Located on 2 islands as level as a lake the 1996 European Cultural Capital Copenhagen is composed of brick and stone buildings, domes, spires, statues, Strolling Street and green canals. Copenhagen was the birthplace or home of many scientists and artists as well as the inaugurator of existentialism, Kierkegaard.
Nyhavn, founded on a canal opened by the military in the seventeenth century, could be compared with Istanbul's Kumkapi. The banks are lined with seamen's bars and restaurants. On sunny days, the pavements of Nyhavn become open air bars. Denmark's powerfully imaginative pen, famous author of fairy tales, Hans Christian Andersen, lived his last years on the third floor of a Nyhavn building... Canal tours also start here.
Radhuspladsen, town hall square, is the center of Copenhagen. Its tallest tower, Radhuset, was built in the 1910's. The world's first pedestrianised street, Stroget, is at the end of the main avenue, C.Andersens Boulevard... In the tenth century Copenhagen was a small village, but grew rapidly over the centuries as trade flourished. After the great fire of the eighteenth century, the city was rebuilt in brick and stone in baroque and neo-classical style. With a population of around 1,700,000, Copenhagen known for its porcelain and beers has been Europe's largest shipbuilding center.
Most of the annual 3 million tourists visiting Copenhagen join the canal tours which begin in Nyhavn. After clearing the Nyhavn canal, the boats sail out into the straits between the two islands on which the city is founded. The boats turn round near the statue of the Little Mermaid and enter the narrow canals surrounding Christiansborg, former residence of the royal family and present day parliamentary building. In these canals tourists must pay careful attention to the bridges which which force people to bow their heads while passing through...
A Copenhagen family on a Saturday outing. Roles-sharing within the family by Danish men and women is an extremely pleasant sight.
Restaurants which date back a few centuries are equally popular with tourists and Copenhagen women still young at heart.
On arrival we made our way through a noisy group of young demonstrators protesting against racialism and emerged in the rain pouring from a lead-gray sky. An empty bus appeared and transported us through the spotless, deserted streets of Amager Island.
Copenhagen is situated on 2 of the 483 islands which comprise Denmark. Its flatness is striking to those used to the hilly aspect of Istanbul, its highest point being only 173 m. 4 bridges bind the two islands like handcuffs. The other half of Copenhagen is on the eastern shore of Sjaelland, Denmark's largest island which also accommodates a number of other cities. The city has grown from a small village founded in the tenth century. If you arrive in Sjaelland on a Saturday night you will find yourself among lively crowds of Danes and other nationals which make up 8 % of the center's population, Norwegians, Yugoslavians, Poles, Turks, Iraqis, Iranians, Jordanians, Pakistanis, Phillipinos and Egyptians.
In Amagertorv Avenue on Strolling Street sits the European Cafe for Danes who identify with Europe. Across the street is the Northerners Cafe for those who feel themselves to be Scandinavian (left).
The Little Mermaid, the symbol of the city and the heroine of a tale by Anderson, has been on the Langeline coast since 1913. But on a moonless night in 1964, the mermaid's granite head was stolen and subsequently replaced by a new one (right).
As soon as we had settled into our hotel we headed for some of the highlights; the pleasure gardens of Tivoli, the square in front of the strange architecture of the town hall, Radhus, and Strolling Street (Stroget) which is closed to traffic, the first example of its kind in Europe, since copied by many other capitals. We paused to listen to a street singer, watched a demonstration and set off in search of a rock concert advertised on a poster, boarding a train at Vesterport station without a ticket and risking a fine of 500 kroner. Alighting at Osterport we wandered through a district inhabited by self-acclaimed intellectuals to Faelledparken, one of the city's enormous parks where the concert was to be staged. The concert failed to live up to our expectations and we adjourned to sample the beer in a nearby cafe. Carlsberg, Tuborg and SAS are the international companies of Denmark.
This year Copenhagen is the Cultural Capital of Europe staging 500 events including ballet festivals, opera, musicals, symphony orchestras, jazz concerts and rock festivals. SAS will fly thousands of visitors to Copenhagen for these events and gallons of beer will be drunk filling the coffers of the state-owned companies.
The Danes are proud to own the oldest flag in the world and display the symbol of their country everywhere. Flag poles extend from 3 million houses (left).
Amalienburg Palace and Square and the mounted statue of King Frederik V. The palace - divided into 4 equal sections in the hexagonal square - continues to be the residence of Denmark's royal family (right)
The King's soldiers await duty before Amalienburg Palace. The changing of the guard ceremoniously takes place daily at noon (below left). Amagertorv Square and its pool on Strolling Street provides a lively meeting place (below right).
