Tag Archives: Copenhagen

August 27th 1975

“Walked around. Spent money etc. Bort Jeans”

We sure did a LOT of walking around on this trip didn’t we?

This was our last full day in the city, so a final trip up and down the Strøget was probably high on our ‘to do’ list.

Looking at the sights. Y’know.


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August 26th 1975

“Went to the Outdoor Museum- not bad. Walked around Copen. when we got back”

Boy, we really were doing some cultural stuff on this trip weren’t we? Probably has a lot to do with showing the city and country off to Nig, who was hopefully having a good time too.

The “outdoor museum” actually refers to the Open Air Museum, one of the largest and oldest open air museums in the world.

Set across 80+ acres of land north of Copenhagen, the museum features over 50 farms, mills and houses from Denmark’s past, all painstakingly moved from their original location.

As a result, visitors can experience how Danes lived, dating from the times of Hans Christian Andersen right up until 1950.

Each building is placed in a small tract of land, that land shaped to show the distinct character of the original surroundings and its place in the open landscape.

The museum also features Brede Works, an intact industrial plant with its adjacent factory community which includes the original worker’s cottages, nursery gardens, orphanage and the  owner’s mansion which dates back to 1795 .

Then, it was back to Copenhagen for, as my diary states, some more ‘walking around’. Up and down the Strøget no doubt?!!

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August 24th 1975

“Walked about. Went to Strøget, Glypotek, National Museum”

went to Strøget” eh? Can’t seem to get enough of the place?!

The Glyptotek – or to give it its full name he Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek is an art museum situated next door to the Tivoli Gardens.

It’s an ornate, impressive building that we would always have to walk past each time we went from my Mormor’s apartment to the Town Hall Square and/or Strøget and beyond.

I’ve visited it several times. The art it contains aren’t really my ‘bag’ at all, but the architecture inside is beautiful, alone worth the entrance fee.

The artworks inside are built around the collection of Carl Jacobsen, son of the founder of the Carlsberg Breweries, and the person who also commissioned the Little Mermaid statue talked about in yesterday’s post.

It’s primarily a ‘sculpture collection’, mostly from ancient cultures around the Mediterranean, including Egypt, Rome and Greece. However, there are also large collections of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings as well as artworks from what is referred to as Denmark’s “Golden Age”

The National Museum I am far less familiar with and I admit I had to look it up to find out which building it was.

It is located in the “Princes Palace” (which was home to members of the Danish Royal Family in the 18th Century)  just a short distance away from the Strøget.

It concerns itself with the history of Danish culture, with exhibitions of prehistory, the middle ages, the renaissance and modern age. I’d be lying if I said I remember much about the visit!

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August 23rd 1975

“Went to the Little Mermaid. Spent a lot in Tivoli. Tank game – great!”

Contrary to what the Disney Corporation would like you to think, The Little Mermaid is not a Hollywood creation.

It is instead a fairy tale – first published in 1837 – written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen.

Andersen’s poetry and stories have entertained children since 1829 and include classic works such as “The Snow Queen”, “The Ugly Duckling”, “Thumbelina” and “The Little Match Girl”

However, his tale about the mermaid who is willing to give up her mermaid identity to marry a human prince is, perhaps, the best known worldwide thanks to its simple story about love and sacrifice.

The statue in honour of Andersen’s finest moment was commissioned in 1909 by Carl Jacobsen (the son of the founder of Carlsberg Beer!) who had been so fascinated by a ballet based on the fairytale he had seen that he asked the prima ballerina – Ellen Price – to model for the sculptor.

The sculptor was Edvard Eriksen and whilst the head was indeed based on Price’s, the body was not. Price refused to pose nude, so the Little Mermaid’s body is actually that of Eriksen’s wife, Eline.

The statue was placed on a series of rocks in Copenhagen’s harbour – in the area known as Langelinie – and unveiled to the public in the summer of 1913.

Most tourists who see it for the first time say the same thing… “Isn’t it tiny?!!”

It is FAR from an imposing statue. Indeed, without the hordes of visitors crowding around it, it would be very easy to walk straight past it without even noticing it was there.

It is just 1.25 metres high and weighs a mere 175 kg.

In the Little Mermaid’s almost 100 year life as one of Denmark’s most prominent tourist attractions she has been the target of vandalism many times over, most famously in 1964 and 1998 when she was decapitated. She’s also had her right arm sawn off, paint dumped over her many times and was draped in a burka as a political statement.

Most tourists are unaware that the statue displayed in the harbour is actually a copy of the original which is kept in a secret location and owned by the sculptor’s heirs. It is also subject to strict copyright, so much so that when the city of Greenville, Michigan installed a replica to celebrate Danish heritage in the area, the city was sued for a $3800 licensing fee!

