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Report trip to Copenhagen, Arhus, Berlin, Krakow, Budapest, Prague, Vienna, Munich

Report trip to Copenhagen, Arhus, Berlin, Krakow, Budapest, Prague, Vienna, Munich

Old Jun 9th, 2006, 02:36 PM
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Report trip to Copenhagen, Arhus, Berlin, Krakow, Budapest, Prague, Vienna, Munich

Background: Peg and I are sisters. Peg is a fit and youthful 70, and I am 64 and less fit, with bad feet and a questionable ticker, after having had a heart attack and bypass surgery in January 2005..

We started planning this spring's trip back in November with a vague plan to fulfill a dream we'd had to make a sort of "mop-up" trip to hop between several cities we'd missed on previous trips, with plans to visit Munich, Prague, Vienna, Berlin, and Krakow.

At the end of our 27-day trip together, I would return home, and sister Peg would stay on to attend German language school at the Goethe-Institut in Schwäbisch Hall, Germany, followed by attendance at Heidelberg HS's class reunion, where Peg had taught for the Department of Defense the late 60's or early 70's.

Finalized list of Cities: We ultimately decided we wanted to see Munich, Copenhagen, Arhus, Berlin, Krakow, Budapest, Prague, and Vienna, if we could work out reasonably convenient and economical connections, which we were able to do, using a combination of rail, car, and discount European airlines:

Finalized Itinerary:

May 8: Munich arrival at 8:00 am from PDX, via United through Dulles

May 10: Copenhagen, via 1:35 hour SAS flight, arriving about 3:00 and picking up a rental car for the 3.5-hour drive to Arhus

May 13: Copenhagen, driving via ferry from Arhus, via Roskilde, Hillerød, and Helsingør

May 16: Berlin, via 1-hour Easyjet flight from Copenhagen

May 20: Krakow, via 1:15-hour Easyjet flight from Berlin.

May 23: Budapest, via 50-min. Malev air flight flight from Krakow, for.

May 26: Prague, via 6:35-hour train ride from Budapest, included in Eastern Europe Railpass

May 29: Vienna, via 4-hour train ride from Prague, included in Eastern Europe Railpass

June 1: Munich via train from Vienna, included partially in astern Europe Railpass and partly by a point-to-point ticket from Salzburg to Munich (a link not covered by the railpass)

For us, the travel plans worked out great.

Discount airlines: I'd definitely recommend the discount airlines. They were as efficient, convenient, and comfortable as their US peers, and thy were definitely cheaper, with the exception of the SAS fare, was more than I'd hoped to pay but was cheap compared to the prevailing rates for flights from Munich to Copenhagen. (Initially, I'd counted on a very cheap Sterling Air flight, but that airline abandoned the route before our planned departure date.)

Trains: We purchased our 2nd-class railpasses and point-to point ticket from Budget Europe, 1-800-441-2387 (outstanding service, education, and assistance from Brian!), covering train travel between Budapest to Prague to Vienna to Munich

Regrets: If I had it to do over, I'd try harder to find a good rate for an ope-jaw ticket, flying into Copenhagen and out of Munich. However, at the time we leaped into the fray and booked our flight, we weren't firm on whether we'd include Copenhagen and Arhus, because they were so far out of the way.

By the way, my laptop keyboard is sticking on a couple of kys (e and n, to be exact), so my apologies in advance for any typos I fail to catch.

NEXT: MUNICH.
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Old Jun 9th, 2006, 03:57 PM
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Dear Mary Fran,

I have been watching for your report, because you responded to my earlier posting about flying from Berlin to Krakow & from there to Budapest! In my planning I had put down 4 nights for Berlin, 3 for Krakow, 3 for Budapest, and 3 for Vienna. I believe that is the same as you & your sister did. Did that work well for you? I have to keep telling myself that I can't see everything in a city! Did you reserve hotels in advance? I look forward to reading the rest of your reports!
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Old Jun 9th, 2006, 04:25 PM
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Yes, Marsh, the amount of time in each city worked out well. As you'll see when I get to the Berlin portion of our trip, we loafed on one of our days in Berlin, after I got an attitude and we abandoned our plans to go to Potsdam for the day. Had I not been being such a pill, I think four days would have been fine, with the day trip to Potsdam.
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Old Jun 9th, 2006, 04:36 PM
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Arrival in Munich: We took the train to the HBF in Munich upon arrival at the airport at 8:00 am, and we planned to catch bus 58 to Hotel Uhland, as suggested on the hotel's website. A very kind and attractive German woman offered to help point us to the right place to catch the bus, actually leading us some distance outside the train station and up the stairs to the bus stop. As I was navigating the stairs with my 22" bag, which seemed to weigh a ton, a German man in a business suit scooped up my bag and strode up the lengthy flight of stairs with it, carrying on his way without saying a word after depositing it at the top of the stairs. These two acts of business-like courtesy were typical of what we experienced in Germany, but especially in Munich.

