Trip report: Denmark 2017
Preparation: We used the Guide Michelin for Scandinavia and the Lonely Planet Denmark book to organize our trip: where to go, what to see, numbers of days. We also reserved rooms through various agencies including Airbnb. We purchased the Marco Polo map of Denmark for our travels outside Copenhagen. We also had the Streetwise map of Copenhagen, which is unnecessary. The tourist office in Copenhagen will give out free maps covering the same geographical area.
Credit cards and debit cards (as this is frequently discussed): Our credit card worked only as a chip/slide and sign card even though we requested a pin number before departure. That mean that it generally did not work on unmanned machines and I had to then use my debit card. The one exception to that rule is that the dispensing machine in the train station in the Copenhagen airport accepted two transactions of $88 (two cards) with no signature and no code.
Here is the financial report. It includes our subsequent travels to Germany and France.
Our total expenses, including pre-paid flights and reservations, ATM withdrawals and credit card purchases, added up to $10,750 for a trip that started on June 1 and ended on July 13. Here are some of the breakdowns:
Transatlantic Open Jaw SFO-Copenhagen Paris-SFO Air Canada flights cost for 2: $2205. Car rental in Denmark for 10 days: $289 plus a one way fee. Car rental in Germany: $218 for 7 days, including a one-way fee. Flight from Berlin to Paris: $96. Apartment rental in Copenhagen: $1244. Aarhus Airbnb: $344. Lübeck Airbnb: $125. Bremen Airbnb: $145. Apartment rentals in Germany were much cheaper than in Denmark.
We had free housing in Berlin and Paris, but on the other hand we spent $2000 for a celebration dinner that included 19 people, and another meal for nine where we created a deli meal (hams, cheese, sausage,various fish) purchased in KaDeWe, and a final one for six in Paris at a fancy Japanese restaurant. In other words we probably spent more on feeding friends and family than we would have spent on independent housing. We also spent more on housing in Magdeburg and Schleswig than we could have had we made reservations through Airbnb.
We had two rentals in Copenhagen. One was a one bedroom apartment in the Latin Quarter (corner of Sankt Peders Straede and Larsbjornsstraede) which was the apartment we liked the most of those we rented this summer. It had individuality that reflected the owner. Well chosen art and furniture, and it was lived in, as many drawers had labels on them to the effect of being private, not to be opened. Its location was within walking distance of the train station and most of the venues in central Copenhagen. The one negative: getting out of bed in the middle of the night for the person sleeping against the wall required a certain amount of athleticism to avoid waking up the partner—there is a picture of the bedroom in the slide show.
The second rental was a two bedroom apartment which was much larger but less appealing. On the other hand, it had a washing machine and clothes could be hung to dry in the attic. My cousins joined us for three nights, so we rented that apartment for 4 nights. It was not that much farther out, located just half a block from Sortedams Lake that separates Nørrebro from central Copenhagen. We essentially paid $155 per night for our stay in Copenhagen, shared with my cousins for the nights they stayed with us.
Upon arrival in Copenhagen we immediately purchased a Rejsekort Anonymous card which could presumably be used throughout Denmark. We did not try to use it outside Copenhagen and day trips from the capital, but noticed that Aarhus had the same type of machines to refill the card. From what I can tell, it can only be used as an individual card; it does not function like a NYC Metro Card which allows multiple users by swiping it more than once through a turnstile. The one exception is train travel, where another person can be added for a single one-way trip at a time—not even a round trip. In the airport the card must be purchased at the train station ticket area (there is a dispensing machine), and it money could be added to it only at the train station. But it is a painless way of traveling within Copenhagen and especially on day trips that may require more than one mode of transportation. For national travel the card must maintain a higher minimum than for local travel. It might be a money saver in spite of the original $8 charge for the card itself, as the travel is charged on a mileage basis which is cheaper than a point-to-point ticket.
