Jumping back in time and space to Copenhagen. I just had to get that initial Valparaiso entry out there.
I freaking love biking around this city. FREAKING love it! I always knew Amsterdam as the biking capital of the world, but I think Copenhagen is better. Actually, by now I know that Copenhagen is better. I think statistically, a higher percentage of people bike in Amsterdam, but that is a smaller city with more cramped streets, lots more people in a small space, fewer designated bike lanes. Copenhagen has incredibly wide, open streets, plenty of streets that have little to no car traffic, and separate signals for bikes that are extremely well integrated into the other signals.
That being said, it is also a great city for walking or driving around as well - walking because so much of inner city are walking streets only and driving because there doesn’t ever appear to be really bad traffic since so many of the people there either bike or take public transportation. They are very proud about having the longest walking street in Europe (the world?), and make it a pleasure to walk or bike around their historic downtown area.
Biking just makes it so quick and easy to zip from one section of the city to the other. You can save money by not taking so many buses, and it frees you up to be more spontaneous with your day. “How so?” you may ask. When you’re walking and taking buses, it makes sense to plan out your day so that you see all of the things you’d like to see in 1 area, to cut down on the walking time. If you’re moving around the city, again you have to be strategic to find the right bus lines to connect you between sights you wish to see. All of that equates to more planning and less spontaneity, which is not how I like to roll. On a bike, you cross from one side of the city to the other in 15-20 minutes MAX, and it makes it easier if you are actually hanging out with locals because most of them are probably on bikes as well. Seriously, I can’t recommend renting a bike enough in Copenhagen, or any other bike-friendly city you’re visiting. I’ll most definitely be doing this in Amsterdam as well.
With this new freedom, I’ve explored a lot in the past few days, but spent more time just wandering around seeing what I would find. After Christiania (yes I already had my bike), I was drawn to the beautiful Church of Our Savior.
It has a very beautiful staircase that winds from the floor all the way up to the tippy top of the spire. Not sure if you can see it in the picture, but it goes on the outside for the ending bit, and supposedly makes for some of the best views of Copenhagen. I did not climb to the top, dissuaded not by the intimidating 400+ steps, but instead by the 90 kr entry fee (about $18). So I looked around the inside and really like the place. While not nearly as large or lavishly decorated as many of Europe’s better known churches, I liked the intimacy, the beauty within the decorations, and the FREE price tag for entering
I took some pictures, but haven't uploaded them yet. That, honestly, has been the hardest part of doing this blog. Writing isn't always great or easy but getting reliable internet to get pictures up is definitely the bottleneck in this operation. The first big drawback I've run into thru using a ChromeBook. In general, it is great, as good as doing the basic things I need, and lighter than any other option. I've got easy workaround for everything except storing photos. I took for granted that you can store tons online on Google Drive, Flickr, etc, but I hadn't thought of uploading them as being a problem.
With the freedom of the bike, I decided it might be nice to ride to the famous Opera House, situated right along one of Copenhagen’s larger canals.
On the ride there, I saw a gathering of people outside a warehouse, and decided it might be worth a look (again the freedom of the bike). I stopped by what appeared to be an art or architecture gallery. I was welcomed in, but realized pretty quickly that this was a private event, due to the table of name tags. Liking what I could see of the gallery and noticing the free refreshments bar, I grabbed a name tag, and went over to get a drink!
As Mikkal, I got myself a delicious G&T and took a look around what turned out to be some sort of competition among Danish architects to design a unique staircase that could be opened or closed in some way. My favorite was a very unique design that reminded me of one of the ropes course obstacles that I had encountered the day before. Not wanting to give myself away as a tourist, I didn’t take any pictures, and slipped out (returning the name tag to the table) just as they were starting some sort of welcoming speech in Danish. Crashing private gallery showings - CHECK!
Already stunning from the outside, it was also...i've run out of adjectives for this... magnificent? Though I didn’t get to see inside the performance space, I did wander around the outer indoor space, learned that the walls of the performance space can move to make just the right acoustics for any show - freaking cool! They also seemed to be warming up or setting up in the main entrance for another kind of show.
