We are back in the UK, Lori has resumed work and the kids go back to school on Thursday. We arrived home at 11:59 PM Sunday night January 1. Monday we spent laying around being slugs. It was kind of tiring on our bodies as we did the return from vacation grocery shopping and I started on the laundry. Two weeks of laundry plus small washing machines equals four days of laundry for me. Definitely not a positive of being "slava" but no complaining from me. On Monday my feet felt like they swelled to double their normal size once I got off them and kept my boots off for a day. And the soles of my feet hurt.
What a fantastic vacation we had. Way to much to see in the time we were there but we packed in as much as we could and had a great time. As a lay in bed in Helsinki unable to fall asleep I reflected on the trip and the experience for the kids. The experience for the kids is the main reason I wanted Lori to do the secondment. Yes I will enjoy my "retirement" and love to sight see all the places over here but I want the kids to grow up realising that the world is becoming much smaller than it was when I grew up. Plus I wanted them to experience the world firsthand which is what they have done since they have been in six countries in the last three months. (SIX countries! I hope they appreciate this one day.) This trip was great for worldly experiences - world currency differences when souvenir or food shopping [1 USD = 6.83 SEK (Swedish Krona) = 5.92 NOK (Norwegian Krone) = 0.64 GBP = 0.77 Euro = 5.70 DKK (Danish Krone)], travelling in time zones as we talk and Facebook with people in the States, discussing monarchy governments vs. elected governments, looking for same/similar words in different language spelling and speaking, trying different traditional foods, and so much more. What an experience.
Now on to our vacation. We booked a Scandinavian capitals vacation which gave us lodgings and breakfasts every day and transportation between the cities. We were responsible for all activities, transportation to Copenhagen and from Helsinki, and daytime meals. I was the tour guide and was generally happy with my efforts with one exception - finding restaurants and cafes. I had about a week and a half to plan the trip due to my studying for the UK Theory test. Next time I definitely need to put more time into it but overall I was happy since this was the first time I had planned a vacation of this scope. Four cities, ten days, two holidays and over 1200 pictures to go through. Let's GET IT ON!
Day 1 Dec 22 - We left home in the blackness of morning to get to Birmingham (OZZY!!!) airport for our AM flight. (Birmingham is the childhood home of Ozzy Osbourne, I think his mum still lives there but he doesn't live there any more.) We flew from Birmingham (OZZY!!!) to Copenhagen on SAS which was okay but uneventful. At the Copenhagen airport we bought our Copenhagen Cards and made our way to the hotel. I am not sure how many European cities have the city cards but each Scandinavian capital had them and they were awesome. You buy the cards in one, two, or three day long increments and they are good for all public transportation, all public museums, plus a lot of private businesses gave a discount for people who had them. Very convenient and really helps the budget. After checking in at the hotel (pics coming up) we headed out to find food since it was into the afternoon and we hadn't eaten since breakfast.
A combo Dana Johnson and Kevin Coleman pic - the beer was a Royal Unibrew Christmas Special Edition. Very good but not spectacular. For lunch we had a Danish koldt bord - a buffet type meal with a variety of fish, cold cuts, hot meats, cheeses, open faced sandwich fixings, and a few sweets. It was pretty good. My plate has (clockwise from egg) hard boiled egg with orange flavouring in the egg filling, pickled herring, sausage patty, sausage link (no seconds please), open faced cold cut sandwich with a creamy spinach sauce (okay) and an open faced cold cut sandwich with pickles and a sweet creamy salsa (yum - salsa was great). You can see the kids lemony pop in the background. A tasty meal that gave us the boost to tackle Tivoli Gardens.
Outside shot of the restaurant.
Side entrance to Tivoli Gardens - it was around 4 PM when we arrived. Note the clothes, temps are in the mid 40's and no snow.
Steve Frey pic - hey Steve, do reindeer count as a domesticated animal pic?
Building with restaurants and museum type shops in the background. The swans on the pond highlighted by the sparkling backdrop looked great but not easy for me to capture.
Looking down a street towards the amusement park area of Tivoli.
A slow drop tower where the people spun in circles as they dropped.
A Chinese restaurant.
Kal in front of a small pond where you could ride a small canoe. A little cold out for me to get on a boat.
Entrance to Tivoli Gardens. Lori and I each bought very nice wool jackets and Kalle bought a set of Russian Dolls.
All streets in Copenhagen had shops below street level. A little weird and and a lot of neat.
Biking is popular in Copenhagen. Probably the most popular biking city of the four on our trip.
Our hotel - a five star hotel that lived up to its rating.
