Monday, January 14, 2008

This is What You Do--Part 2, Mostly Copenhagen

This is what you do, isn't it? You go to a new area of the globe and promise your children you will do what would be impossible (ride the bus
from Hollviken to the train station, then ride the train into Copenhagen) if you were not out of your element. You find yourself in an old, big, crowded city and go see the castle and the library and you're out of there, right? Well that was what we did the first time.

We also saw the castle at Malmo. A very well preserved place, complete with a windmill and moat.
I won't say much about it but to include photos (I'm having trouble uploading them today, will try again), here. I'm so far behind on these posts that I have to condense somewhere!

This was my journal of our second trip to Copenhagen:

November 28, 2007

There was really no reason to enjoy another trip to Copenhagen. We had been there parts of three weekends in a row. There was a non-stop blowing rain. The still busy streets were wet. So many people squinted against this miserable weather that one grew more wet from the coats of those who passed.

Where would we dry our soaked raincoats, gloves, hats and shoes? Our out-of-the-way hotel rented a tiny, cold room. The hangers were attached to the closet rod, so it was not possible to hang clothes around the room and there was nowhere to hang them if we could. The closet rod was less than one foot long inside of a nice IKEA cubby cupboard which also housed the refrigerator and microwave—cleverly made to fit in so tiny a room.

We grumbled, we managed, we tried to make the best of it.

One major problem was that we had decided to wait until after our “Thanksgiving dinner” with Phil’s coworker and family to cross the Oresund Bridge from Malmö, Sweden to Copenhagen, Denmark. We arrived in Denmark around seven p.m. and I realized that I didn’t remember the name of the hotel I had booked because we had been preparing too many trips at one time. This meant getting lost, using another hotel’s internet to look for my reservations online, then having the GPS take us completely around the airport along the seashore (dark, rainy night—not much to see) until we could check in and put our things in the room. When we drove into the heart of Copenhagen, it was nearly nine p.m.

Tivoli was alight in all of its splendor. The line was not as long as the one Phil didn’t want to manage at five p.m. on a clear night the weekend before. We paid a high entry price because we had not remembered to purchase the “Copenhagen card” (a discount activity card that practically pays for itself) before the tourist office closed. I had intended to get a few tickets for Hunter to ride some rides, but Phil had not understood that, so we were limited to finding free activities for Hunter and trying to steer him away from the children’s lit canal boats, and other such pleasures. We were already completely wet and found the whole maze confusing.

Centered in Copenhagen, Tivoli is believed to have been part of the nearby castle moat which has been turned into an amusement park, souvenir shopping, theater, concert and fine dining area. Between late November and late December, Tivoli turns into a lighted fairy-land and opens its gates to theater goers, fine diners and those who would purchase jewelry, Christmas ornaments, candies, and expensive impractical gifts. I saw a fast-food cook wearing a blue Santa’s hat complete with blinking blue light in the tassel. Photos with Santa on an six-person sleigh, pulled by reindeer-coated fake reindeer were available, but Santa couldn’t stand the blowing rain, I guess, because he was gone when we were there, so we took our own picture (lucky for us because Phil was reluctant to spend any money at all once we entered).

Hunter especially liked a huge room decorated in much the same way as Disneyland’s “It’s a Small World” ride, only we were on foot and everything was Styrofoam snow and moving elves doing any number of snowy activities: sledding, skating, skiing, cutting and baking cookies in a house or shop, building an igloo, throwing snowballs, cutting wood, finding a Christmas tree, mining, falling at any of the above activites, etc. I was relieved to be in such a room to get out of the rain and feel like there was something wonderful in Tivoli that we could do with Hunter. The crowds inside were dense enough that if I blinked, I couldn’t find my overly independent, burrowing, Hunter. This happened too many times. People were not interested in giving way even a fraction of an inch to let a mother pass to find her child (Phil was getting some cash at an ATM in case we would need it, so he couldn’t help me).

The weekend before, we had walked past one side of Tivoli and saw children playing on jungle gyms and other such things. So, it was my intent to find these free delights for Hunter. All of this was done into the blowing wind and in coats that began to feel more like wet saran wrap than protection. Hunter was, indeed, delighted by the play areas, but the areas were not lit and the toys were so damp that his pants and shoes grew wet (no snow pants on…). He couldn’t enjoy the slides because they were more like waterslides in the dark. There was a huge red mattress-looking thing the size of a living room for jumping on like a trampoline. Phil and Hunter enjoyed jumping on that thing, but every indentation was a puddle and their socks were soon wet, too.

