10 Reasons to Return to Copenhagen

There is just too much to do in Copenhagen and I only had 2 full days. I loved every minute so it is a matter of when, not if, I return to Copenhagen.

Here are the 10 activities I look forward to (and with my grandkids someday):

  1. I really hoped that I could have rented a bike and searched for the Giants in a scavenger hunt. Next time.
  2. The Resistance Museum was closed due to fire damage in 2013 and will reopen at the end of 2018. Next time, or the time after that.
  3. I drooled over the royal horses training in the arena and in the future I will visit the Royal Stables.  IMG_1132
  4. Denmark has made such a big impression for a small country of 5.5 million people on the world of design. In the future I will check out the Design Museum Denmark.
  5. I only lightly sampled the world of desserts and pastries. In the future I will try the Bertel‘s cheesecake.
  6. When my grandson Calvin is old enough, we will go to Tivoli Gardens amusement park for the day. IMG_1295
  7. Several people suggested taking the boat tour through the canals and rivers of Copenhagen. I opted for the bike tour. Next time.
  8. I’m fascinated by the history of Denmark. In the future I will visit the Museum of National History Denmark.
  9. The oldest sweet shop in Copenhagen awaits. Must taste La Glace.
  10. Finally, and it is a two-day trip, I will take my grandson (and any other grandkids) with my new LEGO VIP card to Billund to the Danish LEGOland!

P.S. What I won’t be doing is using these two guide books to plan my future visits. They were both very disappointing and the maps particularly frustrating. TripAdvisor provided my most useful information.

IMG_1261 (1)

To be fair, I first read about the Louisiana MOMA in the Analogue Guide.

Father Denmark Defines Danishness

IMG_1121 (2)

One of the early stops on Bike Mike’s tour of Copenhagen was at the statue of NFS Grundtvig, often called Father Denmark. Mike took the opportunity to share with us a little history and how Denmark developed the socialist democracy and earned their title of world’s happiest people.

Grundtvig wrote histories reintroducing the Norse gods to the Danes. He also studied English society and appreciated the contrasting freedom of thought and pragmatism. He was also a Lutheran pastor who spoke out for separation of church and state. All of this combined to the philosophy Grundtvigianism. He also participated in writing the new constitution and articulated the sense of community that is now a hallmark of the Danish life.

Mike said, “We don’t mind paying high taxes because we get free education, elder care, health care and day care.” He laughed and pointed out that since women ruled Denmark there have been no wars, they work less and earn more, and they enjoy the smallest gap between the poorest and the wealthiest citizens.

Denmark is not perfect, but one of the things I love about travel is learning about other cultures and seeing how things can be.

If you want to read more about Grundtvig you can in Knud JV Jespersen A History of Denmark. (in English)

 

 

Amazing New Waste Management in Copenhagen

IMG_1169

The waste management facility is the building in the middle of the photo behind the smoking stack. The sloping roof is a ski slope and the facility’s technology means the smoke is free of nasty pollution and converts household waste to energy.

I learned about the new waste management facility with the ski slope on the roof from watching the Bjarke Ingels episode of Abstract: the Art of Design on Netflix. He’s a Danish wunderkind architect with a firm BIG. More cool than the rooftop ski run is the technology that takes household waste and makes clean energy. This technology is also used in Sweden. (Why aren’t we doing this in the USA??) You know it’s clean because they just built expensive homes next to it.

P.S. It was exciting to make this connection to an episode of one of my favorite original programs on Netflix:

Stunning Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen

IMG_1223 (1)It did seem odd that the name of the most visited art museum in Denmark is called the Louisiana MOMA. It is actually named for the villa that looks like a Louisiana plantation house and it was named after Alexander Brun’s three wives who were all named Louise. It has been transformed over the years into an exquisite sculpture garden and gallery all hugging the shores of Oresund Sound in Humlebaek.

