Saturday, July 12, 2014

København



Another thing that makes me weird. I love the travel part of travelling more than the actual destination. Forget the place I'm about to see - I'm much more excited about driving across Saskatchewan in the midst of a thunderstorm, flying over Turkey with a sky so clear that I can see little villages, or taking the night train from Moscow to St. Petersburg. The bus ride I took from Oslo to Copenhagen the other day was no exception. First, it was really long, and I adore a long day on the road. Second, we passed through three countries while doing so. This gave me a brief chance to be reunited with my beloved Sweden, and to get a glimpse at Goteborg and Malmo (and the former even had "Lisbeth's hospital"!). For most of the trip, I simply sat there and stared out the window, not wanting to miss a second. To get to Denmark, we crossed the Oresund Bridge, which offers an absolutely stunning view of the strait and completely owns Confederation Bridge in this regard. As we crossed the Danish border, my iPod spontaneously changed from ABBA to Aqua. Coincidence? I think not.





On the way to the hostel, I got lost once again, only to be helped by a young woman on her bike. All the Danes I've met so far are very kind and helpful, actually. That the woman was a cyclist is even more remarkable, as Danes on bikes seem to be hell-bent on playing target practice with unsuspecting tourists. I eventually found the place, and honestly, it's one of the best hostels I've ever stayed in. Huge rooftop terrace, an excellent bar/cafe, two (TWO!) outlets per bed, huge storage lockers, a petanque court. Who ever heard of a hostel with a petanque court? I can tell you, once you've found one, you can never stay anywhere else.

My first morning was taken up with wandering around the downtown on a walking tour, where we took in some of Copenhagen's most memorable sights. Disappointingly, when we arrived at Amalienborg Palace, we did not find the Royal Family strolling around in their underwear. However, the tour guide was hilarious and we got a good introduction to the downtown. From there it was the obligatory trip to see the Little Mermaid, then a long, meandering walk back to the hostel, with some shopping along the way. I am dog tired and at this point in the game, it's all about preserving energy - so nightlife is not exactly my game right now. Relaxing with a Coke is about my speed.






The next day, I headed out to Helsingor, which some of you might recognize as Elsinore, the setting for Shakespeare's Hamlet. Apart from the giant (and gorgeous!) castle on the sea, I found a charming little town with a laid-back style (though come to think of it, that vibe just seems to be a Danish thing). The castle is totally worth exploring, too, especially the Royal Apartments. I also liked walking along the water, where you are so close to Sweden you can practically spit there. It was a gorgeous sunny day, and I was at the castle I had dreamed of since Grade 12 English Lit. What could be better?

Getting to Helsingor from Copenhagen is easy. At first I assumed that it would be too far for a day trip, but in fact, it's so close you can get there on the metro. For a return trip, get the 24-hour pass (130 DKK). It's about forty-five minutes each way. The only problem is that currently there's construction on the track, which means you have to change at Klampenborg. A minor issue, but it did throw me a bit when figuring out where to go. (Copenhagen's  transit system is HUGE. In fact, you can even use it to get to Malmo. Imagine, going to another country on your city's system. Europe.)






The weather cooled down a bit - somewhat of a relief, as it's been pretty hot by Scandinavian standards lately - and so I decided to spend the day out at Tivoli. Basically, it's one of the oldest amusement parks on earth. It was part of the inspiration for Disneyland, brings in more visitors per year than the entire population of Denmark, and is beloved by Danes and visitors alike. It's fantastically decorated. It's cheerful. There are tons of things to do for many interests - shopping, food, live performances. But best of all are the RIDES. There were times when I thought I would be catapulted clear into Germany, which was terrifically thrilling. The Demon, their biggest and wildest rollercoaster, is enough to make you cling to the handlebar with white knuckles and pray. It's that awesome. There's also an old-fashioned wooden rollercoaster (reportedly the oldest on earth) and a crazy whirly thing that SPINS you as you are flung a zillion feet into the air. It's AWESOME. If you go, be sure to get the multi-ride pass rather than using the ticket system, as you can pay it off in three or four rides pretty easily.

While on Aquila (a giant spinning monstrosity), I befriended a family of New Zealanders. In fact, I was riding with one of the kids, as there was only the dad and both children were too short to ride unaccompanied. Chatting with the dad (upside-down, I might add), I found out that he not only knows where my hometown is, but has been there to ski several times. This is the first time in a year that I've met someone who knows my city. I was stunned. Go figure.







Tomorrow I am off for a brief visit to Iceland! I'll be exploring Reyjavik and snorkeling. Yes, snorkeling in the freezing Silfra. That's my final stop before arriving - finally - in my homeland. I can't believe it's over so quickly, and yet I'm ready to go home. For now, though, I'll enjoy the precious travel time that's left. I've absolutely adored Denmark. It's chill, it's friendly and laid-back, quite manageable for a solo traveller. Let's hope Iceland is more of the same. 

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