Farewell to Copenhagen

(Copenhagen, Denmark)

While I already posted about my trips to Rosenborg Castle and Frederiksborg Castle, I did visit another royal Danish residence during my time in Denmark: the Amalienborg Palace. Or, perhaps I should say *one* of the Amalienborg palaces, as it is actually a collection of four virtually identical palaces that face each other in a very large octagonal “square” in downtown Copenhagen.

This is the palace I visited at Amalienborg

I visited the only one of the four palaces that is open to the public: it focuses on the monarchs who reigned from 1863 to 1972.  Unlike Rosenborg and Frederiksborg, which long ago stopped housing the Danish royal family, the palaces at Amalienborg are still being used.  As a result, the rooms I saw were much more contemporary…somewhat old-fashioned, perhaps, but not completely removed from the present day.

A most impressive collection of pipes at Amalienborg

One of the recent Danish kings had a rather modest office…but still managed to accumulate a massive collection of pipes.  You can see some of them in the picture, although there were many more out of sight.  I believe there is also a spittoon on the right side of his chair.

Copenhagen in the late afternoon

While the palace had only limited hours and it was getting dark by 4:00 p.m. each day, the lack of natural light did not deter the Danes from being out and about.  The streets in the pedestrianized downtown district were crowded until quite late at night and it never felt unsafe.

You can’t have too many pictures of Nyhavn in Copenhagen!

In stark contrast to the castles and palaces was Christiania, located just a short walk south of downtown and quite close to “my” street food market.  In 1971, a group of 700 people claimed squatter’s rights in an abandoned military barracks and established a “free city” named Christiania.  The land continued to be owned by Denmark’s Ministry of Defence…but the squatter’s community remained intact.  About five years ago, the community began making payments on the land and became collective owners of the land.

Main entrance to the Christiania “Social Experiment”

Christiania was allowed to continue for a long time because it was viewed as a “social experiment”.  It has continued to be a haven of alternative lifestyles:  a popular local slogan is “Kun døde fisk flyder med strømmen” (“Only dead fish swim with the current”).   It has also acquired a notoriety similar to parts of Amsterdam, with the result that Christiania is apparently now the third most-visited site in Copenhagen.

The “back entrance” to Christiania

When I passed through Christiania, the skies were particularly gray and it certainly didn’t possess a magical feeling.  Nonetheless, it was interesting to see what had evolved from the original squatter’s colony.

One of the canals in Christianshavn, between Christiania and Papirøen

This ends my “on the road” blog entries from Denmark and Sweden.  I managed to see quite a bit despite arriving in Copenhagen on a Sunday and flying back home the following Saturday morning, although it is not a pace that anybody should expect to maintain for more than a few days at a time.   Travel burnout can happen!

I’m now back in Kingston and currently doing the final planning for my annual ski trip.  I expect to be back with more posts before too long!

The Swedish Frontier

(Malmö, Sweden)

Malmö and Copenhagen are in two different countries but, thanks to the Øresund bridge, are now considered to be part of the same metropolitan area. Both Sweden and Denmark are part of the European Union; they are also both part of the Schengen Area. Many people live in Malmö and work in Copenhagen. You’d think that it would not be a hassle to travel from Copenhagen to Malmö. But you would be wrong!

A medieval square in Malmö…and a very large lamp

During the height of the recent refugee exodus in Europe, Sweden was considered to be a desirable destination. It has an extensive social security system and indicated that it was willing to accept refugees. Malmö was the chosen point of entry, given its proximity to central Europe. However, Sweden is not a huge country in terms of population and eventually they decided to restrict the flow. To do this, they decided to hire security personnel and place them on the platform for Malmö-bound trains leaving from Copenhagen. As a result, I had to show my passport and be closely scrutinized before being allowed in the boarding area for the next train to Malmö from Copenhagen.

The main square in downtown Malmö

Once I was in Malmö, however, it was clear sailing.  My hotel was right across from the train station; in turn, the hotel was only a block or two from the centre of old Malmö.  It appeared to be very clean, prosperous…and just a little bit cheaper than Copenhagen.

