A big conference here at the beginning of February beckoned, asking John as one of the main speakers. My birthday was looming, I had hardly been to Copenhagen, so I got to come along. I say ‘hardly’ because we hitch hiked back from Stockholm in 1969 and were dropped off at a bus stop with a view of Elsinore castle. My mother loved Copenhagen porcelain and I bought her a pale blue dish with ‘the little mermaid’ sitting in the middle of it. But we didn’t stay.
This time we chose to come in from the airport on the smart metro and walk to our hotel by the water – Nyhavn 41. Interesting panorama from our window. Lots of new buildings planned.
We ventured out for a quick supper – delicious, as it turned out, at a restaurant a few steps away, called ‘Hummer’. When we came out, it was dark and steely cold but we didn’t have far to go and I took a picture of the bridge, which we walked over later in the week.
Looking out of the window just before I went to sleep, the light below seemed to be seeking me out across the water and I couldn’t help thinking of that quote from ‘The Great Gatsby’ – ‘So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past’. I sleep well in cold weather.
Next morning, John went to meet his colleague, Louise, at the conference centre. I thought of my mother, so many years ago, and decided to walk upriver to see the actual ‘little mermaid’ as my birthday celebration to myself. And at that moment my mobile phone fell off the bed onto the wooden floor and gave up the ghost. Nothing I did could get it started. Did I panic? Only for a moment. I left a note in the room, asked at reception to send an email to John to say I had no phone and walked out to a stiff breeze coming off the water. I was incommunicado, liberated from any intrusion by gadgets. I felt refreshingly loose, like a dog off the lead.
There weren’t many people, which was enjoyable – a change from London’s busy pavements. And a super oxygenated influx of fresh air. Phew!
These old warehouses are now apartments. The wind is sheer as I focus on the way ahead. I am in my element.
And a strange lady appearing out of the shrubbery.
And, finally, the little mermaid herself.
She is beautiful and perfectly formed. On 23rd August 2013 she turned a hundred years old. A gift to the city from the Danish brewer, Carl Jacobsen, who was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale. A busload of tourists were suddenly surging towards me – it was time to go.
The lonely giant had acquired some companions and the sun was trying to pierce the mist which hung over the water.
The path back was straight as a die and I strode along feeling full of the energy of youth – which I miss!
There was no noise except for the ripples on the water, the occasional muted sussuration of a boat or ferry and the distant sound of construction. It made me aware of how stressful continuous noise can be. John had bought me cancelling noise headphones which I now use on the tube and bus – when I take them off, the noise factor is appalling. How could I have put up with it?! Does it contribute to deafness in later life, I wonder?
Even the energy grids have an attractive design! Now I decided to branch off into the streetscape and explore more of the city.
There are lots of picturesque signs offering various services as I wander wherever the mood takes me …
Cafés and small restaurants are many and varied …
It’s always worth looking upwards …
Nyhavn, where we are based, is very picturesque and must be bursting in summertime. It’s just beginning to wake up now. A great place to be by the water.
Meeting John back at the hotel later, he told me all had gone very well at the conference but his father had just died. We had been invited out to a special dinner. John’s father, Tim, really enjoyed his food and also cooking, so we treated ‘Veve’ as a celebration and wished he could have been with us. The dinner of many courses was phenomenal! Our hosts were full of interesting stories and delightful company.
Next day, John had time to visit the Design Centre, where old and new is well put together. I do like a lot of modern Scandinavian design with its minimalism but I also need some things to be more ornate and glamorously romantic.
Three bees – no explanation!
Sadly, this shop wasn’t open … probably for the best
I almost expected it to speak to me in old Danish!
There is so much to take in – all of it fascinating but what I needed now was a rest, a drink and something sweet to keep my energy levels up. All was provided!