We had been in Copenhagen in 1997 and did not feel that we needed to visit the same sites again, which excluded Tivoli Gardens, the National Museum, the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, the Rosenborg palace, and an outing to the Open Air museum. On the other hand, walking around Nyhavn is almost unavoidable, and we were curious enough the walk into Christiania and walk right out again; aside from a forum area where there was a political speech/rally going on, it is no more than a counter-culture open market bazaar. We did the harbor tour—two main tour companies starting in Nyhavn, the one a little down the canal is less expensive than the one at the dead-end of the canal, and covers exactly the same itinerary for the same amount of time. The boat tour is very worthwhile, in that one passes by all the new (since 1997) construction along the water, including a new National Theater and a new Opera house.
Other places we visited: the round tower (definitely worth it), the Museum of Fine Arts (some interesting 20th century art), Christiansborg which houses the parliament (?), the Supreme Court, and also contains medieval underground ruins, has a full kitchen complex and extensive stables which still house the royal carriages and horses. The Danish Museum of Art and Design was a disappointment. And we walked around a lot, and a lot around construction—there is a building/renovation boom going on in Denmark.
We took three day trips from the city. The first one using train and bus was to Ordrupgaard which was a mansion whose owner’s private collection is the original basis for the museum. To it was added an interesting architectural extension by Zaha Hadid, but we felt that all in all, the collection was minor. What was much more interesting was the house next door, now part of the museum but having nothing to do with the estate originally—that is Finn Juhl’s house, a major mid-century designer who also designed his own house, furnished it, and includes the art by his artist friends. We had a museum lunch in the cafeteria of the Hadid extension.
With my cousins we did a day trip to Roskilde. The Viking Museum’s claim to fame is that the hulls that they found were working boats of various kinds, unlike the funeral boats found in the Viking Museum in Oslo. But the remains are less impressive than the one in Oslo. It is much more oriented towards recreation in both senses of the word, and does offer rides (perhaps only to groups?) on replicas, has a reconstruction shop which can be visited, but is of limited interest outside tour of the museum that contains the original hulls. It can be seen without the tour, but given the limited eye catching elements, the tour is very useful. We had lunch in their cafeteria. The cathedral is more interesting, with some fine grill work and remnants of old murals.
On another day, we went to visit the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (https://en.louisiana.dk/visit-louisiana ) a short train ride up the coast. It has extensive gardens along the sea shore, and a large interior space, part of which contained an interesting William Kentridge exhibit. It emphasizes sculpture and deals exclusively with modern and contemporary art. About a third of the galleries were closed for an installation of an upcoming exhibit, but there was plenty to see regardless. On a nice day, and we had one, its location is unbeatable.
When we were given the keys to the first apartment we asked about food shopping and were directed to a Netto about three blocks away, open 7/24. It turns out to be a Seven-Eleven with some packaged food available, but very limited fresh vegetables and fruit and a lot of beer. I think that we managed to create a spaghetti meal from what was available in the store. We later discovered a market (http://www.visitcopenhagen.com/copenhagen/gastronomy/torvehallerne ) which had not only prepared foods but also fresh fruit and vegetable stands between the two steel and glass buildings. It is located 1.5 blocks from the Nørreport station. One smaller building at one end contained a very popular rotisserie where we purchased a pork roast for about $15 which lasted a couple of days. There are tables scattered all about in the open area, always full of people having a beer and snacks or a meal. When we were in the other apartment, we went to the same market—it was almost half way between the two apartment locations—and purchased a roast chicken, and smoked fish and seafood salads at another stand.
Two restaurant meals stand out. One was Restaurant Bror ($257), across the street from our first apartment, which is an upscale restaurant that specializes in lesser pieces of meat—chicken hearts and bulls’ balls (their terminology) when we were there. Prices are comparable to the same type of restaurant in SF. We had the 5 course menu which was excellent, as was the service. The credit card did not work so we used our debit card. http://www.restaurantbror.dk/en/menu-and-wine
The other one was a brew (www.noerrebrobryghus.dk/en ) pub just down the street from our second apartment which offered good fish dishes ($108).
For lunches we usually tried to find a sandwich shop—I recall a small café along the canal near Christiansborg—if we were not eating in a museum cafeteria.
