We departed Nynäshamn, Sweden, on July 16, at about 20:00. The cruise schedule had us at sea all day on July 17, arriving in Copenhagen, Denmark at about 05:00 on July 18.
At various times throughout our cruise, Leslie took time to practice with about a dozen other passengers as the ship’s choir. All of the practice culminated with a performance on our last night at sea. When we arrived in the piazza area of the vessel, there was a string quartet playing. The same quartet played every evening.
When the quartet finished, a talent show began. The first act was two young gymnasts, a girl, and her brother. I believe they were Dutch. The emcee said the girl was aiming to perform at the 2020 Summer Olympics. She was good. Next was a young woman singer who had an absolutely beautiful voice. She reminded me of a singer one might hear in an animated Walt Disney movie. The final act was a brother and two sisters. The brother played the piano, and the sisters sang. They needed a bit more polish, but it was nice to see they at least tried.
Following the talent show was the choir which sang several songs from The Sound of Music. They sounded good, but of course, Leslie was the best!
After the concert, we, minus Lorraine, went to the dining room for dinner. Lorraine was not feeling well. During dinner, we heard the captain on the public address system announce we would pass under the Storebæltsbroen (Great Belt Bridge) at about 20:00. Sure enough, shortly before 20:00, we saw the bridge looming on the horizon. We watched the sight from our balcony. Below us, on one of the main decks, we saw several other passengers gathering to watch the passage and take photographs of the bridge. The bridge connects the Danish islands of Funen and Zealand. Zealand is the island on which we find Copenhagen. The span really was a fantastic sight.
We docked right on time. Once at the Marriott, Lorraine and Arlene waited for a room while Leslie and I walked to the tourist information center to get our Copenhagen tourist cards. The cards ended up not being worth the price only because we did not make much use of them. We ultimately used them for only one bus ride, one church, and one museum.
While we stood in the tourist information center, my name caught my eye; the Vice and Vesterbro Tour. Vesterbro is a district in Copenhagen. We all know what vice is, so maybe we will try that tour on our next visit to Copenhagen.
With our cards in hand, we decided we would do the Strøget (stroll). The Strøget is a mile-long pedestrian thoroughfare, encompassing the streets of Frederiksberggade, Nygade, Vimmelskaftet, Amagertorv, and Østergade. It winds from Town Hall Square to the Nyhavn area. Along the way, shopping is a mix of tourist shops and very high-end shops and boutiques. We did not buy anything.
On Strøget, the streets came to life as we walked along. The people made it a great walk. I enjoyed capturing photographs of many people as they walked together. Some that stand out in my mind is the couple walking two huge dogs; a young toddler running around; a woman pulling a sausage cart; a juggler; and a street performer.
About two-thirds of the way through the Strøget, we discovered the Royal Copenhagen building. That is the primary outlet for Royal Copenhagen china. We went into the store. Beautiful china was displayed everywhere. It was all lovely but incredibly expensive. The only thing I took from the building were some photographs.
The Strøget ultimately deposited us at the Kongens Nytorv Plaza. From there we walked the short distance to Nyhavn where we had lunch at a beautiful place, Nyhavns Frergekro. I tried a traditional Dutch open-faced sandwich known as Smørrebrød. It was roast beef with a remoulade sauce and gherkin pickles. I thought it tasted excellent. I also had the Nyhavn Dark Ale, which had a real smooth taste. Leslie ordered the Danish meatballs and some fried brie cheese.
When we finished lunch, we caught a bus, which took us near our hotel. We walked the last few blocks. All totaled, we put in about 3.5 miles that day.
Lorraine stayed in the room all day with Arlene. They were both getting sicker.
On this return trip to Copenhagen, I found it surprising once again how many swimmers, and sunbathers changed from clothing to swimwear and back again in public. I guess I am too shy to try such a stunt. Oh, and there is no way I am flexible enough to get dressed or undressed while covering up with a towel.
The next day, Lorraine and Arlene were to depart. Leslie stayed with them while I went on a walk. I wandered into the Christianshavn area. It is a small island. The canal scenes and the colorful buildings were striking.
I took some stairs to get up to the street level of the drawbridge which crossed over the canal. It was easy to see how much this city favors bicycles. On every set of public stairs, there was a steel track installed. The track was wide enough to allow for any size of a bicycle tire. It will enable a bicyclist to walk up the stairs while rolling the bicycle up or down alongside.
