Recently, returning from Ireland my flight home was canceled, and then unexpectedly rerouted the following day through Copenhagen, giving me about a three and half hour layover. Having spent most of the previous day at Dublin airport, I was a little stir crazy and decided it would be more interesting to go into Copenhagen proper. Three and half hours is a tight time frame to leave the airport, but due to the efficiency of Scandinavian public transport and city planning, it is possible to go from customs to downtown Copenhagen in about 20 minutes.
After getting money from an ATM (and trying to figure out what 500 krone was worth purely on how much a hot dog cost at the airport), and buying my subway ticket, it was 3:30. Fifteen minutes later, I was getting off the subway at Kongens Nytorv station. I had exactly one hour in Copenhagen.
Exiting the subway into the square that gave the station its name , I was greeted by the flagship building of Danish department store chain Magasin du Nord, built in 1894 (coincidentally, the same year the current Harrods building in London was completed). It’s a beautiful building, especially for a place of commerce and there is something classically European about the old large downtown department stores. The fact that European cities never suffered the population loss and downtown decay of American cities in the 70’s and 80’s explains why Magasin du Nord still stands and Filene’s in Boston, Hudson’s in Detroit and Rich’s in Atlanta are all gone.
Since, I didn’t have phone service and wanted to keep somewhat spontaneous, I looked around the square and picked one of the 6 directions I could have headed in. Turns out I got lucky and headed right for the water.
This neighborhood is called Nyhavn. It used to be a working waterfront, but it seemed tourist oriented, judging from amount of ice cream and waffle places I saw. Walking to the end of the canal, I passed evidence of its practical past along the way:
This is a monument dedicated to the founding of Danish salvage company Svitzer, which started in 1833 and is still around today (although most likely not in Nyhaven as the building itself looked like the type of place that held either condos or design firms). It’s still interesting to see a reminder of when the neighborhood was full of sailors, longshoremen, and lost cargo.
At the top of the street, the canal opens up into the river and there sits this modern building:
This is the Royal Danish Playhouse, built in 2008, and designed by Lundgaard & Tranberg. Whether I like the building or not is irrelevant, look how sleek and Scandinavian it looks!
I walked by a tobacco shop, ducked in and bought a Cuban cigar, and looked for somewhere comfortable to smoke it.
I found a bench, watched boats go by, and counted the bicycles riding over the bridge on the other side of the river. This was relaxing, well, as relaxing as trying to smoke an entire Cuban cigar in 15 minutes can be.
And while the bourgeois American was unwinding with his cancer causing agent, a Danish father and son were enjoying a more wholesome and healthy pastime courtesy of Copenhagen’s public trampolines.
I fully expect to see these soon at some parks in America or I will mourn the loss of our status as a first rate nation.
I then started to walk back to the subway, but passed a bar called Cafe Malmo that looked too interesting to pass up.
My pictures don’t really do the place justice, but it had a very timeless waterfront vibe:
I know he’s Norwegian, but this seemed like a place where some forlorn Knut Hamsun character would drink the day away.
The only people in there was the bartender and a friend, who were playing some odd form of billiards that involved little wooden pins:
I asked them about it and they seemed surprised I had never seen it before, “They don’t have pin billiards where you are from?” I replied in the negative and after watching them for 10 minutes was no closer to understanding the game. Apparently, being exposed to pin billiards is a rite of passage for all visitors to Denmark:
After my second beer, it was time to go. I walked back to the train and made it to the airport with enough time to have a hot dog before boarding. Foolishly I did not take a picture, but I have to say the Danes are not messing around when it comes to hot dogs. They looked like this, were delicious, and have possibly made me change my mind about pork hot dogs:
All in all, it was a pleasant way to spend a couple hours, and definitely made me curious about coming back to Copenhagen, a place I basically had opinion on whatsoever before I touched down.