As her centenary approaches Copenhagen officials are considering moving the statue further out into the harbour so that tourists will no longer be unable to climb on and possibly damage her further. How this will stop the determined ‘vandals’ and ‘anarchists’ is anybody’s guess?

In other news I can vaguely remember the ‘tank game’ of which I speak, but internet research failed to come up with its name or premise. It was a video arcade game and it involved tanks. Tanks which cost me ‘quite a bit’.

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August 22nd 1975

“Walked down the Strøget. Nanny’s party in the evening – Got Wallet stolen”

Boy, Nig & I seem to be spending a LOT of time on this holiday walking up and down the Strøget… I wonder why? *cough*

I remember this party and the saga of the stolen wallet. It’s difficult to forget.

For Mormor this evening was most definitely the highlight of our trip over to see her. Today was her birthday and I think this may have been a ‘big one’ – perhaps her 70th?

To celebrate she booked a room in this fancy building a few blocks down from her apartment. It may even have been a lodge for whatever the Danish equivalent of the Masons are. I do recall the room the actual feast – and this really was a feast – was held in was seriously impressive.

She invited everyone – and I mean everyone – she knew or was related to. There must have been 60 to 80 people all sat round this one huuuuuge table. (Needless to say it wasn’t one big table but loads of smaller ones pushed together). It was all ‘fancy white linens’, silverware, candles, flowers…basically very formal indeed. FAR posher than I – or my folks, or Nig – were really used to. We all had to dress up in suits and ties – which even then I HATED – so as to not undermine the fanciness of the evening.

Now, when I say “evening”, that’s not strictly true. As I have said before, Danish meals do tend to go on for hours and hours. This was no exception. It may just have been the longest time I have ever sat at a dinner table in my entire life. We got dressed up in the afternoon and festivities – light snacks and early drinkies – commenced at around 4pm. We didn’t leave the building until past 11 o’clock that night!

Waiters brought course after course of food, and when they weren’t bringing us food they were asking what we wanted to drink. To this 17-year-old teenager it felt like THE most surreal experience.

After about 5 or 6 courses of food – soups, open sandwiches, prawns and more – Mormor stood up and did a little speech, thanked everyone for coming and said something akin to “here’s the main course” at which point three waiters wheeled in a complete stuffed pig on a silver platter. In case you’re wondering, YES with the clichéd apple in its mouth!

Even my Dad gasped – and he’d been witness to this kind of event before. My Mum said “Bloody hell Mum” in Danish to her mother loud enough that most everyone around us heard it and laughed, whilst Nig & I wondered if the excesses were ever going to stop. This was like some kind of bacchanalian feast to end all bacchanalian feasts,

Still after all the effort that had been put in it seemed churlish not to join in and tuck into this delicious (and it was delicious, oh boy was it?!) latest offering from the kitchens.

I am not joking when I say there were still 2 or 3 courses after the pig.

A memorable evening. At the end of it, Nig thanked everyone for inviting him and he was saying it was the most amazing thing he’d ever been to.

For me it became memorable for the wrong reasons too, although it did teach me a lifetime’s lesson.  I hung my suit jacket out in the foyer, the same place as many other people had hung their jackets. Sadly, I left my wallet in the inside breast pocket. Even sadder was that someone nicked it, stealing quite a bit of my saved holiday cash in the process. (Thankfully I had left some in my bedroom back at Mormor’s apartment). We couldn’t point the finger at anyone in particular but I do remember I got first mad about the theft and then very upset. It’s a shame it took the shine off the night’s proceedings, but it did teach me to never, EVER have my wallet anywhere else apart from a front trouser pocket.

We never did find out how much Mormor shelled out for this soiree. She was asked over and over but never revealed the amount, nor where she got the money from to pay for it all. I couldn’t even begin to fathom the sum involved but I’ll bet it was a little more than just a “pretty penny”

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August 18th 1975

“Slept in. Went to Mormors works and go stared at. Went for walk to square. Saga of girls in shop – grin!”

Awww… all that country air yesterday meant I didn’t emerge from my slumbers until late.

That second sentence made me laugh out loud 35 years after the event. I can’t remember it, but I can imagine what it must have been like. My Mormor (grandmother, remember?) worked in a small blood testing facility a few blocks away from her apartment. She was one of the senior (in age) technicians, responsible for moving samples from one part of the building to the other. As a result she knew everyone that worked there and probably bent their ear regarding her handsome, intelligent & hugely talented grandson (OK, maybe those were the words she used) from England.