My soup at La Soupe, Malmö

My last full day in Europe was, once again, rather cool and gray.  Eating out for an entire week was starting to lose its lustre.  However, stumbling upon a cosy restaurant called “La Soupe” was just what the doctor ordered.  It specialized in soup, of course, and I had an excellent tomato/lentil/chorizo soup that blasted away any travel weariness.  It came with some sweet black bread and was supplemented by a warming mug of tea and a chocolate ganache for dessert.

Exterior of “La Soupe” in the French Quarter of Malmö

I had some success at a record shop called Folk å Rock (which I think means “People of Rock”) and decided to wander around the area to the south and east of the historic core.  I had read a vague description of it as a neighbourhood of cheaper restaurants; in reality, it was where many refugees appear to have settled.  It was quite different from old Malmö and it reminded me of entering one of the ethnic neighbourhoods in Toronto.

I visited this record store in Malmö

I had already visited lots of museums and castles in Copenhagen, so I spent the rest of the day doing some shopping and sending a few postcards.  For my last meal, I found a restaurant close to my hotel where I thought I could use up all of my  remaining Swedish coins…neither Sweden nor Denmark use the Euro.  The restaurant was a Thai place and I enjoyed a very tasty Tom Kha Gai soup there.  Alas, I won’t give its name (or any free advertising) because I think they tried to scam me with an extra charge that didn’t appear on the menu!  They never did give me a receipt.

An excellent Tom Kha Gai at a Malmö restaurant that shall remain nameless

After that, I think I felt more ready to return home.  The next morning, I caught a train to Copenhagen’s airport (only 20 minutes from downtown Malmö…and no security check before boarding the train!) and used up my remaining Danish currency there before my connecting flight to Amsterdam.

Hockey Night in Malmö

(Malmö, Sweden)

One of my goals on this trip was to see a professional (ice) hockey game.  This proved to be difficult in Denmark, as there does not appear to be a professional team based close to downtown Copenhagen. However, with Malmö, Sweden, now easily accessible by bridge (you used to have to take a boat), I had another option.

The Swedish Hockey League (SHL) is one of the top professional leagues in the world. While it is a notch below the NHL and Russia’s KHL, it nonetheless features some premier hockey talent and a very dedicated (and knowledgeable) fan base. On November 24, I was able to watch a regular season SHL game between the Malmö Redhawks and Brynäs IF.

Malmo Arena - shortly before gametime
Malmö Arena – shortly before game time

As with European soccer, the crowd was enthusiastic and did not rely on gimmicks to get into the spirit of the game.  The hardcore Malmö supporters were in a standing area at one end of the ice, complete with drums!   Actually, I suppose there was one gimmick:  the Redhawks came on the ice at the beginning of the game through the mouth of a giant inflatable hawk:  lasers and explosions were in abundance.

Here come the Malmö Redhawks!
Here come the Malmö Redhawks!

Malmö started off the season strong but had been faltering of late.  Against Brynäs, they definitely controlled most of the game but had a very hard time scoring on David Rautio, the talented Brynäs goalkeeper.  In the second period,  Brynäs took the lead on a goal that the goal judge missed because it went in so quickly.  A look at the video replay confirmed that the puck did in fact go into the net.

The opening faceoff
The opening faceoff

Going into the third period, Brynäs was holding on to a slim 1-0 lead.  Things looked even worse for the home team when Malmö took a five-minute major penalty for a check to the head in the third period. However, they managed to kill off the major penalty and take one last run at solving the Rautio mystery.

The diehard Malmö fans in the standing room section
The diehard Malmö fans in the standing room section

With four minutes left in the game, Malmö finally scored on a rebound to tie the game.  Brynäs took a penalty shortly afterwards, on a scary play that saw a Malmö player crash into the Brynäs goalkeeper (and net) at high speed.  On the resulting power play, Malmö scored on another rebound with just two minutes remaining and the home crowd was rewarded with a narrow victory.

Malmö on the attack!
Malmö (in red) on the attack!

