Phil's Travels - Copenhagen, Denmark (04.22)
Phil’s Travels – Copenhagen, Denmark (04.22)
After a short sleep, not so much a sleep as a ‘nap’ according to my darling daughter, the taxi arrived at home at 03.45 to whisk us through the deserted night to Heathrow. We got to T5 so early, the First Class check-in area was not even open yet. We could have used the regular check-in desks (which were open), but given my wonderful wife’s Gold status, First Class it had to be. We were first of the day to be served. My daughter was outraged by the whole situation and asked why we were so ‘ridiculously early’. Reasons: the previous days had seen multiple flight cancellations, massive queues and even police intervention on occasion to help calm things down. We witnessed none of these things and flew through to the departures hall.
Air-side, my lovely ladies went to the Lounge for breakfast and I waited for Ramsey’s to open (the only sensible outlet to open early; amazing how few dining options there are in T5). Ramsey’s Eggs Benedict were good that morning. During breakfast we received a notice from BA that our return flight had been cancelled and that we were bumped to an earlier flight on Sunday. Flying was still very much a lottery, especially with BA. The lovely ladies and I met at the departure gate and just steps from the boarding pass checker-chappie my daughter realised she did not have her passport. A frantic search of bags, pockets and pull-alongs whilst our fellow passengers streamed by eventually uncovered its whereabouts in my wonderful wife’s ample handbag.
Our plane was empty and we arrived on time. Whilst queuing for passport control (lengthy as we used our UK passports), I checked the transfer options to our hotel in central Copenhagen. At around DKK124 (circa GBP15) the taxi option looked good. Our taxi actually cost us DKK220 in the end – do not trust everything you read on the internet. Our fifth-floor hotel room overlooked the spire-dotted Old Town, the tamed Baltic waterway between Zealand and Amager (known as København’s Inner-Havn) and Knippelbro (affectionately referred to by yours truly as Nipple Bridge, an appropriate name given the two erections that guard either side of the bridge, one of which had been repurposed into a tiny coffee shop-come-bar – very cool).
Our room was huge, very comfortable and a corner unit, giving us amazing views and loads of natural light. However, for such an incredible space, the desk and TV unit were poorly thought through, with the former nowhere near any sockets and the latter blocking three windows worth of wall (blocking any views of the Old Town from the bed). Breakfast was awesome though and thanks very much to the wonderful chef for his humour and fresh food (a lovely chap from Puglia who had worked at Le Manoir a few years ago).
Point of interest: virtually every convenience I visited across Copenhagen and its airport was fully equipped with Urimat sanitary kit (not just the obvious as suggested by the name, but also hand-dryers, dispensers, etc). Given its dominance I thought it might be a massive Danish champion, but a quick check on the net revealed it was Swiss. That being the case, congratulations to the country sales team for achieving such near monopolistic coverage across Denmark.
On to more touristy matters. For our first lunch, we enjoyed some international food in a lovely local restaurant in Nyhavn (New Harbour, the quaint 17th century canal-front, lined with multi-coloured townhouses). Having refuelled, we walked around the Old Town and explored the city from many angles. We saw elegant squares, lots of street sculpture (including a rather rude one, see below), stunning and massive architecture (my favourite being the old Børsen), lots of water, retail streets, Tivoli from the outside (closed at the time) and the world’s dirtiest Burger King (Urimat could do good business there). We even popped into the main railway station to see the amazing ceiling (like an overturned Viking longboat).
First dinner was a local affair in the most local of Cafeen. Fab space, great food and an amazing Viking waiter (height, bulk and beard all qualifying). We ate delicious local fare and drank three different kinds of aquavit (local schnapps). We spoke with the chap dining at the next table and he declared the Københafner Cafeen to be the most authentic in Copenhagen and he was dining there that night as his first meal after three months overseas (he missed his motherland’s cooking).
Second day, we visited the Kastellet park complex and gazed admiringly at The Little Mermaid sculpture on its rock just offshore (a bronze statue by Edvard Eriksen, modelled on his wife, inspired by the 1837 tale by Hans Christian Andersen (not Disney) and paid for by Carl Jacobsen (son of the founder of Carlsberg)) – probably the best statue in the world!
We walked along Langelinie back into town. Saw the soldier guards around Amalienborg (a complex of gorgeous palaces) and entered the majestic Frederik’s Church (site of the most magnificent dome in the city). We had a hot dog on Kongens Nytorv (one of the main squares) and finished just in time for a hailstorm of white-out proportions (the peak of our up-down weather experience, moments of sun interspersed with rain, high winds and miserable grey skies, more high winds and a maximum temperature of 6C, but often less with the frequent wind-chills). We sheltered in the most elegant Magasin du Nord and I bought some Danish wine (yes, wine grown and made in Denmark; global warming, baby!).
That afternoon, we took a cab up to Nordhavn and hooked up with the reason for our visit to Viking-land. Our darling daughter left us and headed to her best friend’s house for a sleepover ahead of the party next day. My wonderful wife and I headed back into the Old Town on the uber-clean Metro and wandered some more until thirst took over and we popped into Brønnum for an early cocktail. I had a Danish whisky (very good too). For a not so early second cocktail, we wandered over to Nyhavn and discovered a tiny two-room, hole-in-the-wall, basement bar in the back streets. The Union Local was great. Good music, good cocktails and a great vibe. I had what turned out to be a dill-flavoured Danish aquavit. Suitably liquified and finally on time for our dinner reservation, we wandered to nearby MASH and devoured steaks. In keeping with the going-local theme, I had a Danish cut. The side order of roasted jalapenos though was a mistake. The pepper and dill combination was a combo that repeated regularly the following morning as I struggled to recover from a rather sore head. A sensation overload to be avoided in future.
Having cleared my head with a wholesome breakfast and lots of alcohol-free liquids (and a couple of analgesics), we explored Christianhavn and wandered into the nirvana of Christiania (a freetown commune covering some 8ha, in which the 1,000 residents do not pay any taxes and look after themselves). Nearby we saw another gorgeous Danish church, Vor Frelsers Kirke, with the most beautiful gold-edged helter-skelter spire. Danes really do have some creative and skilled architects.
After a speedy lunch (we tried to grab a bite in the Nipple Bridge tower, but it was closed), we took a cab to the airport, hired a car and drove to Nyborg (just the other side of the 18km long Storebaeltsbroen). Our destination? Holckenhavn Slot. A privately owned castle (more of a chateau-come-manor house rather than a fortified installation) that was converted to commercial use a few years ago – the venue for our darling daughter’s best friend’s confirmation party. And what a party! It was black tie, dinner in the splendid Hall of the Knights (painted beams, frescoed walls and lots of candles) and lubricated with some stunning wines. No aquavit! Highlight of the evening? The speeches were incredible, including a super passionate toast by our very own darling daughter in honour of her best friend.
I loved the name of our bedroom, Iver Holcke (‘I got a hulk!’). The room was not hulk sized, but gorgeous nonetheless, and right on the moat, at moat height, with swans gliding past our window as serenely as you like in the sun-drenched morning. Gorgeous (with a capital G)!
After a simple knight’s breakfast, we loaded up the hire car early and drove back to Copenhagen International Airport in time for our earlier than planned flight home. The check-in procedure at the BA desks was a chaotic affair, but we finally made it on board and landed at T5 on time. Passport control was deserted and we got to the luggage belts in no time. Where were all those crowds, delays and police cordons that the press had made such a big noise over? We said a quick hello-goodbye to Don Giulio and family (our Hall of the Knights toastmaster and the Godfather) and headed home with great memories of Viking hospitality.