Wednesday, 13 June 2012


10th - 13th June 2012

The little mermaid and friend.
Onwards and downwards to Copenhagen. I went by ship; the DFDS Pearl Seaways ( Danish ship ) which left at 1645hrs and arrived in Copenhagen at 0945hrs the next morning. Left: The view back towards the city from the ship just before we set sail. Opera House centre. It is a big ship with eleven passenger decks, not including the viewing areas and bars on the roof ( whatever the nautical term for that is ).

Right: My 'basha'. It was actually very comfortable, luxurious even and, by any standards, comparatively good value for money. I had a 'double' cabin with a sea view on the 10th deck, very comfortable bed, a bowl of fresh fruit, complimentary chocolates, TV which worked, excellent shower, plus magnificent breakfast included and all for £204. OK, may sound a bit pricey but considering that's not much more than you might pay for a basic bed in a hostel in Oslo, good by comparison. The breakfast alone in Oslo would have been at least £30!

Left: Fellow passengers relaxing with a drink on the rear deck and we hadn't even gone anywhere at this stage. The initial route took us south down the scenic and at times very narrow Oslofjord. When the Germans invaded Norway from this direction in April 1940 they must have done a lot of navigational pre-planning. Our ship had to negotiate many marker buoys to avoid rocks. I presume the Norwegians moved these about a bit to foil the German ships; but obviously not enough.

There were several bars and restaurants of varying style, and price, on board. Right: One of the dining rooms. There was a small casino and, I believe, some sort of musical entertainment in a far off lounge, neither of which I patronised. Maybe it was Justin Beiber performing, although I didn't hear any screaming demented teenage girls. I think this Beiber character would, in my opinion, be at his best when walking the plank or being 'keel hauled'.
On disembarking there was a convenient and free shuttle bus service to the city centre. Once dropped off there of course I had no idea of where I was, relatively speaking. Sure, I had a tourist street map, but was still rather disorientated. I could only remember from a distant past visit the Tivoli Gardens and they were at the other end of the centre. I walked off towing two ( I seem to have gathered possessions ) suitcases over uncomfortably cobbled streets. I had selected, but not booked, a small hotel at random from some rather shoddy guide book ( not nearly up to Lonely Planet standard ) but hadn't a clue where the street was. After wandering aimlessly and dragging two reluctant bags for twenty minutes I realised I was in a part of the city with many grand buildings but utterly devoid of any shops or cafes, or pedestrians to ask the way for that matter. Eventually I stumbled upon a street with a cafe and people in it. After a coffee refuel I was told where to find a taxi. I naively assumed ( I really should know better by now ) that the genial Danish driver would look after me. He knew the hostelry to which I wanted to go. We spent the next 25 minutes getting there of which 20 were spent static due to traffic jams and road works. I started to watch the goddamn meter clicking up like a football rattle. I mentioned that this was looking rather expensive for going nowhere. His reaction to this adverse comment was almost hostile and, of course, one is entirely helpless in this situation ( with my bags in his boot ). He then helpfully said that most of the hotels were completely booked up and if this one was he knew a few more to try. I had visions of being driven endlessly around Copenhagen, a hostage to this arsehole, and clocking up an astronomic fare which would secure his and his extended family's financial future. By the grace of whatever Gods, the hotel had a spare room, for one night only. I would have waved off the bloody taxi anyway as the bill had reached the equivalent of £22 and still clicking up! We had gone about half a mile in total. I could have walked it. This, once again, served to remind me that most taxi drivers are bandits out to completely rip-off tourists. I do not appreciate paying a taxi to sit still. I think I am becoming somewhat paranoid about taxis, and with good reason I hasten to add. I would like to teach the bastards a lesson, but haven't yet worked out how to do it without using violence.

It was while I was getting the much needed caffeine infusion that I noticed this sign on the street outside ( left ). I'm not sure what the implication is here. Is it literal or metaphorical? Have the Danes had some unfortunate experiences with fashion shows?

Once the accommodation issue was, temporarily, solved I went walkabout. Copenhagen is not particularly big and for the most part easily walkable. Off down various cobbled streets, and there did seem to be a lot of people around. I was heading initially to the tourist info centre near the railway station to ask about a hotel for tomorrow night. Right: The Town Hall. Threatening rain clouds approaching.

Left: Statue nearby. It never did rain, surprisingly. Indeed the sun came out later.

Right: Rather impressive bubbles being 'blown' by these two gents outside the Town Hall.
My enquiries at the tourist info office were not very fruitful. The lady there told me that Copenhagen hotels were completely booked up! Bollocks, I thought. I went around several, some dodgy looking, establishments near to the railway station and yes, they were all fully booked. I decided to postpone this problem. This is the first place I have arrived at that has given me accommodation problems. I believe an influx of cruise ships was to blame.

So, on to the famous Tivoli Gardens which are adjacent to the station. This is the place I remembered fondly, if hazily, from 29 years ago. The gardens consist of an amusement park, a main stage for music and acts, subsidiary stages, many restaurants, a sort of Disney theme area and, of course, ponds and gardens. It hasn't changed much, apart from the prices.

