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Copenhagen - the jewel of Scandinavian cities

Fantastic weather in a beautiful city.

Denmark completes the suite of Scandinavian countries to complete my Scandinavian Sojourn.
Denmark is country number 9 on this holiday, and the 49th different country I have ever been to. (Bangkok will be the 10th and final on my holiday, but I have been there before, so I will stay on 49 total.)

Landing in Copenhagen, we caught the train to the city centre.
'twas funny. Walking out of central station in Copenhagen at 11pm, immediately across the road was Tivoli amusement park, lit up for the night with different rides going. We were walking the short distance to the hotel thinking there’s a strange feeling in Copenhagen - this place is very, well, dark. Of course it was! They get a night time! My first in over a month!
Due to the poor weather in the high Arctic, even during mid summer, true midnight sun is actually quite rare, but 24 hour light is not, just like our walk ‘home’ last night.
Our walk to the hotel was one of awe as we looked around and saw a sky that was dark with stars in it. (It’s amazing how quickly we become used to something, even something like 24 hour light. I only used my eye mask for the first few days of the trip, then the all-night light no longer woke me.)

Checking into our hotel began what was to be a Fawlty Towers hotel experience. It began with the clerk, after taking my voucher for our stay, said nothing and pushed what felt like 47,000 keys before telling us they’d made a mistake with the dates, did we mind an upgrade as they had no more of the twin we’d booked. We didn’t mind until we discovered it only had a double bed instead of twin. After asking us if we’d mind if it was only for one night and us saying “Yes!” we mind, he gave us a single room each, until tomorrow. The Fawlty Towers bungles of the First Hotel in Copenhagen are many, but I will spare you the details, suffice to say it was so frequent and blatant that it became a comedic talking point. First Hotel = last choice.

Saturday the 19th August – our long weekend in Copenhagen begins.
What better way to begin our time in this city than to go wandering, as I am wont to do. We began by walking down Storget mall, the “world’s longest pedestrian mall”, apparently. (Who checks these claims? I was conned earlier in the trip with the Hurtigruten’s claim to the “World’s most beautiful voyage.” For the Norwegian coastline cruise, only to find that title belonged to Aurora’s trip around Spitzbergen.)
The mall was alive with shoppers and buskers and with the sun shining, the world was a pleasant place, or at least central Copenhagen was.
We stopped at times to admire various musicians, excelling at their instruments.
The main square had a flea market, but I don’t care to buy fleas. Also in the main square were 100 large wildlife photographs, all absolutely magical.
Walking in the sunshine under a blue sky down canals lined with bars, led us to a bridge to Christianshavn. Lunchtime now and a bakery beckoned. A crusty tuna ciabatta and a fresh strawberry tart were enjoyed with our legs dangling over a nearby canal. Memorable meal.

We continued our wandering and ended up in Christiania, an ‘alternative’ community living in the middle of Copenhagen. In 1971 they moved into the empty army barracks and haven’t moved out. They resist the rule of law and have their own leaders. Signs reading “No hard drugs.” are displayed, but pot and hash are openly sold and smoked.
A plethora of vendors and stalls supply not only smoking paraphernalia, but also the usual shite to sell to the many tourists who, like us, wander through thinking “What the?” It sure attracts its fair share of fruitloops and wasteoids. Christiania is a place of paradox – a place where saving forests and being green are promoted as a way of life, but the place they live is quite disgusting and filthy. Starting in their own backyard might be better before tackling the world. The lake in the middle of their oasis from the outside world is full of rubbish and such a horrible green that no one would swim in it. On a visual note, the colourful murals and other paintings adorning otherwise drab buildings such as sheds and toilets added an appreciated burst of colour.
Christiania is car free and after stopping at an outside bar for a beer to take it all in, we continued wandering, deeper into the enclave of Christiania and its 900 residents. Following the lake, we passed many people out and about enjoying not only the weather, but the park-like feel of this place.
We didn’t realise how far we’d walked today until we turned to head back to our hotel. Hmm! Many kilometres. We stopped in Storget to watch a break dancing troupe put on a show and put on a show they did! These 4 guys put on displays of technique and strength and moves that beat what MTV show. Awesome! Nathan got it all on video, then gave them a large Kroner note when the hat was passed around.
Passing through the closest square to our hotel, a free concert was in full swing.
Copenhagen is a refreshing change from the rest of Scandinavia. There’s a much more Continental and liberal approach to alcohol, but with the feeling of ‘design’, ever present in Scandinavia. Copenhagen has a great feel to it. We were enjoying it a lot.