The automated ticket machine at the bus stop promptly ate Peg's 20 euro bill, without returning either ticket or change. Again, a pleasant native, this time a young man, offered assistance, to no avail. Spotting the taxi rank across the street, we decided to skip dealing with the metro this day in favor of the convenience of a taxi.

Hotel Uhland: The hotel is located in a nice neighborhood and has a charming exterior. We checked into the 70 euro twin-bedded room we'd booked but were disappointed. It was a rather small room, with one twin bed and a bunkbed, with a small desk, everything white, without much persoality. I went down to the front desk and said I thought the room rather odd and wondered if they had anything nicer. For 16 euros per night more, we upgraded to a very nice business-class room.

By the end of our trip, when we returned to th Hotel Uhland for one night, we were happy to accept the room we'd initially turned our noses up about.

The hotel had a nice internet lounge, with free internet access, a pleasant breakfast room with a good breakfast spread, and helpful desk staff.

Activities: We caught the U-Bahn to Marienplatz and wandered around the area and had a cappucino at a sidewalk café across from the Glockenspiel. We decided to visit the Residenz and see the Schatzkammer. I was not impressed by the Residence, though Peggy saw more of it than I did and I think has a kindlier opinion. The Schatzkammer, however, left me enchanted, especially the dazzling and fascinating 16th-century Renaissance gold statue of St. George Slaying the Dragon, thousands of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and semiprecious stones. Seeing that alone would have justified the trip to Munich.

Outside the Residenze, we noted a growing presence of police, dressed in various kinds of uniforms. Finally, when it seemed as if there were at least 50 of them in the area, Peg asked one of them for the reason and was told that there was a demonstration planned by Nazis in front of the Residenz late in the afternoon. A chatty taxi-driver later told us that the demonstration was actually staged by right-wingers, who were advocating a "Germany-for-Germans" (i.e., anti-immigration) policy. He said that the government had tried to outlaw the demonstration, on the grounds that Neo-Nazis were involved, but, he said, they failed because proving the ivolvement of Neo-Nazis would require them to divulge membership of the government's CIA-type folks infiltrated into the organization. I don't know what the truth is, but we love to be in cities when demonstrations are going on and we can see real people, engaged in political action.

We also visited a couple of churches in the area of the Marienplatz, which left me pretty much blase.

The next day, we visited Schloss Nymphenburg, including the palace and the coaches hall. It was cold and windy that day, and while I found the coaches fabulous, the palace so paled in comparison to others I've seen in southern Germany, I was disappointed.

We had hoped to visit the Neue Pinakothek, especially to see the work of Gustav Klimt there, but I'd forgotten that this museum was one of the few that closed on Tuesday instead of Monday.

I didn't dislike Munich, but I didn't fall in love, either. Maybe Peg can chip in and do more justice to the city.

Confessions: As mentioned above, I had suffered a heart attack and had open heart surgery a year and a half before our departure. Much of our enjoyment of this trip was, I think, affected by the fact that I found myself easily fatigued. I became stronger as the trip went on, and a lot of walking seemed to increase my stamina over time. But I'm definitely not a gal who is going to enjoy six hours at a stretch walking and standing in museums and palaces and climbing stairs and negotiating cobbled streets.

Moving on ...

TO: COPENHAGEN
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Old Jun 10th, 2006, 11:31 AM
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Confronting the prospect of schlepping our luggage to the Munich airport on the S-Bahn for our SAS flight to Copenhagen, where we would pick up our rental car for the drive to Arhus, we decided to splurge on a taxi. Actually, for the two of us, it wasn't much more expensive than the train.

Luggage: In addition to my purse, I was carrying one 22-inch roller bag and a backpack containing my laptop, camera, and overnight stuff like medicines. Peg had a similar 22" roller bag, plus a cloth bag containing counted-cross stitch stuff, and a small but heavy and awkward bag containing electronics such as hair dryer and curling iron. Even though we had thought we'd done a good job of packing light and would have been hard-pressed to leave any of the items home, it was not easy tohorse all our stuff around, especially boarding public transit and negotiating stairs.

Beware Pesky Heavy Missal Books: Peg bcame so obsessed with lightening her load as we went along that (wait until you hear this!) after each Sunday Mass we attended on the trip, she tore the expired pages out of the 100-page paperback missal book she'd lifted from her church at home to bring on the trip. That is so sick, I could not stop laughing and ridiculing her.

