Thursday, February 23, 2017

Valentine's Day in Copenhagen

Our most recent adventure took us to Copenhagen, Denmark. 

Why Denmark? Well, we found cheap flights (we could rename this blog "we found cheap flights" and it would actually sum our lives up pretty well). Additionally, Carson has always really wanted to visit Denmark because he is a quarter Danish. His paternal grandmother's family came from Denmark in the early 1930s before she was born and then she grew up in the states. So exploring a little more of his heritage and the Danish culture really interested Carson in particular. 

After we'd booked the flights, we realized we'd made a critical error and booked flights to of of the most expensive cities in Europe. Oh no! So while we enjoyed our trip, we really struggled to make it a budget trip because everything was so pricey (not nearly as expensive as Zurich though, thankfully!). Mindful of this, we tried to do the smart thing and book a really inexpensive hotel, which sort of backfired too. The hotel was relatively inexpensive, but we booked one that was four miles from the city center, which required a (quite expensive) transportation ticket into the city every day. So we could have saved money if we'd only booked a hotel IN the city instead of outside. The flights were actually a better price if we arrived on Monday evening and flew out on Thursday evening, and if we were to do this again or make suggestions to someone else doing this trip, we'd say that might be too long. If we'd done this trip Tuesday-Thursday it would have been plenty of time. The city is very walkable and pretty small, so you could hit the highlights in 24 hours easily. With three nights and three nearly full days in Copenhagen, we had time to sleep in more than we typically do on our trips, which was nice but feeding ourselves in a pricey city for that long AND trying to see things inexpensively was a challenge.
You live and you learn though! We really did have a good time... I just thought it might be nice to put that disclaimer out there. Copenhagen is difficult on a budget!

So our first day was Valentine's Day. Knowing that it would be sunny and that several months ago Carson lost his sunglasses, I'd picked up an inexpensive pair for him at H&M the day before (I knew it was Valentine's Day, but celebrating it had sort of slipped my mind since we weren't going to be around on the day). I wrapped them in some of our leftover Christmas paper (it's red and white!).

We left the hotel at about 9:30 in the morning. Our hotel was conveniently located about a three minute walk from the Tarnby train station (it was across the street but you had to go through a tunnel to get there). For those interested, transportation cost us the equivalent of a little over 9 Euro each way. It was too far to walk (we had to go over water and it was a 4 mile trip), so we didn't go back to the hotel midday... just stayed out until we were too tired to walk anymore and sucked it up and bought the ticket.

The Danish currency is called Krone and it was strange to figure out because although everything was more expensive, it looked WAY more expensive. When we first arrived, we saw a burger and beer meal being advertised in the airport as 99DKK which turned out to be 13.32 in Euro. Still expensive, but thankfully not as expensive as it looked? And the coins were very tricky to us too.

We arrived in Copenhagen main train station in a quick ten minutes (the cutest little kids wearing puffy snowsuits were on our train car) and then began exploring. The station is right across the street from Tivoli Gardens. I would have LOVED to see this place, but it is closed until April 6th. It save us money not being opened, but this is the theme park that is rumored to have inspired Disneyland, and the interior of it really resembles the "It's a Small World" ride (or I guess "Small World" resembles Tivoli). Anyway, we saw the outside and it was both a blessing and a curse to not go inside.

Next to that is a big plaza with the Rathaus (city hall) and then that opens into a pretty touristy area, so we took a little time to explore the Rathaus plaza and then headed toward the water.

Christiansborg Palace
We walked over to Christiansborg Palace next, past several interesting looking museums and down streets lined with colorful buildings. The Palace wasn't open yet when we walked around the grounds, and since we were trying to save money (a combined ticket would be a little over 20 Euro per person), we skipped it. We did wander around the staples and the gardens though!

At the nearby library, there's a garden with a statue of Soren Kierkegaard, the famous Danish existentialist thinker.

We crossed a bridge over the canal and walked around Christianshavn until we found these domes. I can't find any information about them online, so I don't really know what they are, but we could walk in for free (you just had to put some funny booties on over your shoes) and walk inside this big geodesic dome.

From there, we crossed the bridge and found ourselves in Nyhavn. It's a fairly famous canal area built in the 1600s. Hans Christian Andersen lived in a house there, and the area is known for its brightly colored houses and tasty restaurants.

