We reserved our Copenhagen hotel on the Internet, with the idea of freeing ourselves from the familiar chain hotels. This was advertised as an elegant Victorian style hotel, and it was nice and close to the main railroad station.
It was Victorian, and it once was elegant, but . . . Fountain near library
The wallpaper was peeling off in some places, scuffed and stained in most others, the lights had all of 40 watts, and the interesting old elevator rocketed up and down and landed only approximately at floor level. There were chips in the bathtub enamel, cracks in the tile, and the grout was black in places. When we opened the windows to beat the heat we let in a muffled whoosh from the ventilating shaft. Screws were loose and the shower leaked. At breakfast we saw that pieces were missing from the faceted mirrors, the dishes rattled when the trains pulled out of the station next door, and we were joined by a busload of tourists who were sure this meal would be their last.
What had obviously happened was that the owners had cut back on payments for maintenance over a period of many years. The sad part of the whole story was that the hotel was rated four stars and was one of the more expensive hotels in the city. Anyhow, we decided to change hotels.
The Tourist Information Office quickly located a hotel that was brand new, clean, and less expensive. We decided to nickname our first lodgings the Hotel Dismal (we'd found more of that chain of hotels elsewhere in our travels). When we told the desk clerk we were leaving the next day; he didn't seem surprised. Nor were we surprised to find our room not made up when we returned at 4:00 p.m. In hotels, as in restaurants, management isn't everything; it's the only thing.
Our new hotel told us they'd be ready at mid-day, so we took a morning walk, changed hotels at noon, then took an afternoon walk.
In the morning we walked through Christianslot, a castle built by King Christianborg Christian IV and now the site of the Danish Parliament, or Folketing. It's another mammoth building complex with arcades and wings and a fountain. The National Library is separated from the Parliament buildings by a lovely garden, where we had just missed the last of the summer roses.
Next we reached the canal area, where many pleasure and working boats are moored. A bright yellow boat was ferrying passengers from one side to another. The water area boasts the greatest number of modern buildings we've so far seen. Lots of offices and light industrial buildings are clustered here; a couple of mimes were practicing a synchronized routine outside an office building next to the water. Miming is evidently quite popular in Copenhagen.
We crossed the bridge to Christianshaven, where our guide book said we would find the Free City of Christiana, home to the old hippies and druggies and their younger allies who had originally settled the area in the 1960s, and have held on through modernization programs and various bureaucratic maneuverings. We did wander through the neighborhood, but all we saw were office buildings, apartment houses and some lovely parks located on the old bastions which date back to the days when Christianhaven was a fort.
By the way, there have been ten King Christians, which explains why everything here is called Christian-this or that. Now the Danes have Queen Lovely spiral tower Margarethe.
In the afternoon we took the S-bahn to Norreport and walked some more through the network of pedestrian-only streets. Now and then we'd crane our neck for a view of some interesting tower or roof ornmanentation. The stores are closed, but the restaurants aren't, and there are plenty of people, young and old, taking a Sunday afternoon walk. A popular refreshment is freshly made waffle or crepe, covered with chocolate or sugar.
It's fun to see all of the Danish families out strolling. Baby equipment can become extremely elaborate. We've seen several bicycles with boxes attached in front to hold babies or toddlers, and also some prams with special covering, including transparent plastic covers for rain. And the babies go everywhere; in the stores, the supermarkets, the trains, buses, escalators and elevators. Our impression was of busy young families (and occasionally grandparents) taking advantage of every minute to be with their children.
Our impression of Copenhagen, after several walks through the city, is that it has nowhere near the historic and architectural riches of cities further south, but that it makes up for that by being full of happy people.