SAS Flight. It took us a long time and a lot of walking in the airport to determine that check-in for our SAS flight to Copenhagen would be through the Lufthansa check-in counter. The 1.5 hour flight put us into CPH between 3:00 and 4:00, and we picked up our Europcar rental car, which we'd rented through Kemwell. We paid $181 for the three days we had the car, which was a real bargain.

Drive to Arhus. The drive was a reasonably pleasant 3.5 to four hours (for me, at least, as I wasn't behind the steerig wheel!), although traffic on the freeway was slow and congested until we crossed the beautiful suspension toll bridge that links Zealand to Funen to Jutland. It's a pricey toll bridge, I'm thinking over 30 euros.

With the air and car traffic delays, we began to worry about whether we would reach the City SleepInn hostel by 7:00 pm. Their confirmation e-mail had stressed the need to call if we were going to arrive later than that. We finally were able to make the call and were told "No problem."

City Sleep-Inn. Reaching Arhus, we had a hard time, as we often do, finding the hostel. At last, however, we spotted the hostel's sign, just across the street from the harbor. "Oh, oh." This did not look good. I'm thinking "flophouse." I'd done so much research to find our hotels and had spent so much time - how could I have stumbled upon this place?

Peg dropped me off to go in and check with the proprietor, while she went in search of a place to park the car. Iside the hostel, I was crestfallen. This was the worst lobby I'd ever seen, the air thick with cigarette smoke. "How on earth am I going to justify to Peggy my boneheaded mistake in adding this joint to our itinerary? " True, the 100 euro a night rate had seemed a bargain for pricey Arhus, but the fact was that it was way too much.

I made some ridiculously awkward remarks to the proprietor, inquiring whether he thought a couple of old maiden-type ladies would be comfortable here. He shrugged, and, to his credit, he did acknowledge that the 4:00 am train that ran just across the street at 4:00 am might disturb us.

After Peg has found a place to park the car and joined us, Peg ad I considered our options. It's late now, around 8:30 pm, and we're going to need a place to sleep. We decided to stay the night and find something better the next day. However, the proprietor tells us we will need to pay in advance and in cash. Oh, my God!

Peg good-naturedly heads off on foot in search of a cash machine, which she founds has been smashed in an apparent break-in attempt, but which nevertheless kicks out enough money to cover the hotel bill.

The proprietor hands us our sheets and pillowcases (it's a hostel - you make your own bed. I know, I know. What was I thinking in booking this joint?) We take the elevator to the floor of our room, noting the grimy hallway, and we open our door to find a spartan room, with two twins (as requested), and a window looking on to the former custom house across the street, which has been turned into a rock and roll venue. The sounds of a heavy-metal band thob, making the window vibrate.

Peg is nothing if not a fabulous sport, and though I've gotten us into this mess, she seems to defer to me about what to do, perhaps reluctant to hurt my feelings. However, we are able to quickly decide that despite the lateness of the hour, we are going to go out and see if we can find something, anything, better. We tell the proprietor our plans, making it clear that we'll keep the room unless we can find something more satisfactory. Fortunately for us, he's cooperative.

We drive around, feeling increasingly desperate in a strange town as night falls, until finally we decide to stop at a gas station and look in the phone book. Fortunately for us, the clerk and a couple of lovely young danish girls pitch in, and one of the girls suggests the CabInn. Fabulous! We take off and go in search of the CabInn, and, finding it, I go in to check on the availability of a room while Peg parks the car.

The hotel lobby is very nice, and I am encouraged, but a group of three Italian couples is in front of me, attempting to find a room, and I'm terrified they'll grab the last rooms available. But, Glory be!" My turn comes, and it turns our a room is available for just 117 euros a night! And it's a real hotel! We quickly check in and head back to City Sleep-In, where we grab our luggage and check out. To the credit of the young man at the desk, we get a full refund with no hassles. I think he must have been happy to be rid of these two peculiar old broads.

We still hadn't eaten dinner, and by now it's close to 10:00. However, we finally find a by-the-slice pizza place open a few doors down from the hotel, where we had a couple of slices of the most delicious pizza either of us thought we'd ever eaten.

Cab-Inn. Our salvation from sleeping on the street or in a flophouse, I loved this hotel! Rooms are, indeed, cabin-like, but they're very efficient, clean, attractive, and reasonably well appointed. In fact, in my opinion, the only thing we really missed was a closet with hangars. The twin beds were tight together, with mine up against the wall below the window, so I entered from the foot of the bed next to the wall.

A large window looked down on the attractive pedestrian canal promenate below, lined with sidewalk cafes.

We go to sleep that night counting our blessings, knowing we dodged a bullet in finding this place.

