Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Villkommen til Koebenhavn

Greetings from the land of Hans Christian Andersen, Legos, and Mermaids!

Even before I booked my flight to Germany in December 2006, I was already looking forward to visiting Copenhagen-- mainly due to me being able to visit with my good friend Kristen, who works for Aperian Global, a cross-cultural consulting firm, for the first time in years, but also since it was the first time I was going to be visiting a Scandinavian country, even though I had been to Europe numerous times. I had heard many good things about Copenhagen from friends and through people I had met through traveling, and the city did not disappoint.

Firstly, I have to thank Kristen for allowing me to stay at her plush apartment in the center of Copenhagen. Having a great starting point every day certainly helps one enjoy a city, but when it comes with outstanding friendship, unbelievable home cooked meals, personal walking tours, etc., one can only help but feel truly blessed. Kristen, I can't thank you enough for all you did to help my stay in Copenhagen be all that it was-- I am so lucky to have you as a friend!

Denmark is a land the size of West Virginia, with a population less than that of Chicago, but Copenhagen, its capital, sure packs a punch!

I have been to many cities in Europe, and I am hard-pressed to think of a city that has more to offer than Copenhagen. From its numerous cafes/restaurants and shops, many of which are located on two of the largest pedestrian zones in the world, to its architecture, traditions, museums and music scene-- Copenhagen seriously has it all (including wind)!

I arrived in Copenhagen at 2pm on Sunday, January 28th after 14-hr train/boat ride from Mainz into the awaiting arms of my dear friend Kristen, whom I hadn't seen in over three years. Although it had been a long time since Kristen and I had seen each other, it seemed as though no time had passed since Mainz Dec. 2003.

We took a short train ride to her posh apartment near Norreport, smack in the heart of the city, and unwound over a few cups of coffee before heading out to the city for a small night tour and a stop in one of Copenhagen's many splendid cafes.

Kristen had taken the following day off and graciously showed me around the city that had been her home for the past two years. (We later found out that her tour was very similar to that of the Lonely Planet walking tour...) On a sunny and warm winter Monday afternoon, we walked the Stroget (the longest pedestrian zone), one of the many canals, saw the new opera located across from Amalienborg Palace, and Amalienborg Palace before setting down for a late lunch in a small, cozy restaurant.

I was astonished at how long the pedestrian zone was and just how many small cafes/restaurants the city had to offer along it and its tiny alley ways-- many of which are located below street level, allowing one to look into the cafe to see how crowded or what type of atmosphere it has before actually entering it, a feature I found quite pleasant and unique.

That night, Kristen made one of what was to be many fabulous homemade dishes for me, followed by a traditional American favorite-- homemade chocolate chip cookies and Ben and Jerry's ice cream! Needless to say it was a yummy start to my travels, but also the beginning of a Copenhagen theme and me turning over a new leaf of sorts-- learning how to cook and to enjoy different types of food/herbs/spices I had not yet been been exposed to or willing to try. It was also the start of me realizing just how expensive Copenhagen is-- a Ben and Jerry's pint-- $8 USD. I quickly learned that nearly everything in Copenhagen cost twice as much as in the States. Economics of the falling USD and the result of it on my pocket book 101!

The following day I took my own walking tour of the city, and, in typical Ford fashion, found the more "eclectic" part of town known as Christiania.

Christiania has accomplished where Quebec and Texas have failed on a larger scale. It is an independent, self-governing area of Copenhagen, where taxes are non-existent, located across a canal from one of the more affluent areas of the city, Christianshavn. The area is more famously known as being the hippie part of town and, until more recently, it was a hardcore drug haven and remains one of the few places in the world where one might see a sign stating "Say No to Hard Drugs."

Sufficed to say, I quickly learned I was "not in Kansas anymore." As I walked a hundred meters past the stone arched entrance, where I thought I might have found a undiscovered area, I saw a large red barn-type building with a huge intricate, and outstandingly painted demon on it-- facing the cathedral across the street.

I walked a few more paces, this time a little more cautiously, and saw many artisan shops, colorful tattered buildings, chickens running loose and fires burning in empty drums. Within a block, I had been offered hash twice as I tried my best not to glance too long at anyone (especially those already congregated at a local "cafe" and who were already stoned at noon on a Tuesday) as I walked through, what I now knew was, Christiania, in my black wool 3/4 length jacket, cashmere scarf, nice jeans and black dress shoes, carrying my spanking new digital SLR. The term "feeling a little out of place" could be thought of as an understatement.

(Sorry, I did not think it would be prudent to take a photo of Christiania-- and later learned that people have had issues doing such there-- so I hope my description is sufficient. It was actually a true a highlight of the city for me.)

The remainder of the week consisted of me becoming more acquainted with the highlights of the city-- Tivoli Gardens, one of the oldest amusements parks in the world that is located close to the town hall and has many fabulous (and expensive) restaurants during the summer months; the town hall square; the Borsen area (stock exchange) located close to the end of Stroget on a large canal; the more fancy, architecturally fascinating area located close to Christianshavn; Kastellet, one of the best preserved fortifications in Northern Europe; Fredriksberg, an old German district located west of the main city center that has a beautiful park, which is home to many gorgeous cranes.

During the nights Kristen and I would typically eat one of her fabulous homemade meals (with my "help," of course) and drink tasty red wine or push my culinary boundaries by eating in one of Copenhagen's fine restaurants. We'd follow our appetites with either a walk in the city or a visit to a local cafe.