On the way back I looked at some Danish boutiques. I did manage to squeeze in some shopping on my own and bought a simple, stylish. wrap around summer dress – silky material, bon marché, dark navy with tiny white spots – the equivalent of £40 sterling. I have worn it a lot which always adds to the pleasure of a bargain – and it hardly needs ironing. Win win! The name is ‘boii’ – I recommend this shop!
Just a note to say this is not ‘boii’ which I didn’t get a photo of, so much was my excitement in finding a dress I liked at a good price – this shop above would be more expensive – but nonetheless alluring!
Back at the hotel, I was looking out at the view across the water. It’s interesting that I’m taking two photos of roughly the same view – one is expanded, showing all the construction going on across the water, the other could be an impressionist/Netherlandish painting of a rowing boat in a bygone age.
See below …
Look at the older buildings in the middle of the top photo – the same buildings are here, close up, shown at eventide. Expand the photo of the rowers and you would see the modern construction going on. For the most part, Copenhagen is succeeding in mixing the old and the new today.
My birthday was celebrated with Danish friends at Krogs – one of the oldest restaurants in Copenhagen. I do feel my Scandinavian genes coming out – except I don’t speak Danish – and they are so good at English.
Given that we’re just coming into February, I was charmed by the amount of Christmas roses (hellebores) I saw everywhere, welcoming in a new year.
Next day – and the sky was overcast. We made our way, raindrops falling on our heads, towards the new Architectural Museum next to the modern Library, overlooking the water. Both buildings inside and out are very impressive.
This is close by the new Library, called ‘The Black Diamond’, which also overlooks the water and incorporates part of the original library. It is where I found my birthday present, which I love!
This is the most fragile and beautiful mobile which sparkles both in the light and in the dark and is now hanging in our kitchen.
That evening we ate very well and simply at Koefoed – recommended but took a long time to track down. Worth the effort. Another place we should try next time is called ‘Geist’ – I like its logo – but I don’t know what it’s like.
Champagne is always welcome …
In the evening when it became dark, we strolled across the bridge near the hotel and I sort of fell in love with Copenhagen. I love lots of other places and cities but my genes for the most part are rooted in Scandinavia. And I like the thought that Danes are rated high on the ‘happiness’ list!
We were recommended to see The David Collection. C. I. David was a lawyer and entrepreneur, coming from a wealthy family. He was interested in all forms of art and was finally able to open his collection to the general public. It’s eclectically impressive.
Coming out of the building which houses The David Collection, the view is of the Rosenborg castle and park on the other side of the road. There are also some small pavilions, containing design and art works.
Feeling pretty exhausted – the David Collection is massive – we suddenly realised that within one of these small pavilions which decorate the edge of the park was a restaurant – the ‘Orangeriet’. What joy. They were busy but a table was found and we immediately felt cosseted and warm. The back of the restaurant is like a greenhouse with olive trees growing inside.
This was our last morning. We went to look for a copy of ‘the Times’ which had an obituary of John’s father. The sun was bright, illuminating the pristine layer of frost which stretched before us.
John has three siblings. A brother and a sister who live in the village and another sister who is a nurse. John had been there a few days before we left for Copenhagen. His father was being well looked after at home in bed but had lost consciousness. A final stroke left him in peace. He was 98 years old and will be honoured as a Battle of Britain pilot. It was time for us to go home. Oddly, my phone came back to life this morning. It must have had concussion.
Packed and ready to leave. I never like this crossover time and airports seem to drag it out, sapping your energy with endless queueing, crushed on all sides by a world gone mad with consumer goods, automatic ticketing and baggage to contend with, automatic passports manned by robots. Aaargh! ‘They also serve who only stand and wait’ (thanks, John Milton, for this well used phrase) – that’s me! We wait, we hope. There were no aeroplanes in John Milton’s time. He was ahead of the game. In fact, the poem was written ‘On his Blindness’. I can see but am somewhat blinded by technology. Maybe I should grow wings!
Copenhagen has been a joy and I want to come back.