They had a band setup, ready to go, and they showed off a few of their songs. I grabbed a video of a unique one in which they combined the rocking band with one of the opera singers. They also brought out 4 rappers who did a few songs. Seeing people around me singing along to the songs, I knew they must be at least somewhat well known in Denmark. Although I couldn’t understand any of the words, I enjoyed the music. Using Shazam (coolest app ever), I found out that they were called Kaliber, a Danish up-and-coming rap band. Pleased with the randomness of my day thus far, I headed back towards Anne’s house (my gracious host). Anne, I can't believe I never got a good picture of the two of us! You'll have to come and visit San Francisco now.
Anne was having a quiet night in, so after dinner, it was time for me to try out one of my better ideas. I’ll be mentioning this in my PRO TIPS for budget world travelers, but here’s the basic idea: For lodging I’m trying to use both CouchSurfing and hostels. In these Nordic countries, hostels are especially expensive, so I’ve been trying to do more CS. The biggest disadvantage to that is that hostels are great places to meet other travelers and pick up companions to go drinking or touring with. My nice workaround? Sleep on a couch but go to popular, highly rated hostels to hang out!
The one I chose in Copenhagen was called the Generator Hostel and it sorta blew me away. As I talked about with some people I met, this is not your typical hostel and had a crazy good common area! With a full bar, foosball table, pool table, like a dozen TVs, 4 computers, and lots of couches or seating, it was a great place to hang out! It must have been one of the nicer ones in Copenhagen because I saw a surprising number of older travelers and more than a family or two with kids.
I bought a .5 L of beer (happy hour!) and randomly picked a group to sit down with 3 friendly Brits - Jenny, James, and Dave - spending a long, 4 day weekend in Copenhagen. The idea of that is so cool - instead of taking a long weekend to visit another city in the US, you can go to a totally different country, and the list of places worth going is exhausting. These 3 seem to try and do this every 3 or 4 months and check out some place new. We had a few pints, shot some pool, but mostly had a laid back, quiet evening.
I repeated this ploy the next night and met a new group of people, a mix of Americans, Germans, and one Australian. We went out that night and although I was appalled by the cost of drinks, still got sufficiently drunk. They were all pretty confused when, at the end of the night, I headed towards the bus stop, but when I filled a couple of them in quickly, they thought it was brilliant. I could validate spending a little bit out at the bars because I was saving so much on lodging
I think my initial inspiration for visiting libraries was on my last EuroTrip, when Shannon, our CS host in Amsterdam, strongly suggested we check out the public library. Not only did it have a wine bar and a fantastic view of Amsterdam from the top floor, but it was also beautifully designed and lit. It reminded me of the types of display that a fancy store clothing or jewelery store. Ever since then, I’ve found that libraries across Europe (and a few in the US) is a great free place to explore. Nick and I agreed that it was well worth going to in Amsterdam, and I know Dan has a love of libraries that far exceeds mine, so I’m not alone. I always somehow have more respect or love for a city if they have a particularly beautiful and unique library. You should give it a shot - it might surprise you.
Copenhagen is so great that I found 2 libraries I liked! The first I knew right away was going to be cool. I had already read about the Copenhagen Royal Museum in my travel guides, and knew that the extension, known as the Black Diamond, was one of the top architectural sites to see. Below are some pictures of it that I took from the inside and the outside.
It had great facilities, gorgeous reading rooms, a Michelin rated restaurant on the first floor, and some amazing architecture:
I love this picture from the top floor looking down.
The other library I enjoyed was in Helsingor, outside of Elsinore Castle (setting of Shakespeare's Hamlet. This is why the castle is known but besides that there's nothing special about it. More on this later in the summary). The outside architecture was quite eye catching.
Besides the structure itself, there wasn't much to distinguish this library from other nice ones, EXCEPT that they had these amazing chairs in one area. Colleen and I had seen one just like this in NYC’s MoMA the day before I left for Stockholm, and it was probably the thing we liked most, though we weren’t able to actually sit in it or play around with it. We just talked about how cool a chair like that would be. And it is - I sat and spun in the chair for probably 15 minutes. Naturally, given the opportunity I had to take advantage. I'm totally buying one of these for my place - Do you think it would fit in my pack?