This slide show is a combination of our two visits to Copenhagen:
We picked up our car at the Europcar agency near the train station. It was a Renault Clio which, like us, had grown larger with middle age. It also had a navigation system which we had not ordered. I’m sold on them for getting in and out of cities. There is construction everywhere in Copenhagen and we only had a map of the center. We relied on the navigation system which made several mistakes, such as taking us down a street where our direction was for bicycles only, and assuming that a road was open when it was closed for construction. But at least it could recalculate when we made a U-turn or turned off because of a blocked road and got us out of the city much faster and with less stress than if we had tried not having proper maps. Similarly, although I had typed out the Google maps to our reserved overnight locations, the navigation system was much easier than trying to work with a map. I was also warned with two beeps if I was driving more than 5km over the speed limit, and so far have not received any ticket for speeding.
Our next stop was Odense but we detoured to the Møns Klint area, to visit some of the best preserved murals in small Danish churches—definitely worth it—but we missed the cliff area itself and reached the sea where it was just a rocky beach at the edge of a forest. The church murals were probably restored to some degree, but they are worth the drive, and the countryside is very pleasant, as is the Danish countryside in general. It was not crowded, we were the only ones in the churches (obviously not locked), and we had our picnic lunch in the cemetery behind the second church. We then used our navigation guide to get to the ferry to cross over and drive up to Odense.
We had called ahead of time to give a time a arrival at the B&B in Odense. (Odense City B&B—$220 for three nights). It was across the street from the beginning of the pedestrian area of the city, located in the backyard of buildings fronting the street—imagine a built up carriage house, except that if this had been one, there was nothing left of its original function. The entire unit looked quite new with the owner’s unit on the ground floor and the rented rooms (paid with cash only) on the two subsequent floors. Our floor (first European) had 5 rooms and two full baths (showers only) well designed. There was a small food area with a mini fridge and a toaster oven. We could hardly put anything in the fridge because the breakfast items or those who chose to pay for breakfast were stored in the fridge. The food area did not really function for independent usage. We turned down the breakfast option. Because the porte cochère leading to the back was too narrow for our car, the host gave us at a cost of about $5 per day for weekdays a permit that allowed us to park in local streets normally reserved for residents only. I found parking near a big surface store and walked in out of curiosity. It turned out to be a Føtex store (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F%C3%B8tex ) which contains a large supermarket with much better quality food than Netto, including packages of ready to heat meals. For anyone thinking of renting an apartment for several days and doing home cooking, this is a place to keep in mind.
Odense is a pleasant town. It has a couple of interesting museums, some nice pedestrian streets, and as the hometown of Hans Christian Andersen, a museum dedicated to him, which we did not visit. But we did visit the neighborhood of his birthplace which still has the small houses of that period. The Brandt museum is the major one, which has an adjunct which specializes in photography. We spent a full day in Odense, picnicking in a park along a water way for our lunch.
The next day we took a day trip to Egeskov Slot, which is an impressive water castle—a castle surrounded by water that is more than a narrow moat. The interior of the castle is of limited interest: a grand hall filled with hunting trophies, a “real” bedroom and is missing all its curtains, making it “unreal”, a room decorated as a Victorian parlor, with two mannikins in it, and an enormous English doll house taking the entire center of one room. The attic had an exhibit of toys, mainly trains and boats, if I remember correctly. I was not particularly impressed. On the other hand, the flower gardens are magnificent as are the grounds in general. It was a stormy day, and we found on the grounds a small glass enclosed pavilion with table and chairs that allowed us to picnic. On the grounds there are also old barn-like buildings that are now a museum of personal locomotion—early 20th cent. electric bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, cars, some carriages. In other words the things around the castle proper will take up more visiting time than the castle itself.
Back to Odense, which is when we visited the HCA area and then ate the one interesting dinner of the three we had in that city. It was a buffet all-you-can-eat establishment (http://www.cafedallevalle.dk/english.aspx ) behind city hall and against a large construction site which is to become a major commercial and cultural center in Odense. We walked in and discovered that that night was the half-price all-you-can-eat buffet option contrary to the statement on their web site, so that the price of two pints of beer was equal to the price of the entire meal, about 60 DKK each. There is a wide variety of hot and cold dishes, some more appealing than others, and unlike many restaurant meals, it allows the client to load up on vegetables.
