No visit to Copenhagen is complete without a visit to the historic Tivoli Gardens which is a huge amusement park. Here kids and the young at heart can enjoy hair-raising rides, and screams of delight along with the myriads of twinkling lights make it a visit worth remembering. Spread over 15 acres, the park dates back to 1853 where the founder Georg Carstensen asked King Christian VIII for the land by saying “ when the people are amusing themselves they do not think about politics.” In ’43 some Nazi sympathizers burnt a lot of the park to the ground to break the Danish spirit, but within a few weeks the Danes had the garden back in operation.
The Tourist information centre is just a few steps away from the station and the best way to see Kobenhavn or Copenhagen as it is said in English, is by foot. There are convenient luggage lockers in the station where you can store your heavy luggage for 25 dkk, instead of trudging around the city with it. At the information centre, there are plenty of maps of the city kept out for free, in a variety of languages. We just grabbed ourselves a copy each and found out the easiest ways to get to the sights we wanted to see.
My dream was to see Den Lille Havfrue or the Little Mermaid. That’s the icon the world knows Denmark by and of course Hans Christian Andersen and his heart tugging story about ‘The Little Mermaid.’ So we took off walking through huge plazas with striking buildings all around us. Every once in a while the clock in a spire would melodiously ring out the hour and of course we had to pop in and out of the little delicatessens on the way indulging in ‘Polse horns’ or sausage rolls and hot chocolate.
On the way we popped into the National Museum which has a very unusual architectural style. All aspects of Danish history and prehistory can be studied here and the museum is characterized by its very up- to -date approach to the museum concept. History buffs can easily spend hours poring over the exhibits. Those who would like more history should visit Copenhagen's National Museum, founded in 1807, which has collections dating back to 1650, when Danish kings started their own "royal museum." It is housed in a classical 18th-century mansion in the centre of Copenhagen and its permanent exhibitions relate more than 10,000 years of cultural history.
On our way to the Little Mermaid we walked through the main mall of the town which seemed to be full of Christmas shoppers looking for bargains. Lights twinkled everywhere and the shops beckoned with exciting discount bargains. Buskers added to the festive ambience by playing Christmas tunes on violins and piano accordions along the mall. Generous hands dipped into pockets and coins clinked into the busker’s upturned hats, with appreciative cheers at the end of each song. It was cold but no one cared and mufflers, hats and colourful gloves helped to keep off the biting artic winds. There was also the forty year old Museum Erotica on the mall, with 25 sex galleries, but we chickened out of taking the tour!
We carried on walking, asking along the way if we were on the right path to the Mermaid and smiling faces nodded us on. An ice cream café had us all crowding in despite the cold, ordering ‘soft ice’ in waffle cones, smothered in chocolate sauce, all for just 10dkk. “Look for the Japanese tourists and then you will be sure you are near the Little Mermaid,” my cousin David Rodrigues had tipped me off and he was bang on the mark! Walking along the sea face we noticed a high walkway in the distance and a large group of Japanese tourists. There in the milling crowd was the Little Mermaid, tiny and exquisite, her perfect forlorn beauty, seated out on a rock, in the harbour. The statue has immortalised Hans Christian Andersen’s story which was about this beautiful mermaid, who fell in love with a human prince and drank a potion sold to her by the Sea Witch, in exchange for her tongue. She would get a soul, only if the prince loved her in return and married her. Unfortunately as the story goes the prince married another and the mermaid died broken hearted and turned into sea foam. The statue, a major tourist attraction, is a symbol of Copenhagen. Small and unimposing, tourists feel disappointed by her tiny size but if you spend a little time looking at the fine detail, this could definitely not have been executed in a mega sized mermaid! The statue was commissioned in 1909 by Carl Jacobsen, son of the founder of the Carslberg beer. The sculptor, Edward Eriksen, created the statue, which was unveiled in 1913. What’s interesting is that he used his wife Eline Eriksen as the model. The statue has been vandalised several times, but each time has been restored. Her head was sawn off twice, she was painted red and given a red bra. She was also draped in a burqa as a statement against Turkey joining the European Union. Recently,Copenhagen officials have announced that the statue may be moved further out in the harbour, as to avoid vandalism and tourists climbing onto it.
Later we took a train to visit Christiana, a hippie commune whose residents are the original ‘flower children’, who live by their own rules. More than a cup of coffee seemed to be on sale in a café we stopped at. It had lots of silent customers with a strange ‘stoned’ look in their eyes.The place does exude a run down seedy air but the brilliant murals on the walls had our flash bulbs popping. On your way out an arch boldy proclaimed “you are now entering the EU”!
Informal and easy going, the Danes never intrude, but are ever ready to help the tourist around Copenhagen, making it a wonderfully romantic holiday destination.