Sunday, July 21, 2013

Iceland, Scandinavia and St. Petersburg, Part 2. July 5-9: Copenhagen, Denmark

Cafes along the canal in the Nyhavn waterfront district of Copenhagen
Our flight from Reykjavik to Copenhagen left Keflavik International Airport at 8:30 AM on Friday, July 5 and arrived at Copenhagen Airport, Kastrup on time at 1:25 PM the same day.  (The flight itself took only two hours and 55 minutes but there is a two hours time difference between Reykjavik and Copenhagen.)

We took a taxi from the airport to the Hotel Maritime, located in the Nyhavn waterfront district.  When we paid our driver with a credit card, he advised us to try to avoid using our credit card in Copenhagen because Copenhagen imposes a tax on credit card transactions; instead, he suggested that we exchange some of our US currency for Danish krona and pay for any purchases we might make in Copenhagen with krona, thereby avoiding the tax. We took his advice and withdrew 2,000 krona (about $350) from a nearby ATM machine on the following day and that did, in fact, allow us to avoid taxes on what otherwise would have been credit card transactions.  But here’s the rub: when we got back to the US, I compared the exchange rate I got on my ATM withdrawals with the exchange rate I received on my credit card transactions and guess what?  When that’s factored in, it all turned out to be a wash: the poorer exchange rate on ATM withdrawals almost exactly offset the tax I otherwise would have incurred on credit card transactions.  What you lose on the curves, you make up on the straightaway.

And now back to our hotel.  Its location couldn’t have been better: it was in the city center on a quiet street within a few blocks of the Nyhavn canal, the Royal Library, the Royal Theatre, and Christiansborg Palace.  The hotel’s staff was pleasant and helpful.  And the buffet breakfast included in our room rate turned out to be more than ample.  But, despite those three positives – location, staff, and breakfast – the room itself was quite disappointing.  It was small, cramped and poorly-appointed and I’d be hard-pressed to recommend the hotel for that reason.  Fortunately, though, we spent little time in our room so the disheartening hotel accommodations failed to dampen our spirits.

Dining in the cafes in the Nyhavn district
In the late afternoon, after settling into our room, we left the hotel and ambled over to the Nyhavn, seating ourselves at Ved Kajen, one of many nearly indistinguishable outdoor cafes lining the canal.  For our first meal in Copenhagen, the choice was almost forced upon us: I ordered a plate of three kinds of herring, Sue ordered a plate of two kinds of smoked salmon, and we shared.   Very Danish and very delicious.

Copenhagen is a picture book city, what with all its wonderful fountains and statues, canals and sidewalk cafes, and its extraordinary architecture that makes one feel that he is visiting a medieval kingdom.  It is like living in a fairy tale and we played it to the hilt, two carefree wanderers in a foreign land.

Overhead rides at Tivoli Gardens
Sue did have her heart set on seeing two things in Copenhagen – Tivoli Gardens and The Little Mermaid - and we made a special point not to miss either of them.  On Saturday, July 6 we took a public bus to Tivoli Gardens, the world renowned amusement park that is reminiscent of the Golden Age of amusement parks - a combination of the Coney Island of my youth, including Steeplechase and Luna Park, with a soupcon of Disneyland and Six Flags thrown in for good measure.

Tycho Brahe and me at Tivoli Gardens

That was an easy day (we did take a bus, after all) but the next day, Sunday, July 7, was rougher: we walked from our hotel to the The Little Mermaid and back, a distance of about four miles, weaving in and out along the way to visit various churches and the Gefion Fountain – and, of course, to break for lunch.

The Gelfion Fountain in Copenhagen

A family of swans swimming near The Little Mermaid only served to underscore the fairy tale that is Copenhagen.

The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen
On Monday, July 8, we again wandered about a bit aimlessly seeking (unsuccessfully) to find the old stock exchange, being turned away from the Jewish Museum (we’d hadn’t realized it was closed on Mondays), but managing to find the Christiansborg Palace – and yet another pleasant cafĂ© for lunch.  That was our last full day in Copenhagen and, having pretty much o.d.’d on fish over the previous few days, we opted for an Indian food buffet for our final dinner.  It was more than we’d bargained for: 22 separate dishes, including kofta curry, lamb birinyi, beef curry, three different chicken dishes, and a wide variety of vegetables, salads and breads.  An unusual but enjoyable end to the second leg of our vacation.

On the morning of Tuesday, July 9, we checked out of the Maritime Hotel and took a taxi to the cruise ships pier.  We were welcomed aboard the Norwegian Star and finally were ready to begin our Nordic cruise.  I’ll tell you about the cruise in my next post.

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