More in the next segment about Arhus. I better end this one before a big old hook comes out and yanks me off the stage.
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Old Jun 10th, 2006, 11:48 AM
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Mary, sorry about the City Sleepin. I didn't remember it being that bad, although there was train noise. I hope it is a matter of degeneration since I was there in 2003, rather than me just not noticing! When I was there several families were staying there.
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Old Jun 10th, 2006, 01:03 PM
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WillTravel, I think the conversion of the big buildig across the street to a rock and roll bar is recent. Also, concerning my initial forboding, the area next to the hostel was covered by scafolding, and the street was dark on the sidewalk but very busy on the street.

Our room had a bath, but of course it was of the type where there's a shower but no enclosure for it, with a drain i the middle of the floor.

No matter. We survived, and it gives us something funny to laugh about together and just adds to our trip lore in retrospect.
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Old Jun 10th, 2006, 01:09 PM
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Hi MF,

Thanks for a very interesting and well done report.

I look forward to more.

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Old Jun 10th, 2006, 01:18 PM
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Continuing with report, in Arhus, Denmark:

Continuing Cab-Inn: We enjoyed a fine sleep in our 9th floor room at the Cab-inn, with our window open for fresh air, despite the noises of young people partying below most of the night on the canal promenade. Who can sleep in hotels without ear plugs ? Certainly not Mary and Peg! While we dealt with street noises wafting into several of our rooms on this trip, neither of us were bothered by them while sleeping, thanks to our trusty ear plugs.

Continuing with the advantages of this hotel, it's wonderfully located on a big square across from the cathedral, although the square is filled with a large (and expensive) parking lot. (We found a lot nearby where we could park our rental car for free at night.)

The hotel is modern and stylish in design, with a spacious lobby and, best of all, a large and comfortable internet lounge with easy, excellent, FREE WI-FI ACCESS! The best internet setup of the trip for my laptop.

Breakfast in the large room at th top of the hotel was fine, though not as lush as a couple of other hotels where we stayed on this trip.

Service from the front desk was excellent.

Here is a link to my photos of Arhus. The first four are of public spaces in the Cab-Inn. Unfortunately didn't think to photograph our room:

Photos: http://www.dotphoto.com/Go.asp?l=Mar...3530500&Pres=Y

Den Gamble By: Our first day, we visited Den Gamble By, which our concierge estimated to be a 20-minute walk from our hotel. (It seemed longer to me, but that's the story of my flat-footed life.) By the way, the pronunciation of "By" is "boo," or something close to that.

http://www.dengamleby.dk/english.htm

From that website:

"It is a living and breathing experience of what it was like to live and work in a Danish market town, as it was in the old days. The Old Town is a unique museum, welcoming more than 3 million visitors over the course of the last 10 years. Meet the people and characters of yesteryear, experience life as it was in their living rooms and kitchens; and smell the flowers right in their own gardens.

Historic homes throughout Denmark have been saved from loss by demolition, being carefully disassembled and re-erected here, to save them for posterity. In some of the buildings, there are actors in costume and in character who speak about the events and conditions of the day in which the buildings were used.

It's very picturesque, pretty, interesting, and fun. An essential stop in Arhus.

Walking in Arhus: We loved the buildings we saw between our hotel and Den Gamble By. They are unique to Denmark and have a character all their own, looking like they belong in a seafaring town like Arhus. There is also a terrific pedestrian shopping mall along the way, which seems to have few tourists present but is packed with the gorgeous young university students - the most stylishly dressed and attractive folks we saw on our trip.

Arhus is a university town As noted above, the town is full of vibrant young people. We were told that 40,000 students attend the university, to which we replied, "Yeah, and 20,000 of them are partying below our hotel room all night long any given day." We were baffled as to how they could get any studying done as so many of them party hearty until the wee hours, seemingly all week long. We asked someone about how the university students could be so well dressed and party so much, and he told us university students receive a generous stipend from the government, one of the many benefits offered in Denmark that contribute to the country's high taxes, doubtless.

We really did enjoy the university kids, despite their late-night rowdiness. They seemed well-behaved, just ebulient, ad they were the picture of health and fitness.

Dining. We had a nice meal in the restaurant beneath the hotel, aside the canal (sorry I can't remember the name), where we received a 15% discount as guests of the hotel. Also, there is a tex-mex type of restaurant on the corner down the street from the hotel toward the canal, which had lackadaisical service but served Peg what she reported to be "The best Greek salad I've ever had!"

What's with the Feta Cheese?: We noted that the feta cheese we had in dishes throughout our trip was far tastier and creamier than what we're used to in the US. When asked about it, one waiter suggested it might have so something to do with pasteurization. Anyone have a clue?

