I wasn’t feeling great, with a sore throat, and a lot of pressure in my sinuses. It was cool, grey and rainy, and we were parked in a free park with free electricity. It might not have been very glamorous, in this car park on the edge of a small town, but with the curtains drawn, we could be anywhere and be comfortable.
Today will be our first ever pure rest day. No driving, and no sightseeing, just sitting inside the van, catching up on blogging, reading up on our visit to Sweden and Norway, and watching a movie – The Danish Girl, in preparation for our visit to Copenhagen.
We woke refreshed after spending yesterday doing absolutely nothing. I don’t know how much the lemongrass and ginger tea is to thank, or how much of it was just letting our bodies rest a little.
We found a free place to park for the night, just on the south side of town, by a sports ground. As with most of the free parks, it wasn’t so glamorous – but for us it was just a place to return and sleep.
One of our old friends from Niseko moved here back in 2011, and lucky for us had some free time today and tomorrow to catch up. We met in Nørreport and made our way to Torvehallerne, the nearby food market, to gorge on some amazing smørrebrød (Danish-style open sandwich) from Hallernes Smørrebrød. It was pretty hard to decide, but Risa went for some fish (fried in butter, no less) and a meatball (which was unfortunately cold), while I grabbed a roast chicken with crispy bacon (and topped with delicious Coronation Curry-style mayonnaise). They tasted as good as they looked. I’m a big fan of this dense dark bread – though, eating something this top-heavy was definitely a job for a knife and fork.
Coffee (from an Australian barista in Coffee Collective) and a chat, and then we were ready for our afternoon of sightseeing.
Risa’s friend had told her that when she visited, she ate at a small hotdog chain, DØP, several times. We just happened to be walking that way, so stopped by for a second helping of lunch. Verdict? Pretty good! (I just picked off the fresh onion).
Our friend had a little work to do, so we split for a few hours, and went to explore the town on foot, freshly caffeinated, and with full stomachs. We realised that for the first time, we were seeing sunshine and blue skies here in Denmark. The colours of the buildings were looking vivid, as were the trees. We were walking roughly towards Nyhavn, but managed to be lured by whatever fancy spire we saw in the distance. The buildings were generally quite reserved, but the spires were anything but. I really love the contrast of the red bricks, and the green oxidised bronze.
We walked past Christiansborg Slot, through the Library, and its beautiful reading room (not for tourists, so we had to peep through windows in the doors), but it was the building with the crazy twisted spire that caught my devotion. I found out later that it was the old Stock Exchange, Børsen. The spire looked like the tail of several reptiles wound together. Plus, look at all that green!
Nyhavn was just a short walk away, and just as colourful and perfect as the Lego representation made it seem. It was filled with restaurants and tourists. We were satisfied with our lunch, so there was no tempting us, instead we gorged on the beautiful views of the old shop fronts and sailboats.
I saw a building stuffed with life jackets, and assumed it was an art installation. Turned out that Ai Wei Wei designed this to represent the thousands of refugees that drowned while making boat journeys. As always, numbers are easier to grasp when you see them – there were a lot of life jackets here…
Also, we weren’t sure how the sailboats got in here, as the bridge didn’t seem to open – did they lower the mast? Do they live here permanently, trapped by the rigid bridge?
We continued walking up to Rosenborg Slot, which wasn’t open to public – not that we had time/desire to go inside anyway. It was a beautiful building, and it was also the end of our sunshine.
As we returned to meet with Kat, the rain started, and quickly intensified. Fortunately we were headed to an indoor food market on Paper Island. We were unlucky with the timing, and the fancy new bridge was opening to allow a small yacht through. We heard the struggle that the town went through to get this new bridge, suffering delays and misalignment. I mused it sounded more like Italy than Scandinavia – to which I learnt that it was Italian designed/made…
It seemed that the rest of the town had the same idea of heading to Copenhagen Street Food – either because they were also hungry, or because they sought to escape the rain. There were too many choices of food inside, running the full gamut of international cuisines. We both went for personal favourites – Risa ordered some duck confit on chips, and I got a burger. It had real potential, nice thick patty, simple menu, flame grilled, toasted bun. But, in the end, it was a 4/5, with a slightly overcooked patty ruining what could have been).
The rain had stopped, so we went for a walk past the old Noma building (where our friend works), and grabbed some Sicilian ice-cream by the harbour.
