Saturday, May 06, 2006

Thursday, May 4: Stockholm

Here is a view from Kungsholmen, the island where we're staying:

At the eastern-most point of Kungsholmen is Stadshuset (City Hall):

After walking to Stadshuset on Thursday morning, we crossed to the mainland. Our walking tour intersected a shopping mall full of souvenir shops, over-priced Irish-themed pubs and other tourist traps:

This is the closest I've come to twitching the species I was modelling at Grimsö:

Kungsträgården, a popular place for lunch on a weekday:

Next we crossed south to the small island Gamla Stan (Old Town):

There were plenty more shops catering to cashed-up tourists. We had lunch at a small and cute vegetarian restaurant called Hermitage: cabbage rolls stuffed with beans, rice and tempeh for Michael, a spinach pancake filled with creamy salad and avacado for me. Fresh salad and as much home-made bread, tea and coffee we could fit in. Which wasn't much, because that pancake was huge.

In the evening we ate at an Indian restaurant close to our hostel. The highlight for me was a new dessert! Matka kulfi: icecream with a touch of cardamom, served with saffron/rose water sauce and crushed pistachios.

Wednesday 3/5: København to Stockholm

With our departure on Wednesday, L and S had run out of excuses to avoid work and uni any longer, so it was early starts all round. Cindy and I managed to get packed and out the door before 9, giving us more than three hours for a final wander through København before our train to Sweden.

We strolled the streets for a while, spending our last Danish currency on lunch, coffee and chocolate for the train trip. By the time we headed back to København H train station we had 0.75Kr (about 20c) remaining. Before climbing aboard our train, we decided to do the sensible thing and make use of the train station bathrooms. On our way out, we both (separately) realised that the bathrooms in question were not actually free public toilets and the ‘maintenance’ area outside the door was actually where you were supposed to pay your 2Kr admission. Cindy managed to duck out while the person manning the booth was distracted, while I resolutely avoided eye contact and thanked my lucky stars I didn’t understand Danish.

The train trip took about five hours and passed through dozens of picturesque lakes and farmhouses (although we probably missed most of them attempting to write up our time in København during the trip) before Stockholm seemingly appeared from nowhere. We made it to our hostel at about 6ish and did a quick scout of the neighbourhood before dining, grocery shopping and hitting the sack.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Tuesday, May 2: København

The next expedition was a 40 minute train trip to Humlebæk station (described as ‘the country’ by our hosts), followed by a 10 minute walk to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. It was possibly the first time I’ve had to pay the full adult admission at a museum, but there’ll be plenty more to come.

The first of the two new exhibits was a large collection of paintings and drawings by a German artist, Georg Baselitz. While a few of his paintings and ideas were interesting, we found the dozens of works on show somewhat repetitive and, despite the repetition, I struggled to understand what Baselitz was trying to express.

The second featured exhibition was a rather post-modern collection of videos. The collection was incredibly varied in subject matter, from a montage of news clippings related to terrorism (created prior to September 11, 2001) to a personal reflection on falling in love, via the intense stares of 17 Hispanic-American labourers projected to almost life-size in a darkened room. I found something to appreciate in almost every work I examined.

At lunch time we travelled a couple of train stops further out to Helsingør. We ate at a fairly unremarkable restaurant, but were all so hungry that the meal was possibly the most satisfying one that we shared. Afterwards we couldn’t resist the cakes and pastries displayed in a nearby bakery window:

We stopped for a view of Kronborg castle…

… before heading back to the city, so that Lynda could attend her Danish lesson.

In the evening we walked to a local Indian restaurant for dinner. The service was hilariously bad but the excellent spinach/paneer curry more than compensated (for the two vegetarians, anyway). Afterwards we had beer and hot chocolate at a nearby bar.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Monday 1/5: København (cont'd)

The May Day festival seemed to basically be an excuse for thousands of Danes to buy cartons of Carlsberg and head to the park to drink. Drinking in public is not just legal in Denmark, it’s seemingly compulsory. The park was filled with greasy takeaway food wagons, thousands of drunken youths and scatterings of hardcore, red-flag-waving socialists.

The socialists have realised that the youth of today want their politics in rap form. This guy and his band were kickin’ it old school about tax avoidance and the black market. 4 reelz.

Cindy and I dampened our fervour for the workers’ cause with thai food, followed by the saltiest chips I’ve ever tasted (note: asking for ‘tomato sauce’ with your chips will make Danish people look at you like you’re a bit mental. Ketchup, it’s always ketchup) and then a number of delicious beers. Just to fit in you understand. Although we didn’t go so far as to fit in with the people in front of us whose minor disagreement escalated into a fully blown beer fight. On that note, we left the workers to their paradise and headed for home.

Monday, May 1: København

By the time I was showered and dressed on Monday morning, Stefan had already visited a local bakery and brought home a large paper bag with a very promising aroma. Lynda declared it to be ‘food day’, and the range of breads, cheese, jam, juice and pastries on the table were a very worthy start.