Summary: Arhus is a neat, scenic, interesting town, recommended as a side trip for anyone with time to spend in Copenhagen.
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Old Jun 10th, 2006, 01:40 PM
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Wow! Props from Ira! I'm pleased.

You know, I'm never really clear about how well a trip went until I write my trip report, and, happily, the trip always improves in retrospect when I'm home and my feet don't hurt any more.
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Old Jun 10th, 2006, 03:50 PM
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Mammen, Denmark : The next day, we drove to Mammen, Denmark, where our paternal great, great grandfather had once owned a farm which family lore says was the site of the Mammen dig, the excavation of a famous 10th century Viking burial mound! My mother told me that the dig included a Viking in full mail armor, but I have no way to verify that and suspect it was just lore.

However, the dig definitely included the famous Mammen Axe:

http://www.boldblades.com/Miscellaneous%20Weaponry.html

The mound also included embroidered clothing and other artifacts which told much about the appearance ad lives of 10th century vikings.

We traveled through beautiful, lush, green fields, mixed with golden flowers, which we were told were from a plant being grown to provide an alternative energy source. The horizon was sprinkled with white windmills in groups of three to five. We passed lovely well-tended red brick homes which appeared as if the inhabitants were both diligent and prosperous.

In Mammen, we found the same type of well-tended, cozy-looking brick homes, with the only street mostly barren of cars, and we found the lovely gray-stone church where, we have been told by a scholarly geneologist cousin, our paternal ancestors' bones were moved after they had been disinterred from thier resting places in the church cemetery after a 25-year interment right had expired. The church was locked, so we weren't able to see the interior.

My grandfather, Rasmus Kjeldsen, had been apprenticed to a ship builder as a child. The name "Kjeldsen," I have been told, means "son of a keel layer." He emigrated from Arhus to America, probably in the late 19th century. My mom was born here in 1906, but Grandpa Kjeldsen had been widowed twice before he married my Grandmother Kjeldsen, so I suspect .he might have been here at least 15 years before Mom's birth.

Anyway, it was great being there and attempting to imagine the presence of what may have been my Viking ancestors. Plus the drive and the town offered a wonderful glimpse into a beautiful and revealing part of Denmark we would have missed had not we gone there specially in search of the ghosts of our ancestors.

There are pictures of Mammen in my photo portfolio, referred to above but repeated here for convenience in case you are burning up with curiosity:

http://www.dotphoto.com/Go.asp?l=Mar...3530500&Pres=Y

Leaving Arhus - Ferry to Odden, on Zealad. The next morning we drove a short way from our hotel to thhe ferry site for the Mols-Linien ferry dock, for the 65-minute fast ferry ride across Kattegat Bay to Odden, for our planned route back to Copenhagen via Roskilde, Hillerød, and Helsingør, with dropoff of our rental car back at CPH. We had visited the ferry office the day before our departure to verify procedures and location in advance.

Ferry website: http://www.molslinien.dk/

The ferry toll was expensive, I think abour $80, but I wanted to take it for the experience and views (non-existent - the ferry ride started at 7:00 am, and it was foggy), and so we could see Roskilde, Hillerød, and Hillerød enroute. We were also saved the toll we would have had to pay driving over the bridge, and, of course, we'd save on pricey gasoline or diesel fuel.

The ferry ride was neat and I thought it was a fun and interesting experience. The passenger lounge was pleasant, with opportunity to by snacks, and embarkment and disembarkment easy and fast.

Roskilde: The countryside between Odden and Roskilde wasn't as impressive as it had been back in Jutland en route to Mammen, but we reached Roskilde soon enough and found the Domkirke, rising above the town. This is a spectacular, unusual church, the home of the remains of 38 Danish kings, a conglomeration of Danish architectural styles. Extremely interesting and beautiful. I just really got a feel for Danish history and pride here. Loved it. Photos can be found under the web link below:

Photo Link for Roskilde, Hillerød, and Helsingør:
http://www.dotphoto.com/Go.asp?l=Mar...3530872&Pres=Y

Hillerød: We visited Hillerød, in order to see Fredriksborg Slot, known as the major castle in Scandinavia and called the Danish Versailles. The approach to the castle and the exterior are simply spectacular. We considered going inside the palace to see the museum, but we were behind schedule in our plan to return the rental car at the Copenhagen airport, so we carried on to Helsingør.

Helsingør: Home of Kronborg Slot, known widely because of allegations it was the image for Shakespeare's Hamlet's castle,is far less impressive on the approach than is Fredriksborg Slot. We took a quick stroll to the castle courtyard but were now seriously checking our watches (and our feet!) In anticipation of carrying on to Copenhagen. It was also quite chilly that day, and we were feeling the cold and wind.

