Copenhagen, Part One


This trip all started during a phone call with my sister Bev one-day last spring. She mentioned that she planned to travel to Copenhagen in the fall to spend time with her son Dillon. He has been living there since the middle of last year, and she had flown there for a night during her stay with us in Amsterdam in early August.

I was sitting on a substantial number of frequent flyer miles with United Airlines and on a lark looked to see how many it would take to get me there and back. Normally a round trip flight to Europe will cost 60,000 miles each way, a total of 120,000. I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that I could fly on United’s Global Alliance partner, Lufthansa, for only 60,000 miles round trip. I emailed Bev and asked if she’d mind if I tagged along and when she said she’d love for me to join her; the trip became real.

My flight was scheduled for 7:00 pm on Monday the 5th, direct to Munich with a three-hour layover, then onto Copenhagen on a smaller regional jet. The flight over went smoothly, made better as I was seated in row 27 on a very new Air Bus 330 with an extended amount of legroom. Having flown United last year to and from Brussels, I knew that the service on International flights is generally a cut or two above what one can expect in coach on a domestic flight.

On Lufthansa its multiple cuts above, with two good meals (at the start and end of our eight-hour flight) and a sufficient amount of free good quality alcohol to raise the comfort level. It was superior to our Economy Plus experience the year before on United and led me to conclude that anytime fares are comparable, I’ll fly Lufthansa in the on future.

I landed in Copenhagen in the early afternoon and exiting the arrivals area saw Beverly waiting for me just outside the door. Our host for the duration, Gorm Nielsen was with her and after a quick introduction we exited the terminal for his car and the 40-minute drive to his house in Vedbaek, a suburb north of town.

Copenhagen Airport to Vedbaek

Copenhagen Airport to Vedbaek

Gorm and his wife Maria live in a large by Danish standards two story house in a neighborhood typically European in appearance and yet similar in many respects to any we’d find in the States. We spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in the living room downstairs, situated at the back of the house, well lit by multiple large windows looking out into a medium sized back yard bordered by tall hedges.

How Bev and I landed at this house is an interesting but not unusual story in this connected world we all inhabit. Gorm and Maria have two children, Tobias and Sarah, both students in college. Sarah is married to Dillon’s best friend Robert, who moved to Denmark to play American style football in a professional league, the Danish American Football Federation. Dillon visited Robert a couple of years ago and then last year accepted a job with a family with a two-year commitment; thus our happy happenstance to be staying with Gorm and Maria.

Robert and Sarah along with their eighteen-month-old daughter Nora stopped by for dinner around 5:00 pm and we ordered take-out Thai food, my first official meal in Denmark washed down with my first, but not last, Tuborg beer of the trip. Sarah and Robert left and then around 7:00 pm we drove over to a recreation complex nearby to watch a bit of the football practice that Robert and Dillon were participating in, their league’s championship game, the Mermaid Bowl, scheduled for the coming Saturday.

Football Practice

Football Practice

When I left Charlotte the day before temperatures were pleasant, highs in the low 70’s and lows in the 50’s. Not so in the climes in northern Europe where a hard wind made the temperature in the high 40’s feel much colder. We watched the team practice for thirty minutes or so and then returned to the warm confines of Maria and Gorm’s place. The weather would be variable throughout our stay and determine the timing of a number of our activities. But it was nice to be out that first night, staying up as late as I could manage in order to handle the jet lag to come.

The next day, Wednesday, Bev and I took the train into Copenhagen, a journey that would become routine for us in the days to follow. Some days we’d get a ride from Gorm or Maria to the Vedbaek train station, others would find us walking the half-mile or so to a bus stop to wait for the bus that sometimes didn’t come, as it only runs once an hour on the weekends.

Bike Parking at Norreport Station

Bike Parking at Norreport Station

The train to town ran every twenty minutes and it would take us just about fifteen to get to our regular disembarkation spot, the Norreport station. Exiting at the square, filled with pedestrians and hundreds of parked bikes, we found Dillon and being hungry, grabbed a quick bite from one of the ubiquitous hot dog carts one finds throughout the city. Bev and Dillon both got hot dogs, loaded with all kinds of toppings while I got the Danish version of a burger, equally accessorized with condiments. At twenty-eight Danish Krone, this came to roughly $4.20, not outrageous but not inexpensive, a pattern we’d find throughout our stay in Copenhagen.

Hot Dog Cart

Hot Dog Cart

We then started a walking tour that would last us the afternoon. Dillon took the lead and for the first time in ages, I wasn’t in charge, a nice feeling to just tag along. It meant though that I didn’t necessarily pay attention to where we were at any given moment, not a good thing when you are trying to reconstruct the tour for your blog. We walked down one of the main pedestrian shopping streets, Komagergade, a route we would traverse many times in the coming days. We passed the Round Tower, but put off climbing to the top until the weekend when we hoped the skies would clear for a better view.

Round Tower

Round Tower

Making our way down to the harbor at Nyhavn, we walked up the Inderhavnen (Thousand Islands), the large channel that dominates Copenhagen. The city is built on a number of islands and although canals aren’t as numerous as in Amsterdam, it seems that you are often crossing some form of water to get to another part of town.

As we walked up the harbor, we passed the Opera House and other sites on our way to Copenhagen’s most famous landmark, the Little Mermaid Statue. A gift to the city in 1909 from brewing magnate Cal Jacobsen (Carlsberg Brewing), it is inspired by a ballet performance of Hans Christian Anderson’s story. Jacobsen hired the sculptor Edvard Eriksen to immortalize the mermaid as a statue and Eriksen used his wife Eline as the model.

The Little Mermaid's

The Little Mermaid’s

We finished up our walk with a round of coffees at Baresso, Copenhagen’s version of Starbucks. This would turn out to be a regular, and expensive stop for us, with a medium filter coffee coming in at 27 Krone ($4) and the latte’s that Bev and Dillon like at 45 Krone ($6.75). We returned to the Norreport station, bade Dillon farewell and caught the train back to Vedbaek.

The Vedbaek Train Station

The Vedbaek Train Station

Dinner that night was an example of typical Danish fare, meatballs made from a mixture of pork and beef, plain boiled potatoes, and brown gravy. Hearty and filling, we’d eat some variation of this meal a couple of times more during our stay. It had been a good start to my days in Copenhagen. Next up would be a flight to Paris with Bev, Dillon and his girlfriend Simone for two nights there and a rendezvous with Francois. I looked forward to introducing this great city to Dillon and Simone, being able to see it yet again through their eyes. It doesn’t get much better.



Danish Football:

Mermaid Bowl:

Little Mermaid:

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