While staying at Grimsö, I had been buying two-day-old wholemeal bread on Wednesday nights and working my way through it until it became nine-day-old bread the following Wednesday. This was the first light, fresh white bread I had eaten in months and I don’t think anyone quite relished it as I did, topped with Dutch gouda and thinly sliced pear.

After breakfast we had another walk around the city…

Rosenborg Castle, the home of the crown jewels:

The walk included the length of Stroget, the longest pedestrian mall in the world, which is also the site of the Museum Erotica. The display in the entry looked like this:

The closer you look, the more this frieze diverges from a LEGOland model. We skipped the museum after we discovered that entry cost about $20 per person. The Danes seem to have a more relaxed attitude to nudity and sexuality than Aussies. I don’t mean that as a polite way of referring to seeing seedy or exploitative sexual images in public: simply that there is less embarrassment associated with activities that everyone enjoys, if only in private.

Next food stop: ice cream! The waffle cones came with a big scoop of white creamy goop that tasty like sugary marshmallow.

We went on a canal tour from Nyhavn…

Then we grabbed some bikes and headed to the May Day festival…

Sunday 30/4: København

The next item on Lynda’s thoroughly prepared agenda was a trip to Roskilde to Vikingeskibshallen (The Viking Ship Museum). In the 1960s, the wreckage of five viking boats were found in the fjord near Roskilde and for the next 25 years they were carefully salvaged and reconstructed by a team of patient archaeologists. The five boats had been scuttled at the entry to one of the passages up the fjord, presumably as part of a defence against the invading Norse. The large military long-boat was the most impressive – capable of carrying 80 men at remarkable speeds.

As well as the pieced together relics, the museum has built fully functioning replicas of each of the five boats and has also put together a nice range of camp viking costumes for tourists and the Scandinavian equivalent of medieval recreationists.

After missing our train back from Roskilde, we found ourselves running behind schedule for the football match that L and S had arranged for us to attend. This meant that dinner plans were hastily reformulated and we happily gorged ourselves on pizza and beer in an impressive display of speed-eating (even by Cindy!). L and S live within walking distance of the football ground, so we were treated to waves of singing fans hanging out of bars and marching down the streets (back pockets, bags and cartons bulging with beers) on our trip. The game was a top of the table match between the two København teams: Brøndby, the team from the working suburbs and FC København, the team of the bourgeoisie. Obviously we were backing FCK (the day for being friends of the workers wasn’t until Monday). The stadium was packed with around 45,000 singing, flag-waving, flare-wielding fans and, while the game didn’t always live up to the enthusiasm of the crowd, FCK got the draw they needed to almost certainly win the league.

The crowd to the left of this picture were all frantically waving blue and white flags spelling out FCK – there was a drummer in amongst them somewhere and he had them chanting and singing from before we arrived until after we left.

We wandered around for a while afterwards trying to find somewhere to squeeze into for a drink, but the already well-lubricated FCK fans had filled up every place within walking distance of the ground, so we went home for our own post-match analysis. Okay, so we went home and watched MTV.

Saturday, April 29: Göteborg to København

In the morning we almost missed our train, after deliberating too long in the hotel cafeteria about whether we should make waffles for breakfast. We missed the waffles but caught the train, and were met at the other end at København H (Copenhagen Central train station) by our friends L and S. They have a beautiful fourth floor apartment close to the city centre. Here’s a view of the neighbouring apartments from their window:

During the afternoon L and S led us on a walking tour of the city, probably a 5 km circuit. What struck me immediately was the popularity of bicycles as transport:

The city is quite flat and there are specially marked bike lanes on the main roads. Cyclists are respected by drivers, and even the most stylish of ladies can be seen riding around town in their tailored coats and high-heeled boots (Lynda being one of the most stylish, of course). I’d love to see more of it from Australia’s inner-city residents.

Some photos from our walk:

This is the little mermaid, of the Hans Christian Andersen story and sweetened-up Disney merchandising empire. She's the only topless Danish lady I saw, but I hear there'll be plenty more when the weather heats up.

Amalienborg Palace, the royal residences. Frederik and Mary actually reside half an hour outside of København, but they call one of these palaces home when they come to town.

The changing of the guard.

These guys don’t have to ignore all the behaviour of obnoxious tourists: prepare to be startled if you get too close!

Nyhavn (new harbour). On warm (and not-so-warm) days, this is a popular spot to sit outside and share a beer with friends. The beer is cheap and it would probably be easy enough to make some new friends by shouting a round, if you do happen to arrive alone.

Town hall:

The only KFC in Copenhagen:

In the evening, Stefan prepared mushroom curry (****) at home and we went to a bar for a few cocktails. The first on the extensive menu was called “Adios, motherf*cker”, but the list also included drinks of the alco-milkshake variety that I prefer. Stefan opted for the former, despite warnings from the bar staff. It really did pack a punch.