By now you have probably noticed a fairly lazy pattern to our days - to stay indoors until early afternoon, merging breakfast with brunch with lunch, and only depart the Labyrinth at around 1pm. This is a pretty disappointing way to spend one's days abroad. In particular, BaronWR was mildly irked at having spent most of Friday (his first day in town) slouching around, drinking very expensive beer, and achieving not much else. As such, the plan for Saturday was for us to get up and out of bed, regardless of the damage or risk to our delicate hung-over constitutions, and head into the city at around 9am to see what we could see, and do touristy stuff.
BaronWR, Evil Catullus, Wntrmute, DTal and I started from Kongens Nytorv again, this time heading south towards the area of Copenhagen known as Slotsholmen, which is where various Copenhagen palaces and castles have been built on the same site since about 1167. The Wikipedia article on the subject is pretty much accurate.
We looped around to enter the place from the south, passing the old stock exchange of Børsen with its twisting spire made from the tails of four copper dragons, which had been one of Evil Catallus's requested stopping points. The current Christiansborg Castle itself is a pretty baroque and straightforward structure, but not unattractive. It's functional, holding a huge quantity of Danish governmental offices and legislative power and so on; this said, it was surprisingly empty, even for late on an Easter Saturday morning. After emerging at the Castle's front and proposing and then rejecting a proposal for taking a panoramic shot (Wntrmute hadn't brought his tripod), we went inside and took a plunge down the stairs into the ruins below the Castle. These were specifically the ruins of the original Absalon's Castle, built by Bishop Absalon of Roskilde in 1167 and then buried until it was discovered during excavations in the 1900s. Thanks to the darkness and the fact that the Castle had been extended, fortified and destroyed at least once each, the ruins were very difficult to make geometric sense of. In addition, the text accompanying the various portions of the ruins and the displays nearby seemed to appear in something entirely other than chronological order, making the full and complete history of the building(s) very difficult to unpick. Still, I got most of the rough details, which are summarised better on Wikipedia than I could manage here. Other memorable details: mysterious colourful easter eggs hidden around the place along with clues for children to track down; displays of old masonry (spectacular...n't); inexplicable wooden logs in the 12th-century ruins, which we later discovered had been hollowed out and filled with lead to serve as water pipes; the word "jordklump" ("lump of earth"); emergency exits taking the form of trapdoors in the ceiling with ladders stowed nearby; kids painting Easter eggs in an activity room at the end of the tour; two wells (surely, this close to the harbour, any water drawn up would have been salty? Does Copenhagen sit on a river, or what?).
We emerged blinking from the ruins in time to meet StrawberryFrog, la petite mort, Dimview and sloebertje at the statue in the courtyard. (It might have been Keirkegaard but I honestly don't remember.) StrawberryFrog, la petite mort, BaronWR and to a lesser extent Evil Catullus were of the opinion that we had to go and see the Little Mermaid which we'd intentionally avoided on Wednesday, if only to be able to say that they had gone and seen it. Though it would mean retracing a lot of Wednesday's steps, we agreed to make the long trek up the coast, passing the Opera House, Amaliehaven and Amalienborg a second time.
Tangent. If Sydney Opera House was built by rearranging slices of fruit, Copenhagen Opera House was based on the chopping board on which the fruit was sliced, with, according to BaronWR, a small touch of petrol station forecourt.
This time, just missing the Changing of the Guard at the palace, which apparently happens every day at 11:30am, which we didn't know. StrawberryFrog, BaronWR, la petite mort, sloebertje and Dimview elected to go and take another look at Frederik's Church, while Evil Catullus, DTal, Wntrmute and I continued on up the waterfront ahead of them to see the Little Mermaid.
The statue is lifesize, by which I mean it's exactly the same size as any real mermaid, i.e. the same size as a human, i.e. tiny. I was prepared for the anticlimax. There was a gaggle of tourists photographing the statue. Periodically, canal boats full of tourists would approach the statue from the water side and photograph her from behind. A more interesting picture, I think, would be to get up on her pedestal and photograph all the fascinated tourists.
A great deal of the tourists were going to far as to climb up nearby and be photographed alongside her. Why? we wondered. "I know what my face looks like, why should I ruin a perfectly good photograph by insisting on appearing in it?" were BaronWR's sentiments.
We trooped a little further up the road to a stall which was full of tacky Lille Havfrue merchandise but which also incidentally sold food. Here, Wntrmute and I bought hot dogs, a foodstuff which is available seemingly all over Denmark and thus assumedly part of traditional Danish cuisine, or something. Consisting of a crusty hot dog bun, not sliced open but cored, filled with not mere ketchup but tomato relish, with a fairly substantial and high-quality sausage which stuck out of the end by a decent four inches, this was a surprisingly delicious piece of junk food.
Once la petite mort and StrawberryFrog had caught up with us (I believe sloebertje and Dimview had decided to head off to do girly shopping and then meet us back at the Labyrinth), we veered west across the railway bridge and then south towards the park of Østre Anlæg, which nestled in a seeming chasm between the many railway tracks on one side and buildings on all three others. I had hoped that the park would be more scenic than it turned out to be, which was pleasant, but not particularly spectacular. When we reached the middle of the park, StrawberryFrog and la petite mort split off from the rest of us, intending to visit a specific fabric shop and a specific goth shop - I guess this is an international subculture just like noderkind - and, again, meet us back at the Labyrinth.
