Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Baltic Sea Cruise 2017: Day 2 - Copenhagen

May 14

Today we perform the Hop-On-Hop-Off trick.  We make a few missteps, as you will see. 

 We walk down Havnegade to purchase our tickets at the Red Bus office and lumber up to the top of the bus. (We’re without Rita, who has come down with a stomach ailment during the night.)

 In go the ear buds and we listen to the relentlessly cheerful voice tell us all about the bright and happy aspects of Copenhagen. Which, when I think about it, is the best way to tour. I don’t really want to know about the warts. All big cities have them, though it’s hard to imagine in this part of Denmark. Even the numerous bicycles – which Ear Buddy tells us everyone rides to work in summer and even winter – are mostly left unlocked.

We stop first at Tivoli Gardens. This area was the inspiration for Disneyland and the similarities are immediately apparent as we walk through the nifty artificial streetways.

One entrance to Tivoli Gardens
Oh what a ride! To be young and scare-free again!

Wendy and Carolyn

It’s a gorgeous morning, cool enough for lots of walking and sunny on our faces. Wendy, Carolyn and I stroll around admiring the rides and the flowers in equal proportions.

We’d love to be young again, just for the moment, for the thrill of the roller coaster or even the tilt-a-whirl.

We have the most delicious hot chocolate and whip cream, run into some pearl hens and a souvenir shop. The latter divests us of some money for Christmas ornaments.

Here comes our first misstep! We walk to the art gallery, but take the long way around and are too tired to spend an hour visiting. So we look for the art gallery stop – which is right HERE. Somewhere. It says so in this brochure. It’s on the map. It’s HERE, dammit.

We recall the long way home from the Trevi Fountain when we spent hours traipsing over cobblestones and bridges in the dark. Is Tripoli another Trevi? Not quite, but we’re still tired when we finally get to a different stop and hop on. Okay, we stumble on this time and sit downstairs.

Where Carolyn immediately makes friends with a banker. I have his address, phone number and email rights here on the map. We are invited to Indonesia for our next trip.

From the comfort of the bus, we eye the beautiful Copenhagen City Hall, which looks like a palace except for its clock tower. Bizarrely, it’s known for its pancakes, which they serve to the constituents whenever there’s a celebration – carnivals, jubilees, special events – and even weddings.

The area is a beautiful shopping mecca, says Ear Buddy, and the Latin Quarter has zillions of cafés and restaurants.

We peer at the Rosenborg Castle, a royal hermitage, but we’re not inclined to find a way inside. It’s surrounded by lush gardens, dubbed naturally, the King’s Garden.

We continue on into the heart of the downtown district. “There’s the ice bar!” I crow, but again we’re not motivated to get out and explore. After all, we have an ice bar on our ship. (Later...there's a story to tell, of course.)

At some point – even this close to the event, I can’t remember the sequence – we pass the Christiania district. In 1971, a group of “hippies” seeking freedom and weed squatted in a deserted military barracks. They proclaimed the area for themselves, set up makeshift homes, and fought it out with politicians over the years. Today Christiania is still a source of controversy and some violence (Pusher Street being a hotspot), but they’re leaning toward yoga and peace as time goes on.

We drive past The Citadel, the Swedish Church, and once again, the Little Mermaid.  Founded in 1626 by King Christian the 4th as a fortress to protect the city at the mouth of the sea, the Citadel still functions as a military base. But the original moat is now a lovely waterway, surrounded by green walkways, trees and flowers.

The Swedish Church was built to serve the community of “Swedens Abroad” and is also known as the Gustav Church.

We lumber past the Gefion Fountain, too. Ear Buddy tells us that the sculpture is based on a legend about the creation of Copenhagen (then known as Zealand). The Swedish king Gylfi promises the Norse goddess Gefjon that he will grant her land of any size – as long as she plows it out. So she turns her four sons into oxen and digs up Copenhagen. Nice mother, huh?

I mention the above for a specific reason, as they figure greatly in our future.

We rumble past Amelianborg, the palace area that houses Parliament and the Queen, but we don’t stop. Check on Rita, eat lunch, rest and hop back on at the stop just outside our Admiral Hotel.  The plan works well. Rita is better, though not up to hopping, the lunch is rooster (or chicken if you prefer the pedestrian name) and we’re ready once more.

