Journal of a June 2006 Cruise

Cruise 2006: The Baltic
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2: Copenhagen

The Little Mermaid We have a full day at sea before reaching Copenhagen, our first port of call. After breakfast in the self-service Orangery, I go to the spa and have my hair cut and washed and my beard trimmed by a very lovely girl. We potter about for most of the day. In the evening we have to dress up in formal wear. After dinner we go to the theatre and watch the Aurora Follies. Most of the shows by the ship's company are repeats of the ones we saw last year, but every bit as enjoyable.

On Monday we partake of an early breakfast in Café Bordeaux. It is a somewhat more intimate dining experience than the restaurant or the cafeteria. I have a sausage kedgeree whilst Christine has eggs Benedicte.

We then go up to the Crows Nest and the Lido Deck while the ship enters the Port of Copenhagen. It is a beautiful day and even at 9am there is a strong bright sun in the sky. In the distance we can see the new bridge that links Denmark with Sweden. As I am taking photographs, a ladybird lands on my wrist. I gently blow it onto some tarpaulin-covered loungers. It lands softy and then flies away.

The ship berths at Langelinje Pier. We are soon ashore and waiting for our first Visit to Copenhagen. There are two small buses with ramps at the rear for access. They each have space for about four folding chairs, whose occupants can move into conventional seats, and two confined wheelchair users. I get a seat at the front, but Christine is stuck at the back in her chair and doesn't have a very good view.

We drive first north out of the city through the suburb of Hellerup along the coast towards Klampenborg. Our guide tells us that once this coastal strip was a fishing village with lots of thatched houses but now it has become overwhelmed by large expensive modern houses. The area is now so expensive that many people opt to live over the border in Sweden and commute daily across the Øresundsbron bridge. She points out the house of Queen Alexei and the residence of the American ambassador. A few of the old thatched cottages are still visible.

Back in the city itself we are amazed by the number of bicycles. We even see some that have carts attached in front carrying children. We travel down Gothersgade past the King's Garden. Lots of people are sunbathing among the trees. Within its grounds is Rosenberg Castle. We travel down Nørregade past Telefon House, the building in which the physicist Hans Christian Ørsted discovered electromagnetism, then by the entrance to the Tivoli Gardens, around the old town and into the lovely Nyhavn with its colourful buildings and vibrant sailing ships.

The city is heaving with people and traffic. It is very hot. We finally stop by a large coach park and get out. When we are all together, our guide leads us to Amalienborg Castle. The Queen is in residence and the changing of the guard takes place at noon. A crowd has started to gather near the statue of Frederik V and we have to push our way through some reluctant tourists in order for Christine to get to a place from where she can view the ceremony. Once it is over we make our way back to Amaliehaven where a fountain shoots cool water into the air. A short walk leads us the waterfront with views across to the opera house on Holmen. There is a huge queue in the café for both toilets and ice-cream. I hardly have time to queue for the latter but our guide buys one Christine and refuses to accept payment. She seems to have formed a genuine rapport with her first batch of disabled clients!

Back on the bus we move on to the Gefion Fountain and the English St. Alban's Church. The last stop on the tour is by the famous Little Mermaid, but the place is so thronged with tourists and coaches parked three deep, we decide not to stop. In any case it is only a short walk from the ship for those who wish to visit it later. Much more interesting is the statue of the Peace Angel overlooking the yacht harbour.

A little later, I venture out on my own. First I walk down to the end of Langelinje Pier. It has a few eating places, an information kiosk and bus shelter but is fairly uninspiring. I take the elevated road back. This goes over the top of the rows of shops and comes out near the Peace Angel. This statue, overlooking a small yacht basin, is, if I recall correctly what our guide told us earlier, a memorial to the Second World War. Around it are the flags of the Scandinavian countries.

I make my way to the Little Mermaid. And little she is. She is a very small sculpture and if not surrounded by tourists climbing upon her, would seem unremarkable to passers-by. As a symbol known all over the world, her reality is an anti-climax.

I return past the yachts and come to a rest area. Here I buy an ice-cream; sit and look at the sculpture of a polar bear on an iceflow with two cubs. This monument, made by Holger Wederkinck and erected in 1937 represents Greenland.

It is time to visit the row of shops that run along the landward side of the pier. They are mainly clothes and souvenir shops. By UK standards the clothing is quite expensive, but one shop has a reasonable deal on offer and I buy three tee-shirts. I also purchase ten postcards and a very nice 'fridge magnet.

When packing for the holiday, Christine forgot her scissors. I find some in one of the shops and although I'm a few kroner short of the asking price, the shopkeeper lets me have them without needing to break into a banknote. When my bag goes through the scanner on my return to the ship, the scissors show up. The security people say I cannot bring them on board. They want to keep hold of them until we disembark. I explain that we won't want them when we get home — my wife forgot to pack her own and she needs them to cut up some material she is working with. With some obvious reluctance they agree to let me bring them on board.

With temperatures in the high 20s, it has been an enjoyable but exhausting day, so we order a pot of tea and some cakes from room service. I realise later that it is only a short walk past the Little Mermaid to the Gefion Fountain and the Eastern end of the city. In hindsight, I'd have done better to miss walking to the seaward end of the pier and gone to take a closer look at the fountain. I could then have returned via the Kasellet or Citadel which stands on a grassy island. I'd seen this as we'd gone around it in the bus but hadn't known just how accessible it is.

But, no matter, I won't loose sleep regretting the sites I didn't see; rather enjoy the many I did.

As we are having dinner, the ship sets sail. Later on I go on deck and watch the sunset.

Photographs Journal page 3