Right: The first ( and only while I was there ) act on the stage was this children's' choir which sang jaunty songs. They were quite endearing, I suppose. At least it wasn't Justin Beiber.
It was Monday, and I was told Mondays are quiet days at Tivoli Gardens.

Left: The pirates' ship in the theme park.

Some of the rides in the amusement park were interesting. Right: This thing lifted them up and dropped them from the top and then bounced like a hydraulic bungee jump.

Left: The 'aeroplane' on the arm of a vertically rotating pylon did amazing aerobatics in all planes and ended by looping-the-loop at incredible speed. Rather like being in a fast three dimensional spin-drier I think. It must have been a most thoroughly vomit inducing ride.

Right: This machine elevated the punters to a great height while spinning them out to the horizontal.

Right: The roller-coaster in the inverted position.
The most breathtaking thing about these rides was the price. To pay for the main rides individually cost about £10 a go. You could buy a ticket to cover them all for about £40.
There were lots of the old fashioned fairground stalls with 'bat the rats', 'shooting galleries' and 'horse racing' etc. All very nostalgic ( and comparatively cheap ). Tons of candy floss, toffee apples and hot dogs were being consumed, with much beer and fizzy drinks drunk. All good ammunition to throw up with.

Walking back past the Town Hall I watched, briefly, this trio of 'Andean style' musicians. They seem to be related to those performing in Oslo if the feathered outfits are anything to go by. Many eagles must be grounded and shivering in the mountains down the west coast of South America.

Left: I passed this emporium; the oldest glove factory in the world. I didn't realise there were such things as glove factories. Must be a Nordic/Scandinavian thing or perhaps a Copenhagen speciality. Brussels makes chocolates. Copenhagen makes gloves.
Of course Copenhagen is quite famous for it's 'Little Mermaid' which sits on a rock near the embankment of the harbour ( picture featured at the top ) and which, a few years ago, had it's head removed by vandals. Not sure if they recovered the original or had to make a new one. It is still possible to step over to it without getting your feet wet and without some officious guard telling you that you can't.

There are several other mermaids around the place, such as this rather well proportioned one ( right ). Copenhagen must have a mermaid factory as well. I didn't see a mermaid wearing gloves.

Left: ....and this one; the Genetically Modified Mermaid. They are all located in the harbour area.

There is a pleasant walk down the waterside back from the harbour to the centre. Amongst many old and pleasant buildings you pass this ( right ), the Gefion fountain; Copenhagen's most spectacular fountain...the blurb says. It's a fiercesome lady riding a chariot whipping four buffalo which are pulling her.

Left: Plus the Amalienborg, the Royal Palace. Its not easy to make out which bit is the actual palace because there are four identical buildings such as this one forming a square. I presumed it was this one because it had a flag on top and there were more guards outside it.

The guards ( right ) look a bit Ruritanian and attracted a bit of possibly unwelcome attention from some passers-by. This one had just been given a kiss by the lady with the pink scarf. Doesn't she look pleased.

Left: Walking on past the Nyhavn ( old port ) is a street lined with bars and restaurants which seemed to be doing roaring trade on this sunny(ish) day. By the way, a feature of Denmark is that the drinks here are less than half the price of those in Norway and Sweden. It is financially possible here for Brits to consume enough beer to get intoxicated if they so desire.

Right: Of course this street featured at least one Oirish bear, and it is also a regular feature of this blog to show at least one from every port of call. Looking back, the only country that I recall which resolutely holds out against the omnipresent Irish drinking emporia is India. Bars in India are crap to non-existent anyway. I think I saw one in Rangoon, but not sure.

Carrying on up the street called Stroget, advertised that at 1103 metres long it is the world's longest pedestrian shopping street, one passes a few of those ( frankly rather passé and tedious ) human statues. Although this one ( left ) showed a bit more imagination than most. 'The Invisible Man'. Not a good photo because you can't see the hat, but it really did give the appearance of an invisible face. It cost me a 1000 Mongolian Tugrik ( 2p at last estimate ) to be allowed to take the photo.

Right: Unlike this human statue, of the reclining variety, which while convincing and maintaining the pose successfully, did not seem to react to any stimulation, either financial or physical.
I ended up back at the information centre and was told that they had discovered one hotel room on offer for 1900 Krone ( about £230! ). I said 'wait out' and went to the railway station with the intention of going somewhere else. The Danish railway ticket office system is the most inefficient I have yet experienced. There were only four of the twelve desks 'manned', lots of customers, and each ticket buyer was taking about half an hour to get a ticket, or whatever, involving much heavy discussion. What the hell were they discussing? I stood irritably in a queue for one and a half hours to get the last train to Hamburg, and the train had left before I got to the front! My patience with Copenhagen's tourist scene was running a bit thin. All lost, I went back to the info centre which was due to close in 5 minutes. The monstrously expensive room had been taken ( thankfully as it turned out ) so zilch available . Back to my original hotel in a foul mood to collect my luggage and expecting to spend the night in a shop doorway ( and I've done that before ). I was then told that they had a 'hostel' room for K150! ( £17 ). I hadn't asked about hostel rooms before, they said. Problem solved, and at a good price. I shared a room with two others and woke up in the morning. This is not a given outcome considering my snoring and the murderous intentions it can engender in others.
Anyway, leaving Copenhagen......onwards onwards

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