Another view of our room. In each city we had a family room where we could all stay together. One of the better memories I have of the trip is some nights we would talk, play games, or just do funny things that made us feel like family. Especially in Indiana we were all so busy that family time wasn't as common as Lori and I would have liked. This trip was great for many reasons.
Day 2 Dec 23 - Time to check out some sights. The public transportation was the best here. Not only could you ride a bus or tram everywhere the maps were great. They showed all of the stops and all of the streets. Oslo had a map that was good for starting fires and not much else while Stockholm and Helsinki didn't even have maps. But we were pros by Oslo so no prob Bob.
Statue of Frederick V in the centre of Amalienborg Palace (check out http://www.copenhagenet.dk/CPH-Amalienborg.htm for more info on the palace and Denmark). The palace was actually four mansions connected underground. You can see two mansions in this picture.
The troop standing in front of the fountain in Amalienhavn - the royal gardens. You can see the Opera House in the distance across the canal. In doing my research every tourist site recommended visiting the Royal or King's Gardens at each stop. They probably looked good in summer but not so good in winter.
Lori and Kal exploring the garden.
Standing at the canal water level looking through Amalienhanv and the palace center at the Marble Church in the background.
Lori took my picture here. I was standing next to him and he said "von meter away". My 'burns must have scared him.
On the way to Frederikskirkke (The Marble Church). We had to come back to it since the times did not match what I found on the internet. Other than the restaurants my other planning disappointment was some places weren't open when I expected them to be. Usually it was okay, we just shifted the day's activities. My big disappointment was missing the Medical History Museum. On the museum door was a handwritten sign saying the museum was closed until January something. I guess I can't plan for hand written paper signs taped to the doors.
So instead of The Marble Church we stopped at a cafe until the Resistance Museum opened. I couldn't find the cafe I picked out so we enjoyed our coffee/cocoa here.
Onto the Frihedsmuseet or Resistance Museum (http://www.natmus.dk/sw23424.asp). "Danish 20 mm Madsen machine canon. This model was used by Danish mechanized units on April 9, 1940."
In reading the displays I learned there was a small but dedicated group of people who wanted Denmark to join the Nazi movement.
Super excited Karl by a "Czech Infantry gun Product of Skodovy Zavody V Plzni, 3,7 cm K. VZ 37. Brought to Denmark by the German Wehrmacht and taken here by a Danish Military group."
American M1 Carbine, British Enfield Mark III, and a couple British Sten Mark IIs.
Winter woollen boots.
I can't imagine being in his position.
Actual execution poles. Chilling to think about. "Execution stakes from Ryvangen in Copenhagen. All told 102 Danish members of the resistance were executed after sentencing at the German court martial."
Karl and I were here a little longer than Kal and Lori would have preferred.
Armed car built by resistance groups in North Zealand and used in action on May 5, 1945 in a fight against Nazi groups.
Sample view of walking the streets. A lot of walking this day. And I mean a lot.
Danish Design Museum (http://designmuseum.dk/en). Kalle wanted to check it out so her and I went in while Lori and Karl guarded a couch in the vestibule. A neat place, I am glad Kalle "dragged me in". Her words not mine.
I liked the chair exhibits best in here. Fur makes everything better.
No info card but Kalle liked it.
A row of chairs.
Boa eating a rabbit.
The museum also had Asian exhibits from 15th, 16th and 17th centuries.
A tall clock I liked.
Maybe the most decorative chimney I have ever seen.
This was really neat, a building made from individual sticks.
Sectional view of building.
After the museum was the changing of the guard at the palace. Not to exciting for me but Lori and Karl liked it.
The Marble Church (http://www.copenhagenet.dk/CPH-Map/CPH-Marble.asp). It is open now and is TOTALLY AWESOME! We couldn't go up into the dome which was a bummer but the rest was awesome.
Lori approaching the alter.
View from the back.
The inside of the dome.
Panoramic view of church.
These grates were over a trench. Not sure what the trench was used for.
Another view of church.
There was a hallway running around the church. Very cool.
Most of the bikes looked like they were WWII era bikes.
Next up was the Medicinsk Museo or the Medical History Museum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medical_Museion_(Copenhagen). But it had a hand written closed sign taped to the door so we went onto the Kastellet instead.
The monument Vore Faldne (Our Fallen) as you enter the Kastellet (Citadel). The monument is in remembrance of the Danish solders killed in WWII.
What is the Kastellet you ask? You can check it out at http://www.destination360.com/europe/denmark/kastellet-the-citadel.
Looking at the old barracks.
Next was Den Lille Havrue (The Little Mermaid). I think Havrue is Danish for disappointment. We all said "this is it?" when we saw it. Check in the box as Steve Frey says.
Side view. Still unimpressive.
