Wonderful, wonderful, Kobenhavn

Travel writers are rather like politicians, although they don’t lie quite as often, they tend to write just what will please their editors.  Every once in a while a politician, usually after he has retired or has lost his seat will publish a book which professes to open Pandora’s box and tell the truth, unfortunately the new revelations are more to sell the book than to tell the truth.  My blogs have no kiss and tell revelations, I just have no longer to please my paymaster, and these are my personal notes on how I really saw some of my destinations.

For the next of my hereto unpublished mini- travelogues for the delectation of my friends; today we go to Denmark which seems to have cemented its position at or near the top of every global quality-of-life survey. Take a look around, and it’s not hard to see…

Denmark has a total population of 5,600,000 and Copenhagen a population of just over half a million.  Compare that to the population of London at over 8,600,000 it isn’t overcrowded. Most of the population have bicycles and in fact there are twice as many cycles than there are motor vehicles.  So many people cycle because there literally are no hills so it is fairly easy going.  This lack of hills also means that when the wind blows it really blows and it seem to be windy most of the time.  It also rains or snows for half of the year and that’s not in the brochure.

I have a number of Danish friends and have visited many times, they seem duty bound to put a positive spin on their harsh environment.  They seem to be united in turning lemons into spiced mulled wine; they call this cultivated cosiness ‘hygge’.  And is considered the major weapon in combating the dreary darkness that befalls the Nordic countries over the winter, where the sun shines fewer than seven hours during the length of the winter solstice.  I personally found it hard to adopt ‘hygge’, and felt it perhaps a good reason for the high alcohol intake among the Danes.  They are however a happy people with a sense of social support, freedom to make life choices and a culture of generosity

One of the main attractions I find is that although they speak a peculiar “Harf’n’harf’n’harf “lingo among themselves they all speak far better English than what I do.  What is more everyone understands what I am saying; I don’t even have to shout.

Copenhagen is a gorgeous city filled with beautiful people, but has two over-hyped and most disappointing attractions that most people will have heard of before arriving. The first ‘attraction’ this wonderful city has, is this statue dedicated to the famous fairy tale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen in 1837. The Little Mermaid statue, as you’ll read in your guidebook, was unveiled in 1913 and is most famous among locals for all the times her head and arms have been sawn off by vandals.

Your expectations will naturally build as you take the surprisingly long and out-of-the-way walk along the harbour, and your only real clue that you are getting close is the crowd of bewildered tourists assembled who are taking their own photos and asking each other, “This is what we walked all the way out here for?”

The Little Mermaid statue is about 4-feet tall and looks more like an ad for bad posture than a city’s proudest landmark. It was built by the owner of the Carlsberg brewery and is not quite original.  She has sat on her boulder since August 23, 1913, but has had a very turbulent life, with at least eight vandalism attacks. She has been dowsed in paint numerous times, had her right arm amputated, been decapitated three times, and even pushed from her rock in 2003. Fortunately, the sculptor made a mold so the Little Mermaid’s “parts” have been reattached from the original mold.

We then read about the Tivoli Gardens, the most famous and the greatest attraction in Scandinavia and one of the world’s best known amusement parks.  However it is also the most expensive with a charge of around £15 entrance fee and every ride costing a little over £2 it’s not the place to go if you have a lot of kids although kids under 8 get in free.  It is also renowned for being jam-packed with people queuing for cheesy rides.  I cannot vouch either way because no-one mentioned that it is only open between April and September.  I read about the gardens being lit up at night-time with 120,000 lights and the evenings come to a close with a spectacular firework display.  One day I must go when it isn’t shut.

The city itself is truly a wonderful city and I love it, go and see the rococo Frederiksstaden district and its royal palaces and on neighbouring Funen is Odense, the hometown of storyteller Hans Christian Andersen, with a medieval core of cobblestone streets and half-timbered houses; but take my advice, you can give the Tivoli Gardens a miss along with the Little Mermaid.

I could certainly see why the current tide of immigrants invading Europe would find Denmark an attractive target especially for the economic migrants with the reputation of its government being people friendly.  However the Danish parliament has backed a controversial proposal to confiscate asylum seekers’ valuables to pay for their upkeep.  Police will be able to seize valuables worth more than 10,000 kroner (1,340 Euros; £1,000) from refugees to cover housing and food costs.  All I can say is jolly good for them and the Merkel’s of the world can go hang. 

The internet is full of stories of complaining migrants.  One of them is Baraa Jehad, currently accommodated in the abandoned hospital in Helsingør, now a Red Cross reception centre for asylum seekers and refugees. He says that he is very unhappy with the government’s plans to give Syrian asylum seekers a provisional one-year residence permit without the possibility of bringing the family to Denmark. .”If I had known this, I would not be fleeing, if I knew about these rules before I left Lebanon, I would have stayed there. If this one-year rule comes true, I would rather go back and live with my family,” Some asylum seeker!  There you are, away you go then.

If this had been one of my sailor’s yarns instead of a mini travelogues I could tell you of the time I spent over 3 months here in Copenhagen, when my frigate on leaving harbour was blown off course (I told you about the high winds) and into the Danish Royal Yacht whose bow we sliced off and then proceeded over its anchor cable chopping off both our screws.  But that’s another sailors yarn so I will keep that tale in my locker for another time.

Right, that takes care of the Viking marauders with their silly horned hats, “Skål”.  Now who can I upset next?   The world is a book – and those who do not travel read only a page.

 

About Jake

Long retired travel writer, author and freelance journalist. Educated at Wolverton Grammar and Greenwich Naval College. Happily married since 1958, with a married son and daughter, a married granddaughter and an adult grandson. Hobbies rock-climbing, dinghy racing and ocean racing. Still regularly working out in the gym.

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