BERLIN TO COPENHAGEN
11.08.2012 - 15.08.2012 20 °C
You can’t really miss where Germany turns Scandinavia – you drive past several tall Danish flags, with slightly shorter flags representing the other Scandinavian countries. It’s actually a really cool welcome. I’ve always thought this part of the world as clean, pretty, friendly, proud, cold and expensive and I’m right for once. If our trip to Iceland earlier this year was anything to go by we’d be in for a part of the world who seem to have it all figured out… and we would also have to somehow tighten the purse strings even more, given this is the tail end of our trip and we do need to get back to the UK somehow!
Our plan was (still is, as I’m typing this from Sweden) to alternate free stops with campsites as they take up the 2nd biggest chunk of our budget (1st being fuel but you can’t really compromise on that). Our first night in Denmark was at a roadstop behind a servo and a McDonalds. As freecamping is technically prohibited in Denmark, we kept ourselves vigilant throughout the night and moved onto City Camp in Copenhagen early the next morning. The camperstop book said it was walking distance to the city centre and had power, and this turned out to be one of those times where it was better than we could have hoped. Still pretty pricey, but they had also installed toilets, showers and had free wifi. We also didn’t expect to be as close to the city as we were – we were right next to a brand new shopping centre right on the harbour. Although there were plenty of buses going past into the city, it only took us 10min to walk so it was worth saving the money and getting the extra exercise. Still coughing and feeling ill from the virus, we sucked it up and headed towards the Town Hall to meet up for… you guessed it… a free walking tour! Yay!
We had Maria – Danish, grew up in Luxembourg, has lived in the UK, Czech Republic, etc (I lost count) and was back working for the summer as a tour guide. The first thing we noticed was that there was a lot of construction going on… a lot. She explained we would be seeing a fair bit of this as they are building new Metro stations around the place for a new Metro line, which had apparently been planned before any of the other ones had but was only just going ahead now. Quite a few hotels were also doing exterior renovations.
Our lovely walk included going past the apartment where Carlsberg was first created (the creator named it after his son, Carl). We then went past the National Museum, which was closed that day being a Monday but has free entry so we decided to go back the next day. We then went through Christiansborg Palace. This gorgeous building used to be the royal residence before it was destroyed in fires in the 1700’s. The royals didn’t want to wait until it was rebuilt, so they ended up moving to another location and the new building then became the house of parliament, which it still is to this day.
After that, we were taken down to the waterfront for a leisurely stroll before we reached Nyhavn (or New Harbour) and got ourselves happily lost for a short time amongst the colourful houses overlooking the old boats on the water.
Lunch Break, Danish Style
Maria then took us to Amalienborg Castle – the current residence of the royal family. This is always exciting for an Aussie girl… she first pointed out the block used for visiting family members (currently getting an exterior renovation). Then she pointed to the grand houses behind us – one is the home of Fred, Aussie Mary and their 4 young ones, the other Queen Margethe and the Prince. Maria explained that if someone is home in each of the houses, a flag is raised on top, and the people can tell who is home by the symbols on the flag. There was a flag up on the guest house (no one really cared), and a flag on top of Mary and Fred’s place. Maria was able to let us know it was Mary and the children who were home – a) because their symbol was on the flag, and Mary had been seen in Copenhagen the day before, and b) because Fred was still in London as a member of the Olympic Committee.
Last but not least, we finished off back down on the waterfront facing the very modern Opera House over on the other side.
We had a lunch break back at the van and caught up on the weekend’s footy from back home, before venturing back out to discover Denmark’s answer to Amsterdam…. Christiana. This little slice of “hippy heaven” is located over the harbour in a part of the city called Christianshavn, which in general is law abiding and like any other township in Europe. However, Christiania’s only 3 rules of “No photos, don’t run, have fun” become crystal clear as you pass under a large sign telling you that you’re now leaving the EU.
There are signs and pictures up all over for rule #1, letting you know that if you take any pictures, your camera will be taken off you. This leads into rule #2 – don’t run. Running indicates you may be running from a police raid, and will therefore cause panic throughout the community (not because running whilst stoned just doesn’t work). And of course, rule #3 lets you know you are in a safe place and free to enjoy the produce on offer down in the “Green Light District”. Surely you don’t need any more hints.
There are stalls all over selling all kinds of smoking aids and even though it is still technically illegal, there are plenty of other stalls with the goods to fill the smoking paraphernalia. There are bars with people chatting and hanging out, and naturally street food stalls for when the munchies inevitably hit.
As interesting as it was to see such a place just out in the open, for the most part left alone by the Danish authorities as it is regulated by a special law, the Christiania Law of 1989 which transfers parts of the supervision of the area from the municipality of Copenhagen to the state. For the most part it is policed by the community and is without too many regulations, for us it was an incredibly seedy and somewhat uncomfortable experience. I am sure there was a time that it was a oasis of peace and love, which is what we were hoping for… but sadly for us it was dirty and didn’t have the same friendly vibe somewhere like Amsterdam does – it was more of a scummy criminal feel, plus… lets just say… if any produce was sampled, it wasn’t quite up to scratch. I have a feeling part of the reason it is left alone and the reason behind the less than welcoming feel is because it’s run by a certain bikie gang. That aside, it’s definitely worth a look if you’re in Copenhagen and have a tolerant mind.
Sunset Stroll to Christiania
The following day we strolled back into the city centre to make the most of its limited free sights. I say limited because the only one they have is the National History Museum, and though it is free, it is a very well put together collection, arranged in such a way that really tells the story of Denmark’s history, right from the first cave men to modern day life.
After spending half a day walking through the history of Denmark, it was time to get moving again in the direction of Sweden, on our way to the beautiful Fjords of Norway.