We decided to leave the dark play area and enjoy the beautiful lights over the water. They had strung lights on every strand of each weeping willow over the water and lit up large decorations floating on rafts as well as a small sail ship turned restaurant. Enchanting.

By now, it was rare to see anyone on the trails. Everyone seemed exquisitely dressed and dining over candles under huge chandeliers in the many-windowed restaurants. The smell of waffles, skivvors, and other fried pastries led one on and on in search of such warmth at the little stands. But we were walking around “doing Tivoli” as if dutifully, and not dressed up or prepared to spend the big bucks on dinner in a fine restaurant, feeling wet and frumpy (if not left out and grumpy).

On our search to find Santa’s sleigh, Hunter finally cried out that he was too cold. He had resisted wearing his stocking cap under his hood or his good winter mittens, both of which I had been holding in the rain. I felt his hands and face and was a bit worried that he might be on his way to hypothermia! I told him he needed to trust me when I outfitted him for the weather—that what he wore might help him. Nevertheless, I stuck his cold, wet hands into his winter mittens and put his damp cap on. Both seemed to help enough for him to be in the mood to explore, again, and to wait willingly for a fried noodle-looking thing sprinkled with cinnamon (kanel, here) and sugar (sukkar). We also ordered some glögg, just to experience the favorite “jul” drink (drikk) in the area.

The pasteries were great! But the VERY HOT glögg warmed us in a way we weren’t sure we were supposed to be warmed (we asked for it to have no rum, but forgot to request that it not be alcoholic) and made us want to spit it out. I worked my way through some of it because I was very cold and glad to have something hot to drink. But with every sip I shivered like my brother does when he takes Robitussen—come to think of it, it tasted like hot Robitussin! At the bottom of the plastic cup (all of which we kept as souvenirs of the place) was a mess of raisins and nuts--two things I don’t care to have floating in my drink. We furtively poured most of the rest of our hot drinks into the many fragrant woodchips surrounding lit Christmas trees. Phil said, “it’s expensive, but I can’t think of another way.”

We were finally ready to call it a night after looking in at some ornaments for the tree. Phil would tell me the exchange in dollars and things were so alarmingly expensive in our currency that I passed on everything. After all, we had our plastic Tivoli cups…

Outside the walls of Tivoli, Copenhagen’s night life ramped up. Ambulances blared. Live music, piped outside from inside the pubs, caused us to look around for the amplified vocals. Night time laughter echoed off of the many 14th century buildings.

The man in the parking booth, who had our car keys, was not there when we arrived. All we wanted to do was take off our wet coats and get back to the hotel.

By the time we hit the road, it was difficult to see through the rain on the windshield, even with the wipers flapping their fasted. Furthermore, the streets are confusing enough that even with the GPS instructions, I had to take a few u-turns. (“As soon as possible,” the computerized voice would say, “turn around.”)

The Dragör Hotel, charmingly lit with candles throughout the entrance and sitting room, felt overly economized. Everything was dark in the hallways except for the inviting entrance. Along the hall walls and the long staircases were intervals of switches which temporarily turned dim lights on, but they often turned off before you reached the top of the stairway or the end of the hall (where our room was). The room contained only three lamps, each to be lit separately. The bathroom light was motion sensored.

The bathroom was so small one could practically use the toilet, sink and shower at once. In fact, they were the same tiled area, the shower simply a head on the tiled wall in the corner. The soap provided, in a liquid dispenser to the left of the sink, was graciously intended to function as hand soap, shower gel and shampoo, but one had to go completely out from under the barely warm and running water to reach it. There was no heat of any kind in the bathroom.

The room felt so cold that we didn’t have to tell Hunter to get in bed, he was under the initially cold comforter as soon as he could kick his shoes and clothing off. Out the windows, we could see the Øsrund Bridge and lights we couldn’t understand. Though we had a balcony, it was simply too windy-cold to step out to get a better view (one of my favorite things to do anywhere, if you know me well). We hadn’t brought any books to read to Hunter, so Phil told him a wonderful story. I was jealous that he could make up such a wonderful story when I’m the writer in the family.He confessed it was a story he remembered reading from the library in Hayden. It was probably midnight before we turned off the lights.

