Last year, David and l spent our summer holiday driving through Northern Europe. I’ve always wanted to visit the northern countries so we toured through Germany, Denmark, Sweden and back through the Netherlands.
At the time, I didn’t get around to blogging about the 2-week trip so thought I’d write about elements of the journey now starting with Denmark.
This was our first stop in Denmark. We arrived at our hotel and was shown to a minimalist room and although clean not particularly comfortable so ventured out almost immediately.
Upon taking advice from the friendly locals we decided to go for a long walk around a little of the Jutland Coast breathing in fresh air after our arduous drive on the autobahn. It was invigorating and I immediately fell in love with Denmark.
The ambience is relaxing and although it was raining I enjoyed the coastal walk. There are curious outdoor art installations (below) and it was great to leave the car and go for a brisk walk.
We strolled around an area called Kongens Bastion (The Kings Bastion) which the Swedes stormed during 1657 and was rebuilt between 1660 and 1675 and now stands as a good example of a 17th century fortress area.
As we explored the area and nosed around the little Danish town and residential architecture, the soft rain became harder and harder.
On the way back to the hotel we became somewhat discombobulated about the route due to the now torrential rain. Going around in circles up and down the Danish streets of similar housing we became drenched and unfortunately so did the map which we couldn’t read as it disintegrated!
We popped into the local brew house as a reprieve from the odious monotonous rain and was shocked to see people propping up the bar drinking and smoking! This is surprising bearing in mind how environmentally friendly the Danish are. We weren’t expecting a smoky atmosphere. That said, the place was dry, warm, friendly, lively and they had a decent selection of craft beer which is the main thing!
One lady chatted to us and seemed interested to learn about our long trip. We told her we were touring northern Europe and she seemed quite surprised and impressed. I guess not everyone wants to drive through Germany, Denmark, Sweden and back via the Netherlands but although long it is worthwhile.
I don’t usually bother to name the hotel we stayed in but this was glorious and called First Hotel Grand. The hotel is an elegant 19th century building and offers pure luxury with the town conveniently nearby. The reception couldn’t find our booking initially and to apologise gave us an upgrade. The bedroom was sumptuous and as I had developed a dreadful cold the luxury was welcomed.
Odense is the hometown of Hans Christian Andersen (fairy tales, plays, biographies, travel accounts, etc.). The little iconic house was supposedly where Hans was born in 1908 and is now a museum. As we wandered around the pretty cobbled streets, we saw plenty of statues and art which was inspired by the stories of Hans.
The city centre is reserved for pedestrians with an abundance of bars, restaurants, shops lining the streets. Of course, you can see a diverse selection of historical features such as the Cathedral (Domkirken), museums, local market area, park and quant typical Danish housing. We enjoyed our visit and to be quite honest, would like to return.
A beautiful city where half the traffic is on two wheels. All ages use bikes here as in most other parts of Northern Europe. If you have young children you use a carriage bike. Incredible!
There is plenty to do and see in this city. We went to The National Gallery (Denmark’s largest art museum), Bakken Deer Park, Tivoli Gardens (a weird looking amusement park in the centre).
We took a bus (hop on, hop off) tour and stopped to view The Little Mermaid one of Copenhagen’s most iconic tourist attractions. The sculpture was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s famous fairy tale and unveiled on 23 August 1913 by Danish Brewer Carl Jacobsen.
We spent some time visiting the Botanical Garden which is located in the centre of Copenhagen. There is an extensive complex of glasshouses dating from 1874. The garden contains 13,000 species and is in several sections including 600 Danish plants, conifer area and rhododendron garden. Certainly, all of the above are well worth viewing.
We also enjoyed a boat trip (The Grand Tour from Nyhavn) navigating the city’s famous canals to learn about the Danish capital including Christianshavn, Copenhagen Opera House, The Little Mermaid Statue and Amalienborg Palace.
I loved hanging out at Copenhagen’s Nyhaven, or “New Harbor” which is steeped in heritage with colourful houses, bars and restaurants. Hans Christian Andersen lived here and it is a lovely place to take a stroll or sit with a beer and people watch.
Christiania – The hippy bit…
The most memorable visit though was to the hippy area of Christiania. During 1971, this place was an uninhibited military area and taken over by squatters and converted to a ‘free city’; a self-governing neighbourhood run by their own laws independent of the government.
As you wander around this curious community, you see the idiosyncratic buildings and restored shacks with chilled out residents who installed their own bars, shops, art galleries, meditation facilities and music venues and are openly smoking and selling marijuana from permanent stands.
However, they have ruled against cars, stealing and hard drugs.
Oh, and no photography as we found out.
As you may have read on a previous post I read ‘The Year of Living Danishly’ by Helen Russell and I’m fascinated with how the Danish live their lives. It is incredible to see how many people use bikes in the city centre with special lanes catering specifically from bicycle traffic.
Copenhagen is said to be one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the world and has been praised for its green economy.
By 2025, 75% of trips will be made on foot, bike or public transport. Priorities include becoming carbon neutral, sustainable drainage systems, recycling rainwater, green roofs and waste management systems are just a few of their targets.
When you visit this city, it is extraordinary how they are implementing these environmental factors with historical and modern architecture (solar panels), attractive public grounds with engaging human interaction activity derived from careful planning and associated infrastructure.
A wonderful place to visit, I highly recommend Denmark and I hope to return soon.