Sunday – bike riding day.
We rented a couple of bikes from our hotel and the Fawlty fiasco continued. Nathan was given a girls bike to hire, much to his disgust. (I was not allowed to take any pictures of him on it!) We began by retracing our steps from yesterday, just his time by bicycle. Again we were reminded how far we wandered on foot yesterday. We took our Bao board and had a couple of games at an outdoor bar in Christiania. The people here make for the most amazing session of people-watching imaginable. Jumping back onto our bikes, we explored some more, taking random turns on Copenhagen streets and seeing where we got. Lots of fun.
Cycling in Copenhagen is such a pleasure. They have cycle lanes everywhere through the city centre and because they make it easy for cyclists, many people get out and ride. Funny to think that countries such as Australia and the US with obesity problems credit the fit people here with having “thin genes”. How about some more cycle paths and less cars? If you build the paths, cyclists will follow and so will better health and fitness. Copenhagen was such a cyclist-friendly city that our choice of bicycle transport today was a goodie. We covered many kilometres yesterday on foot. Today we travelled many more by bicycle.

Later in the afternoon we went to Tivoli amusement park and wandered past the rides and associated stalls, stopping for an early dinner of gnocchi at an Italian restaurant with in the park.
The late evening included beer at an al fresco bar by the wharf. The weather was beautiful and for our last night in this beautiful city, it was a perfect night to be out and about downtown Copenhagen.

Monday – our last day in Copenhagen.
After breakfast I relaxed in my room whilst Nathan’s trekked across town on his rental bike to buy his wife a Louis Vuitton handbag. He didn’t like it when I pointed out what his trip back must have looked like. Imagine the sight of Nathan riding up the mall on a girls bike with a Louis Vuitton handbag under his arm!

Cycling together again, we went and visited a butchers shop we’d found on Sat when it was closed. As the owner of a retail butcher shop, Nathan was keen to see both the range and quality of what was on offer here and once again on this trip, we were reminded of the high quality of ALL the produce we get at home all the time.

A bit more random cycling around Copenhagen had us passing a billboard with the F-word included in the text. Now that’s a first! I said this is a liberal place.
I couldn’t imagine a ‘social experiment’ like Christiania being allowed to exist anywhere else. Alcohol is legally sold to 15 year olds and street drinking is not only legal, it’s popular!

Our flight to Bangkok only leaves this evening, so we returned to the hotel after lunch, showered, packed and checked out at 2pm. We relaxed in the hotel lobby before heading out on the bikes again, or at least that’s what we thought we’d do. The skies opened and it poured, and poured. We felt quite snug peering through the glass out into the street full of rain, beer in hand thinking, “We could have been out in that.” Bao board and beers to the rescue!
Because of the weather, we didn't end up doing the planned canal tour or visit the 'Little Mermaid' statue. Obligatory apparently, but we didn't get in trouble at the airport on leaving for not doing it. I have left something to do whenever I get there again, which I will.
We both loved Copenhagen a lot and I certainly felt I’d inadvertently left the best Scandinavian city until last! Guess I will just have to come back.

Posted by TheWandera 07:51 Archived in Denmark Tagged women Comments (0)

Norway Part 6 - Bergen and Oslo

Second visit to both places for me on this trip, but much new things to do in both.