The Next Day
The sun shone brightly in the windows, waking Hunter, who in turn pounced to wake us up, too. In the morning light, we could see that we were not far off shore. There stood Dragör Fort and a marina lined, several rows thick, with winterized fishing and sailboats. Ships and barges on the sea silhouetted against the sunrise and the Øsrund Bridge. International jets droned overhead.

I made Hunter hop in the shower with Phil, much to Hunter’s chilly dismay, so we’d be ready for the whole day in Copenhagen.

In the dining room, lovely papered tables graced with live maroon mums in thin vases and candles flickering beside a view of the sea invited one to linger over breakfast. A mural of three eight foot poppies on long stems looked fetching against the white wall at one end. We enjoyed a typical European breakfast with choices like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, apples, oranges, grapes, melon, cheese, sliced meat, French bread and Danish rolls, sliced pastry, marmalade, honey, yogurt and several types of muesli-like toppings. Of course there was coffee, tea, milk and juice. Hunter ate ravenously and didn’t seem to mind the variety.

We took time to visit the fort and take photos of what we could, since the Experimentarium did not open until 11 am and the English speaking church services we could find on the internet did not start until late afternoon. The process of catching up with each other (because I am always slow, my camera memory cards are always full at the wrong times, etc) took too much time, but we eventually caught up with each other on top of the fort after a barrage of wind and pelting snow (didn’t stick--hard on the camera, though). When I turned around at the top of the fort, a beautiful rainbow arched over the quaint town of Dragor.

As usual, I was not anxious to leave the sea, the hotel or Dragor, though it was time to check out and get on with our plans. It always takes me too long to digest a place. We were headed the wrong way on a one way street from the hotel when I asked Phil if he had actually checked out. He hadn’t. Another delay, this time not MY fault : )

Once back into the city, we thought the GPS led us to a parking place alongside a little river under an old windmill. We piled out into the rain and walked around the corner toward what we thought would be the Experimentarium. Strong, wonderful food smells met our noses, though we could only see apartment buildings and an old church. No Experimentarium. Walking further, we started meeting folks drinking glogg, eating meatballs on sticks and sundry other delectables. We realized we were hungry and let our noses lead us to food at a Swedish Lutheran church holding a bizarre on Sunday!

We squeezed into the doorway and the office along with streams of others. At the office, we asked if we were anywhere near the Experimentarium. But when we mentioned the street we were looking for, we were still several blocks around the bay from our destination. We asked if the bizarre was open to the public and the man behind the counter said, “It is!” I asked if they could change some money for us. “We can! And we hope you spend several Krona, here, for a good cause!” They exchanged our SK into DK and we pressed in with the crowd past Swedish traditional homespun and home cooked items. All the booth attendants wore traditional clothing. We ate a strange combination of traditional Christmas cheesecake with berries and cream, open faced meat sandwiches, Kanel buns, and soda. I bought a few Christmas ornaments and we spent a long time waiting for each other at the bathrooms.

Two hours later we were pushed and shoved back onto the rainy sidewalk, having spent too much money on too little. We walked back to our car in search of our original destination. By the time we parked our car in the correct parking lot—not easily found in a maze of construction and industrial buildings—it was dusk. We realized we would have to miss any afternoon or evening church service, since we were now committed for up to four hours.

The Experimentarium was everything and more that we had heard or read about. Hunter was in a world of delight before he could complain about anything. It was like one big science lab broken down into various child-friendly experiments. Hunter easily spent a half an hour each on interlocking pieces, a wheel-barrow and hand-cranked crane construction site, the water wheel/lock/pump site and the sand/water display. He flitted between other experiments, too, but we found him at the crane the most. Near closing, we lost Hunter amidst all the fun and spent awhile looking for him. I would see him through one archway only to lose him as he darted off to another place. He was still discovering human-sized bubbles and gyroscopes and telescopes and more when we dragged him out of the place. Phil and I enjoyed trying the experiments, too.

When we found our way in the dark around several construction pothole puddles to the car, we were all thoroughly overwhelmed and exhausted. We decided we wanted nothing more than to be home eating peanut butter sandwiches for dinner. The thought of such warmth and comfort took us more excitedly over the bridge to home than our original excitement to do something fun for the weekend in Copenhagen!

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