We drove to Aarhus using secondary roads. Stopped at a boat harbor and fell upon a fish store that smoked its own—it was an embarras de choix since we couldn’t buy more than what was needed for a picnic lunch. It was only once we were close to the city that we used the navigation system to find our address. It was located just past the “new” university area, a basement apartment in what is mainly a single family area. The hostess was most welcoming, and even offered to do our laundry when we asked where we could find a laundromat or laundry service. The former is apparently rare in Denmark. The only one we saw was in a seaside resort town on the North Sea coast. The apartment was a short bus ride to the center of town and is along a tram line presently (2017) under construction. It was in this apartment that we took advantage of the Føtex ready to heat option. The apartment had a cook top and a toaster oven, but the latter turned out to be too small and too grungy to be used, so I fried the pork steaks and then heated the vegetables in the drippings that were created—this is the reason I included a photograph of the meal as purchased.
Aarhus has decided to to digital. That means that unlike in Copenhagen, there are no paper street maps and transportation maps easily available, nor is there a tourist office; eventually we did get a city map at the Gamle By. There is a central information center where one can purchased 24 hour, 48 hour inclusive card, which we did knowing that we had a crowded schedule that would make such a cad worthwhile. There are computers available in that center, where we could check our e-mail, and where the person behind the desk tried unsuccessfully to help us with transportation. Later we had the same problem in the center of town where there are wandering information persons wearing identifiable jackets who were unable to tell us where to catch the bus to Moesgåd or whether the summer schedule for the bus from the coast was in existence. I do not blame them, but I do think that old fashioned map still have their role in this world.
What we saw in Aarhus: Den Gamle By (http://www.visitaarhus.com/ln-int/den-gamle-old-town-museum-gdk631880 ), Moesgård museum (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moesgaard_Museum ), the Aarhus Art Museum (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARoS_Aarhus_Kunstmuseum ), walked around the old town and saw the inside of the cathedral. Den Gamle By could be an all-day visit. It is a collection of old town buildings as opposed to the farmhouses found in skansens. It also includes a museum specializing in modern Danish posters, an apartment house with a variety of uses: student housing, a gynecological clinic, an apartment of Turkish workers, etc. It has a restaurant with a large outside area where we had lunch.
The Moesgård museum is a striking building exhibiting pre-historic artifacts and objects, including the remains of a man found fully preserved in a peat bog. Because of its maze like interior, it is difficult to avoid the AtoZ itinerary—one simply has to walk through what is less interesting. From the museum one can walk through a wooded area to the coast, but it was unclear if the summer schedule applied (a bus every day instead of just weekends) and we did not want to take the chance of having to walk back—my wife uses a cane. We walked just to a mill in the middle of the forest, and then walked back to take the but to the city.
The art museum is a fairly new interesting building, a cube unevenly divided and topped by a circular walkway enclosed in rainbow colored glass. Its exhibit space is limited for the size of the building, but it works quite well . My complaint is that out of the nine stories, it appears that only 4 are dedicated to exhibits, and only half of those four stories, The rest is dedicated to public space, restaurants, museum shop and café, and undoubtedly administrative offices. For me, this common form of museum design is exemplified by a vitrine which contains aging sides of beef—neither Rembrandt nor Soutine, but an advertisement of sorts for the upscale restaurant on that floor. In that regard I preferred the Brandt museum in Odense and the Museum of Modern Art in Aaalborg. We had a relatively expensive dinner in the museum café—the price was OK, the portions on the small side.
We stayed in Aarhus long enough to take a day’s outing to the national park located on the peninsular ENE of Aarhus. Once the navigation system took us out of town, we turned it off to wander the small roads of that peninsula. The notion of a national park in that area is very similar to Point Reyes National Seashore, in that the existing housing and agricultural lands have been grandfathered in that area. It is not wilderness, but rather a rural park. Some of the beach areas outside the park, but identifiable as such only on the map, were similar to the Monterey Peninsular a public beach road with large vacation homes in the background having a view of the sea. While driving around we saw a roadside fishing shed selling fish. They smoked their own fish, of which we purchased some and something new: smoked shrimp; our lunch was decided. We also fell upon Denmark’s largest dolmen, but by the time I was ready to photograph it, it was invaded by a horde of children. But found one in the middle of a field later on. We also visited the Fregatten Jylland in Ebeltoft. All in all, that area makes for a very nice day trip.
