Day 3

Trip Start Jul 12, 2004
1
4
8
Trip End Jul 18, 2004


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Thursday, July 15, 2004

We awoke to sunshine today, but it looks like we'll be going to bed with the rain lashing down outside! Never mind - we had a good day, with plenty of photos taken. When we get to put them up next week, it'll take ages to download the pages, so for now, enjoy the text!

We began with our usual trip to emmerys bakery for breakfast, then took the 5A bus back to Rådhuspladsen, where we ended our explorations yesterday. A short walk away is the Nationalmuseet - one of a handful of Copenhagen's museums that open for free on a Wednesday.

The museum foyer is - like so many of Copenhagen's public spaces - impeccably designed, open, light and airy. The guidebooks say it has been extensively renovated, but judging by the amount of plastic sheeting covering the exhibits, it looks like it's still in progress.
The Nationalmuseet is one of those museums (like the Louvre, the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York) that you could easily spend all day in. For reasons of time, we restricted ourselves to the Danish prehistory section, encompassing everything up to and including the Viking period. Even though we "cherry-picked" we were not disappointed: the collection had some good pieces, including: a selection of lurs - paired over-the-shoulder horns blown to attract the sun-god; coins, brooches and swords; golden horns; a statue of a horse pulling the sun across the sky and some suitably horny helmets! Ancient Vikings had the sense to make sacrifices to their gods by chucking their precious goods into the local bogs, where the anaerobic, acidic conditions were a perfect preservative for pretty much everything including wooden coffins, skeletons and clothing, as well as the usual metal relics. Consequently, all these 3000 year old artifacts are in remarkably good nick!
We had lunch in the museum cafe: a segment cut from a huge chunky sandwich - not cheap at 4 quid, but good quality and very filling. We also liked their coconut covered truffle ball cakes! You just don't have to be put off your food by the over-looking totem poles, brandishing their large and intricately carved genitalia!

We returned to the tourist office just opposite the main entrance to Tivoli gardens to purchase Copenhagen Cards: free travel on the excellent, efficient buses and trains and free or discounted entrance to many attractions is now ours for 72 hours! The first thing we used them for was a foray into the Town Hall for a look at Jens Olsen's Astronomical Clock. The clock has three sections, with various clocks and calendars in the first two, and astronomical instruments including a star map and an astrolabe in the third. The clock itself has elegant stainless steel dials, and beautiful polished brass workings, all visible through the glass case.

Next we took the bus to Christianhavn to visit Vor Frelsers Kirke (Church of Our Saviour), with it's amazing black and gold spiral spire. We opted not to climb the 400 stairs (the highest 150 of which are on the outside of the structure!) due to fear of heights and already-aching limbs, but instead went inside. The church has some amazing features, not least the altar, dripping with statuary, and the huge carved wood organ loft, seemingly supported by two elephants (they come from the Danish royal family crest, although so far I'm not entirely sure why!). The church itself had an amazing sense of space and light, and seemed a bit TARDIS-like in that it seemed much bigger on he inside than the outside.
We walked further down the road into Christiania, the infamous "free state" which extols alternative virtues, and is a haven for pot-heads and dealers alike. The contrast to the rest of Denmark is striking. The roads are unmade-up, no window is unsmashed, every surface is graffitied, and derelict vehicles litter the unkempt verges. I'm afraid Christiania did nothing to change our existing view that this wasn't some radical counter-culture, it was incapable of culture at all. This community wasn't revolutionary - drugs render it utterly incapable of revolutionary thought, indeed of anything useful or productive or creative, just dope smokers with empty eyes and worthless, meandering dronings fixated on one thing: the further availability of their drug of choice. It's neither big nor clever.

Thankful to be leaving, we made for Nyhaven, which made for a stark contrast. Where Christiania is chaotic and purposelessly lost in it's haze of pot smoke, Nyhaven - with it's pretty harbour and painted buildings - has the single minded function of removing as much cash as possible from the many, many tourists who flock to it's bars and restaurants.
We undertook a fantastic tour of Copenhagen's canals from here. Not cheap, but our Copenhagen Card got us a bit of a discount. We cruised past the new Opera building (opening 2005), the Little Mermaid (operative word: Little), back into Christianhavn and back. Spoilt only by the drizzle, it was an excellent tour and gave us a real feel of the city's waterfront. Dinner at a little Italian restaurant (virtually the only one with a vegetarian option on the menu!) was warm and pleasant and not too hideously expensive. The rain postponed our evening trip to Tivoli, and the tourist bureau told us that there are no longer fireworks on a Wednesday evening. So we headed home, via a really nice little coffee shop for a hot chocolate.

A full day, I'm sure you'll agree. Tomorrow we head out of town to Roskilde to see Viking longships... can't wait!
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