Second misstep: we figure out that if we get on at the stop in front of our hotel, we’ll actually drive past the palace. So we walk the couple of blocks to visit Queen Margrethe the Second. We are certain she’ll ask us in for tea.

This is the view of the Palace-Parliament district. The street side of the compound is open to a beautiful fountain, gardens, the canal, and beyond that, the Opera House.

At the other end, we glimpse the Marble Church and its magnificent dome.

The Queen was born here at Amelianborg, since her daddy was the king and her mom a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. She born one week after the Nazis invaded Denmark. At first, she was not the “heir presumptive” because the law declared only males could ascend the throne. But her daddy and his three daughters were very popular with the subjects, so it was agreed by referendum to tweak the law. As long as she doesn’t have a brother, a woman can inherit the throne. Hmmm. 
Queen Margrethe of Denmark

Margrethe became Queen in 1972 after her father died. Similar to Queen Elizabeth the Second of Britain, the Danish Queen’s role is constitutional rather than political. Margrethe apparently admires Elizabeth and performs her role as a unifier very well.

She’s popular – an artist in her own right – and a chain smoker. Margrethe is married to Prince Consort Henrik.

Why all the detail? You’ll see.

The cobblestone area of the Palace grounds is stunning.

We just happen to arrive as the changing of the guard begins. It’s interesting to watch this solemn tradition and I can’t help but find it a bit ridiculous at the same time.

Apparently, people randomly follow the guards as they march from here to Rosenborg Palace, and sure enough, a trail of tourists takes up the challenge.

Not us, however. We are back to the business of hopping on and off. This time we opt to take pictures of the Little Mermaid, since the bus, our driver informs us, will be stopped for several minutes.

The Mermaid is no happier than she was before.

She's also been pretty much deserted by the hordes, which should have been a clue.

When we return to our transportation, we discover that this was the last round for the big old Red Bus. It will stop at its final destination – cleverly known as Stop Number One. It’s nowhere near Nyhavn or our hotel. The bus driver kindly tells us to walk, because the Admiral is just around the corner.

Uh huh. Our hotel in Rome was just around the corner from the Trevi Fountain, too.

We buy a delicious ice cream to fortify us and start up the waterside path. 

We’re side-by-side with the Citadel moat and the beautiful pathways.

Copper green monuments, hedges, bushes, trees, flowers. 

More missteps: I get us lost again. Just a little. Not my fault. I told the group never to follow me. I have no sense of direction and read maps backwards.

However, we get to see the Swedish Church and the Gefion Fountain up close and personal. Really very impressive. Especially the lovely tourists.

 As we re-orient ourselves and drag along the canal side, two glorious things happen.

First, Wendy and I are reminiscing about our cousin Dave. At home, right about now, his funeral is taking place. We are silent for a few seconds and suddenly, in the shadows of a huge building to our right, stands a replica of Michelangelo’s David.

“He’s here,” we grin and admonish him for flashing.

Second, we glimpse a flurry of activity at the Royal Yacht. Sure enough, we approach and get to watch as Prince Henrik, the aforementioned Consort to Queen Margrethe, walks down the gangway to join a group of military types. He strolls down the same pathway we’d just traversed, casual and largely unaccompanied. Certainly no presence of guns or security in black suits. We enjoy the encounter immensely.

Especially the Royal Dog and Dogwalker.

Henrik, in the picture on the right, reaches out to shake a hand.

Recently, he has "retired" as Prince Consort. According to a newspaper, Denmark "sighed with relief." He's been unhappy with his role as a mere consort and more outspoken than many believe he should be. I kind of agree with his view that not being named King when you are married to the Queen - whereas the wife of a King invariably becomes Queen - is discriminatory toward both genders. I think it's an assumption that a woman would be unduly influenced by her husband if he were a co-ruler, but not the other way around.

Back at the Admiral, we’re too tired from hopping to go anywhere else for dinner. Rooster, anyone?

We’ll board our ship tomorrow for the cruise.
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