Category: Denmark

Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen

Bill Bryson was right: Copenhagen is undoubtedly one of the world”s most appealing cities.

In his 1998 book, Neither Here Nor There, the Anglo-American author described the capital of Denmark as “refreshingly free of any delusions of self-importance”.

Spot on! We found the Danish people to have a friendly and relaxed attitude to life, with an emphasis on understated quality.

First, see our video about Copenhagen:

For example, Copenhagen has a high-standard amusement park (Tivoli) right in the heart of the city, but there is a minimum of neon lights to avoid a glaring, tacky look.

As Bryson observed “other cities put up statues of generals, but in Copenhagen they give you a little mermaid”.

Copenhagen is wonderfully design-conscious, a fairytale city where almost every building, canal and garden combines history and beauty. Even modern structures are stylish and sympathetic to the cityscape.

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It’s impossible to wander around the city and not be captivated by the superb buildings, where museums and modern shops exist almost side-by-side.

In a land known for its beautiful people, there is also a deep respect for culture.

Each October, Copenhagen stages a ‘Kulturnatten’ or Night of Culture, where up to 100,000 people visit the city and attend hundreds of cultural events.

Kulturnatten has become a big drawcard on the European cultural calendar, involving businesses, museums, galleries, concert halls, churches, public buildings, humanitarian organisations, political and cultural institutions – some of which are not generally open to the public.

We’ve been fortunate to attend a Kulturnatten and stand amazed at the scope of Copenhagen’s cultural versatility.

Read about our experiences with the remarkable Axelborg office block in central Copenhagen. With its rotunda staircase and paternoster elevator, we’ve dubbed it the “world’s coolest building”.

Agnete and the Merman

Of all the remarkable sights in Copenhagen, the sculpture ‘Agnete and the Merman’ is truly eye-opening.

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For a start, the bronze sculpture is underwater – in a canal alongside the High Bridge in the city’s centre.

The figures rise up from the floor of the canal, slightly obscured by the movement of the water and almost eerily bathed in light at night.

See how the underwater sculpture tells an age-old tale from Danish folklore.

Now, that’s what you call a bridge

As well as its culture and history, Copenhagen also boasts a stylish engineering icon in the Oresund Connection, a mighty bridge that spans the Oresund Strait between Denmark and Sweden.

See how this sleek bridge literally joins two sides of the world.

Foreshore re-development

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Denmark’s emphasis on quality and initiative is also on show in parts of Copenhagen’s canal foreshores, where former warehouses have been converted into sleek housing projects and where magnificent city gardens cut a green swathe opposite the sleek Copenhagen Opera.

In summary, there is – as Bill Bryson pointed out – a lot to like about Copenhagen.

We wholeheartedly recommend a visit.

Marvel at the Øresundsbroen

Of all the bridges that link states, countries and cultures, the Oresund Connection in Scandinavia is surely one of the most spectacular.

Spanning the Oresund Strait between Denmark and Sweden, the bridge is one of the biggest infrastructure projects ever undertaken in Europe.

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In fact, the link literally joins two sides of the world, because it joins the Scandinavian road network with the one in central and western Europe.

Oresund carries a four lane motorway and two train tracks for slightly more than 16 kilometres between the Danish capital of Copenhagen and the southern Swedish city of Malmo.

Astonishing views

We crossed by rail and were stunned by the tremendous views across the scenic and busy shipping lanes of the Flintrannan navigation channel.

After leaving Copenhagen, the train entered an underwater tunnel and emerged four kilometres later on an artificial island called Peberholm before joining the bridge.

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With the train suspended below the main roadway, the beauty of the Oresund Strait spread out below, before and all around us.

There was blue water in every direction, as far as the eye could see.

Anyone who has ever flown into Copenhagen will be familiar with this watery wonderland, but a journey across the Oresund bridge brings it up close and personal.

Typically Scandinavian

And, although it is said to have the longest cable-stayed main span in the world, the Oresund bridge is also typically Scandinavian – sleek, effective and under-stated.

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In an area of so many islands with a history so closely linked to the sea, connections such as Oresund are important.

Denmark also boasts the Great Belt Fixed Link that joins the country’s east and west.

Another impressive piece of engineering, the Great Belt runs between the Danish islands of Zealand  and Funen.

And I believe there are plans for an undersea tunnel to improve the transport link between Copenhagen and the German city of Hamburg.

