Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Copenhagen: The City of Copper


Frederiksborg Palace
After one day at sea, our cruise ship brought us to the capital of Denmark, Copenhagen.    As we rode our taxi to Copenhagen’s Central Train Station, I couldn’t help but notice that the city was entirely trash free and practically squeaky clean. Even public trains were completely spotless and state-of-the-art. But as I soon learned, these perks from being one of the cleanest and greenest cities in the world came at high price. Not only was it about 6 times more expensive than in St. Petersburg to use the public train system, but the high tax rates in Denmark literally blew my mind. Apparently when a Dane purchases a car, he or she pays a mandatory 180% sales tax on the vehicle. Clearly this is the Danish country’s method for discouraging vehicle ownership. I guess Denmarks dedication to the green movement is more important than economic growth in the auto industry and accessibility of transport to work. 

Once we traveled by train for 40 minutes to the city of Hillerod, we walked through the pristine streets of the city to the impressive 16th century palace Frederiksborg Slot. The castle was built for Danish King Christian IV. Now the palace hold the Danish National History Museum. Hands down, the most spectacular aspect of the palace was its location. The beautiful red tinted royal dwelling comes complete with its own moat. Entering the territory of the palace was really special. We passed under a large brick gate, crossed a medieval bridge that remained suspended over the moat, and entered onto the courtyard of the castle that displayed its own fountain. The interior of the palace was also splendid; the Great Hall and the Danish King’s private chapel were beautifully and ornately decorated. The most memorable moment while at the palace occurred when we went around the other side of the structure and discovered that Frederiksborg Castle actually sat on an island in the middle of a picturesque lake. And across the lake: a baroque garden with yellow and white flowers, bright green hedges, and stunning waterfalls. I decided that Danish Kings and Queens knew how to live in blissful opulence. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit Kronborg Castle on the northern tip of New Zealand Island. We were, however, fortunate enough to see it from the cruise ship as we were sailing back to Dover on the return voyage. From the ship, I could see that the castle was quite large. It dominated the Baltic Sea coastline as we sailed between Denmark and Sweden (and yes we could see both shores). The grey walls of the square shaped castle are most famous as Shakespeare’s inspiration for the castle in Hamlet. A neat castle to be sure, but I believe that Frederiksborg Palace may have been even more picturesque. Both castles sat on a gorgeous landscape. Frederiksborg on a beautiful lake surrounded by fountains and gardens. Kronborg on the coast of the Baltic Sea with the beautiful green hills of Sweden in close view (and even what looked like a medieval church or castle opposite Kronborg on the Swedish coast). Hard to choose. 
Nyvan Street
Tivoli Park

Amalienborg Palace
Back in Copenhagen, we had about 5 hours to explore the city before our cruise ship departed. Our first stop on the express tour of the city was the infamous Tivoli Gardens Amusement Park (one of the oldest amusement parks in Europe), which yet again opened my eyes to the expensive nature of Danish living. My parents and I decided that it was more economical to spend an average day at Disneyland (at $125 per day) than it was to buy a multi-ride pass at Tivoli. My parents and I enjoyed fruit flavored slushies while we meandered through the vibrantly colored gardens and listened to Danish performances such as Pippi Longstalkings. Then it was off to city square where I began to notice a common theme of Copenhagen and maybe even of Denmark: Danes love to use copper in their architecture. Anywhere in the city, you can just look up to the city skyline and see maybe a dozen towers or domes made entirely of copper. For about an hour, my parents and I enjoyed strolling through the copper laden buildings of Copenhagen’s Old Town District. 



The highlight of our self-guide tour through Copenhagen occurred during the last 30 minutes in the city. We walked along the shores of one of Copenhagen’s most famous canals which ran along Nyvan street where brightly painted buildings brightened up the seaside cafes and sailboats. Then we turned left. After about another 10 minutes of walking we came upon the spectacular highlight of the day: Amalienborg Palace. Amalienborg Palace is the current home to the Danish Royal Family. Consisting of 4 separate buildings (one with a large dome), a massive square, a central monument, and more than a dozen Danish guards - this place was truly special and more spectacular than could be expected. The palace itself was grand, but I found the activities of the guards to be particularly memorable. We visited the palace at 6pm. At this time there was a small changing of the guards ceremony. But even more intriguing, the Danish guards acted differently from their British counterparts at Buckingham Palace in London. The Danish guards could move their heads and even speak. When my mother decided to take a break from our long walking tour by sitting on the ground in the Palace Square, a guard walked about 200 meters to her and told her that sitting was prohibited. 

As we left the dock after a full day in Denmark, I couldn’t help but dwell on the beauty of the historical buildings and the pristine quality of the Danish landscape in the cities and countryside. Denmark was an expensive, yet memorable day. I could definitely see myself returning to see more of the castles and attractions that the country has to offer, but overall the country didn’t hold my heart as much my favorite foreign nation so far Ireland or my favorite country of cultural and historical fascination- Russia. 

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