As the weekend came, I had the pleasure of meeting Gino, a Italian friend of Kristen, who introduced me to the finer side of the music scene in Copenhagen. The winter jazz festival had just started and Gino had tickets to see a fabulous contemporary international jazz band at the most famous club in Copenhagen, the Jazz House. I had never heard of a contemporary jazz band, let alone seen one live; however, this band consisting of a passionate, lively Italian pianist, a chic Norwegian drummer, and a powerfully accompanying Danish string bassist was simply phenomenal-- feeding off each other's emotions and music inspiration on that particular evening. It was simply a sight to witness.

On the weekend Kristen and I toured the Carlsberg brewery, home to Carlsberg, Tuborg, and other tasty brews and on Superbowl Sunday we went to church in the morning.

Kristen has been attending The International Church of Copenhagen, an international Evangelical Lutheran church, a few blocks from her apartment and had been telling me of her fondness for her new pastor, Chad Rimmer, since I had arrived in Copenhagen, so I was really looking forward to seeing him in action as well as seeing how an international church operated. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the service was much like mine at St. John at home, even incorporating the same songs into the service. The pastor had a children's moment in the service that tied into his sermon theme-- very reminiscent of Rev. Pribyl when I was in Sunday School. And the pastor, who was all of 35 years old, really gave an outstanding sermon (without notes) that captivated the congregation. I was very impressed. Coffee hour followed service upstairs, and I was able to meet many of the young congregants. (The U.S. Ambassador to Denmark, James P. Cain, also attends Kristen's church but unfortunately he was not in town that Sunday-- I was hoping to ask him his plans for the big game and already had a dilutions of grandeur that I might be able to watch it at his house that night...)

Later that day Kristen hosted a young adult Bible study group at her apartment that had been studying and discussing Christian music. I am not a fan of Christian music for various reasons and am still keeping an open mind as far as religion is concerned, although I am a Christian; however, I was very intrigued by the discussion and found it enlightening. I was impressed by every one's knowledge of the Bible as well as their passion. I remember wishing that I could stay in Copenhagen for another week in order to be able to participate in the discussion.

Superbowl XLI began around midnight. Initially, I could only find it on the Danish national station, but I was later able to find it on one of the German networks, so I was able to understand at least part of the action (My German vocabulary did not encompass football words at that point in my life...). I wanted to be at home on the opening kickoff when Devin Hester returned it back for a touchdown. I could hear my entire family going crazy! Prince's halftime show was incredible (I couldn't help but think of when I saw him in Columbus in college-- still one of the best shows I have seen!), as I tried unsuccessfully to reach Dave via Skype to talk about the action. Unfortunately, in the end the Bears lost and the unthinkable happened. Peyton Manning actually did not become this generation's Dan Marino, like I had always thought he would, and I had stayed up until 5am to watch the game without commercials.

The remainder of my time in Copenhagen was spent recovering from a long Sunday and peacefully wandering the streets of Copenhagen taking in all of the sights before 12-hour train ride on February 7th for Mainz.

I was very impressed by Copenhagen and all that it had to offer. It was by far the most windy city I had ever visited, although it was pleasantly warm for it being winter, being situated on the North Sea. I will always remember the cobble stone streets, small cafes, pedestrian zones, brilliant medieval architecture, and, above all, my friend Kristen's hospitality and friendship. Thank you Kristen for making me feel as though I was at home, for your home cooked meals, teaching me about some of the more finer points of life, meeting me nearly every day for coffee during your lunch break, baking chocolate chip cookies while I was out getting the Ben and Jerry's ice cream, for our outstanding conversations and for being you!!! You are a true sweet heart!

I hope to return to Copenhagen again one day soon, although next time I would like to continue onto Sweden and Norway, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for an interesting trip to Europe!

My first view of Denmark-- aboard the ferry from Germany. The train from Germany drives onto the ferry then continues on after its arrival in Denmark.

Stroget (the world's largest pedestrian zone)-- close to the main canal near the Borsen (stock exchange) buildings.


Me on the main canal near the end of Stroget. The Borsen buildings are behind me.

The Church of Our Saviour in Christianshavn. The church is located directly across the street from Christiania.

The city hall.

Hans Christian Andersen. The statue is located next to the town hall.

The moon in the old part of the city.

A crane building a nest in the Fredriksberg park.

A crane in mid-flight.

A red squirrel that befriended me in the Fredriksberg park.

Kristen and her colleagues during a presentation on native American Indians in the Northwest United States.

The entrance to Kastellet-- one of the best preserved fortifications in Northern Europe.

The church inside Kastellet.

A view of Kastellet from the pentagonal path that surrounds it.

A windmill along the path surrounding Kastellet.

"The Little Mermaid."

The Gefion fountain that stands next to the British Church.

Kristen and me in front of one of the famous elephants that protect the entrance to the Carlsberg brewery.

Kristen busy at work in the kitchen preparing one of her many delicious meals!

Me getting ready to enjoy fresh homemade soup and sandwich with a delicious red wine in hand!

Candlelight after our meal.

Some of the more modern architecture of Copenhagen at sunset.

Rosenborg Castle- home to the royal crown jewels.

Kristen and me at her work just before I left for the train station and Mainz.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi CJ,
It was so great having you in Copenhagen...will look forward to your next visit! You take care of you and can't wait to hear more of your travels. Lots of love, Kristen