I ended up at the Our Savior Church. It dates from the 1680s, known for its massive spire with a winding staircase on the exterior. On a whim, I decided to go up. The climb inside the spire was impressive. One needed to be like a mountain goat to make it up some of the steeper sections. I did not count the stairs, but it had to be close to 200. Finally, one exits the interior stairs through a very narrow door. At that point, a narrow platform rings the spire. The views of Copenhagen were stunning.
On one side of the spire, copper-covered stairs began to ascend, winding around the spire to the very top. Supposedly, there are 150 steps there. Even though there is a sturdy railing, I had several mental battles about whether or not I should continue the assent or give in to my newfound fear of heights. Ultimately, I did not continue to the top.
Getting back down was also an adventure. The stairs accommodate two-way traffic, even though they are only wide enough for one person at many points. I felt like kissing the ground when I finally made it down.
Back at the hotel, we got Lorraine and Arlene a taxi for the airport. Once they were gone, Leslie and I took a cab to the Statens Museum for Kunst (National Gallery of Denmark). We had lunch when we arrived. Then we spent a couple of hours touring the museum. I saw several paintings by Edvard Munch, an artist I am familiar with, but I have never personally seen any of his works. I was also happy to see a couple of works from my favorite Spanish artist, Picasso.
We departed Copenhagen on July 20. At the Copenhagen airport, we decided to get a wheelchair for Leslie. Once we made it through security, we sat in a very comfortable waiting area set aside expressly for those passengers needing additional help. Everyone who helped us was extremely friendly.
When we arrived in Dubai, we also had a wheelchair waiting. However, they took us to the land-of-broken-people. It was not nearly as courteous or friendly as what we experienced in Copenhagen. Regardless, we only had a three-hour flight ahead of us.
As we approached Islamabad, it was cloudy and rainy. I do not believe Islamabad has a precision approach capability, so I began to get nervous as we circled. I was hoping we would not be diverted to Karachi or Lahore. I did not feel like dealing with that. However, nearly 30-minutes late, we landed in Islamabad. We were at home.
Early in the morning, while still at sea, we could feel the ship rolling. The wind whistled through our balcony doors. The wooden hangers in the closet banged against the closet wall.
When we awoke, we could tell the weather was not good. The ship approached the dock with two tugboats. That is unusual since the boat is ordinarily able to dock under its power. Over the intercom, the captain informed us that the tugboats were necessary since the winds were gale force (39-54 mph). Once we were off the ship, we felt the full power of those winds. It was uncomfortable to walk.
The ship docked in a cargo area of the port. I assume that was due to the draft of the vessel. To disembark, we had to get a bus ticket and wait in one of the dining rooms. When the crew called the range of numbers that included ours, we disembarked the ship and climbed onto a bus. A few minutes later, we got off the boat near a tourist information center.
That is when we found out the sites we wanted to visit were each at least an hour out of town. We decided to take our chances in town.
We set out on foot from the tourist information center. We had zero ideas where we were going or what we would do in town. Following the crowd from our bus seemed an excellent place to start. At one point, the group began to follow the Aarhus River. We opted to take a side street. On that side street were several ancient buildings. There did not seem to be a straight or plumb line on any part of the buildings.
Within a couple of blocks, we found the Aarhus Cathedral in the Latin Quarter; so had nearly all our shipmates. It was very crowded. The cathedral construction began in 1190, with additional expansion work from the mid-1400s to the early 1500s. From quite a distance away, one could not help but see the main spire. The tower is roughly as tall as the cathedral is long, at just over 300 feet. Once inside, I found it hard to believe that the cathedral can accommodate about 1,200 people. It seemed too narrow. That narrowness made the vaulted ceilings look even higher. Surprisingly, nearly every item hung on the walls, or every tomb marker had either a skull or skeleton prominently displayed. That seems out of the ordinary for a cathedral.
Leaving the cathedral, we wanted to find a refrigerator magnet from Aarhus. We only found run-of-the-mill shops and department stores. We ended up alongside a canal at the Ziggy Cafe. We sat outside, facing the channel so that we could watch the world. Luckily, the buildings provided an excellent windbreak. Even still, Leslie was cold. The cafe was prepared. Each outdoor seat had a fleece blanket folded on the back. Braced against the wind, we had a beer and shared some chicken nachos. The nachos were surprisingly good.
Walking back to the drop-off/pick-up point, I saw a building that intrigued me; rather, it was the sculpture on the second-floor landing. We walked to the building that turned out to be the public library. We got off the elevator on the second floor. The eagle “sculpture” was part of a children’s play area. A young boy “rode” the eagle as we arrived. We left via the stairs and braved the wind back to the bus.
