The cruise ended at the same place it started: Copenhagen. Even though the cruise began in Copenhagen, we didn’t explore it beforehand, but instead booked an extra night in a hotel in Copenhagen so that we could adequately explore. The cruise arrived in Copenhagen early on Saturday morning, June 1st. We went directly to our hotel to drop off our luggage, and it turned out that Doug’s parents’ room was ready, so we stored our luggage in their room. We also realized that the hotel had free wifi and pretty soon all 6 of us were sitting silently in the same room, plugged into our various iPhones, iPads, and other wifi devices. We hadn’t had any internet connection while on the cruise ship, and only the occasional wifi hotspot in the port stops, so we were feeling very disconnected with a week away from the internet. We all spent a good hour on our devices before we felt ready to venture out into Copenhagen. No worries, it was still pre-lunch and early enough, so we had the rest of the day to explore. And no 4pm cruise all-aboard time to worry about!
Our hotel was probably the nicest that Doug and I have stayed in during our European adventures. That meant that it was also centrally located and easily walkable to most sites. The only downside was that it wasn’t near a metro stop, but I think that’s because the Copenhagen metro isn’t very expansive. The metro doesn’t seem to cover the city very efficiently, but we noticed there were works nearby to complete a metro stop near the hotel. Coming to you soon… in 2018. Wow, they had blocked off an entire square to do these metro works, and I can’t imagine living with it like that for 5 more years. I wonder how long it’s already been under construction.
We first walked to nearby Radhuspladsen, aka City Hall Square. This was the start of a Rick Steves’ walking tour. I mean, what else would we do? I think Doug and I would be completely lost without Rick guiding us through Europe. We should totally get some kickbacks for promoting him so much.
There was this famous statue of Hans Christian Andersen nearby where tourists line up to take a photo sitting on his knee. We got the obligatory photo, as well as my parents.
Since it was a Saturday and we were touring a European city, there were plenty of weddings and brides to see! I saw at least 5 brides that day, and managed to get pictures of 3 of them. Yes, I’m the random, creepy person taking pictures of brides that I don’t even know. Oh well, at least one bride seemed to like it and smiled for me.
We walked down this pedestrian shopping street called the Stroget. Again, we were really lucky with the weather!! Seemed like everybody was out enjoying it. The shopping street was packed. The women (me, my mom, and Robin) spent some time in the department store Illums Bolighus, while the guys basked in the sun on a nearby bench. The shopping was very high end and very European. I didn’t get anything, but admired a lot of things that I wouldn’t mind having.
The walk took us by the University district and a Neoclassical church. We couldn’t go inside because there was a baptism going on. During this part of the walk, I started noticing how dirty the streets were. There seemed to be trash everywhere! I thought it must be because we were in the University district, but even when we were back in the main squares, it was still dirty. There was even rubbish floating in one of the fountains, with a bum sleeping on the nearby steps. Not very picturesque, Copenhagen. Get your act cleaned up!
Both our moms have bad knees, and this was a particularly long Rick Steves walk, so the moms did not partake in some parts of the walk that were detours. Here is one of the nice, cleaner squares that they didn’t see, complete with a statue that was a pile of rocks. Funny story – we left the moms waiting under some nice trees by a pretty church, and my mom ended up getting pooped on by a bird! Maybe the detour would have been the better choice after all. Luckily it just landed on skin, and she had some anti-bac wipes in her purse, so all was well.
Part of the way through the walk we stopped for lunch at Hviids Vinstue, the city’s oldest wine cellar, to try the traditional, open-faced sandwiches called smorrebrod. Ironically enough, this was the same place we had gotten beers a week earlier before we departed for our cruise. The sandwiches were okay; based on everybody’s plates, it seemed like there were 5 different varieties, and you got a random selection of 3 of them. 3 open-faced sandwiches and 1 beer cost about 12 US dollars for lunch. Obviously that seems like a lot for 3 tiny sandwiches, but compared to many of the other menus we priced while looking for a lunch spot, this was a steal. Many of the places had $25 burgers on the menu.
We continued the walking tour to Nyhavn, or new harbor. This was the most picturesque street in Copenhagen and it was bumping with action. There were tour boats departing from the docks, sidewalk cafes with lunchers, live musicians playing Dolly Parton, and everyone else sitting or walking around with a drink in their hand enjoying the sunshine. It was amazing, and we figured we would join in on the fun and get a drink. Signs outside the restaurants and beer stands displayed their beer prices, so you could see the prices rise as you reached the center of the action, and then steadily fall as you got farther out. We found the cheapest beers at a local “kiosk” which was basically a convenience store on the other side of the canal. We had to wait for the drawbridge to come back down because of a passing sail boat before we could make it over there.
