I’ve gathered, on average, it rains every other day and naturally we’d be visiting on one of the rainy days. Of course!*