Statues guarding Copenhagen at the docks by The Gefion Fountain.
Gefion Fountain. Probably very impressive with water. Definitely one of the bummers about winter vacations is the fountains not running.
The Marble Church on our way back from The Little Disappointment. The fog had cleared so I snapped another pic from the side.
Restaurant Ida Davidsen. This place kept popping up on tourist sites as a place to try so here we are. And it is closed, another hand written sign taped to the door. City navigational success for me for finding the place; another restaurant failure for me as it is closed. A little frustrating.
Next was a walk down Stroget - the world's longest pedestrian street. A couple million shops along the street, you could spend a full day just browsing in the stores.
On the way home we stopped to check out Rundetarn (the Round Tower), you can check it out at http://www.danishnet.com/info.php/travel/round-tower-252.html .
No steps here - you walked up the tower. Hard to see but the bricks are not even and made it challenging walking up. Very neat walk though. Not sure if the bricks are original but they looked like it.
View from on top of the tower. I enjoyed looking at the different roofs, buildings, colours, cathedrals, etc. Church spires on almost every corner.
Another combo Dana Johnson and Kevin Coleman pic. I snapped the beer because they served 0.75L Tuborg beer - now that was a big beer. But don't worry, I won the battle. The food was from a Turkish buffet restaurant that I selected. Put another strike down for my restaurant selections - this one was just plain "different". Plus it was 519 DKK or about 91 USD for the four of us. When was the last time you paid 91 bucks for a poor all you can stand meal? The food on the plate is chicken, stuffed pepper, a cold vinegar vegetable salad, and noodles.
Picture of restaurant.
The breakfast buffet of champions. Hard to see but this is the best food buffet I have ever had. In front is a 2.5 foot x 6 foot table of fruits and cereals, behind that is another big table of cheese and fruits/vegetables, to the left was the hot food trays (eggs, bacon, sausages), also on the left was a milk/juice cart, to the left center was a cheese and cold meat round table, back left is the coffee/espresso machine and back right was the bread/biscuit table. Huge, huge selection and everything was excellent. And yes, I did have a Danish.
I bring this up because I found a few sites where they recommended filling up at breakfast spreads and eating at cafes or buying groceries for the rest of the day because food is so expensive which we found to be true. We ate a snack one day of a slice of pizza and bottle of coke for each of us and the total was 220 DKK or about 39 USD. Ouch.
One morning the waiter asked Kal if she wanted a hot chocolate and she said yes, this is what she got. A creamy hot chocolate with white chocolate chips and shortbread cookies covered in cinnamon and sugar. Karl saw it and asked the waiter for one himself. Best hot chocolate I have ever seen first hand. Both kids said it was great.
Double level bike rack by the metro entrance.
Outside pic of our 5 star. It's website is http://firsthotels.com/Our-hotels/Hotels-in-Denmark/Copenhagen/First-Hotel-SktPetri/.
Day 3 Dec 24 - At this point all museums and a lot of stores are closed so we are left with checking out public sights for our final two days here. We are on our feet 7-9 hours a day (which was typical of the trip) and our feet are starting to tell us their displeasure. Weather was mid 40's for our stay and no snow which was a little disappointing for me. Another disappointment was how dirty the city was. Trash in most street building nooks, a couple million cigarette buttons among the cobble stones, construction was in full swing. One theme consistent with all the cities was heavy construction in each place. I guess they do it in winter since there are probably less tourists but it didn't make it any prettier for us. But on we go.
We actually started late this day due to morning rain. First stop is Gamel Torv (Old Market) which has the Radhus (City Hall) and World Clock. Seeing the City Hall inside would have been nice but we couldn't fit it in.
Next to the Radhus was the Lubraserne - two Vikings blowing a trumpet.
Small (said sarcastically) US influence everywhere we have been so far.
The troop standing next to Hans Christian Anderson. I am sure most parents have self doubt moments about how good of a job they are doing with their kids. I have my share but I have to admit a common theme of not exposing our kids to classic books. I know that I didn't read them many classics when they were small but I really started thinking about it when we saw the Robin Hood statue in Nottingham and Karl had a bunch of basic questions because he never read any Robin Hood books. What 12 year old hasn't read or heard Robin Hood stories? Fast forward to now and both kids are almost arguing with me that HCA isn't a famous writer of children's stories. Neither had heard of The Ugly Duckling but both had heard of The Little Mermaid thanks to the Disney movie. UGH!
After HCA we walked to Nytorv (New Square) in Copenhagen. Wiki info at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nytorv.
