We met Alex and Bojan at the central H railroad station, with its immense wooden arches that support the building, similar, but much larger, than a grand cathedral. The magnificent structure is as busy as Grand Central Station and full of nice food choices. From there, we went to the grandiose city hall in the first public square. Alek and Bojan were married there, and it seems like weddings there take place every 15 minutes, even on Saturday.
From there, the Stroeget is the main pedestrian thoroughfare through the center of the city. We are told it was one of the first experiments in the world with a major city to ban automobiles, and it has been so successful, many other streets in and around the center have also been pedestrianized. There were many fashionable shops, some multi-storied, including Zara, based in Spain, where Alek works. And since Legos come from Denmark, there was a grand Lego store.
The Round Tower allowed us to get our bearings and see the entire city the same way the Russian Czar Peter the Great did in 1716 when he visited the city. The difference is that Peter climbed up the tower’s wide brick circular path on a horse, with his wife following in a carriage. The tower houses an observatory at the top as well as a deck for city viewing and has a large church attached. As with other grand churches that we saw in Copenhagen, they are part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the state religion in Denmark.
The most picturesque area was Nyhavn, helped by perfectly blue skies. And, we were surprised to quickly get a waterside table at one of the busy cafes in the colorful buildings that line the harbor.
We enjoyed some time along the waterfront, where there are sculptures, the Copenhagen opera house, views of what looked like the Danish naval center, parks and even the statue of the little mermaid that seems, although we don’t know why, to attract more tourists than any other place.
We went by the not so well marked house of Hans Christian Anderson. He wrote numerous fairy tales including The Little Mermaid, and the statue, sitting on a rock in the harbor, was created by a renowned sculptor, in 1913.
Not far from the statue was the queen’s palace, Amalienborg. It was one of the most expansive complexes we visited with half a dozen guard houses for the Danish Royal Life Guards, who reminded us of the guards at Buckingham Palace. As with everything Danish, they seemed a little more relaxed, talked to each other while marching, and often looked around. At one point, we even saw the royal guard, with their high black bearskin hats, marching, 22 members in all, in the harbor area, well away from the palace.
This is a city of very friendly and obviously happy people. And who wouldn’t be? Yes, they have high taxes but lots of social programs, 6 weeks of vacation and are now proposing a 37 hour maximum work week.
Our only real disappointment was the numerous, and we mean numerous, construction projects that are underway. Not just face-lifting beautiful old buildings, but a major new metro network has many places under construction. This includes one of the city’s nicest squares, bordered by its swankiest and priciest hotel.
Our last stop was Christiana, and frankly we didn’t see it all. It’s a surviving lost generation, hippie-style commune that has become a “free zone.” It was an abandoned military area that became a favorite for homeless people but later a place of peace and love. Today, its 84 acre park-like grounds have nearly 1,000 residents and is considered a safe area for marijuana use. The air had a distinctive aroma and we saw one area along a pond crowded with pot users, but the Freetown, as its known, does not allow hard drugs or weapons.
A long day, finished off, with pastries from a beautiful shop, very good friends, and a little relaxation after 11 miles of walking.