I suspect she had pre-empted a visit from Nig and Me, gathering all her colleagues in one area so she could show me off. I have no doubt at all that I stood there deeply embarrassed to the same degree to which she was proud.

“Grin” does seem to be the 70’s version of LOL in my world, doesn’t it?

I’m sorry to have to disappoint again but I have no recall about the ‘saga‘ (which makes it sound at least a little memorable) of the girls in whatever shop I am referring to.

To make up for it though, here’s a picture of the square to which I refer…

Specifically, Copenhagen’s Rådhuspladsen – or City Hall Square. This photo must have been taken from atop the clock tower of the City Hall itself. That zebra crossing you can see on the right of the photo leads to one end of the prior-mentioned Strøget, home – if my diary is to be believed – to an apparent succession of attractive bra-less girls.

The City Hall is also home to Jens Olsen’s World Clock. This astronomical clock consists of 12 movements with over 14,000 parts. The clock is mechanical and must be wound once a week. (I wonder what happens if anyone was to somehow forget the task?) As well as the time it displays eclipses, positions of the planets/stars, and has a perpetual calendar. Olsen designed it and helped build it, but sadly died in 1945, a full 10 years before it was first unveiled to the public.

I’ve watched it tick away it a couple of times and its really impressive craftsmanship and a quick must-see if you’re ever lucky enough to be visiting Copenhagen.


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August 15th 1975

“Train journey damn boring. Nice girls at stations. Got to Copenhagen at about 7-30pm. Great Dinner”

So, after an overnight ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland – involving something to do with pepper pots and girls – we transfer to the train for Copenhagen.

A train journey – just to remind you – which took almost 12 hours and went through Holland, Germany and Denmark.

Two-thirds of the way into the journey, the train would split up into 4 or 5 parts and be shunted onto a ferry for the 90-minute sea crossing between Puttgarden (in Germany) and Rødby (in Denmark).

This, by far, was always the highlight of the journey for me (it was otherwise a little dull for a teenager – damn boring, in fact – although nowadays I’d love the relaxation of it). For Nig it represented ‘major excitement central’. I don’t think he really believed us when we told him that the train was going straight onto the boat. I think he rather imagined we’d all get off a train, catch a boat across the Baltic Sea and then catch another train on through Denmark.

I don’t know exactly how many photos he took that afternoon, but I’ll guess he blew a couple of rolls of film or more on the loading and unloading process of the train, running from one end of our set of carriages to the other to get the best shots. To be fair it was an amazing thing to see, the echoed noises and sounds all adding to the experience.

Some of the pics he took were really good – I remember that – but I only saw them a couple of times. It’s a shame in retrospect that I never asked him for copies of his photos because this was the last time I did this journey and it would be nice to have a keepsake of the one element that – even as a kid (remember, I took this journey almost annually from the age of 6 months!) – I always looked forward to.

Flikr user “Seadipper” hopefully won’t mind me using a photo of his from 2006 which shows the back of a modern train carriage in the hold of the ferry…

I’m sure the process is now far more automated than it was in 1975 and that trains have evolved in a big way making the loading and unloading a lot easier. Certainly this photo suggests a bright and airy train deck when the reality as I recall it was a somewhat dark and dank space that smelled of oil. Each carriage had to be chained down by a huge team of workers and as they did so we would all rock from side to side. When we were suitably secured, pairs of elaborate steps had to be placed at each carriage doorway. I was always surprised to see them because they seemed to come from nowhere, presumably wheeled into place when all the passengers attention was elsewhere

It was the noise of the train moving on and off the boat I will always remember the longest though, a collection of bumps, screeches and squeals as the train wheels did battle with variations in the rails. I found this couple of you tube videos showing the process, that noise still evident…

Somewhat sadly, this relatively unique train experience is being phased out by ‘progress’. The 19-kilometer Fehmarn Belt Bridge is being built between Puttgarden and Rodby and is due to open for car and train traffic in 2018, thus ending a decades-old tradition of kids (and teenagers) squealing with excitement.

In other news “nice girls at stations” is pure teen talk isn’t it? I can’t be certain they were all “nice” but they were evidently good to look at. (As a huge generalisation I find that most Danish girls are good to look at)

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April 6th 1975

“Picked Mum up from London”

Just as I was amazed – in retrospect – that Mum was able to travel TO Copenhagen by herself, I am likewise astonished that she did the same journey in reverse.

It’s funny how the mind plays tricks on you. She MUST have been together and confident enough at one time to do all of this, but all I can really remember (and often wish I could forget) was how she deteriorated during that last decade or so she was alive.

I have no doubt that she came home from her Danish holiday and spent a week or more complaining about she and Mormor argued all the time she was staying with her.

They could REALLY argue. Some of it you couldn’t make up.

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