Scandinavia Part 1: Copenhagen

Posted in Travel Log (N. America & Europe) at 5:14 pm by Benjamin Ross

Well, it’s been 3 months since my recent Europe trip wrapped up, and in keeping with tradition, I’m way behind on my blogging this time around.  The goal of my most recent trip was to explore central Europe, and especially those areas formerly behind the Iron Curtain.  But with a full month on the continent, I decided to indulge in Scandinavia for my first 4 days.  With some of the highest costs of living in the world, a more extended stay in Scandinavia probably would have broken the bank for this trip.  Nonetheless 4 days in Copenhagen and a few visits to smaller towns in surrounding areas of Denmark and Sweden was in apt introduction to the land of the Vikings.

Copenhagen is located in the center of a phenomenal long and short distance train network connecting points in Denmark, adjacent Sweden and beyond.
wandering around Copenhagen
The center of Copenhagen is tight and compact.  If you’re willing to walk distances, you can get nearly everywhere on foot.  However, locals will proudly inform you that the bicycle is the preferred method of transportation, even in the middle of winter.
By the standards of European capital cities constructed by over-indulgent monarchs, there are few extravagant buildings in Copenhagen.  And this is fitting.  Though one of the wealthiest nations in the world on a per capita basis, Danes impressed me with how rarely they appear to overtly show off their wealth.  This is probably an over-generalization, but the architecture appeared to reflect the culture in this regard.
The largest non-white ethnic immigrant group in Copenhagen are Arab immigrants, many of whom come from Iraq.  Although like most other major North American and European cities, there is still a Chinese restaurant in nearly every major commercial district.
Nørreport, the neighborhood where my hostel was located.
As one of the the capital of one wealthiest countries in the world, Copenhagen is also quite expensive.  My dorm bed in a youth hostel cost around $35/night, and prices of food and drink were probably about 1.5x as expensive as in a comparable US city.
As to be expected, Copenhagen is quite clean as well, and is home to some of the most sophisticated pay toilets I have seen anywhere, (outside of Japan of course).
more wandering around the center
more fancy, but not over-indulgent, Danish architecture
Christiansborg, the seat of the Danish Parliament and Supreme Court
now taking a modern turn
Copenhagan’s “Black Diamond,” the extension to the Royal Danish Library completed in 1999
library reading room, obviously not from the Black Diamond extension
more modern architecture along one of Copenhagen’s many canals
Copenhagen’s streets reminded me of Amsterdam, with street traffic divided relatively evenly among (left to right) private automobiles, public transit, bicycles, and pedestrians.
Copenhagen is also home to possibly the most modern, clean, smooth, and efficient mass transit I have ever ridden on.  With the majority of the city walkable, widespread bike ownership, and rapid speed “S-trains” making frequent trips through the city center and suburbs, a Metro system almost wasn’t even needed.  However, the first line opened in 2002, and the trains ride like public transportation’s answer to the Lexus.
Being one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world, mass transit trains have special cars designated for people with bikes.
inside the Copenhagen Airport, another marvel in modern transportation architecture
One of Copenhagen’s premier attractions is the Tivoli.  First opened in 1843, it has often been sited as the inspiration for Disneyland.
The Tivoli isn’t so much a place with stuff “to do” as it’s a scenic place to meander around, especially at night.  I’ll let the photos do the talking here.
Another one of Copenhagen’s more unique tourist attractions, Christiania is a nominally independent state located within Copenhagen’s City Centre.  Founded by hippies and activists in the 70’s, Christiania is a semi-autonomous strip of 84 acres, which claims to be independent of both Denmark and the EU.
Christiania is probably most famous for its lax regulations on drugs, especially marijuana.  The main strip of Christiania (not pictured due to ubiquitous signage prohibiting photography) consists of street vendors peddling marijuana, hash, bongs, pipes, t-shirts, and other souvenirs.
While not officially recognized as independent by the Danish government, the authorities do tend to stay away from Christiania, making it the de facto red light district where sale and consumption of illegal drugs goes  un-policed.
Claiming to be more than just a red light district, Christiania does provide some of its own municipal services, such as trash pickup.
A sign upon leaving Christiania warns visitors of their re-entry into the European Union.
Out of Christiania now, here is a Danish church which I bumped into accidentally while wondering around.
Most interesting about this church was the crypt below, where wealthy Danes are interned.
Scandinavia has its own culture of sport, and one of the more exciting regional sports I encountered was kayak basketball.
As far as I could tell, the rules of the game were pretty similar to a game of basketball.  The only stipulation being that all players were in kayaks…a convenient Scandinavian twist.
Copenhagen is a lovely city to wander around in aimlessly, and go overboard with the picture taking.   Here are some more random shots from wandering around.
Copenhagen is a phenomenal city.  In terms of European cities, it almost reminded me of Amsterdam, but without all the brothels and coffeeshops, and the type of tourism those institutions tend to generate.  As the only major Scandinavian city I visited, unfortunately there wasn’t much of a comparison base, but it definitely ranks as a city I would gladly live in, assuming I could afford it.  More to come in the second post on Scandinavia.

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