Boat Tour
When we were looking up things to do, we saw that boat tours were popular, and even though it was right around 35 degrees (and humid!), we thought that sounded fun. I found that the Netto Badene tour was the cheapest one around (by a lot!), and that an hour and fifteen minute boat tour only cost the equivalent of 5.50 Euro, which wasn't bad. The tour was in English and Danish and I'm not sure what it lacked that other tours had because I thought we got a really thorough tour but for a lot cheaper!

We sat outside even though it was cold. The interior was heated but all but one person chose to sit outside on this tour. It was pretty windy and when we got off, our feet were so cold that it felt like we were walking on shards of glass, but the moments where the sun was hitting us were pretty nice. It was beautiful outside.

We passed Papiroen (Paper Island), where we'd go for lunch the next day.

And this is an opera house.

The tour also took us past The Little Mermaid (Den Lille Havfrue) statue, created in honor of Hans Christian Andersen's story.

 The canals must have been cold, because the water looked like this - at first I thought it was dirty until I realized that the chunks in the water were ice!

After our boat tour, our feet were freezing, as we mentioned earlier, and we were pretty hungry. The food in Nyhavn was generally pretty expensive, and though there were a few lunch specials that were a good price, the addition of Herring or pickled things sort of scared us off, so we eventually found sandwiches at a corner grocery store.
We walked past the Danish Design Museum, a statue of Christian X, and this beautiful dome.

We'd picked up sandwiches and right across the street we noticed what we thought was a park. We found a sunny bench and stopped there to eat. We were actually at the Kastellet, which I believe is the word for Citadel in Danish. We had a view of the frozen lake, and after we'd eaten, we walked around the star-shaped path.

The Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid statue was right near the Kastellet, so after we'd eaten and walked around, we followed the path to the water and found a crowd of people taking pictures and marvelling over this statue. It really was quite small - the mermaid was lifesize, that is to say, larger than me and smaller than Carson, which for a famous statue is not that big.

Carson suggested a selfie and then volunteered to take my picture with the statue, but he hates asking other people to take pictures of us, so we just have a grainy selfie.

St. Alban's Church
Carson loved this little Anglican church so much that he proclaimed that it was his favorite church he's seen in Europe so far. He loved the single steeple, the stone work, and its tiny size. I was a bit surprised that out of all the churches, THIS was the favorite, but so it was. They had their weekly readings and lessons posted on a board outside and it was neat to read that the gospel is clearly affecting lives from this small church in Denmark.

Amalienborg Palace
Next we walked past Amalienborg Palace, which is the royal residence. We did not see the Queen or the Prince Consort, but they were there, as evidenced by the flag on top of the palace complex. We thought about touring this palace also, but decided to skip it. The admission would equal about 12 Euro per person if we had.

Nearby, we spotted this bust of Franklin D Roosevelt.

Round Tower
Copenhagen doesn't have much of a skyline, but it's still fun to see cities from above, so we went up in the Round Tower (Rundetaarn) next. Admission was equivalent of four Euro and we thought since we'd skipped on other admissions we might as well.

I appreciated that most of the way up there was this winding brick pathway instead of a staircase. It was easier on the joints and not nearly as claustrophobic. We enjoyed looking at the view from the windows on our way up.

Near the top there was a short winding staircase that was very narrow, but we finally made our way up to see the view from the top.

There are several shopping streets nearby, so we wandered around for a bit. A super popular place in Denmark seems to be 7-11. We saw so many of them!

Carson offered to buy me flowers from this stand in the street, but I said no because I wouldn't have been able to take them home. They had two of my favorites though.

We walked into a store called Flying Tiger as a fluke and quickly discovered our new favorite store ever. We wish we had one in Munster. This store had cheap snacks, great house stuff (some kitchen items we've struggled to find in Germany), and it was presented in a fun way. We enjoyed browsing and I definitely grabbed some apple chips because they're my new favorite. Carson bought me a little handheld sewing machine that I can't wait to figure out - I've missed my sewing machine over here and I hope this little thing works because it's so cute!

We walked through a park with all kinds of little statues in it. This is a Satyr.

Next was the quest for dinner. Finding a meal that crossed the boxes for "Valentine's Day appropriate" and "cheap" did not really happen so we settled for food at a pub. I had a delicious burger and Carson had nachos. I pushed him to get the nachos just so I could have some guac. It wasn't a fancy steak or a candlelit meal, but it was good! (it also wasn't all that cheap, but we tried)

We returned to the hotel with full bellies and sore feet at around 7:30pm. We walked a little over 12 miles that first day!

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