Sunday, May 28, 2017

Baltic Sea Cruise Blog: May 2017

May 13

I arrive at the airport for the Baltic Sea cruise in a flurry of worry – leaving my husband, afflicted with Parkinson’s, alone; the cost, knowing I should be more fiscally responsible – and have a small meltdown disguised as fury at the machine which refuses to print my boarding pass.

If you read my blog on my Winter of Discontent, you know I've been in a strange mood for months. Just a few days before leaving, we'd visited our beloved cousin David as he lay dying from cancer, and now we must miss his funeral. I'm stressed and sad and afraid.

Yet as soon as I am transported by air, always feeling as magical that transfer of time and place, I am suddenly fine. I am eager and open and carefree. Without knowing it fully, I needed this.

Copenhagen Admiral Hotel

We are in Copenhagen, Denmark, a city and country that, for some reason, I’d never considered visiting.

I am, we all are, smitten immediately. It’s a big city, clean and gorgeous, bicycle-strewn and humming.

The architecture is stunning: glass, pointy-edged buildings, staggered balconies that look like eyes, colours deep blue or black trimmed with white mix side by side with traditional, ornate brick, cement and wood, rounded, hooded balconies, monuments, works of art, and brisk colours. Mustard, deep red. Silver steel.

We arrive at the Copenhagen Admiral Hotel, a former navy barracks, and fall in love with our rooms. Wooden arches and ceilings preserved and polished surround the modern amenities. The hotel stands on a canal that yawns out into the sea. The streets outside are full of people, biking, walking, pushing baby strollers. Drinking or eating in the open sunny air. Across the street and a short walk away are embassies and the residences of the Queen and Parliament.

We immediately walk the area, enjoying the sun and a warm salt-scented breeze. It’s crowded but feels friendly, though not in-your-face so. When we arrive at Nyhavn, a large canal-centred café-dominated bustling area, we’re enchanted. Despite the crowds, we’re able to hop on a canal tour without waiting in line.

We cruise in sunshine and a cheerful narrative from our guide. Past outdoor restaurant areas like the Papiroen – Paper Island, a former storage facility that served the Danish publishing industries. It’s now filled with art and eating. Outside are comfy chairs where people sit and enjoy the food and the ambiance.

The Opera House is one of the astonishing modern pointed, slanted glass and steel buildings, somehow precise and beautiful at the same time. A roof that’s two-football fields in size. Perhaps it’s the symmetry that gives the new Danish architecture its capacity to take your breath away. 

A crane hangs over the canal, enticing the adventurous, or foolish and much younger than we, to come and bungee jump. In fact, our guide gleefully tells us, if you do it naked, it’s free.

Willow trees dominate the waterside, weeping of course. Tile rooftops, copper-green statues, fill the landscape with majesty. A swan flicks its tail at us as we putter past on our artificial legs and wings.

We stare at the Little Mermaid statue, an unassuming bronze statue of a half-fish, half woman, her breasts proudly displayed and her tail tucked around her as she sits on a rock and sadly contemplates the water. Based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson, her face depicts the huge life decision she must make. Maybe that’s been her allure since she was installed in 1909. We can all relate to those choices in our collective journeys. Perhaps that explains the crowds of photographers, all vying to capture her face. Perhaps that also explains why she’s been decapitated several times throughout her history. She continues to be the most photographed woman in Denmark. We can’t get a picture from our boat, it’s too crowded, so we claim we don’t want to be members of the herd anyway.

From the water, we glimpse the Gelfion Fountain, the naval yard and the somewhat unadorned Royal Yacht.

Little do we know how these will loom in our journey tomorrow.

The Maersk Headquarters building reminds me of Manzanillo – our Mexican television, sitting on the shore watching ships carry Maersk containers to land. 

When the canal trip is over, we walk back to the hotel for a short rest. We have a drink in the bar and outside by the water. Glorious afternoon as we watch boats scatter back and forth along the canal to the sea.

Wendy, Carolyn, Rita and me at Nyhavn

We stroll back to Nyhavn when we’re hungry, and have a delicious dinner, though we opt for familiar Italian rather than a Danish meal. We are asleep early, which sets a trend for the rest of the trip. We’re not exactly party animals at night, to say the least, but we do make the most of our daylight hours. It’s hard to admit, but we are now the people we used to make fun of, the white-haired ladies traipsing through the world on planes, trains and big cruise ships.

May 14: Hopping on and off; Royalty
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