Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen

This postcard view of Nyhavn in Copenhagen hasn't really changed since my first visit in 1969
I first visited Copenhagen in 1969 and remember it well. I had been travelling around Europe with Eli Harari but we were slowly running out of money. Our only asset was a NSU Prinz 30 which we were trying to sell. Three boys from Kuwait were willing to pay the $100 we were asking but they wanted to test drive the car. Eli said they could, but first they would have to pay for their own gas. They did, and bought the car. (Eli subsequently sold a lot more products as the founder of Sandisk https://www.sandisk.com/about/media-center/press-releases/2014/sandisks-founder-dr-eli-harari-recognized-by-president-obama-with-highest-honor-for-revolutionizing-the-flash-storage-industry

In 1969 I couldn't afford to stay in hotels. If I couldn't find someone offering a place to sleep, I slept in the doorway of Carmen’s Rollers along the pedestrian mall . To earn money, I did drawings on the street which I sold under the banner ‘Primitive Canadian Art’. Every time I sold a drawing we would head off to an all you can eat smorgasbord buffet. If I couldn't sell, I stood outside restaurants and took bread rolls off outdoor tables before they were returned to the kitchen. I also ate a lot of tinned pilchards.
A few of the Admiral Hotel taken from the water (unfortunately looking into the sun), and the lobby below. Many of the rooms also feature these heavy beams; which you have to remember when going to the toilet in the middle of the night.
This time I didn’t have to sleep on the street. Although Copenhagen's hotels can be surprisingly expensive, after much investigation we decided to stay at the Admiral Hotel, which appealed to Sally and was recommended by a friend on Twitter. Located in a converted granary on the waterfront a few blocks from Nyhavn, it was a very good choice. If you stay at the Admiral Hotel, make sure you get a room overlooking the water.  Other popular hotels include the Marriott and Radisson Blue properties, but I didn’t find their locations as attractive.
Cruising around the city with a jazz group was a delightful way to see the city. But I needed to take another cruise in order to learn about the city and its sights.
I suggested to the tour boat operator that they should consider having an on-board toilet to avoid this from happening. It can't be the first time!
To get an overview of the city we used the hop-on-hop-off bus and took a couple of boat tours. I can highly recommend the narrated boat tour. An evening Jazz tour was also enjoyable, (although I didn’t appreciate the fact that the boat had to stop for 20 minutes while a young lady who had been drinking too much, had to get off to the toilet since there wasn’t one on board. (This despite the fact that it was a 90-minute tour and wine and beer was being sold on board. I subsequently contacted the operator and suggested they installing a small toilet at the back of the boat. I'll check again next time!)
A lot of construction is happening around the city as a new subway line is being constructed.
This is the most popular and effective way to get around the city while seeing the sights
The hop-on bus tour includes 3 lines and a ticket is good for 48 or 72 hours. However, this tour was not as enjoyable as those we have taken in other cities due to traffic congestion. There is major construction happening throughout the city centre as a new subway line is constructed.
We drove from Copenhagen to the Louisiana Art Museum and managed to arrive at 11 am, just as it was opening.
One of the many fascinating installations at Lousiana
I enjoyed standing in a room, surrounded by water, while a light show took place around me.
On Friday we set off for Louisiana, about 50km from the city. Michael Audain, who knows something about art galleries, describes it as perhaps the best small art museum in the world.
With its waterfront setting, Louisiana is a delightful place to spend a large part of the day.
I thought the striped dress and striped columns made for a good picture. I showed it to the lady, but all she could see was her stomach! In general, most Danes are in very good shape!
While I found the setting and grounds impressive, and enjoyed many of the pieces, included another rainbow corridor that I suspect is by the same artist we came across in Aarhus, much of the work was simply too obscure for me! One exception was a special exhibit on pop-art of the 1970s which I did enjoy. I’m getting old.

We did enjoy a short visit to the Danish Design Museum where a BMW display featured a vehicle of the future; and traditional Danish furniture by Arne Jacobsen and others could be found. 
Copenhagen is known as a gastronomic delight. We investigated eating at Noma, http://noma.dk/food-and-wine/ regarded by many as one of the top three restaurants in the world. But at $600 per person for the tasting menu with wine, we decided against it. Instead we ate one night at Salt, the Admiral Hotel’s restaurant. It was pleasant, but not exceptional. We also ate at The Standard, once the terminal for the ferry to Sweden. The ferry has now replaced by a bridge. It was good but if you go be prepared for slow service and high prices. On our last night we ate at Pluto, recommended by an architect I met while touring a new waterfront development. We had the 12 course taster menu and enjoyed it.

We also had some enjoyable lunches at a herring buffet along Nyhavn, and at the modest but historic Slotskaelderen hos. However, at $26 for an open face sandwich, it's more than you would pay at Vancouver's best hotels.

Now why don't we have more boats like this for rent in Vancouver. I know you can rent some boats at Granville Island, but let's open up more rental outlets. And build some more waterfront restaurants while we're at it!
Travelling around Copenhagen I was impressed with how much residents and visitors enjoy the water. Vancouver could learn many lessons from this city, especially in terms of increasing the number and variety of waterfront restaurants, offering more boat rentals, etc. I have written a forthcoming Vancouver Courier column on this.

Not a pretty sight. He looked even worse from the back!
A major highlight of this city is the variety of new and old buildings and wonderful streetscapes. Later posts will highlight some of the more interesting buildings in Orestad, a new town in southern part of the city, and within a new waterfront redevelopment. But here are some of the buildings and streetscapes you can find around town.
A view of Bjarke Ingels' new power station that will serve as a ski jump. http://www.dezeen.com/2014/07/12/movie-interview-bjarke-ingels-big-amager-bakke-power-plant-ski-slope/
 
This building wasn't here when I first visited Copenhagen. It's across from these grand buildings that are being marred by the American operations like McDonalds and 7-Eleven that are moving in.
I'm not loving it. As far as I'm concerned McDonalds and 7-Eleven are detracting from my enjoyment of many once special European buildings and spaces!
A new park being constructed near the waterfront.
Copenhagen has one of Europe's most comprehensive pedestrian street systems. I often think of it when Vancouver merchants oppose the concept on the grounds it will not be good for business. Nonsense.
A new waterfront theatre (above) and Opera House (below)
One of many new cycling bridges
One of the highlights of our last day was a visit to the Jewish Museum. Denmark, like Bulgaria is significant in European Jewish history in that most of the residents were not sent to the German concentration camps. More about this in a later post.
Le Magasin Department store; the largest in Scandinavia and a great place to shop. Does this jacket make me look Danish?