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Saturday , November 5 , 2011
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Delightfully Danish

The first thing that hits home about Copenhagen is its liveliness. Bright buildings tucked away beside architectural marvels, chic cafés and bars brimming with all kinds of people, never-ending shopping, great food and surprises here and there — the Danish capital is all this and more. In fact, it’s a sight to behold when the sun sets, as the city’s lights come to life in stunning bursts of colour.

As Scandinavia’s gateway, Copenhagen has, for decades, been known as one of the world’s most liveable cities with a laidback lifestyle. Interestingly, it’s also a sports-and-culture hub and home to the world’s best restaurant, Noma — according to British magazine, Restaurant.

The misery of an early morning flight instantly dissipated when I landed at Copenhagen Airport. It was elegant and — in a world filled with dull and boring airports — an exceptional surprise. I was quickly out of there and hit the city right away.

Strøget — the longest pedestrian shopping area in Europe — was waiting. Under the shadows of stately old buildings, this is an extravaganza of boutiques, restaurants, and Denmark’s most popular and expensive brands. It’s one of those places where you can laze about without feeling too guilty about wasting your time. It’s teeming with people at all times of the day and generally epitomises la dolce vita.

But while Strøget is about consumer culture, the fact that beautiful medieval buildings and historic architecture surround the area, lends it a balanced air. You’ll find yourself engulfed by landmarks like the City Hall Square, Royal Danish Theatre, Hotel d’Angleterre, Church of our Lady and so on. I think that the spirit of Strøget only comes through fully when one appreciates the splendid architectural styles around — be it baroque, classical Danish or typical Nordic.

On one end of Strøget is Kongens Nytorv, Copenhagen’s largest public square. A little further down is Nyhavn — the city’s most popular entertainment district. Lined along a canal, Nyhavn buzzes with tons of bars and restaurants, along with townhouses and lavish mansions in vivid colours. It is also a heritage harbour of sorts, with several old ships docked about.

But one of the greatest joys of my trip was visiting a boutique store called Faraos Cigarer — a most amazing storehouse of comedy strips and action cards. This shop is for comic addicts and I was extremely happy to discover Tintin and Asterix figurines here.

My next stop was Copenhagen’s icon — The Little Mermaid. She sits atop a small outrock in Langelinie, a pier, promenade and park in Copenhagen and is startlingly small. I took a cycle rickshaw to traverse the fairly long promenade. It was quite a journey — I even lost my cap to the fluttering breeze, which was eventually retrieved by an amused Portuguese tourist!

A restaurant at Tivoli Gardens

No visit to Copenhagen is complete without a trip to Tivoli Gardens — one of the world’s oldest family amusement parks. The first sight of Tivoli was a heart-in-the-mouth moment. I saw a nerve-wrecking joy ride taking people nearly 150ft into the air and plunging them downwards within moments — certainly not for the faint-hearted. Dotted with lakes, eateries and shops as well, Tivoli was throbbing with life and madness that went on well into the night — with amazing live music.

If Tivoli symbolised joie de vivre, the University of Copenhagen was an entirely different experience. Denmark’s oldest university has produced a number of Nobel laureates and famous intellectuals like astronomer Tycho Brahe and more recently, physicist Niels Bohr. I spent a long time in the city campus (it has four campuses), taking photographs and making the most of the ambience.

Even though Copenhagen isn’t really a large city, there was much ground to cover. I’d barely scratched the surface in three days (which is good in a way, because I can go back), but I couldn’t have left without a taste of Danish royalty.

With the oldest monarchy in the world still in place, Copenhagen has several castles and palaces. The Danish monarchy is very popular among its people, and is more admired than revered. I visited the sprawling Amalienborg Palace, the royal family’s winter home, and marvelled at the museum that houses the private study chambers of several past monarchs. Another striking building is The Marble Church, located north of the palace. It has a huge dome, and is rather imposing and grand.

As all great things come to an end, the Danish sojourn did too. But Copenhagen had truly captured my imagination with all its charm and beauty.

Ready reckoner

Getting there: Jet Airways, British Airways, Emirates and more have daily flights to Copenhagen from Calcutta (with stopovers at cities like Doha, Dubai, Brussels and Zurich).

Staying there: Go to Hotel Nimb, a luxury boutique hotel. Room tariffs start from 5,900 DKK (Danish krone) — approx. Rs 54,500 per night.

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