Sunday 30th July

Pleasant morning on the boat in that 'if-you-are-about-to-die-this-would-be-nice' kind of way.
How much coastline is too much? Even the most ardent supporters of the Hurtigruten cruise said they regretted doing the return journey as one direction was more than enough. Seeing the same things twice does not necessarily increase your appreciation.

Woo! Hoo! 2:30 pm we docked in Bergen, and I get to leave the shit, sorry typo, SHIP.
Spurned the waiting buses and walked with my backpack to the hostel in the center of town that I had stayed in before, and knew how perfect the location was.
Dropped my bags and....like any prisoner fresh on parole -
I found a dealer, hooker and a bar. In my case, since I wasn't technically an escapee, I did none of the above and just climbed a mountain, or two as it turned out.

The weather in Bergen today was magic, sunny and warm, and knowing how crap it CAN be in Bergen, I apppreciated it and made the most of it.

I hiked from the fish market on the waterfront in the town centre to the top of Mt Floyen 320m. Wild rasperries picked along the way added a taste sensation like no other. (The lollies by the same name are no comparison.)
There were many locals out enjoying the lovely weather too, so the scenery was not just off the track.
Arriving at the top, I enjoyed an icecream and considered whether to walk back down or catch the funicular railway. I felt liberated and in light of my recent incarceration, sorry cruise, I did neither. Instead I hiked across a valley and another ridge before climbing to the top of Mount Rundermannen @ 568m.
The views of Bergen were amazing, but today was really hazy over Bergen, so it wasn't really photogenic, but that didn't matter.
I was aware that Nathan, who I will meet in Oslo tomorrow, is on a plane, figured I should hike for the both of us! Hey! I need the practice for Svalbard, but that will be another story!

The hike was steady, and the exercise needed. The weather had been good on leaving and all the way up and I was dressed only in hiking boots, shorts and a t-shirt, and a hat.
On arriving at the rock cairn summit of Mt Rundermannen, I surveyed the surroundings in a 360 degree sweep and it was then that I noticed the clear sky was no longer so and felt the first raindrop on my arm. Bugger! I had a rain jacket, but nothing else!

I picked up the pace on my descent and the rain stayed away. For the first hour, I had a local fellow keep me company and I learned a thing or two about Norway and their economy.
On reaching the funicluar, the rain hadn't arrived so I continued my journey back down to sea level on foot.

In the woods I saw a deer with big antlers.
I crept up to it carefully. I touched it.
It was made of bronze.

Five minutes short of arriving 'home' the heavens opened with a downpour. By now I could make it back under shop awnings.
Not counting stops, it took me 3 hours up and 1.5 hours to come back. What a fantastic afternoon/evening of hiking in Bergen.

Monday - travel day.
I had the perfect train time. 10:30 = not too early to get up, but I got to Oslo at 5:30. Perfect!. The train journey from Bergen to Oslo? Well, if you have paid attention in previous blogs, I did this journey the other direction. They dub this "The World's Most Beautiful train journey" and, for what it packs into a 7 hour journey it's hard to beat. Fiords, waterfalls that cascade right underneath you, and quintessential Norwegian rural scenery all in one day on a train. Fantastic!
In addition to there being less snow on the mountains since a montha ago, I noticed that the grain crops that were full headed but green, just s few weeks ago, are now a golden hue and ready to harvest.

I am meeting up with my friend Nathan from Perth who I will be joining me for the last few weeks of this adventure.


On arriving in Oslo I knew to exit at National Theatre. How great to walk out of the station, look up to get my bearings and there was my hotel in all its glory. The Continental Hotel, Oslo's oldest, a 5 star treat. No more dorm beds for The Wandera, from now on in the trip, it's luxury.
(If you 'mix it up' there's pros and cons for everything. Right now I'm enjoying the pros of a luxury hotel.)
Nathan had arrived earlier in the arvo and was catching up on sleep after a long-haul flight from Oz. As we discovered, his tiredness was nothing that a couple of celebratory drinks couldn't fix.
We had a pasta dinner before stopping on the way back at an alfresco bar for a beer later in the evening. How cool to be treated to 'Beds are Burning' by Midnight Oil pumping through the sound system.