We made our way by the water to the Royal Danish Theatre’s Playhouse, and saw the Opera House across the harbor. We also walked by the Amalienborg Palace, which is where Queen Margrethe lives, and got a stern talking to by the guards. Apparently we were standing too close to their guard huts and we were told to back off.
We walked all the way to the little mermaid statue, which is one of the symbols of Copenhagen. This mermaid statue is based on the Hans Christian Andersen novel, which actually inspired the Disney movie The Little Mermaid. That was one of my favorite movies as a kid, and I remember dressing up as Ariel for Halloween one year, so I liked seeing the statue. I can admit that it was too touristy, and actually not that impressive of a statue, but I’m still glad I saw it. And it was also more impressive than the peeing boy statue we saw in Brussels.
That completed our walking tour, and since it was a one-way tour, we took the bus back to our hotel. At this point we finally got to check-in to the hotel and were surprised with a great treat: we had been upgraded to a Junior Suite. WOW! The basic room would have been a huge upgrade to what Doug and I are used to having, but a junior suite? We just couldn’t believe it! The room was actually two separate rooms: a living room area and a bedroom area. The living room had a full dining table, comfy couch, and flat screen tv. The bedroom had a fridge, minibar (contents of which were free!), and another TV set up on an easel. We also had a patio lounge with rooftop access. We had hit the jackpot!
Everybody was pretty exhausted from the day, so we spent some time relaxing that afternoon (and getting back on wifi). Since we had a full dining table and it was crazy expensive to eat out in Copenhagen, we decided to get take-out for dinner. My parents were voting for Burger King, but we compromised on a local burger joint that is known to have the best burgers in town. This was our last evening with our parents, so we enjoyed spending our final time together.
My parents flew out on Sunday morning, but our flight wasn’t until the afternoon, and Doug’s parents weren’t leaving until Monday morning, so we did a little more exploring on Sunday morning. We decided to explore the hippy town of Christiania. This area of Copenhagen has its own set of rules and alternative lifestyle. It got its start when a bunch of hippies moved into abandoned military barracks. They have fought for the right to live with their alternative lifestyle, and seem to be winning a lot of their legal battles. This community has 800 people. Apparently about 1/3 of them work within Christiania, 1/3 work outside it in Copenhagen, and then the rest don’t work at all. Smoking pot is somewhat legal there, although the possession of it isn’t, so it’s a tricky business. Hard drugs are strictly not allowed. Photos weren’t allowed in most areas (big, hand-painted signs said “NO Photos”), but we got a couple at the entrance and where photos were allowed.
You could definitely tell that this was a hippy area. To me, it sort of seemed like a junk yard. People seemed to have raided recycle and trash bins in order to get building supplies for their houses. There are no cars in the area, so everybody has a bicycle or some other mode of green transportation. To be honest, I initially wasn’t that impressed with the place; it kind of felt like a dirty trailer park. However, I think that I was judging it too harshly, and should realize how different and unique it was to all the other places that we have visited. Granted it was no Palace of Versailles, but it had its own character that we haven’t come across in our travels. Additionally, I bet Sunday morning is the exact wrong time to go visit there. I imagine Saturday evening would have yielded a completely different experience. They even have a concert venue and nightclub on the grounds there.
And that’s pretty much all we had time for in Copenhagen. We walked the 2 miles? back to the hotel to gather our luggage and then headed to the airport.
Oh, I forgot to mention that we had danishes for breakfast that morning because it only seemed like the natural thing to do in Denmark. Extremely delicious – I should have brought some back with me!
At the airport we got to enjoy the lounge again, thanks to Doug’s gold status with Star Alliance. Greatly enjoyed that and I even found my own magazine in the lounge, although I couldn’t read any of it.
Overall, the cruise was a great way to visit with our parents and also see a lot of cities relatively quickly and easily. Out of all the stops, I would say Stockholm was my favorite, probably followed by Copenhagen. St. Petersburg was cool because we got to see Russia, Tallinn had a great medieval old town, and Helsinki seemed like a happening, modern city. Thanks to Doug, Robin, Mom, and Dad for making the trip over! And luckily, there were no major travel mishaps on the way home.