Back on the ship, we found out our next port of call was not Warnemunde, Germany. The gale-force winds forced the closure of that port for boats the size of the Regal Princess. Our new port of call was Kiel, Germany, more on that in the next blog entry.
The beginning of our R&R trip was neither restful nor relaxing. After all, it was midnight when we departed. We arrived at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, just outside Islamabad, with plenty of time to make our flight check-in arrangements. Before leaving the check-in counter, we made sure our luggage tags read CPH. We wanted to reunite with our stuff when we arrived in Copenhagen.
After going through security, we seated ourselves in the waiting area near the boarding gate. When I stopped to look around at the other passengers, I saw a ten to one ratio of men and women. There were men everywhere, but very few women passengers. I am not sure if that is the norm or if it just happened that way the time we were there.
Two hours later, we went down the boarding ramp to the waiting bus. It was a short bus ride to the side of the plane. We climbed the stairs and found our seats quickly.
The plane departed for Dubai about ten minutes early.
Our flight from Islamabad to Dubai was a short two hours. We landed in Dubai at about 05:30 local time. Even at that hour, it was a toasty 98 degrees Fahrenheit.
We climbed down the stairs and boarded a bus for the ride to the terminal building. I thought the driver was going to take us directly to Copenhagen by bus. It seemed the journey would never end.
Our flight from Dubai to Copenhagen was uneventful. We collected our luggage and hailed a taxi. The taxi ride lasted about 20 minutes and cost 300 Kroner, about $40. It was 14:30 when we arrived at the Marriott.
As soon as we checked in, we made a beeline to the terrace facing the canal. Leslie and I enjoyed white wine. The channel was incredibly busy because it was such a beautiful day. It appears many people use the canal for swimming and water sports. In front of the Marriott is a wooden bridge-like structure, used as a beach. There were numerous sunbathers, swimmers, skateboarders, walkers, and bikers using the structure. People packed the opposite side of the canal from the Marriott. In general, it was a day for doing nothing more than worshiping the sun and enjoying the pleasant weather.
We saw wide, flatboats full of tourists going back and forth in the canal. They were the recipients of canal tours. We also saw larger, yellow boats going back and forth. Those were waterbuses.
Leslie was keen to get her haircut. Hotel staff directed us to the mall on the canal, Fisketorvet Byens, a little more than one-half mile from the hotel. One of the odd things we saw while walking to the mall was a round houseboat. It was strange because of its shape, but mostly because of its location. Moored to a pier directly in front of a commercial building, alongside a bustling pedestrian and bicycle path, it just seemed out of place.
Our path to the shopping mall included many unique examples of architecture; people enjoying the day, and boats.
The other oddity we found was a bride and groom taking wedding photos in front of the brick wall of the mall. We assumed they had been staying at the hotel across from the mall. For some reason, they must have liked the background. For all we know, that may be where they met.
In the mall, we stumbled upon the salon, Simply the Beth. The owner, Beth, had time to cut Leslie’s hair. She shared that the name of the salon was a play on the Tina Turner lyric, “simply the best.”
Back at the hotel, we went to a happy hour in the Executive Lounge. I saw a beer in a bottle that appealed to me. I wanted to be able to place the label in my journal. As I took a sip or two, I could tell the beer tasted funny by my standards. Although I am illiterate with Danish, I saw the word on the label that clued me into the odd reaction of my liver, “alkoholfri.” That is Danish for “alcohol-free.” I sat that down and got a lager instead. It tasted much better, and my liver was much relieved.
For dinner that night, we opted to stay in, dining at the Midtown Grill in the hotel. It is a steakhouse. For starters, Leslie chose the smoked blue cheese salad while I selected the hand-salted smoked salmon. The salmon came with lemon wedges, roe, and greens. The salmon was delicious but very rich. Leslie and I decided on the main courses of tenderloin and porterhouse steaks respectively. We thoroughly enjoyed the steaks. As good as the meal was, nothing could have possibly prepared us for dessert, sea buckthorn creme brulee. It was the best creme brulee I have had anywhere on this planet.
The sea buckthorn berry is orange in color and somewhat tart. The berries were pureed in the bottom of the bowl, creme brulee on top of that, and then the very crusty sugar top. The combination of tastes and textures was incredible.
