blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Copenhagen, on the water

A glimpse of the Oeresund Bridge to Sweden
On the morning of December 3rd we woke to a view from the hotel windows of more snow. Chris had to fly to Oslo that day (and when he got there it was -14ºC), but first we had time for a walk past Femøren station through a snowy park to the beach, called Amagerstrand. In the summer it must look very different; even so, it was lovely to find the Baltic shore, and gaze across the stretch of smooth, grey sea to Sweden. There on the horizon was the 8km bridge to Malmö that opened in 2000. You can cross it by train as well as by car; it has made the ferries obsolete. In the middle distance was a marina full of yachts (harbours obviously don't freeze solid in Denmark as they do in Canada) with the Kastrup airport buildings just behind it. Looking in the other direction we could see a line of wind turbines in the mist, their feet in the water. Container ships floated by.

Then I accompanied Chris to the airport on the Metro train. I'd be there myself the following morning so wanted to get my bearings. I was able to check in for my flight, too. We said goodbye and then I took the Metro back to the city (Kongens Nytorv). The plaza outside the station is under construction, behind a fence, but I realised that by walking round it I would come to Nyhavn, Copenhagen's colourful canal port, lined with winter stalls and attractive boats. This canal had been dug by Swedish prisoners-of-war in the 17th century and the houses had been built during the course of the next few decades. Hans Christian Andersen had lived in one of them, hoping to get work at the nearby theatre. When he failed in that endeavour he started to write his famous stories for a living.

Nyhavn, Copenhagen
I got onto one of the boats as it was about to pull away for a 70 minute tour of the canals and harbour. Gliding under very low bridges we entered the main waterway, past the Skuespilhuset (opened 2008, part of the Royal Danish Playhouse) on one bank and the Operahuset (2005) on the other. The first play performed at the new theatre had been Hamlet, so the young tour guide told us. It seems that Copenhagen has had a recent influx of money. 16 to 21 new bridges are to be constructed next year.

Christianshavn, across the main stretch of water from the city centre, is a series of artificial islands made in the 17th century and used for a variety of purposes since. It was originally settled by Dutch traders and part of it (since the 1970s) is famous as an established hippy settlement with "alternative" housing and about 1000 residents. The "torpedo" hangar on the waterfront has turned into a pricey block of flats (not for hippies). The blackened sheds used in the Napoleonic wars by the British navy have now become the place for little offices and studios. Further on, we passed the headquarters of the biggest shipping company in the world, Maersk, the 7-point star of its logo representing the Seven Seas.  The Amalienborg Statsplads (Danish equivalent of Buckingham Palace) was pointed out too, with its great dome, where the kongelige Familie lives. And yes, I did see "The Little Mermaid" (replica) statue, but only from the back, after we had stopped to take a flag down and store it in the boat.

We returned to our starting point via the canal where the Old Stock Exchange (Børsen) stands, an extraordinary piece of architecture with a spire of entwined dragons' tails.

Old Stock Exchange

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