We had to walk back through Christiania to get to our van, so Kat came along for a quick walk with us.
Billed as an independent free state, an ex-military barracks was taken over by squatters and artists back in the 1970s.
Not officially an independent country, so not country sixteen just yet (that will be Sweden in a few days) – even if the main gates do welcome you back into EU when you leave. The area is an interesting story, with a rather turbulent history, and unknown future – worth a read if you have the time
As Christiania declares independence from Denmark, it has developed it’s own laws – and one that is popular is the legal sale/consumption of marijuana. While not technically legal (they forbid the use of cameras on Pusher Street, where all the small stands selling weed and hashish are), it’s apparently ignored for the time being by the Danish government.
I was expecting to find something quite colourful and energetic, but what we found was something a little less exciting. There was plenty of eclectic decorations, but the whole area felt run down, which shouldn’t be too surprising. We also didn’t feel particularly welcome, so we made our way back to our van.
We met with Kat again this morning, finding a free hour in her schedule. She took us down to view the new Noma side-project – Under the Bridge. It was incredible! For five weeks over summer, they have set up a temporary tent under a bridge, and shipped in a temporary kitchen to feed the 100 guests per evening. It felt surprisingly cosy for what was essentially a temporary tent under a bridge. Also amazing to think that the chefs are able to feed up to 50 people at a time from these (admittedly large) temporary kitchens. The passion they have for food is intoxicating. The kitchen crew were busy preparing beans for customers tomorrow night. We’d love to experience what Noma is about, but with the five-weeks selling out in a flash, we have no chance, other than living somewhere long enough to plan three months ahead (the booking window for regular Noma). Though, I wonder if it’s wasted on me, as my tastebuds are not at all refined – and I’d probably be just as content with a juicy burger or a pizza from Naples.
We said goodbye to the hardworking Under the Bridge crew, and went for one last coffee with Kat, on a cute pontoon just across from our final Copenhagen tourist stop – Church of Our Saviour.
Church of Our Saviour
This spiralled tower was the first view we had of Copenhagen after arriving yesterday. I had read that it was possible to climb around the outside, so went to visit. It’s no secret, and by the time we arrived, there was quite a queue – and a slow moving one at that. There was a funeral taking place in the church, with mourners spilling out with the casket. It’s strange seeing such sorrow. There is empathy for their loss, but not knowing the deceased, there is nothing for us to mourn.
Understandably, they were controlling the entrance to avoid over crowding. We eventually got our chance to climb the tower, racing up the wooden stairs, which then narrowed as we reached the tower, and eventually opened up onto the exterior stair way. Along the way there were some rather unusual sculptures (or, more like abandoned sculptures).
Stepping out on the external stairway was an experience worth queuing for. Even if the weather was bleak, the view over town was phenomenal.
The external steps wound up towards the spire, but along the way, they decreased in size, until they disappeared into the spire itself. It was incredible to look down, and see the stairway radiating outwards in concentric circles – though photographing this was easier said than done. I really, really, really wanted to fly the drone from up here, but it was unsafe for multiple reasons. I’ll just imagine what it would have looked like instead.
We enjoyed the view, then let the next customer have the same opportunity, and made our way back down. We passed through the bell tower, which thankfully didn’t ring while we were inside. An older American tourist saw some sheet music of the tune the bells played and pulled out a plastic recorder and proceeded to play the melody, and then returned the recorder to her bag. I waited a few seconds for a secret door to open, but nothing happened, and we both continued our walk down.
The funeral had now completed, and the mourners had left. We were now allowed inside the church. It was large and quite bare, but with blessed with small and lavish elements of decoration. It’ll never match the opulence/decadence of Catholic churches in Italy, but I guess that’s what the Lutheran reformation sought to do.
We had one last walk through Christiania, not because we wanted to see it again, but because it was the shortest path back to our van. I’m thankful that we did, as we enjoyed it a lot more today – though, not the felafel, they were decidedly average. It felt more like an art community today, rather than an ex-heroin dive.
The enormous skate park, Wonderland, was incredible, and probably my favourite sight in Christiania. I’d love to see someone attempt the loop, as I’m not sure how they gain enough speed – but I’m not a skateboarder.
It’s been amazing that we’ve been able to meet up with old friends on our journey, and as always, it was hard to leave.