Tuesday - After a yummy hotel breakfast, we went exploring Oslo, and wandering, as I do. We began with a ferry trip across the harbour and from there it was a short walk through a very affluent suburb to the Viking Ship museum. They have 2 ships, excavated 100 years ago, but fully preserved, and one more that is almost decayed. Amazing to see how far the Vikings travelled during their heydey of 800-1050 AD. The Norwegians here now are descendants, so they don't have on-going land rights or other indigenous issues to deal with.

Catching the ferry back to the main wharf in front of the town hall, we then caught a tram to Vigeland Sculpture Park. It is full of bronze statues and sculptures by Gustav Vigeland.
Probably the best bit I thought, were the stone sculptures showing what appeared to be the cycle of life. People in all stages of life, amazingly carved. In the centre was a 20m high stone totem with more people than I could count all piled/climbing on top of each other carved into it.
The weather today is awesome. T-shirt and short weather! Apparently Oslo have had their warmest summer for 150 years! Today was one of those days. The park was full of like-minded people outdoors enjoying the weather. We walked from there along the street full of the designer shops back into the centre of the city, right to where we are staying. Street vendors are selling fresh raspberries, so of course we bought some. MMmm! Raspberries.

When in Oslo earlier in the month, while 'tramming', I'd discovered a great city view from a high point from the #19 tram. We went there and enjoyed the view, even better today as the sky was blue.

By now it was later in the day and we wandered, as I do, through an area called Grunnerlokka. It used to be 'working class' but has now been 'discovered' by yuppies and there are cafes and bars aplenty. We explored off the main strip and found another side to the pristine and presentable Oslo we had seen so far. We also found a cheap and tasty Asian restaurant and enjoyed a Thai curry, getting in the mood for Bangkok at the end of the trip.

Wandering the streets of central Oslo again, it was amazing to see how many people were out and about on a Tuesday evening. I have noticed though how little great weather they get, even in summer, so I can understand why they make the most of it. Having just come frmo Perth, with the world's best weather, Nathan couldn't understand my enthusiasm for this great weather. I think he will come around.
We walked the length of Karl Johans Gate, Oslos main street. Fantastic!

Wednesday - The museum of natural history was first. So many stuffed dead things! They even have a Tasmanian Tiger - Thylacine, so with museums around the world all wanting things for their collections, it is no wonder some species are now extinct! Their stuffed rhino was looking a bit worse for wear, hope they don't go off and shoot another one!
The geological museum next door was included, but again nothing was in English, so the appreciation was limited.
On returning outdoors the sky had gone from blue to grey. Thunder and a downpour followed. We caught a tram back to our hotel. By the time we'd eaten and headed out again, the weather was back to magic!

We walked the short distance to the pier and caught a ferry to the Fram Museum. This is a musuem houseing, surprise, surprise, the FRAM. She is a ship built in the 1890's that has a massive place in Arctic and Antarctic history. Both Nelson and Amundsen used her for their feats of exporation. We could go inside and to see the ship that various expeditions had spend years at a time in was amazing. It was of particular interest to Nathan and I as Svalbard is next on our itinerary, very close to the North Pole.

Wandering Oslo again, it was dinner time and we had another great meal. Not too silly tonight as we have to get up early tomorrow to fly to Longyearbien, Svalbard 78 degrees north and only 1388km from the North Pole. I expect it to be cold. Other observations will appear in my next blog.

.....and so, the Wandera wanders further northwards than he has ever been before.....

Posted by TheWandera 16:00 Archived in Norway Tagged women Comments (0)

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