In addition to the museum meal and the evening meal at home we ate at a fish restaurant close to the old town. The place is very informal, with a small kitchen/preparation area, but organized enough that one table ordered and ate one of these three-tiered plateau de fruits de mer often seen in French coastal tourist towns and in some fish places in Paris. We kept it simpler and paid $130 for our meal of which $34 was for 2 glasses of wine and a Pellegrino. http://www.klassiskfisk.dk/
We went from Aarhus directly to Aalborg, using the super highway because we wanted to see its Modern Art Museum before anything else and intended to spend the full day of our two night stay going to Skagen. We really liked the museum for its architecture (an Aalto building) which also has an interesting collection. The person behind the desk guided us to the tourist office in town, which was a good thing because we would have never found it otherwise, and the person behind the desk in the tourist office helped us find a room at the edge of the old town and close to a public parking area, and gave us a map of the town. It was a nice room in an old building with 2 shared bathrooms, but only one had a shower. The owner was a little gruff, spoke very limited English to the point that he called over his wife to give us essential information, and we had to pay cash.
The impression of Aalborg is that it is half modern half old. There are historic sections to the town, but the waterfront has a brand new cultural center and other modern buildings, one of which contained the tourist office. That afternoon we walked around the old town and in the evening ate in a fish restaurant owned by a Lebanese—Fish & Shellfish: http://www.fisk-skaldyr.dk/ We had a nice meal for which we paid $120.
The town of Skagen itself is several kilometers from the tip of Denmark. It is Denmark’s largest fishing port with the recognizable tourist attractions around it: restaurants, cafés and fish stores selling fresh and smoked fish. It had been an art colony at the end of the 19th century and has a small museum dedicated to that group with a couple tables on its grounds where we had our lunch. We drove from there to the end, where there is a paid parking lot for those who want to see the tip of Denmark. It has some remnants of military fortifications but is basically a dune and beach area, with everyone heading to the meeting point of the Baltic and the North Sea to experience the obvious clash of the two waters. It is an area where it would be nice to wander about, enjoying the varying seascapes, but my time was limited as my wife did not feel that she could walk in the sand for any distance and just waited for me at the beginning of the walk. We drove back to Aalborg and found a pleasant outdoor café for our evening meal, $49 (http://www.cafeministeriet.dk/ ).
From Aalborg we drove west to the North Sea coast and stopped for lunch in Vorupør (http://www.vorupor.dk/ ), sitting on the barrier between pavement and the beach, looking at the beached fishing boats. The town is a major resort town in the middle of a national park, with many vacation homes, parking for RVs, and the one laundromat we saw in the entire country; all well-arranged as to not give an impression of over-development. It has a new wading area created so that it takes in sea water but protects waders from the surf and I would guess potential rip tides; it’s probably intended as a family thing.
By early evening we reached Ribe, known for its cathedral. The old town is very pleasant and quite extensive, the cathedral has an interesting interior, with a mix of old and modern. There is a large parking lot near the river that borders the old town—it takes 5 minutes to get to the old town. Near the parking lot there is a large new hostel that also has individual rooms. Unfortunately it was full, but they recommended a couple of hotels in town and one of them had a room, shared bathroom on the floor, that cost us about $90. There is a tourist office but it had no one in the office when were entered around 5 p.m. on a Monday. There is not much to do in Ribe (and restaurants close early) so I can only imagine that it is a hub for those visiting the nearby coast.
The next day we drove to Kolding, returned the car and took a taxi to the train station. We took the train to Schleswig, which will be the beginning of the next trip report covering our German travels and Paris.
These are the photos of our travels through Denmark:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/sets/72157684511898860/show The sequence follows our itinerary as described.
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Trip report: Denmark 2017