My plane flew in to Copenhagen late on Saturday evening. Arriving on time, I went through the requisite Schengen border check and found my way out to the Copenhagen Airport railway station. Somewhat obscurely, the next stop of the trains in the other direction was across the bridges to Sweden, but instead, I headed for the city centre of Copenhagen, arriving fairly late at night. I walked out to my hostel, staying only one night in a large dorm.
In the morning, I checked out of my hostel. I had a day in Copenhagen to explore before my conference. After dropping my bag at the train station in the luggage lockers, I briefly researched bike tours in Copenhagen, deciding on one called Bike with Mike. I grabbed a sandwich from a nearby sandwich bar and walked briskly to the starting location. I made it to the departure place, just in time to make the morning tour. Unsurprisingly, the tours were on a bike with a guy called Mike. He was a local Dane who kitted me and a dozen other tourists up with bikes.
We set off on the bike tour. The first stop was the Israels Plads, a large square in the centre of town which commemorated Danish Jews persecuted during the Holocaust. Today, though, there were a number of flourishing market stalls. Our tour guide strongly recommended we come back here for lunch later.
Our tour continued north across the canals at Dronning Louises Bro; one of the busiest bridges for cycling in the world, and along the north edge of the Sortedams Sø. From there, we rode through the Holmens Kirkegård, a large public cemetery in central Copenhagen and around to the Kastellet. The Kastellet is a castle on a star-shaped island, a common defensive feature in northern European countries. The streets of the Kastellet were covered in thick cobbles, and the old buildings were still in use by the Danish Defence Ministry, but unlike equivalent structures in many other parts of the world, there were hardly any restrictions, checkpoints or other guards. Our guide explained to us how Denmark was generally speaking a carefree, proud and liberal country.
Our next destination was the most iconic attraction in Copenhagen: Den Lille Havfrue (the Little Mermaid). Her statue sat on some rocks in the harbour, and there were hundreds of tourists milling about trying to take photographs. It seemed like an awful lot for a small statue, in the same way that the craziness over the Mona Lisa in the Louvre in Paris seems an awful lot for a small painting. But it forms part of the Danish iconography, so I figured it was worth enjoying it while I was there.
Next, we rode along the edge of the harbour, passing by a number of modern municipal buildings, passing through Amalienborg, the royal palaces. The royals, including Mary, the Tasmanian princess, were not home. Unlike Buckingham Palace, where the royals and guards are kept at a distance, we were free to walk almost all around the residences, there was hardly any fencing at all. Just around the corner was Nyhavn. The Nyhavn district is a canal where the most iconic, coloured houses of Copenhagen are. Each of them look like old warehouses that now form a modern cafe and residential scene.
We crossed the harbour to visit the outskirts of Freetown Christiania, a self-proclaimed anarchist district. Our guide stopped us at a number of places on the peninsula to describe the difference between old and modern Denmark, including their environmental stances. It was a pretty dismal view of older Denmark but an uplifting view of the country. It wasn’t without reason. Denmark tops, or nearly tops, most global rankings of Human Development Index, health, civil liberties, lack of corruption and social mobility, despite or perhaps because of its high personal income tax.
Finally, our tour brought us by the Danish national parliament, including a visit to the Prime Minister’s personal cycle rack, and through the old town back to the start. We thanked our guide for the three hour tour he had taken us on.
Hungry, I walked back over to the Israels Plads and the associated food markets. I bought and ate my way through a punnet of strawberries and a number of local Danishes that were so good, I went back for more. Food in Denmark was really quite delicious, if a little pricey. I then decided it was time to head on to my next destination.
I returned to the train station, collected my bag, and took a train onwards to the city of Odense. Odense is the third largest city in Denmark, and where I would spend the next week for the Dark Matter, Neutrinos and their Connections (DAνCo) conference. It is located on an island between Copenhagen and the mainland. The train took just under an hour. I then walked for about an hour to get to my AirBnB, which I would be staying at for the full week. It was at a small house in a suburban development that was definitely geared more towards cyclists than car drivers. It was only a short walk from the University. I had dinner that night in a steakhouse in a nearby shopping mall, as it was the only place nearby that seemed to be open. One thing that surprised me about the shopping mall, was just how much parking space there was. Having been living in the UK for nearly a year, I had forgotten what it was like to be in a place with a relatively low population density. Most shops in England are crammed into old buildings and car parks at the edge of town. Here, it seemed much closer to an American or Australian stall shopping mall/centre. In any case, the Australian steak was satisfying, and I headed back to the AirBnB for some rest for the conference ahead.