Every now and then, when I meet someone and tell them I am Dutch, they assume I was born in Denmark. Coincidentally, a friend from Denmark experiences a similar problem in that people think she is from the Netherlands. Totally bewildered by this predicament, I decided to visit Denmark in an effort to solve the mystery.
Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital city was originally settled by German traders, which is probably why so much of the architecture resembles that of Western Europe. This is especially true in picturesque areas such as Nyhavn (New Harbour) where the colourful buildings, which line the harbour, closely resemble Amsterdam.
The city of Copenhagen lies on the Baltic Sea, a stone’s throw from Sweden. Its nearly 2 million inhabitants enjoy the waterfront on a regular basis and I wasted no time finding a quaint little spot where I could enjoy some herrings and a glass of Aquavit. I was fortunate, for the weather was perfect and once I became accustomed to Scandinavian prices, I quite enjoyed my surroundings.
One of the best ways to see Copenhagen is by a Harbour cruise and I immediately secured the first available boat. The first thing I noticed was how picturesque the city is. A new opera house, affectionately known as ‘the toaster’, is by far one of the finest in the world and at a cost of $500 million, is certainly the most expensive in the world.
My hotel was a former palace which had been renovated and was conveniently located next to the pedestrian mall. From Nyhavn to my hotel was about a 20 minute walk, however, the hundreds of unique shops tend to turn a stroll into an all-day affair. Numerous designer outlets and restaurants line the cobblestone street, but nothing beats the site of a gigantic Lego store.
Directly across from the hotel was the world famous Tivoli Gardens. This 15 acre amusement park was built in 1847 and is still one of the city’s finest attractions. Its main attraction is the wooden roller coaster built in 1915, and still in operation, is the oldest in the world. There are dozens of restaurants and interesting attractions, as well as many rides. Each evening around the dinner hour a military band marches along the main street while tourists admire and take photographs.
The most famous landmark in Copenhagen is the little mermaid, fashioned after Hans Christian Andersen's beloved children's story. The statue was commissioned in 1909 by Carl Jacobsen, son of the founder of Carlsberg Beer, who had been fascinated by a ballet about the fairy tale in Copenhagen's Royal Theatre and asked the prima ballerina, Ellen Price, to model for the statue. The sculptor Edvard Eriksen created the bronze statue, which was unveiled in 1913. The statue's head was modelled after Price, but as the ballerina would not agree to model in the nude, the sculptor's wife was used for the body.
In 1964 the statue's head was removed during an artist's uprising and was never recovered. A new head was created; however, the statue was constantly being defaced and marred. In 1998 the statue was once again decapitated and the culprits were never found. Mysteriously the head was delivered to a local television station and was once again replaced. This time however, it was filled with concrete to avoid further desecration.
The government decided to move the statue a few meters off the shore; however, in recent years it has been covered in paint, shrouded in a burqa, as a statement against Turkey joining the European Union and in 2003 was the victim of a bomb which sent it hurtling into the ocean. In 2010 statue was moved to Shanghai and proudly sat in the Danish Pavilion at the world's fair. It was the first time this famous landmark had ever left Denmark. It has been returned once again, to be the most photographed monument in the country.
Copenhagen is also home to the Danish Royal Majesty's yacht, built in 1931. The yacht now serves as the official and private residence for Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, the Prince Consort, and members of the Royal Family when they are on official visits overseas and on summer cruises in Danish waters.
When visiting Copenhagen it is important not to miss the many castles and palaces in the area. There are day trips to some of the most elaborate fortifications in Europe, all of which have been restored to their original splendour.
If you're cruising through the Baltics or simply visiting Scandinavia by land, Copenhagen and the country of Denmark is not to be missed and if ever you walk up to a Dutch person, do not ask him which part of Denmark he is from.