On the Swedish  side of Oresund

In contrast to the superb architecture of picturesque Copenhagen, the arrival at Malmo, on the other side of the Oresund corridor, initially, is low-key.

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However, it doesn’t take long to find beauty in Sweden’s third biggest city.

There’s a canal spanned by ancient stone bridges; grand buildings in the old town area and the buzz of youth common with centres of learning.

Mooring bikes in the canal

And Malmo also boasts quirky touches such as pontoons moored in the canal to safely hold hundreds of bicycles parked for the day.

I guess it serves the dual purpose of keeping them off the streets and ensuring they are safe when the owner returns.

Watching while waiting

Standing in Malmo’s grand Central Railway Station, waiting for a train to arrive, it was also interesting to see images of local countryside and Malmo scenery screened on the opposite concrete walls of the underground platform.

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It certainly beats puzzling over advertising billboards written in Swedish.

How to see it

Perfect for travelers wanting a quick connection between Sweden and Denmark without flying, the Øresund Bridge now carries more than 60,000 travelers daily – local commuters and visitors alike.

The toll for driving across the Øresund Bridge is paid at the toll station on the Swedish side.

I believe they accept both cash and credit cards.

Bridge photo attribution: “Oeresund Bridge”. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Oeresund_Bridge.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Oeresund_Bridge.jpg

Main photo courtesy Wikimedia and Erik Christensen

Cool attraction: Axelborg building, Copenhagen

Denmark is a stylish country, where even staircases can be a work of art.

Take the Axelborg building in central Copenhagen for example.

This monumental building – almost directly opposite the city’s Tivoli Gardens – boasts a rotunda staircase designed in a remarkable funnel style

Stylish funnel

The rotunda links oval-shaped lower floors with circular ones above, funnelling up to a distinctive tower.

Whether you’re looking up or down, the stairwell has classic beauty yet still serves a purpose, almost 100 years after the Axelborg was built.

Opened in 1920, the Axelborg building has a lovely central hall that once housed the headquarters of the Danish Co-operative Bank.image

What’s a patenoster

Those who work in the iconic building – once the second biggest in Copenhagen – are fortunate to be constantly reminded of the it’s grand past.

The Axelborg, for example, also contains one of the world’s few remaining patenosters – a type of elevator with open compartments continually moving in a loop.

These compartments move slowly and never come to a stop.

Mind the gap

Passengers step in and out as the patenoster reaches any floor.

Each compartment usually holds no more than two people.

Memorable and certainly cool

Because of safety issues many of these lifts have been closed and those remaining, like the one in the Axelborg building, have become quite well known.

With its funnel staircase, elegant high ceilings and rare patenoster, the Axelborg building is truly a memorable destination.

Cool attractions: ‘Agnete and the Merman’, Copenhagen, Denmark

Of all the remarkable sights in Copenhagen, the stylish capital of Denmark,  the sculpture ‘Agnete & the Merman’ is truly eye-opening.

For a start, the bronze sculpture is underwater – in a canal alongside the High Bridge in the city’s centre.

The figures rise up from the floor of the canal, slightly obscured by the movement of the water and almost eerily bathed in light at night.

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Created in 1992 by Suste Bonnen, the sculpture tells an age-old tale from Danish folklore.

As the legend goes, peasant girl Agnete was passing by the water as a Merman emerged from the depths and offered his hand.

It was love at first sight and Agnete willingly went to the bottom of the sea, where she gave birth to seven sons.

However, it all started to go wrong eight years later when Agnete heard the sound of church bells ringing on the land and  became homesick.

The Merman agreed that she could go  to church, on the  condition that she returned after the service.

But once on dry land again, Agnete found that she missed her old life and family too much. She refused to return to the waters.

In the Copenhagen sculpture, the Merman and his seven sons are calling for Agnete, reaching their arms up through the water in a mute appeal.

Agnete, however, is nowhere to be seen.

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Placing the sculpture underwater was a stroke of genius; it is absolutely fitting for the subject matter and the swirling water gives a mystical and hazy look, which is perfectly in keeping with an ancient folktale.

And, if you happen upon ‘Agnete and the Merman’ unexpectedly, the sight of figures at the bottom of a canal certainly catches attention.

It is definitely a cool attraction and yet another reason to spend time in one of Europe’s grand cities.