Northern Europe

Northern Europe
Med   Lrg

Denmark is the country that protrudes northward into the sea from the coast of Germany. Or rather northward into the seas, as it roughly separates the North Sea on the west from the Baltic Sea on the east. Evidence of habitation dates back to the end of the last big Ice Age, around 13,000 years ago. At this time Denmark was a more or less contiguous land mass, but warmer temperatures caused the sea level to rise, and the territory was broken up into a peninsula (now known as Jutland) and many islands, mainly to the east of the peninsula. There is evidence of Iron Age Danes, and eventually of Danes who traded with Romans. The Viking Age began in the 8th Century A.D., when seafaring natives of Denmark and Norway raided and conquered much of western Europe, including Britain and Ireland and a section of France which came to be called Normandy. The Vikings worshipped the Norse gods, including some known to followers of the Avengers, such as Odin, Thor and Loki. During battles, female figures known as Valkyries were thought to decide who would live and who would die, and took half of the latter group with them to an afterlife kingdom known as Valhalla, ruled by Odin.

But the Viking fun and games began to wind down with the Christianization of the Danes in the year 965. Over the ensuing centuries there were several disputes among Denmark and its neighbors, including Sweden, the Germanic States and the Netherlands, and pieces of territory were repeatedly wrested by one party from another. In the 12th Century a village on the east coast of the largest Danish island (an island known as Zealand) was fortified with a castle and became the town of Copenhagen. Copenhagen eventually became the country’s capital city, in the 15th Century.


Zealand and Copenhagen

Zealand and Copenhagen
Med   Lrg

In the 16th Century, Denmark was introduced to Protestantism by an associate of Martin Luther, a Danish monk named Hans Tausen, and the ideas (including services in Danish instead of Latin) proved to be very popular. Turmoil resulted, including a three-year civil war, but Denmark emerged from the conflict as a Protestant country. A century later, Denmark joined the Thirty Year’s War on the Protestant side and ended up losing much of its influence when the Catholics were eventually victorious. But Protestantism in northern Europe ended up being something that could not be contained by force.

During the Napoleonic Wars, in 1801 and again in 1807 the city of Copenhagen was attacked twice by the British to keep their fleet and other resources from becoming of use to the French. The 1807 battle was particularly calamitous, as 2000 civilians lost their lives and much of the city was destroyed. The British also made off with the Danish fleet during this battle.

During World War II, Denmark was occupied by the Nazis but managed to escape much of the wholesale destruction wrought elsewhere. The Nazis started to deport Jews in 1943, but many were able to escape to neutral Sweden.

Present-day Denmark is a constitutional monarchy, with a largely ceremonial royal family that can trace its lineage all the way back to the 10th Century Viking king Gorm the Old. This makes the Danish monarchy the oldest in Europe. The current monarch is Queen Margrethe II, who has reigned since 1972. The legislature is called the Folketing, and is big on social services. As a result taxes are very high - we were to find Copenhagen quite an expensive town to visit.

But first we had to get there. On this trip, Nella and I were joined by our daughter Connie. Our son Philip was with us in spirit, but was unable to get away from work for the necessary duration. He was able to drive us to the airport, though.


Connie and Nella at LAX
Connie and Nella at LAX
Med   Lrg   Xlg
Waiting at Gate 26
Waiting at Gate 26
MP4-Sml   MP4-Med   WMV-HD
We caught an Air Canada flight that took us to Toronto, and then another that eventually landed us at Copenhagen’s Kastrup Airport, where it was early afternoon. The signs at the airport made it clear that we were now in a place where something very different was spoken.

Welcome to Denmark

Welcome to Denmark
Med   Lrg

Before the trip I’d made a brief attempt at learning some Danish, but immediately ran into some things that I found disturbing. Danish is considered a Germanic language, and maybe there is a lot of commonality with German, but I never got into it enough to find out. Danish pronunciation seemed very foreign to me. For instance, the Danish name for Copenhagen is spelled København, and is pronounced something like “Köbenhown” (rhymes with town). I found myself yelling at words, “You couldn’t possibly be pronounced that way!”, and eventually gave up to keep my head from exploding. The knowledge that most Copenhagen residents speak at least some English also served to reduce my motivation.

From the airport there is a train that goes to the city’s central station, which is located near our hotel. Nella and Connie waited with our pile of luggage while I found tickets, and the vendor spoke English, as advertised.


Nella Guarding Luggage

Nella Guarding Luggage
Med   Lrg

The train dropped us off at the station, where we discovered that bicycle transportation is extremely popular in Copenhagen. Apparently a lot of commuters ride their bikes to the station and leave them there while they catch trains to wherever they need to go.

Inside the Train Station
Inside the Train Station
Med   Lrg
BikesBikesBikes
BikesBikesBikes
Med   Lrg
We didn’t need any further means of transportation for the moment besides our feet, though, as our hotel, the Savoy, was maybe half a mile down a street called Vesterbrogade which ran in front of the station.

Vesterbrogade
Vesterbrogade
Med   Lrg   Xlg
The Savoy Hotel
The Savoy Hotel
Med   Lrg   Xlg

We checked into our room on the top floor, which had goofy slanted walls, and ate dinner at a Thai restaurant next door to the hotel.

Danish Thai Food

Danish Thai Food
Med   Lrg

The food was pretty good, and fortunately they took credit cards, as we didn’t have any Danish currency yet. The Danish unit of currency is called the Krone (Denmark is in the EU, but has maybe wisely stayed out of the Eurozone), and at the time was worth about 19¢ in U.S. money.

After dinner we continued down Vesterbrogade in search of an ATM and looked at some of the nearby scenery.


Det Ny Teater
Det Ny Teater
Med   Lrg   Xlg
7-Eleven Store
7-Eleven Store
Med   Lrg

Elias Church

Elias Church
Med   Lrg   Xlg

We found a festively decorated elephant in the process, and were to find several others scattered around the city during our stay (one of those social services no doubt).

Nella and Bob and Love Garden Elephant

Nella and Bob and "Love Garden" Elephant
Med   Lrg

At one point we saw a grassy area with a model village spread across it. On closer examination we found the village to be a 1530 version of Copenhagen and the grassy area to be the front lawn of the Museum of Copenhagen, which by this hour was closed for the day.

Vesterbrogade and Copenhagen Model

Vesterbrogade and Copenhagen Model
MP4-Sml   MP4-Med   WMV-HD

1530 Copenhagen
1530 Copenhagen
Med   Lrg
1530 Copenhagen (detail)
1530 Copenhagen (detail)
Med   Lrg

From here we found an ATM, withdrew some Krones and returned to the hotel to deal with our jet lag and try to rest up for the next day. Our plan was to start out with a visit to a nearby museum, the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek.

Continue to Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek