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Wonderful Copenhagen
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Wonderful Copenhagen
  Copenhagen Travel Tale

by Lorry Patton ...

What is it about Copenhagen that makes it the most boisterous, the gayest, the most welcoming -- the most 'wonderful' city in all of Europe?

Maybe it's the charm of Nyhawn Canal -- the 18th century waterfront street where beloved Hans Christian Anderson wove some of his magic fairy tales. Or it could be the energy of Stroget, the longest street in Europe. Or perhaps it's captivating Tivoli.

We arrived on a Friday night smack in the middle of a street festival. I mean, it surely looked like a street festival. Music drifted from gaping windows and doorways of oddly painted apartments and intimate cafes. Jovial waiters pirouetted precariously with jugs of beer around outdoor tables bursting with laughter and friendly conversation. The ships hugging the canal shook, rattled and rolled to the vibration.

Our hotel was the Nyhavns 7, a reeking-with-old-world-charm- hotel just steps away from the celebration. But, really, the pleasant staff informed me, this was just an ordinary Friday night on the Nyhawn Canal -- the wildest, noisiest section of Copenhagen.

Wild and noisy, but very different from the going's on of yesteryear when sailors from all over the world would come to the famous harbor to drink and carouse with girls and one another. Back then, hardly a night went by without a fracas. Tonight's crowd was mild in comparison.

Stroget, another tantalizing section of Copenhagen, is the liveliest and longest pedestrian street in the world. We walked its full length that evening. Actually, it is one wide street covering five long blocks running through the center of the flat city interrupted only once by a cross street that allows wheeled traffic. Night and day, people come and go, come and go, to theaters or restaurants or shopping. I could feel their energy as our footsteps click-clicked on the cobblestones, smooth from age, beneath my feet.

Stroget's atmosphere is at once old and new. (Old in architect and new in window displays.) The shops offer everything imaginable -- from the world famous Royal Copenhagen porcelain to exclusive furs to goose down comforters. Some, like the "Andersen Brothers" clothing store, have been around since 1850.

Recorded history of Copenhagen goes back 800 years. However, I don't think history alone accounts for the intriguing flavor of Copenhagen. Rich and romantic history is not unique in Europe. Although .... the historical Frederiksborg Castle outside the city is extremely popular. I know, because, the next day, as we toured North Zealand, the island that Copenhagen sits on ( Denmark is a country of 400 islands ), we visited several castles. While we were exploring Frederiksborg Castle, three weddings took place in the castle's chapel wing!

The extraordinary Frederiksborg Castle is more of a museum than a palace. The artwork is overwhelming. The ceiling in one room doesn't have a square inch that isn't decorated with either gold ornate woodwork or rich somber oil paintings.

Two famous amusement parks in Copenhagen could be classified as museums as well: Bakken and Tivoli Gardens.

The over 400-year-old Bakken, founded on the site of a sacred well in 1583, is the oldest amusement park on earth. It is an old-fashioned fairground with merry-go-rounds, big dippers, candy stalls, hot dog stands, beer halls, restaurants and variety shows. Bakken appeals to children of all ages.

The Tivoli Gardens ( spelled 'I lov it' backwards ) appeals to everyone -- young at heart or not. Over 250 million people have passed through its ornate gates since 1843. It is a garden like no other. It is a carnival. It is twilight hour of 110,000 lights, it is a thousand flowers; it is the changing of the ( youthful ) guards; it is fireworks; it is food ...

I had become blasé when it came to fireworks, having seen the best, I thought. But the Tivoli's loud performance was like nothing I had heard or seen before. The dazzling explosions took place a few feet from my feet. As for the food, we had dinner at the Belle Terrasse. Utterly delicious with divine service.

Oblivious to the food, the shops, the fairs and the celebrations, an unaffected tranquil little mermaid sits serenely in Langeline Harbor a few miles away. Built in 1913 by Sculptor Edward Eriksen and given to Copenhagen by the famous brewer Carl Jacobsen, she is the most photographed object in Copenhagen.

Strangely, although she has been there for over three quarters of a century, she has yet to be invited to any of the festivities on the Nyhawn Canal -- which, by the way, took place again the following Saturday night. I snuck out barely at dawn Sunday to watch the street gobbler gobbling up the plastic tumblers strewn about the empty streets -- stark reminders of the night before.

We left later that same day. So short was my introduction to the bright, garish, some what messy, turbulent, sophisticated, yet, down-to-earth city of wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen.

Hardly enough time to understand or explain its worldly reputation except to say I agree.

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