Villanova Invades Copenhagen!

3 Mar

Alright folks, I’m here to tell you about PROBABLY THE BEST WEEKEND I’VE HAD SO FAR IN THE WONDERFUL CITY OF COPENHAGEN. (the reason it’s “probably” is because Danish advertisers aren’t allowed to claim their product is “the best” or “#1,” and it’s a perfect reflection of the Danish modesty as well as their underlying self-assurdedness, which is summed up in this quote:

“The Danes are the most modest people in the world. And in this as well they are World Champions” -Piet Hein)

But back to the weekend – it couldn’t have happened if it weren’t for a visit from two fellow ex-pats and friends from Villanova: Tom Belatti and Ashley Dodge. They both are studying at Oxford this semester and made the trip to Scandinavia to find out just what exactly is this mystical place called Denmark that Nate talks about all the time. As you can see, we hit the ground running (I was in tour guide mode basically the entire weekend):

 Taylor Rose and I served as impeccable tour guides for the entire weekend. We began by showing them City Hall on the wall to their hostel – which conveniently had a British art display, so Tom and Ashley were loving that.

Next we took a stroll down Stroget, which is the main walking and shopping street in Copenhagen (and which is conveniently pronounced “Stroll”):

And of course, on our way we had 

to make a stop in the Lego Store, since the Danes are the inventors of the famed toy block that, along with Thomas the Tank Engine and Indiana Jones, defined my childhood:

Next stop was Taylor’s and I’s favorite cafe for a  meal of fresh laks, or salmon (sticking with Lenten tradition – fish on Fridays baby). After a few hours of Danish beer and catching up, we met up with some friends to hang out in a nearby apartment, and then called it an early night.

Saturday morning we were all up bright and early for

a full day of touring about the city. We started our morning by ordering some Danishes in Danish (it was really in English, but that would ruin the pun):

Next we took Tom and Ashley to Konigs Nytorv (King’s New Square) and out to the famous Nyhavn or New Harbor, where the iconic canals are. It was SUPER windy, resulting in this picture (one of my favorites of the weekend):  

Next we stopped at Frederikstown, a planned, grided portion of the city with the Marble Church and the Royal Palace where the Monarchy resides (which got to go inside as a part of a guided tour for another class, but more on that in another post). After that we headed over to Greyfriars  Square where the old Franciscan Monastery used to be before the Reformation, followed by Amagertorv, a big market square that used to be along the water and was home to several wealthy merchants. Next was over to  Christiansborg Palace where the Parliament is located and the Bourse or Old Stock Exchange (really a commodities exchange or a big indoor trading market back in the 1600s). All these pictures will be in the photo gallery at the end. Then we crossed the bridge to Christianshavn (Christian the IV’s Harbor – he built it in the early 1600s to modernize the naval facilities and improve the harbor for military and merchant shipping/commerce purposes. On the way we stopped for a classic Copenhagen hot dog:

 Next stop was a church with the most  wood-carved organ I have ever seen:







Then it was onto Christiania, one of the most peculiar places in all of Europe if you ask me. Its basically the Danish-version of Woodstock except its a permanent settlement. Ever since the 1960s (hippies and cultural revolutions happened on this side of the Atlantic too) these people have been squattering on land and facilities in an old naval yard, and they recently reached an agreement to buy the land from Copenhagen for a very discounted rate (10% of what developers would have paid for it). It is an independent community outside of the city system of taxes and laws with its own Council of leaders (think Occupy Wall Street only a settlement in one of the parks that worked and became permanent). A big attraction for foreigners is Pusher Street with its long line of pot vendors. You read that right – pot vendors. Although weed is illegal in Denmark, the police don’t really enforce the ban in Christiania because there is a long tradition of cooperation between the community and the police. Most of the trouble occurs when outside people come in and take the stuff outside of the community, or introduce hard drugs (Christiania has long been adamently opposed to hard drugs). Therefore, no cameras and no running are the rules as you walk down Pusher Street. Here’s a picture from the entrance way: (on the other side of the sign it reads “You are now re-entering the EU”).

After exploring (and not buying nor smoking anything) we crossed back over the bridge to take Tom and Ashley to the top of the famous Round Tower to show them the view of the city. The Round Tower was built as Europe’s oldest observatory for Kobenhavn Universitet by, you guessed it, Christian IV (when in doubt, just say Christian the IV built it, cause he probably did). Talk about a visionary – this guy was way ahead of his time. So far ahead that he lost a bunch of battles to Sweden and bankrupt the country – but he still is the one that expanded Copenhagen and made it into the distinguished capital city that it is today. You’ll see the views from atop the tower in the photo gallery below.

Our next stop was to the Carlsberg Factory with a huge group of friends from my international law course. We got the 15 person group discount, and since the tour included 2 free beers at the end, it was well worth it. Highlights included learning about the Carlsberg founders (a father and son who actually were rivals for a while), the brewing process (they introduced a new Bavarian style beer to the Danish markets which put them on the path to success), seeing the world’s largest collection of un-opened beer (20,000+), watching Taylor’s scarf almost get eaten by a horse, me finding a house named Carl and then galloping around, riding a Calrsberg beer bike, the two free beers, and finding a playground to run around on after the tour!

  The rest of the day we took it pretty easy, but we finished with a large dose of culture on Sunday when we took Tom and Ashley to a concert at the Carlsberg Glyptotek. Turns out Carl Jacobson was not just a brewmaster but also a big time donor to the arts in Copenhagen, and set up a foundation to create this museum filled with impressive art and artifacts from all over the world. We explored the museum for a bit then listened to a classical music performance by a 4 person group. It was really nice cause Tom and Ashley got to meet my host parents, as well as family friends of theres, Adrian and Jette, who then hosted my host parents, Taylor and I for dinner later that evening. I finally got to try the Danish staple dish of herring, and I loved it!

But anyway, after the concert we said farewell to our friends after a wonderful weekend of catching up, touring, exploring and taking in all the history, culture, architecture and social scene that Copenhagen has to offer. Taylor and I both agreed that spending a weekend with familiar faces was just what we both needed. So many thanks to Tom and Ashley for making the trip – I hope they will not be our last set of guests during the semester!

Below is the photo gallery with all the pictures from the weekend, and below that is a picture of whole group at the Glyptotek, and below that  Hope you enjoy it!


2 Responses to “Villanova Invades Copenhagen!”

  1. Nancy Macias March 3, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    Comment below

  2. Nancy Macias March 3, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    Nathan, What a great travel log writer you have become. I enjoyed you and your friends enjoying Copenhagen and am learning so many interesting things. I especially loved the harbor scenes and lego land as your dad and uncles grew up with them. Love, Grandma

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Rachel in Denmark

[American] Expat living in Copenhagen

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