Day 44 – Copenhagen

Boating / Day 44 of 64 / 22 June

Day 2 here in Denmark. I woke up at 8am and headed to Nørreport via the Copenhagen Metro. There was a store in the area that sold flag badges, and I wanted to buy some as souvenirs. Also, rather conveniently, the Torvehallerne Market is located nearby. After buying my flag badges, I had breakfast at the market. I arrived at the market before opening time, so many stalls, except for a few cafes, were still closed. Still, there was already a sizeable crowd at the small market having breakfast. After breakfast, I took the metro to the famous Nyhavn area.

Now, travelling in Copenhagen by public transport is the easiest when you download the “Mobilbilletter” app by the Copenhagen DOT. The app allows you to purchase tickets on your phone. Public transportation in Copenhagen, as in most other European countries, runs on a proof-of-payment system: passengers must show conductors a valid ticket when they are asked to do so. The system also uses zone pricing, with most of Copenhagen being in Zones 1 & 2. The smallest ticket available is for 2 zones: so, as long as you stay within the Copenhagen area, buying a 2 zone ticket means you’ll never need to worry about having an invalid ticket. The tickets are also time-based, and as such, are valid for all journeys (on all types of public transport and inclusive of transfers): so long as the trips made are within the valid zones and ticket duration.

I arrived at Nyhavn at around 10.30am. The area is famous for its colourful row houses, vibrant canal, and general “Amsterdam-like” atmosphere. I decided to join a boat tour that would leave at 11am. Our boat was a partially roofed canal boat. Upon leaving Nyhavn, the boat headed to the residential canals across the harbour. We then made a counterclockwise loop, through the residential canals, before ending up at the famous “The Little Mermaid” statue. The statue is actually pretty tiny in real life, and it’s amazing how a statue that small can be so iconic and representative of Copenhagen. In addition to the “Amsterdam” atmosphere of Nyhavn, we also passed a district that was explicitly built to resemble the Dutch capital. The king at the time, King Christian IV, was so in love with Amsterdam that he ordered the construction of a replica right here in Copenhagen. And with that, Christianshavn, and it’s Dutch style row houses, was born on the muddy marshes that once stood here.

The official ship of the Danish Royal Family.

The Little Mermaid is almost negligible from here.

One interesting thing is how low the bridges across the canals are. There was barely any space between the top of the already flat canal boat and the bottom of some of the bridges. In fact, our guide had to constantly shout at overly photo-happy tourists to sit down every time we went under a low bridge. The canal boat returned to the Nyhavn dock at around 12.10pm.

Just one of the many low bridges across the canals of Copenhagen.

After disembarking from the boat, I headed in the direction of the Amalienborg Palace. Unfortunately, because of the tour timing, I wasn’t able to catch the daily changing of the guards at 12pm. But, since the Palace was on the way to the Design Museum Denmark, I made use of the opportunity to take a few quick photos of the beautiful Palace. I reached the Design Museum at around 12.45pm.

The museum houses some of the best examples of Danish design. Products aren’t the only items featured here: posters, typefaces, and even porcelain are all given a space in this Danish design “hall of fame”. The museum is rather small, but it makes up for it through its wide variety of artefacts. What was perhaps my favourite installation was a video interview with a typeface designer. In the long-ish video, the designer explained in detail how he designed a sans-serif typeface for a series of books. Yet, even in a project that seemed rather simple and straightforward, no detail was spared. The designer ended up designing several fonts for use in the series. If a title of a book was longer, he would choose the light font; and if a title was short, he would choose the heavy one. I found it interesting how so much effort was put into what were essentially minimalist book covers: literally book covers with nothing but the title of the book on them. I had my fill of design and left the museum at around 12.45pm.

My last and final destination for the day was the National Museum of Denmark [Nationalmuseet]. I decided that no trip to Copenhagen would be complete without cycling: so, I cycled to the National Museum using a Bycyklen bike. Bycyklen is a Copenhagen bike-share service. Registration via their website is simple, and payment is done via credit card. Unlike dockless bike-sharing services, Bycyklen bikes must be returned or borrowed from docking stations. This means you might need to do some walking from the stations to your final destination. However, the docks allow the bikes to be extremely high-tech. The bikes feature large tablets that act as a GPS, and, they also come equipped with power assist. When cycling, a small motor imparts additional spin to the wheels: this makes cycling, especially uphill, extremely light and easy.

After a short walk from the nearest docking station, I arrived at the National Museum of Denmark. The museum specialises in Danish history and prehistory. There’s an entire room dedicated to ancient runestones and an entire area dedicated to the history of Danish colonialism. This was the part of the museum that I found most interesting. The museum presented Danish colonialism as it was: profitable for the colonists and a tragedy for the colonised. There were many panels dedicated to telling the story of life under the Danish colonial government. Interestingly, I also learnt that Greenland was once a former colony of Denmark. It just never crossed my mind that a country in what we frequently view as “the West” could’ve once been a colony of another Western power. Besides the Dane-centric exhibits, there were also many artefacts from different civilisations: albeit nowhere as detailed or thorough as the ones about Denmark.

I decided to leave the museum at around 4.30pm, and from the museum, I cycled back to my hostel.

– Ryan

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