Copenhagen is the Cultural Capital of Europe this year. Among the most interesting performances is a silent play set in metallic decor.
A torch-lit procession ends outside the French Consulate where the demonstrators sit to conduct discussions.
Parts of military baracks of Nyboder have been evacuated, their royal-yellow color restored and transformed into a pleasant district of row upon row of charming low-roofed buildings. In this quiet area of the city sits the bust of Edourd Suenson.
The immigrant communities of Copenhagen do not appear to inter-mix but they enjoy warm relations with the Danes. The social structure assists time out of work for either partner to share child-care and education is prioritized with grants or free tuition available in many fields such as language, painting, theater and professional training courses.
After a few days we had started getting acquainted with the city, which became the capital of Denmark in 1445. After the great fire of the 1700's the city was rebuilt in the baroque and neo-classical style with brick and stone buildings, domes imitating the sky, bizarre towers, statues, breezy avenues and green canals which divide the city center into sections. One such section encloses Christiansborg, former residence of the royal family and present day parliament building.
None of the city's annual total of 3 million tourists should leave before joining a tour of the canals on a flat, wide boat, passing by the home of Hans Christian Anderson, the 18 century buildings of Nyhavn and between the two islands to the statue of the Little Mermaid and returning to the narrow canals surrounding Christiansborg Palace. There are no ugly modern buildings to mar the spectacle of towers, domes and statues. Care must be taken to avoid decapitation when passing under the extremely low bridges especially in the narrow canals of Christiansborg.
|Rundetarn Tower is one of the city's symbolic buildings. Standing 35m high, it was built three centuries ago by King Christian IV who was interested in space research for the famous contemporary astronomer, Tycho Brahe (above). A street performer bringing to life ancient Greek statues aims to attract the interest of passer-bys and a few coppers on Strolling Street (right).|
The Danish community is divided into those who feel their identity to be European and those who see themselves as Scandinavians. In Strolling Street the former frequent the European Cafe and the latter the Northern Cafe opposite. The people of Copenhagen are not partial to hard-line attitudes. A much quoted example is of the king offering no protest to the founding of parliament and a constitutional monarchy when confronted by a gathering of 10 thousand of his subjects in the year 1848 when the flame of revolution was sweeping through Europe.
Ostentation is another attribute shunned by the citizens of Copenhagen. If there is a social hierarchy it is necessary to burrow like a mole to find it. It is impossible to ascertain from dress or manner of speaking one's social or professional status.
Another face of Copenhagen is the self-managing, colorful community of Christiania composed of 200 children and 600 adults. Signs at the entrance proclaim "Free zone". The community was founded in 1971 along the banks of a canal in the Christians-havn district on Amager Island. Neither police nor postmen enter. Photography must first be sanctioned by the commune's management committee as certain areas are out of bounds, notably the hash selling area. The community takes a stance against the use of hard drugs. The slogan on the education building reads, "No weapons, no violence, no hard drugs." The commune has its own flag; 3 yellow circles on a red background symbolizing the three dots on the "i"s of Christiania.
Within the community are an important store stocking alternative therapy treatments, a tiny hospital reminiscent of a holiday home, workshops exporting a range of goods from craftsmen, studios and a children's center which produces a 3-wheeled combination of bicycle and pram for export to various European countries. Although the community was recognized by national statute in 1980 it is viewed by some in Copenhagen as a bogey man.
Boarding one of the SAS fleet planes we left Copenhagen in the spirit of sadness of bidding farewell to an old friend. Copenhagen is as mystical as the cities of the Far East, but its mysticism lies not in the past but its unfolding future.
Tivoli is one of the places most visited by tourists in Copenhagen, going back one and a half centuries. In Tivoli, the sections which have survived 50 years or more attract more attention than more modern forms of entertainment. Popular not only with children and families, Tivoli offers rock and jazz concerts which make it a popular night spot for young people as well (below left). In Christiania, the infamous "Free Zone" of Copenhagen, the official compaign against hard drugs is painted in slogans on the walls, and the use and sale of hash is unrestricted but photography is prohibited. Christiania, which came into existence 20 years ago, today attracts the attention of foreign tourists. Naturally, the youth of Copenhagen who carouse it all night are not obliged to smoke hash (below right).
One of the city's villa districts, Dragor, is 12 km from the center. The houses are known for their fabulous shapes and colours. Cars are not permitted to enter the streets of Dragor inhabited by more than 2,000 people. But one has violated the prohibition (above left). Copenhagen weekend night life is very lively. On weekdays, however, it is dead (above right).