After that we walked a few streets and past the oldest buildings in Copenhagen which dated back to the 1500's but I wasn't sure exactly which ones they were so I didn't take any pictures. Here is a picture of Helligaands Kirken (Church of the Holy Ghost) which is the oldest church in Copenhagen which dates back to the beginning of the 15th century. You can read about the church at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_the_Holy_Ghost,_Copenhagen.
More walking brought us past the Nikolaj Kirke which dates to 1530 and "was the scene of the thundering sermons of Hans Tausen, a father of the Danish Reformation."
Bishop Absalon Statue - our axe wielding founding father can be read about at http://www.flickr.com/photos/the_one_wonderer_pathfinder/2479175774/. Short version is that Absalon built a fort at Copenhagen to battle raiding pirates. The fort remains can be seen in a museum but the museum wasn't open when we were there.
Christiansborg Palace on Slotsholmen. You can read about it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christiansborg_Palace. The palace used to be used by the Royal family, now is houses the three branches of Danish government and other official offices.
Marmorbroen (Marble Bridge) on Slotsholmen. The only bridge on the island made from marble, looks better in person.
View of houses across from Slotsholmen.
After a quick bus ride we arrived at Nyhavn. I bet this is a hopping place in the summer. Very colourful.
House number 20, home to HCA as he wrote his first fairy tales. He actually lived in three houses along this row at different times in his life.
Lunch time! How can we pass up a 277 year old restaurant?
Another Dana and Kevin combo pic - Eating Danish smorrebrods which are open faced sandwiches on dark bread. Mine in front had roast beef with remoulade. Upper right is Lori's fried fillet of plaice served with shrimps and caviar. The caviar was good, kinda chewy a slight fishy taste at first with a heavy salty taste afterwards. Upper left was the kids selection, they each got roast beef with fried onion and fried egg. They were all pretty good. Overall the food was much better than the last two months in England. The beer was a Gron Tuborg, more on that later.
After lunch (more like 3 PM since we had late lunches every day) we went to Rosenberg Slot (Castle) and its expansive gardens. You can check it out at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosenborg_Castle. It was closed for our trip but would have been great to tour.
Castle with moat.
On our way back from Rosenberg we passed the Round Tower again and I saw the building across from the Round Tower was built in 1623.
The Round Tower in daytime.
After arriving at the hotel we had a 7-11 Christmas Eve dinner. Four pieces of pizzas, a couple of pastries, a few soda pops, a bag of chips, and we are ready for Christmas Eve dinner. We couldn't find any places open on the way home so we settled for 7-11.
And the best part of Christmas Eve was FOOTBALL! We stumbled upon the Jets-Giants game so that was my early Christmas present. I was so excited.
Day 4 Dec 25 - Merry Christmas! We opened presents, ate breakfast, lounged around the room and walked a little bit in a different neighbourhood. Nothing exciting since everything was closed and we had until late afternoon to get on the ship. The boringest Christmas I can remember.
Cruise ship from Copenhagen to Oslo. I wasn't a fan of cruises before this one and am less of a fan afterwards. The cabin was small (see below), you could feel the waves hitting the ship, and there weren't any activities you didn't have to pay extra to do. The buffet food was very good but the bill hurt, 924 DKK (162 USD) total. They had other restaurants on ship that had cheaper meals but they didn't have child prices like the buffet so we would have spent the same anywhere we ate. I guess we are at their mercy once we board the ship.
Us in our cozy cabin. I took some pictures and videos as we were out at sea but they weren't good enough to post. We had a seaside cabin and were about 15 above water level so we were very close to the waves.
Kevin finally gets his own pic! Now back to the Gron Tuborg. Do you ever have those "A-ha" moments? I had mine drinking the Gron Tuborg at Hyttefadet. This was easily the best beer I have had since leaving the USA. I took my first drink and my taste buds screamed "MORE, MORE, MORE". It tasted crisp, fresh and left my mouth with an enjoyable light beer aftertaste. When I drink the English beers my taste buds say "just give me a minute, I'll be okay." It feels like my taste buds are being dulled drinking English beer whereas the Gron was refreshing. Now to find some more of this kind of beer in England.
Reflections on Copenhagen:
Teenager KJ - Turkish food was bad, changing of the guards was cool, everything else was blah.
KK - Trying caviar at lunch was good, Design Museum was fun, finding a Russian doll at Tivoli was awesome, finding her collectible spoons was awesome, Resistance Museum had some cool stuff.
Lori - Surprised at number of bikers and the fact that each road had a bike lane.
Jay - Marble Church and Round Tower were awesome, Resistance Museum was educational and a little creepy, Design Museum was neat (chair exhibit in particular), breakfast spread was memorable, I finally found collectible shot glasses, finding a building built in 1623 was cool.
Next up is Oslo so stay tuned.
Thanks for listening,