Well, I’ve decided Copenhagen has now hit my top 5 places I want to live in when Adam and I plan to go overseas for a few years. I thought Florence and Berlin were pretty high up but now Copenhagen is showing its stylish flair even when its -4 and snowing during the day!
I’m staying at Hotel Alexandra – a beautiful retro Danish hotel which focuses on Danish furniture designers, the environment and making guests feel like they are at home. No chain hotels need apply when it comes to moi traveling. I’ve become friends with April who is Acting Front Desk and she has been with the hotel for 5 years. This says something about her and her employees. She absolutely loves her job and she’s the sort of person you’d love to employ any day. April has helped me every step of the way, let me have a peek at the more sleeker (and expensive rooms), booked my restaurant, asked me about my day and has been so so nice that I feel like I’ve known her for ages. Adam and I are definitely coming back to Copenhagen and staying here for a week. Three days is not long enough as I feel I’m trying to squeeze in as much as I can.
So, what did I do? Well, I think I’ve shopped, eaten, drunk and walked myself silly but geez what a city. Its clearly design/architect focused and everyone knows how to dress for winter – stylish and of course practically. So here’s a brief rundown of 72 hours in Copenhagen:
Zoo Design – a mecca for artists in the visual arts to showcase ceramics, jewellery, textiles and glass. I could have stayed here all day. Two hours later I managed to buy 2 gifts and 1 little one for Adam and I.
Rosenborg – to be honest I really didn’t know what to expect and when I started to go through the Castle and read about the tapestries in the Great Hall….suddenly I sped up on Denmark’s history and its wars. I had no idea Denmark actually owned a lot of land through Sweden, Norway and Germany and had to fight long battles, losing many soldiers, and still not regain some of its territory. Well, one of the Kings (Christian # I can’t remember) commissioned tapestries to be made and they certainly told a very different story regarding ‘conquests’ compared to what actually happened. So, its interesting to see how churches and royalty are similar in representing their visual version of supposed events.
Hviids Vinstue – I read this 300 year old tavern served Gløgg – a spicy mulled wine – and I was keen to try it out.
Well, I arrived and what appeared at first to be a Gentleman’s club became a bit more relaxed as couples, families and single people were merrily drinking away and everyone spoke Danish. No tourists in sight…well except for moi! As it was, a smartly dressed older waiter asked me what I’d like and I mentioned the mulled wine and he merrily disappeared and came back, plonked it on my table and disappeared again. I sat there and eventually asked the ladies behind me how it worked in terms of paying. They said just pay when you leave. Of course..silly me!
So, as I watched people come and go eventually I needed to go to the ladies but didn’t want to leave my gear behind. I asked a couple would they mind watching. No dramas. I came back and we chatted for 1/2hr. It turns out she was an owner of an advertising agency and we swapped notes on how clients always wanted the impossible the day before! I asked her husband about whether there was a Danish team I could get a jersey for my husband as I had no idea. Yes, we play soccer not football. But he loves our Aussie Rules and I joked with his wife that the men were much better looking than the stocky, ordinary looking rugby players. We talked about the cricket, New Zealand, if Hobart was another country…I nearly fell over and explained no its part of Australia, ceramics, which galleries to go to while I was here and it was great to have a chat and not feel so obviously alone at my table drinking my 2nd drink – Danish beer.
When plans change…
For my last day I had roughly worked out what to do. By the time I skyped the family it was well after 11am when I hit the streets. I was going to visit the Christiansborg Palace first but realised I had to wait till 1.30pm to access some of the areas. So, instead I decided to go to Bredgade Street where all the galleries are…well yes, the ones that showcase 1 painting by 1 artist in a massive room (I’m sorry but that is not normal), the very expensive antique shops and old women wearing fox/animal fur coats and tonnes of makeup. I was beginning to wonder what I was doing…luckily the Marmorkirken (Marble Church) came into view and I was able to check out its cupola. Sadly, I couldn’t get a bird’s eye view of the city as the tower was only open Sat, Sun and public holidays.
As I headed into the streets I realised I had dropped my faithful map at some point and then chose to go down some street and hopefully head back in the right direction. I came across a familiar sign – Keramik! Yeah, I popped in and met 3 lovely ceramic artists sharing a very small space in the basement. We chatted about the Center, my work, their work and when they asked my plans…they tsked tsked the Palace and said no, go to Davids Samling – a museum containing the best collection of porcelain, Islamic art and contemporary Danish works – plus its free! They also gave me the name of local artists/galleries to visit along the way. So, I’m glad I took their advice as the Samling Museum was amazing. It was also warm, with carpet, beautiful rooms, incredible artwork and it made Rosenberg Castle look very ho hum! In fact, the feeling was Hygee, which roughly translates into cosy. Winter in Denmark can be cold, grey and long so most places put a lot of emphasis on their homes, their work place and where they eat – blankets, candles, cushions – anything to give you a warm, cosy feeling.
I then had to rush into town for last minute gifts before heading back to the hotel and changing for dinner. Well, what a interesting night…after a free bus ride and entertaining the bus driver, I found myself in the dodgy end of town and panicked as the streets were dark and I was totally lost. Reading a map in the dark isn’t fun and silly me forgot my torch in my pocket…I just got very flustered. I finally found the place and then they sat me in the foyer entrance overlooking the kitchen. I explained a booking was made in the restaurant and was this a temporary arrangement? No, this is where we sit single people. Mmmm….overlooking the dirty kitchen sink. No, I don’t think so! So, I summed up the courage to explain I had booked a table and according to Wallpaper City Guide the photo did not show the kitchen as a main feature. As their English and my Danish was limited it was clear that they were not going to move me. So, I gathered my coat, gloves and hat and said I was very disappointed as I had come a long way to experience the Nordic cooking. I left, and then had to make my way back to the bus stop in the dark and my last meal wasn’t looking crash hot. So, back to the hotel and a Vietnamese beef and noodle dish with red wine gave me the boost I needed.
At last, 7 weeks later I’m heading home on the big silver bird tomorrow morning. I’m excited as this is my last night in Copenhagen. Three days in a major city is not long enough. I highly recommend at least 5-7 days to fully explore a city and to always be open to changing even the best of laid out plans. Sometimes, you get to see another side of the city that is not always recommended in travel books/brochures etc. I also recommend that you go parallel to the ‘tourist’ streets – I’m not saying don’t do them, but the next day try a street or 2 either side as you’ll be suprised as to what you will find.
Thank you for reading my virtual travel experience as an artist-in-residence and as a tourist abroad. I’ve had a wonderful time and am already planning future trips. American historian Miriam Rita Beard sums up best what travel means to me:
Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.