Friday, October 21, 2011

Copenhagen: Tivoli & Other First Impressions

I think it was in a social studies textbook in elementary school. Maybe junior high.

It sticks out because Denmark wasn't a place we normally talked about in class. There was England, Germany, Spain. Ohio history in the seventh grade. But Denmark was a mystery. I think that's why the short section on the Scandinavian country holds a place in my  mind yet today.

I don't remember the text, or even the gist. I seem to recall a photo of Tivoli. What I know for sure, however, is that for many years I basically knew of only two things in Denmark: the aforementioned Tivoli Gardens amusement park and Lego Land.

Lego Land has since lost its appeal, but Tivoli never did. (Blame it on all of those summer trips to Cedar Point.) As the years passed, I gradually picked up a few more tidbits on the country and Copenhagen: names, words and phrases. Hans Christian Andersen. Bicycles. Quaint. Put together it created more of a state of mind than a vivid picture.

By the time we got to Copenhagen, it was day 10 of our 15-day vacation, and we were ready for a change of pace. Paris and Rome were exciting, but now I wanted to kick back and give my feet a rest. But it wasn't only my aching legs -- I had somehow picked up a cold in the Roman heat. The skies were gray when we arrived in Copenhagen, but we had scheduled only a little more than 48 hours in the city. Cold or no cold, we dropped off our bags and immediately began to explore.

Copenhagen is like a storybook -- it looks just like how Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales feel. In fact, one of our few destinations in Copenhagen was the statue of the Little Mermaid of his famous tale.

We were almost to the statue when the sky opened and it began to pour. We hid out under a bridge and escaped when the drizzles slowed down, but it was hopeless. I took some photos and we made our way to a brewery Paul wanted to try. By the time we got there, we were soaked.

When the rain finally let up, we decided to find a grocery store and have a picnic in our room. Salami, pita bread, hummus, yogurt and the BBC -- our first interaction with what was going on in the world aside from a short internet session a few days before in Rome.

Our only full day there was spent with our friends Chris and Meghan, braving a windy Copenhagen and then taking the train a half-hour into Malmö, Sweden, where they live. We had planned to meet up the next day, our last in Copenhagen, but the so-so weather continued and it was raining by the time we checked out. Paul called Chris and we said our goodbyes by telephone.

Lego Land wasn't in the books -- it's something like 150 miles from Copenhagen -- but as the sky cleared and the sun finally appeared, Tivoli was finally looking like fun.The entrance was somewhere between $15 and $20, and rides were almost $5 for the crappy ones and $13 for the fun ones. We rode no rides. Still, we easily dawdled away a few hours eating open-faced sandwiches, wandering around the lake and greenery (it's not called Tivoli Gardens for nothing), and generally just fulfilling a childhood dream. It was cute and fun, but I suspect it would have been even more so at night, when Tivoli is lit up and probably more crowded. Still, I'm certainly glad we were able to fit in a visit during the trip.

Setting aside that textbook from long ago, my first and last impressions of Copenhagen remained the same: the city and its surrounding areas seem like lovable, livable cities. They seem very pleasant, aside, perhaps from the long, dark winters. When the sun is shining, however, the buildings are beautiful. And -- bonus -- English speakers have no trouble getting around at all. Everyone we had even the remotest contact with spoke impeccable English, and the guilt I felt at not even learning the Danish (or Swedish) words for "please" and "thank you" was only in my mind.

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