The next morning, Sunday, we began with a coffee on the terrace, overlooking the canal. When we finished, we took a very leisurely stroll to the Rådus, the Copenhagen City Hall.
The flowers planted along the south side of the building were very colorful and beautiful. The building is an imposing brick building, dating from the turn of the 20th century. A tower of nearly 350 feet dominates the redbrick building. The tower has a beautiful clock on all four faces. Above the west entry door is a gilded statue of Bishop Absalon, a 12th Century archbishop from Denmark. It is awe-inspiring because of its size and detail.
At the corner of the Town Hall is a giant statue of Hans Christian Andersen, one of Denmark’s sons. A crowd of tourists swarmed the area, vying for their chance to have a photograph made with the statue. Many of them posed as though they had just found a long-lost cousin.
City Hall plaza is on the west side of the Radus. That morning, there was a flea market in full swing. It appeared to be specialized in antiques. Leslie found a topaz necklace that she decided to buy.
By the time we left the plaza, it still was not quite 10:00. Many of the stores on Frederiksberggade Strøget were not open, and there were not a lot of people around. Within about a half-block, we saw a store with a unique mannequin display of several older men in their underwear. The sign read, “Just let the men stay naked, as long as we girls can shop.”
As we poked around, looking for a place to have a coffee and wait for things to open, we stumbled across the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus stop. We decided to take the bus, opting to travel the entire route, seeing all 16 stops. Then we could choose where we would like to get off and explore in more depth. The sights we saw included the Liberty Column, the Tivoli Amusement Park, the Christianborg Palace, the Nyhavn District, the Nyborder District, the Trekroner Fort, and the Gefion Fountain.
We decided to get off in the Nyhavn (pronounced New-Hawn) area for further exploration. Because of bus computer problems, we decided to get off a couple of stops early and walk to Nyhavn. We got turned around once, but we ultimately made it to our destination. The canal from which the area takes its name came into being in the 1670s. For much of its existence, the area played host to drinking establishments, sailors, and prostitutes. On this particular day, there were crowds of tourists enjoying the beautiful weather and the Nyhavn venue for the Copenhagen Jazz Festival. That festival has been an annual occurrence since 1979.
The beauty of Nyhavn is quite striking. On either side of the canal are buildings painted in bright pastels. Each one is three and one-half to four stories high, facing the channel. Above the ground floor businesses are townhome or condo-like residences. I understand the addresses are some of the most sought after and expensive in the city. Peppered throughout the canal are some old boats, adding another layer of character to the scene.
We focused our search for a lunch restaurant on the north side of the canal, the sunny side. The tables and umbrellas along the canal just blended from one business to the next. The only way to tell when one was at a different establishment was to look at the facade of the buildings to see when the paint color changed.
We sat down at a restaurant named 17 Nyhavn. We began with a tall amber beer. In the heat of the day, 82 degrees Fahrenheit, the beer helped quench our thirst. Leslie opted for an avocado salad while I selected the club sandwich and French fries. It was a delightful lunch. That was not necessarily due to the food, but rather the company, the setting, and the jazz tunes lilting through.
After lunch, we decided it was time to go back to the hotel. To get to the bus stop on the other side of the canal, we crossed the short drawbridge. On the bridge, there were several padlocks from lovers pledging themselves to one another. We have seen that in several places throughout Europe.
We caught the bus across the street from the apartment building in which Hans Christian Andersen lived for nearly 20 years. As we waited, we spotted a sign for Lycamoblile, ironically touting an excellent rate to call to Pakistan.
A few stops later, the bus stopped for a break at the Little Mermaid statue. It is a very famous statue. I decided to get off and take a photograph while Leslie opted to stay on board. The icon is tiny and unimposing. That lends more credence to why the guide books say many people see the statue and claim, “Is that all there is?” Much like the Hans Christian Andersen statue, there were crowds of tourists vying to have their picture made with her. Regardless of her impact, I did get a refrigerator magnet to remind us of our trip there.
We got off the bus directly in front of our hotel. We immediately went inside for a nap. We were both more worn out than we thought.
Leslie’s mom and aunt arrived in Copenhagen on Monday. Before they arrived, we walked back to the mall to do some shopping. Just before the mall is a bridge strictly for bicycles, it is known as Cykelslangen or Cycle Snake. It is a curvy, fun way for cyclists to cross the canals.
On Tuesday afternoon, we all boarded the Regal Princess cruise ship for our Baltic cruise. Leslie and I booked a suite with a balcony. We were delighted with our accommodations.