Arrival in Copenhagen: We dropped off the rental car at Europecar's CPH location and caught the train into the main train station in Copenhagen.

Next: Copenhagen City
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Old Jun 10th, 2006, 04:54 PM
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Enjoying your report. Thanks for sharing!
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Old Jun 10th, 2006, 05:06 PM
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Please keep telling! I am really enjoying your report!
I am glad you enjoyed the bejeweled St. Geaorge. I remember him from my first trip 40 years ago. And that's all I can remember of that museum.

Am laughing out loud at you and your sister's predicaments, i.e. the flophouse in Arhus! Also laughing about tearing out pages from the missalette. Wish I'd thought to lift a missalette from church before my recent trip to Slovenia and Croatia. Then I could have understood more than Amen and Allelujah!

So, more, tell us more!
Thanks in advance.
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Old Jun 10th, 2006, 05:31 PM
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Welcome back. I've been waiting for your report. I'm going to Copenhagen in July so am really looking forward to hearing all about your trip.

You mention that you didn't go inside either of the castles. Are you able to walk around the outside without going in, or do you have to just view them from a distance? Do they have an option to just visit the grounds?

Can't wait for the rest of your report.
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Old Jun 10th, 2006, 05:54 PM
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LLC (what? are you a limited liability company?), thanks for the props. I know I'm long-winded, but this is like a police report I have a duty to file, and I don't want to leave out a salient detail, lest the bad guys get away.

Teacher, We had some marvelous experiences at Sunday Masses on our trip. What a great, free way to experiece some beautiful local tradition while at the same time maybe gettig a few brownie points with the Big Guy.

Isabel, Oh, Isabel. I can't wait to see what you do with Fredriksborg Slot with that camera of yours! We did walk around the grouds of Fredriksborg Slot and could have done more had my dogs not been barking and if we'd had more time. The same thing is true for Kronborg slot.
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Old Jun 10th, 2006, 06:18 PM
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I'm really enjoying your report and your pictures. You get points in my book for just thinking you might want to stay in a hostel and extra points for deciding against it.

Both Fredriksborg and Kronborg slots can be seen from the outside without paying admission. At Kronborg Slot the exterior is actually more appealing than the interior, or at least that's what my husband and daughter told me, since they went in while I basked in the sun on the battlements overlooking the castle and the harbor, watching the very blond children playing in the park below. I would highly recommend going inside Fredriksborg Slot, though, which is full of spectacular furnishings and artwork.

Isabel, Portugal and Copenhagen? Interesting itinerary.
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Old Jun 10th, 2006, 06:55 PM
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Copenhagen - this Segment all about Crabby Cabbies and DanHostel Copenhagen City: We arrived at the main train station and snagged a taxi from the taxi rank outside the station, for the short ride to our hotel.

Cabs in Copenhagen: This would be the first of several cab rides provided by surly, curt, and rude drivers in Copenhagen. It got to be a joke with us. We didn't question their honesty - dishonesty seems out of character for Danes - but we came to be amused by what seemed to be a universal impatience and testiness among cab drivers. ("Get your leg in! Get your leg in!." "Of course I know where that church is. Haven't I lived here 63 years!!!") My own impression of the Danes during our trip was that they are largely courteous and pleasant, but the cab drivers we had seemed to be missing that genetic link.

DanHostel Copenhagen City. This is an impressive, white, 13-story building across the throughway from the river. We checked in and were each given a sheet, duvet cover, pillow, and towel. We would be expected to make up our own beds in the four-bed room with bath we'd reserved and paid for in advance, at the rate of $324 for our three-day stay. That is an amazing deal in pricey Copenhagen and well worth the few minutes to make up one's bed upon arrival and to strip it and return the linens to the front desk on departure.

DanHostel Copenhagen Cityl website: http://www.danhostel.dk/vandrerhjem.asp?lan=uk&id=144

You can see a few pics of the hotel and our room in my Copenhagen City album, though I don't think the room photos do the place justice.:

http://www.dotphoto.com/Go.asp?l=Mar...3530908&Pres=Y

I must say, I really liked this place, though Peg seemed less enthused. It is a 5 star hostel, with capacity for 1,020 persons, and with 192 ensuite rooms. We had booked a room for four (the minimum for an ensuite room), for two persons. I found the website booking procedure intimidating and confusing and so made the reservation by phone. We then were required to pay the cost in full within two weeks after the booking.

Our room was spacious, light, modern, and open (two of the four beds were locked in place up against the wall, out of the way, leaving open floor space where they had been). The floors are polished hardwood, and a huge window looks out over a spectacular city view. We heard no street noise, but, then again, it's unlikely we would hear it from our 13th floor aerie. The bathroom was large, with a decent enclosed shower. No complaints there. There was a tiny desk where I could prop up my laptop.

