Sunday, October 16, 2011

Look at this stuff, isn't it neat

All good things must come to an end, and so did our European vacation. This will be the last post covering our adventures which I suppose could be a good or bad thing depending on how much you like reading about other people's travels.

Our final stop on our cruise was Copenhagen, Denmark. I wish I could say that it lived up to some of the other places we visited but the truth is Copenhagen had some stuff working against it. First, it poured rain all day. It's just not as much fun to take a walking tour when you are getting pounded by rain. Second, my ankle was beginning to bother me. I had made it through Tallinn pretty well, but by Copenhagen, I was experiencing some problems walking. The cruise line was unwilling to give us a refund on our booked tour, so I went ahead and toughed it out.

Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, and is situated on two islands, Zealand and Amager. Copenhagen became the capital of Denmark in the beginning of the 15th century. During the 17th century, under the reign of Christian IV, it became a significant regional centre.
The city is currently a major regional centre of culture, business, media, and science, and has repeatedly been recognized as one of the cities with the best quality of life. However, living in the city also comes with a high price, literally. If I remember our tour guide correctly, taxes in Denmark hover around the 70% level which means the Danes pay through the nose for their fun. Suck on THAT Tea Partiers.

Our tour started along the sea with stops at some historical statues. The first, celebrating Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid is one of Copenhagen's most iconic images. I'm ashamed to say that the other statues, while lovely, were not able to penetrate the detritus of my brain and allow me to remember their names. However, I can tell you that they were all made as gifts to Denmark after some royal lady was married off. Our tour guide joked that Denmark's number one export was royal daughters, and it's number one import was statutes from them after they got married off.

The Little Mermaid

Random statute and church...sorry guys, that's all I got on this one.

We continued to walk along the coast of the city and saw several motorcades pass including the car that was transporting the Crown Prince. Apparently there was a memorial dedication for Denmark's fallen in the Iraq/Afghanistan war going on that day so the big wigs had turned out. Our tour guide also liked to joke that Denmark had not won a successful military campaign in around 500 years and the last one, against maybe Sweden? came as such a complete shock that people didn't know what to do with themselves. This kind of self-deprecating humor is common to the Danes; in fact, they seemed to kind of have a sad-sack quality. I guess they are the Eeyore of Scandinavia.

After almost getting run over by the Crown Prince, we turned away from the water and headed to the oldest section of Copenhagen's inner city (called the "Middelalderbyen" (The Medieval City). We also walked through the most distinctive district of Copenhagen, the Frederiksstaden developed during the reign of Frederick V. It has Amalienborg Palace at its centre and is dominated by the dome of the Marble Church and several elegant 18th century mansions. The old inner city of Copenhagen includes the small island of Slotsholmen with Christiansborg Palace and Christianshavn. Around the historical city centre lies a band of congenial residential bouroughs (Vesterbro, Inner Nørrebro, Inner Østerbro) dating mainly from late 19th century. They were built outside the old ramparts of the city when the city was finally allowed to expand beyond this barrier.

Our tour wandered through the city, but to be perfectly honest, at this point Copenhagen was blending into a lot of the other cities we had visited. Our tour included the walking portion and then a boat portion, but by the time we arrived at the canal for the boat tour, we had had enough of the rain and decided to just wander through the old party of the city shopping and looking around.

Well, that about does it! The rest of our trip passed (mostly) without incident. Going back into Amsterdam we had REALLY rough seas, the worst I have ever experienced, but we arrived safe and sound. We spent another night in Amsterdam and just sort of wandered around without aim to enjoy the sights one last time. We watched a lot of the National Geographic Channel (one of the only American tv channels) and I read a lot of the latest Wheel of Time book. Our flights back the next day went off without a hitch, although the walking through the airports and inability to elevate my ankle made for an uncomfortable experience. And when we arrived back in DC, there was my Mom waiting with a sign and her camera to welcome us home. And that was really one of the best parts--coming back home to a happy and smiling Mom.

Welcome home! As you can see, Chris and I look happy however Kent couldn't really give a shit since he just wants a cigarette. Good times!

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