While the skill level was very high, I thought that the players had a tendency to forego shooting opportunities when they were close to the opponent’s goal.  There might have been more goals in this game if the forwards had shot the puck more often rather than trying to make that one final pass close to the net.  If you want to see the highlights, they are currently located at this link.

Malmö Redhawks celebrate their dramatic victory
Malmö Redhawks celebrate their dramatic victory

It was great fun to see the game and I will definitely try to catch another one if I am ever in Europe during the winter months.  I went to a Swiss League game about 10 years ago and that was a little crazier (probably because thousands of spectators from the visiting team made the trip by train and were not feeling much pain by the time they arrived in Zürich).

Stay tuned for more on the actual city of Malmö!

My collaboration with Yoko Ono

(Copenhagen, Denmark)

Unexpected things happen when you travel. Right beside the street food market on Papirøen, there was a art gallery called “Copenhagen Contemporary”.  I walked by it on several occasions on my way to the market for dinner, not noticing what it was all about because it was dark outside and I was focused on my destination.  However, I looked a little more closely on the day I went to the market for lunch.

The Wish Tree Garden on Papirøen, Copenhagen
The Wish Tree Garden on Papirøen, Copenhagen

Much to my surprise, there was an art installation from Yoko Ono in front of the gallery.  Upon taking a closer look, I realized that this was a participatory art installation:  Yoko was looking for input!

The installation, called Wish Tree Garden, consists of indigenous trees with small pieces of paper attached to them.  This is where the participation happens: people are invited to write a wish on a small piece of paper and tie it to one of the trees.

The Copenhagen Contemporary gallery on Papirøen - with "Wish Tree Garden" by Yoko Ono in front
The Copenhagen Contemporary gallery on Papirøen – with “Wish Tree Garden” by Yoko Ono in front

Quoting from the gallery’s website:  “All the wishes are regularly collected and when the exhibition ends they will be sent to Yoko Ono.  Eventually, wishes from all over the world will be gathered together in Ono’s Imagine Peace Tower on the island of Viðey in Kollafjörður Bay, Iceland: an art installation that consists of a tall column of light dedicated to Ono’s late husband, John Lennon. The wishes from CC will join millions of others that have already been collected since 1996 from other places in the world…”

Another creative person: the Hans Christian Andersen statue outside Rosenborg Palace (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Another creative person: the Hans Christian Andersen statue outside Rosenborg Palace (Copenhagen, Denmark)

I duly wrote a wish and tied it to one of the trees.  I have collaborated with many people but this was the first time that I have worked with Yoko Ono.  It certainly was a project I had not anticipated when I walked to Papirøen on a grey November afternoon.  If you’re interested in participating, this installation is going to be in Copenhagen until the end of 2017.

The abstract bicycle and pedestrian bridge from Nyhavn to "near" Papirøen (Copenhagen, Denmark)
The abstract Inderhavnsbroen bicycle and pedestrian bridge from Nyhavn to “near” Papirøen (Copenhagen, Denmark)

Another surprise in Copenhagen was coming across a spa called “Fish Kiss”.  At first, I was sure that this was a mistake.  English has some idiomatic peculiarities and I assumed that this was just an odd translation of something that made sense in Danish.  Alas, the name was totally accurate…at this spa, you can immerse your feet in water and fish will nibble at and remove your dead skin.   Apparently, this is all very hygienically done and is soothing after you get over the initial tickling sensation.

The Fish Kiss Spa in downtown Copenhagen
The Fish Kiss Spa in downtown Copenhagen

Near the Fish Kiss Spa was one of many Christmas markets I found in Copenhagen.  In the background, you can see the Christiansborg building that houses (among other things) the Danish parliament.  You can also visit the observation deck at the top of the tower – there is no admission charge, although you do have to go through an airport-style security check.

A Christmas market in downtown Copenhagen, with Christiansborg in the background
A Christmas market in downtown Copenhagen, with Christiansborg in the background

I did go to the top of Christiansborg and took a few pictures.  The day was gray and overcast, like many days in November, so I don’t think any of those photographs will win any prizes!  You can see one at the top of this post.

Stay tuned for some more on Copenhagen…and my eventual journey to Sweden!