The hotel has a large, modern lobby (the entire hostel is smoke-free), with internet computers available. I think the price was something like 2 euros for 20 minutes. While we were there, the lobby was generally crowded with youngish teenagers. The hostel was, as one might expect, full of young people. A number of them were in the city on fieldtrips, both from other places within Denmark and also from Iceland and Greeland and other overseas destinations. They all seemed to be well-behaved.

The hotel has a cafeteria and dining room. Very cleverly designed and marketed. Other, interesting hotel features included a tiny self-service laundry in the basement. You could put your stuff in the washer and leave it to complete the wash cycle in relative confidence your stuff wouldn't be stolen from the washer, as the area was monitored from the front desk by video camera. (The laundry is so tiny it has no place to sit, so you won't want to stay through the interminable European washer cycle.)

The hotel also has a full, free, kitchen for the guests' use, with pots and pans available so guests can cook their own meals if they wish. While we were there, a very large family from Greenland ate the meal they'd prepared and then laughed and chatted among themselves as they bustled about washing their dishes. It was a fun environment.

I encourage anyone with a youthful spirit in search of bargain lodgings and who doesn't need a lot of hand-holding to consider DanHostel.

The hostel also rents bicycles, of course. It's reasonably located but a bit of a hike to many of the tourist hot spots if you happen to be a flat-footed wienie, as I am.

Next Segment: We tear ourselves away from DanHostel, Go to a Fabulous Roman Catholic Mass, and see Some of Copenhagen City
Mary_Fran is offline  
Old Jun 10th, 2006, 10:27 PM
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Copenhagen City, Continued.

Sunday Mass at St. Ansgar's Cathedral: Peg and I love to go to Sunday Mass when we travel in Europe, and I am always hopeful of finding a Mass in a beautiful church with a unique local character and good music! We hit the bulls-eye in mostly Lutheran Copenhagen!

St. Ansgar's Cathedral is very small, cozy church for a cathedral, and it's really not very old, construction having been finished in 1842, but it is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in Copenhagen after the reformation, and its website describes it as the center of Roman Catholic Life in the city for 150 years.

The interior is quite pretty, with large iconic-looking paintings above the altar (see picture link below), but what knocked us out, and still gives me goose bumps thinking about it, was the music! The choir consisted of just four men, but with fabulous voices, who sang a Latin Mass, accompanied by a great organist! Not in years had I heard a Latin Mass sung, and then never in person so beautifully. It brought tears to my eyes, so eloquent was it, and the congregation joined in the singing.

This was a baptismal day, and if I thought I was close to tears from the music, seeing those babies presented as new members of the congregation finished me off. No matter what your faith or when you last went to church, I encourage everyone to consider attendance at a church on Sunday while traveling in Europe. You will have an opportunity to be more than a tourist and spectator in Europe, if only for an hour, and you will see have a unique ad personal immersion in local culture. You have to contribute to the collection, though, in my opinion. Where else can you count on such a elegant and cheap entertainment in such beautiful buildings?

Link to St. Ansgar's website: http://www.sanktansgarkirke.dk/index.php?id=36

Link to my only picture of the church interior I took that turned out at all:

http://www.dotphoto.com/Go.asp?l=Mar...&IID=118662080

After Mass, we had to shake a leg if we were going to be able to keep the lunch reservation I'd made over the internet at Café Wilder, in Christinshavn, about a mile and a half away. What do you suppose I was thinking when I imagined I'd be able to walk that far in a hurry without whining and being disagreeable to my long-suffering sister? I know it's not far - for anyone but flat-footed, un-fit me. Hey, I'm not proud of being such a wreck, but I had open-heart surgery a year ago January, so get off my back, okay? I'm trying here. What a wretched wreck of a joke of a travel companion this old girl turned out to be.

Anyway, it's a very nice walk between St. Ansgar's and Café Wilder, including passage past Amalienborg Palace. The Queen seemed not to be in residence (unless she was actually hiding iside, pretending not to be at home, lest I should knock on her door and beg to come in and soak my aching feet in a pan of epsom salt water.)

We photographed the adorable Amalinborg guards in their adorable little hats:

http://www.dotphoto.com/Go.asp?l=Mar...&IID=118663433

And when Peg tired of trying to shake me off her leg , which I clutched while being dragged across the square sobbing "Are we there yet?" I spotted an empty doorstep on which to rest my sorry self and tie my shoe lace. No sooner had I removed one shoe to massage life back into my arch as I sat on the door stoop, when that adorable guard, now some distance away, said in a loud voice, "Off! Off the steps!" Apparently, my attire and demeanor had telegraphed that I was an uncouth Yank, to be spoken to in English. I should have called in an airstrike on the little sissy but, instead, scurried off with one shoe on and one shoe off.

