Friday, 24 July 2015

København; Juli 2015

The Danish capital is a city in transition. Since the turn of the millennium the vibrant facades of traditional Copenhagen have been joined by an ever increasing group of glittering glass exteriors. From the new opera house, to the extension of the Royal Danish Library - nicknamed 'the Black Diamond', to new shopping centres in the form of Field's, the biggest in Denmark, and Fisketorvet on the waterfront. Combined with the new Øresund Bridge which runs to neighbouring Malmö, and the investment in public transport associated with it, it's almost a brand new city.

That process isn't finished though, and still has a while to go. With two new underground lines being constructed the city is still overrun with Carlsberg-green hoardings. It's tough to see when they'll ever be utilised; Copenhagen's love affair with bicycles is well documented. In fact, there are more bikes than humans. They have their own bridges, car parks, and line absolutely every street.

Bikes are not the only thing that Danes have a devotion for. Carlsberg's name is on everything. The bars, the football team, even the museums. It's in the hand of almost every local come evening, and if not then it's one of the products under the Carlsberg umbrella - usually Tuborg or Somersby.

Scandinavia isn't particularly renowned for its activities and Copenhagen is really no different. Arguably the most famous landmark is an underwhelming, often-vandalised statute of Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid. Tivoli, one of the oldest and most popular amusement parks in Europe, is located right in the middle of the city, which gives a Christmas glow all year round.

Across the water is Christiana, a sort-of commune reminiscent of a much smaller Camden Town. The 'green light zone' forbids pictures, but does seem to allow rather more questionable substances. It's possible the two are linked in some way, but it's hard to say. While interesting, the main street - Pusher Street - feels slightly uncomfortable for a middle class boy from Berkshire. "You are now entering the EU" quips the exit; Christiana is most definitely separate in its mind, if not in the law.

Also in Christianshavn is the Church of our Saviour, whose terrifying spire ascends into the heavens. It's just possible to make out the people brave enough to climb the four hundred steps to the top; one hundred and fifty of them are open to the elements, completely outside, spiralling anticlockwise in the open air. Similarly the Round Tower in the centre of town, ajoined to the next door church and topped with an observatory, has its own panoramic views but to get there the unique floor snakes round, slowly rising to roof level.

Nyhavn's collection of multicoloured cafes is a beautiful place to sit and eat. It's a comment on Copenhagen's weather that each has its own blankets draped over seats; København's wind farms produced 140% of their energy demands on one day while we were there. That doesn't mean its not a great place to relax and unwind, watching each open tourist boat attempting to navigate past several others.

Perhaps the difference in Scandinavia is the atmosphere. Bikes don't have padlocks, you're allowed to freely walk into changing rooms with however many garments you like, and train stations don't have barriers. The goodness in people is assumed. In general, everyone seems far more relaxed; particularly on a trip over to Malmö. Its Little Square is like Nyhavn in many ways, filled with places to eat, but lacks the hustle and bustle of a capital city. The 'city of parks' has plenty of space to lounge about. Although the beach, overrun with seaweed, may be slightly overrated.

So rent a bike, walk round the city, hop over to Malmö. Enjoy the happiest city on Earth.