Meanwhile, Evil Catallus, DTal, Wntrmute, BaronWR and I headed into the Danish National Gallery, which, being free to enter (aside from a returnable 10 kroner coin to lock up your backpacks in smart grey lockers in the clean, extremely smart white-painted vaulted basement), was the best-value attraction in the city, by my reckoning.
A curious art exhibit was outside the front entrance of this gallery. We originally took it to be construction work, but in fact it was a steam-roller almost perfectly balanced by a crane loaded with a concrete counterweight. It was positioned so that the steam-roller could potentially be driven around in circles like a horse on a rein, but nothing was actually happening. As modern art goes, and we confirmed that it was indeed an artistic endeavour of some kind, I've seen better.
Aside from the special exhibits which cost money to enter, we dragged ourselves through every room in the building, starting with modern art. Most of the modern art was pretty passable, though not necessarily my thing, and there were more exhibits which failed the "I could do that" test than you would find in, for example, the Tate Modern. A wall covered in cloth hangings depicting skulls, marijuana leaves, and other brightly-coloured counter-cultural symbols painted on fabric? You just took that out of your room at college and couldn't bear to part with it, could you? A big sign saying "Your rights infringe on my rights" or "I love my country! ... But what if it's not that good, and I was just brought up that way?"? If you have a point to make, there are better ways of doing it than writing it out explicitly and calling the paper on which you wrote it art. A semicircle, half red and half blue? So you were inspired by the FedEx logo. Something which looks like a wall full of spilled tagliatelli? I admit that the majority of good modern art requires a great degree of physical skill and compositional skill, but sometimes you have to just sit there and go, "What?"
Or possibly, "I know what art is, and it's not that."
It was at this point that we crossed the bridge between the old art gallery and the new one. Apparently the Danish National Gallery is actually one building (pretty much tall and cuboidal) with a second one (more of a wedge shape) placed carefully nearby and then linked to it with bridges and glass, creating something like a big vertical conservatory space between them. In the rest of the gallery we found mainly older, more traditional art works: old mediaeval art fitting the same old mediaeval religious formats and templates (somebody should make a gallery of entirely Virgins Mary, just to emphasise the monotony of this artistic period); landscapes and portraits; still-life paintings of bowls of fruit and pin-boards crammed with notes and huge piles of artistically-arranged meat and vegetables; lots of other pieces whose presumably fantastic historical significance were sadly lost on me. I have tried to take a constructive interest in traditional art, but it does not work. Frankly, the existence of a two-storey-tall industrial elevator rated for moving artworks up to 3.5 tonnes was more interesting to me.
There was much more of the traditional artwork than there was modern art, and after passing a variety of interesting sculptures in the main hall we quickly headed back downstairs to the cafe we had spotted from above an hour earlier. We drank drink. DTal and I had another stab at the beer and were stung yet again by its colossal expense. DTal had successfully conned the cashier into thinking he was Danish (or at the very least had avoided speaking any English) and the cashier voluntarily opened his bottle for him. I (somehow, I forget how) revealed that I was British while paying and walked away with a firmly capped bottle in my hands. Coincidence? Refusing to swallow my pride, I spent the next five or ten minutes amusing myself and the others (and probably everybody else who was nearby) attempting to open the thing with a nearby fork.
The others had sticky cake and soft drinks. The smarter move. We consulted the guide books and considered our options. BaronWR's main interest for the day was Rosenborg Slot, a Renaissance palace which unfortunately was closed for the day by now, due to the delay of my suggested detour into the National Gallery. BaronWR and the others intended to be around the following day, so this was my loss more than anything. As a Plan B, we elected to return to the Rundetårn, the enormous tower which had been built for the famous astronomer Tycho Brahe to do astronomy from - presumably during the days when Copenhagen created negligible light pollution. The interior of this tower has no steps for the most part, but is instead a continuous spiral, to facilitate wheeling large pieces of astronomical equipment up it. We found several kids apparently playing hide and seek in the various alcoves on the way up - it seemed like a fairly easy venue to derive a search pattern for, though. "Top to bottom", for example? The final spiral staircase leading to the top of the tower was so narrow as to be pretty much one-way. As for the views from the top of the tower, I'll have to let my pictures speak for themselves.
I don't know whether Denmark has rich natural resources of copper, but a lot of the old buildings in Copenhagen have (or had) copper roofs and other features. As we all know, copper corrodes quite quickly and turns into a hideous cabbage green colour which simply clashes with everything, and which nobody would ever choose to use in a building. The result is a skyline which would be rather attractive if not for these livid ugly splashes of green. What is it with those otherwise brilliant old architects, then? Did they not see the pattern developing? Was one or two years of attractive shiny brown roofing enough to satisfy them of a job well done? Did they not think of the future? I call this a shame.
It was now past 17:00 and we were footsore, and had run out of ideas for things to do which were likely to still be open. We returned home.
That evening Dimview had promised to make delicious traditional Danish food - not hot dogs, something rather nicer whose name I can't remember but which will undoubtedly arrive sooner or later. She delivered on this promise with not only delicious meaty lump things halfway between hamburgers and meatballs, but also the most delicious cooked potatoes I'd ever tasted and a tasty brown sauce whose brownness is apparently merely a traditional food colouring which is bought separately. Replete, we chattered drunkenly on into the evening. I drank well, knowing I had to get up early the following day to return home.