Café Wilder . In any event, a short distance further and we were able to find one of Copenhagen's inimitable surly cabbies to carry us the rest of the way to Café Wilder, on Christianshaven, where he rolls us out of his vehicle and onto the street just in time for our reservation, which I'd made on line from home. I wondered if I heard some siggers and felt some amused furtive glances as we approached our tiny table near the window, with it's tiny "Reserved" paper tent in place. I find now that this is like making a reservation at Alice's Restaurant. Café Wilder has earned some great reviews, but at bottom, it's just a hippie diner. By making a reservation there, you've just telegraphed to the world that you are a bumpkin American tourist who just fell off a passing watermelon wagon.

I don't know what's going on, but I order some sort of roast beef special, which calls for me to choose three salads from behind the display window, to accompany my slab of roast beef. I have a glass of wine, but it doesn't numb the sensation of bumpkinhood, and I just want to escape. It's not the restaurant's fault. The restaurant is perfectly fine, for its genre, and one would consider oneself a genius if one discovered it accidentally while stumbling through Christianshavn after a late night, in search of an opium den, but to make a reservation a couple of months in advance for Sunday lunch? Get out of here!

Which we did. And I'm thinking that we actually walked the whole distance back to the hostel. That's right, Peg, isn't it? Didn't I empty the slop out of my pith helmet, bandage my bloody feet, and strike out gamely for the DanHostel Copenhagen City from our encampment in Christianshavn? I think the distance between Café Wilder and the hostel showed up as about a mile on Mappy.com, but, of course dealing with the altitude, and humidity, and snaks, and enemy fire all the way. It seemed longer than a mil....

Other Splendid Sights seen: Peg, what did we do after that, for the rest of our stay in Copenhagen? Was it just gin and sailors the rest of the way?

No, I remember, we took a bus tour. Peg, confronting the prospect of my wretched companionship and complete lack of travel-fitness for the two weeks ahead, has valiantly lined up a hop-on, hop-off tour, which we put to good use to visit the Little Mermaid. While in the area, we also visit the Danish Resistance museum, but it's closed. In the neighborhood, we fortuitously come upon the lovely little Anglican church, where we had a delightful chat with two lovely ancient little British ladies tending the place and telling us of its history.

Oh, yes! We also had lunch at a canal-side café in Nyhaven. That was nice, and no foot pain involved as long as I remained seated.

Copenhagen National Museum. The prehistory portion was closed for renovation, but we enjoyed some marvelous wood carvings. Fabulous building, great collection. Someday I'll go back and find out where they've hidden that damned Mammen Axe they stole from my great, great grandfather's farm.

Random Thoughts about Denmark and General ad Copenhagen in Particular: Bikes are everywhere. I mean everywhere! Millions of them. Billions of them. Far out in the countryside, traveling to Mammen, w saw bike trails next to the highway, running for miles, with a rider pedaling along from time to time. Inside Copenhagen, there are throngs of thm. I was stricken by the fitness and seeming healthiness of th people. Out there in the rain, they nevertheless pedal along uphill, in business suits and in jeans and in skirts, pedaling, pedaling, and pedaling. I would not want to see the US take them on mano-a-mano in a physical contest, because I have no doubt they would kick our a _ _.

The city and countryside I saw look prosperous and well-tended. It seemed to me like an optimistic place, with a bright future. I liked it a lot.

Next: (Can you hardly wait?) - Berlin
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Old Jun 10th, 2006, 11:47 PM
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Keep the instalments coming. They are a delight to read.
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Old Jun 11th, 2006, 03:12 AM
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MaryFran and Nikki. Thanks for the info on the castles. I always like the outsides better than the interiors, so it's nice to know I can just do that. I had heard that Krongborg had some cool dungeons - did you see those MaryFran? That might be worth the price of admission, but for the most part, fussy furnishings isn't my thing.

Nikki - yes, Portugal and Copenhagen (and 2 days in Stockholm too). This will be my third year in a row of combining southern Europe with a northern destination for the last week (last year was Sicily and Switzerland, year before Florence and Venice and then Prague). I do this because I really love southern Europe, and want some sun on my trip, but there are northern destiniations I do want to see so I figure with the cheap airfares I can get from Portugal to Copenhagen in the same amount of time and money I could take a train to Madrid. This way I get my southern European "fix" and don't risk three weeks of cool rainy weather, but get to see some of the rest of Europe as well.

MaryFran, I notice you stayed at the CabInn in Arhus. I'm staying at the one in Copenhagen. I know the rooms are small, but everything else was good?
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