Saturday, 23 June 2012

Copenhagen June 2012

After 27 hours of traveling and two plane changes we arrived in Copenhagen. We easily bought our train ticket into the city at the airport and our hotel was just around the corner from the station. Even though it was early we were lucky our room was ready, so we had a shower, changed and went off to explore the city.

Main Hall Radhus

It is an easy city to walk around and quite compact. So on the first day we managed to visit the Radhus (Town Hall) it was open in 1905 and was inspired by Italian buildings but also is influenced by Danish medieval architecture. The main hall is impressive. The clock tower is a city landmark and its bells can be heard across most of the city. It has a quiet garden courtyard which can be a haven from the bustling streets and the noisy town square in front of the main entrance.

We wandered down the one of the pedestrian shopping streets, took a turn here and there and ended up in front of Christianborg Slot. This place has had a rather chequered history. Originally it was Bishop Absalom’s 12th century fortress which was torn down to build the medieval Copenhagen Castle. The remains which can be seen in an interesting display, which include the remains of the walls. Christain VI (1730-46) replaced the previous building with one of the grandest palaces in Europe. Unfortunately it burnt down in 1794 and was replaced only to be extensively damaged by fire again in 1884. It was rebuilt in 1907 but still is very ornate and sumptuous and remains the seat of the government.
We then continued to the main canal past the Boursen (the former Stock Exchange) which was built between 1590 and 1640 on the order of Christian IV. Today the building houses the Chamber of Commerce and unfortunately is not open to the public. It has a wonderful spire of four dragons with their tails entwined which are topped with the three crowns of Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
We crossed the canal and wandered some more then felt really tired as we made our way back to our hotel. We had an early dinner at an Italian restaurant close to our hotel. We crashed at 8.30pm.
Feeling more refreshed on our second day we decided to go on a canal tour which was very interesting and takes in the statue of the Little Mermaid which has become a symbol of Copenhagen, though it has been vandalized twice. The Little Mermaid is a Hans Christian Anderson story and is rather sad. Many of his stories are poignant which probably reflected the rather his rather sad life.
We passed Christianhavn which in 17th century was the brainchild of Christian IV, the area was originally a swamp but the king decided to acquire the land, drain it and have his nobles live there but they wouldn’t move there. He then decided to encourage merchants to use the area for their warehouses but had to bribe them by giving them the land and exempting them from tax for a number of years.   
Until recently this area was known as the ‘free state’ of Christiana and an alternative community sprang up here in the 1970s. Now the rundown buildings have been transformed into trendy restaurants, cafes, offices and apartments.
Overall the canal trip was very informative about Copenhagen and its history.

Amalienborg Slot
 We trotted off to Amalienborg Slot which is used by the Royal family today. It was founded by Frederick V (1746-66) and consists of four palaces. As always it’s good to be king with the opulent surroundings and ‘slaves’ to look after it.
We visited a number of churches as we made our way to the Rundetarn (Round Tower)
First the Marmokirke (Marble Church) which was modeled on St. Peters in Rome but on a much smaller scale the church was named after Frederik V who wanted it as a celebration of his family’s 300 year rule of Denmark. The work started in 1749 but it ended up costing too much and the work was abandoned.

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