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July 26, 2015

The forecast called for one decent weather day. It was supposed to be today, so we rented bikes from the hotel as how could we come to Copenhagen and not ride bikes given it has been voted Best Bicycle City in the World for two consecutive years. Well, we started out on our bikes beneath black skies in a light drizzle. At first we wondered what we got ourselves into as we precariously positioned ourselves to jump on bikes made for tall Danes. Suman had to get her pedals in a perfect position, while I went with a skateboard start pushing my bike forward with one foot.

Fortunately the dedicated bike lanes are raised just slightly above street level and are the width of a sidewalk. In addition, the traffic lights include lights for cars, bikes, and pedestrians, so we had our own traffic flow. With our familiarization of the city yesterday, we really didn’t have to stop to look at the map often, only at each tourist attraction to find the best places to visit in Copenhagen.

We started the day early, crossed the canal and visited the island of Christianshavn and more specifically Christiania, an area established by squatters in 1971. It’s a commune of collective businesses, workshops and communal living. Colorful buildings peppered the cobblestone streets. The area was virtually deserted Sunday morning though I suspect Saturday night was rather busy, especially with its green light district full of marijuana selling huts. No photos were allowed of the leafy stalls which is too bad because it was so eclectic and fun to see. Its own version of the “Stadens Museum of Kunst” located in a run down warehouse wasn’t open. It would have been fun to see the local art, though much of it appeared to be painted all over the buildings.

From there, we rode back toward the center of town to the Kings Garden. We parked our bikes and took a nice stroll along the manicured grounds beneath the trees and through the rose garden. Next we revisited Kastellet, a star-shaped fortress originally commissioned by Frederick III in 1662. Yesterday, we only got a view of the from its outskirts. Today, we walked along the raised path to look down inside at the 18th Century barracks protected by a moat that now house the army. What a cool place for locals to go for a morning run!

We still had time to kill while we were waiting to see the changing of the guard at Amalienborg at noon, so we turned south and stopped at a cafe to enjoy Nyhaavn. Of course it began to rain again, but we were able to sit beneath the umbrellas and heaters with blankets in our laps as we sipped on coffee and watched people come and go.

Once we reached the plaza for the changing of the guard around 11:30, Brian and Erin spotted us on our bikes from a distance. We must have stuck out. Given the police moved our bikes from where we parked them as people congregated around the plaza, I suppose we did appear to be tourists. Our book mentioned the guard would follow a path along several roads all the way to the plaza, so we walked down a few of these roads first. This may have been misinformation, as upon returning to the plaza, a line had formed around the area where the guards were to march with the help of a silent policeman who directed traffic. We never really could figure out why he directed us the way he did, because as soon as the guards came out of the palace we were allowed to move to where we were previously standing which was never in the way. Then, after about ten minutes of procedures tourists were allowed to follow the guards around and take pictures. It was far less stuffy than the changing of the guard in London and somewhat amusing to watch tourists run from guard station to station and snap photos.

Our next tourist activity was to take the canal tour. Admittedly it was a bit cold and the water was so high that our flat boat couldn’t fit under some of the bridges, but we got a view of a variety of places from military to the most expensive apartments in Copenhagen. The architecture ranged from historic to modern. We were fortunate to get the partially covered boat, so when it rained we could go inside, and when the sun poked through the clouds we could sit outside. Most tourists wanted to go on the open boat, so our boat was mostly empty too. While the tour was nice for a change of scenery and provided a way to see the city while resting our legs, it would have been nicer if a little more history was provided about Copenhagen. By the end of the hour, we were ready to eat, so we joined every other tourist in Nyhaavn for an overpriced, mediocre lunch. I’d recommend another place to eat. We were just hungry.

Our final stop of the day was at the Rundetaarn, a red brick round tower built in 1642 as an observatory for the famous astronomer Tycho Brahe. We followed the ramp up 38 meters to the outside deck and then to the stairs to the 1929 telescope. We waited in line to see the sun, but the clouds weren’t cooperating and suddenly the gentleman in charge decided to close the viewing area. Oh well, supposedly we followed in the hoofsteps of Tsar Peter the Great’s horse that made its way up the ramp.

The tower, built by King Christian IV was the first part of the Trinity Complex. It brought together a church and a library. The Bell-Ringer Loft and Library Hall now display a collection of historical items. In one of the small cubby holes on the side of the spiral ramp, visitors can stand on the glass floor and look several stories down! Not something for someone afraid of heights.

After our visit to the tower, we rode our bikes back to hotel and rested a bit before we geared up to see Tivoli Gardens. Tivoli Gardens is the second oldest amusement park in the world. The park has been open since 1843 and is what inspired Walt Disney. I felt weird visiting an amusement park in Europe, but this was a little different. The park offered a variety of rides from bumper cars to “vomit machines” as Erin liked to call a few of the spinning contraptions, but it also had the feel a beautiful gardens which lit up colorfully at night. It was also home to movies on the green, a pantomime show, a brewery and several restaurants. Groften, where we ate, was a local institution. The 1874 restaurant cooks up lamb, salmon, steak, pasta and more! Suman and I didn’t manage to stay up for the 10:45 light show, but Erin and Brian said it was good. ETB

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