IMG_1215 (1)The train takes you to within a 10 minute walk of the Museum. The museum has a permanent collection both indoor and out, plus 2 special exhibits. When I visited I was able to view the retrospective for Danish artist Tal R and a fascinating exhibit of South African artist William Kentridge. I was disappointed because the Marina Abramovic exhibit was due to open the following Saturday, but then I’d have missed Kentridge. (I know, first world problems.)

IMG_1235 (1)

Four powerful paintings by Danish artist Tal R

I wandered the grounds looking at the sculpture and then stopped at the cafe to eat lunch. I’d been told by a fellow plane passenger that the smorresbrod at the Louisiana Cafe was delicious. I can confirm that the salt-cured ham, North Sea cheese from Thise, mustard mayonnaise, and pickled cucumbers are yummy over bread. I ate on the patio and enjoyed conversation with the people around me. One woman overhead me say I was from California and she and her husband came over to introduce themselves. I bumped into them a few more times in the galleries and we compared thoughts and they encouraged me to see some things that I had considered passing by due to time.

I enjoyed my afternoon at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art so much that when I return to Copenhagen I will make time to go again. I also wondered if we have anything quite as spacious and beautiful for sculpture in the USA. My art dad Jim says that there is something like it in New York on the Hudson. I will have to explore!

IMG_1242

The William Kentridge show made a big impact on me.

 

Danish Royalty Inspires

IMG_1132I have to admit as an American I am not sure what I think of the idea of royalty. Does it have to more to offer than the USA’s celebrity culture, or is it much of a muchness? I was vaguely aware that Denmark has a royal family before I left for Copenhagen. I was not prepared for Mike Bike to get almost teary eyed when we stopped at her palace as he talked about the role she plays in his life.

First when we stopped at the Christiansborg Palace on the bike tour, we watched the Queen’s groomsman exercising her carriage horses in preparation for an upcoming public celebration of her golden wedding anniversary. While we watched, one of the palace chauffeur’s stopped one of the royal family’s Bentley limousines for a few minutes. Mike Bike got very excited that the Queen or one of the princes might be in the car.  No one was in the car, this time.

Then we moved on to another official building and Mike Bike said we should come back and see the tapestries that current Queen Margrethe II designed. She is apparently an accomplished artist. (We moved on before I could figure out exactly where we were.) Then as we came back from Christianshavn we stopped at the Queen’s Palace.

The Queen’s Guard was changing shifts and it was easy to find a spot in the courtyard to watch. The Danish changing of the guard is much more accessible but still displays the kind of tradition that people who live in countries with royalty seem to appreciate. The guards wear bearskin hats from Canadian bears. While the guard is changing you can only walk your bike in the courtyard. The flags flying over each palace–Queen, Prince 1, Prince 2, so that you know who is home and who is away.  The band plays when the Queen is home.

IMG_1133Mike Bike explained that a particularly low point in his life he asked himself, “What would Queen Margrethe do?” He finds her wisdom and talents as a linguist and artist inspiring. She is married to her French husband Henri for 50 years and successfully raised two sons.

As we regathered after watching the guard change, we saw the same Bentley go by. We could see the Queen in the back seat and it was the same car we’d seen earlier. We all enjoyed the excitement, but none as much as Mike Bike. It is very endearing.

Breaking into Copenhagen

I arrived late on a Monday night and then I took the train early to Malmo, Sweden on Tuesday, so my first full day in Copenhagen was Wednesday and I had not yet seen anything besides the train station and a pastry shop. I had reserved a spot with BikeMike Tours after hearing about it from Rick Steves. After witnessing just a little of the bike traffic, I was glad I booked a tour and would have a guide for my first foray into the city.

Copenhagen is a 1000 years old and committed to keeping their streets cobbled and their footprint much the same. It was not designed for cars. Yet it is a dynamic, economically vibrant place. Bicycles allow them to move people without sacrificing the quality of life that their history offers. The cycling culture is such that people ride everywhere in all weather and with cargo bikes if they have children or a load. As one fellow tour rider from the USA noted, “No one is wearing lycra bike shorts or riding a fancy bike.” It is part of the fabric of life and very utilitarian.

I digress, I want to tell you about this fabulous tour.

Mike is a bit gruff when you first meet him at the shop. His website can also be offputting to some:

i am not just another #$@%&*! bike tour guide. I am bike mike.

I appreciated that he was being very forthright about what his tour was and was not. What it is: an exciting tour of the city at a good pace with a guide who LOVES Copenhagen and Denmark. I ride my bike as my main source of transportation and I “kissed” the curb; my bike went down but thankfully I did not. So the city cobbles and curbs can be challenging especially to riders from the USA. It is so worth the risk.

I arrived feeling very jet-lagged and hoped that the fresh air and exercise would revive me. There were about 18 of us in the group with a mix of Europeans and Americans. Mike leads the way and expects you to follow, and we did. People in my group did a great job of keeping up.

Mike does stop often to share information about this beautiful city and its culture. He is unabashedly proud of their socialist welfare state and the monarchy. He is a real enthusiast and he will infect you with a love of Copenhagen.

He also gave good tips on restaurants along the way. Although his description of a typical Danish lunch–open faced sandwiches of pickled herring followed by a shot of snaps (schnapps)–sounded like a fast track to a nap!

He said we would ride through whatever weather came our way just like a local. However, when a particularly nasty bit of rain and wind came through he let us grab a coffee at the national theater and then ride on. This added an hour to our tour but no one complained.

In fact, we were all full of good will toward one another at the end. The tour was well worth the DKK 299 in cash.

I also learned about these really groovy Danish locks that fit onto your bike as a permanent fixture. Mike uses them as do most people in Copenhagen. I walked across the street to the bike shop and bought 2 to use at home.

What is Your Travel Stake?

stakeI am about to embark on a wonderful holiday in Denmark and England. Even though the logistics of the trip are mostly planned out–I have all of my hotel rooms, but not all of my train trips and ferries sorted–I am getting clear on my travel stake before I pack my bag.

In my leadership training with CTI I learned to be very clear about my stake, that is what my goal is for myself or for the organization or group I’m leading. I have found this concept helpful in planning a travel adventure–especially with others, and even when solo. When I haven’t thought about my stake I tend to get overwhelmed by all of the competing agendas of other travelers and my trip experience is diminished.

For example, for this upcoming trip, my stake is about reconnecting with old friends and keeping space open for meeting new people. My intention for this adventure is mostly about relationships. If I look back on my time in Denmark and England from Heathrow airport lounge, I will be very happy if I had plenty of time for long talks with Susie and then UK Sarah, and if I had a few memories of conversations with new friends I made along the way. Sure, there are things I want to do (bike rides) and places I want to see (Winchester Cathedral), but they can make way for people if that is what is needed in the moment.

Being clear about your stake is even more important when traveling with others. I often ask the question of my travel companions: What is your highest priority for this trip? Or what would you regret not doing on this adventure? I share mine, and then we are clear and we each do our utmost to make sure that everyone is able to experience at least this one thing. It may be eating at a fantastic restaurant, or having time to hike a certain trail, or time every morning to sit in a cafe with a flat white and read a book. Or maybe it really is spending time with the person you love and the rest is just background.

I have a tough time traveling with medium size groups. There are so many competing stakes and I get swamped by the friction. You would think that the trip itinerary is everyone’s stake, but each arrives with another sometimes secret agenda: gelato from the famous place in Siena, cycling around Lucca, or tasting as much wine as possible in 7 days. A good tour guide or group leader discovers what those things are for their guests and works to make it happen. I now accept that my travel style is either solo, with one other friend, or in a small family group, or maybe in such a large group that I can still carve out my own stake. Medium size groups are not for me.

Of course a wise travel planner also leaves room in the schedule for the unexpected invitation to join a birthday party for an 80 year old woman who does an awesome Tina Turner impersonation. But that is an Irish tale for another day.