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Copenhagen, the land of ales & fairytales

india Updated: Nov 16, 2011 12:17 IST
Soumya Mukerji
Soumya Mukerji
Hindustan Times
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In Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, there are three things no eye or tummy can miss — bicycles, boats and a big, beautiful beer town. That had to be, for long before it wasn’t the cycle capital of the world, the 11th century city was the pirate capital, buzzing with boisterous banter and rolling barrels of the good old drink of the seas.

Today, of course, the streets are a different sight. The cycle lanes are the busiest, with corporates in five-inch heels, grandpas and grandmas, teenagers in groups and young parents ferrying their little ones back from government daycares in cute little carriers that remind you of old storybooks. Such is the environmental consciousness here that the tax on four wheelers, they say, is higher than that on boats and houses!

A little higher in your line of sight are rows of Renaissance buildings sitting pretty through the centuries — the iconic Kronborg Castle, to name one. It was here that Shakespeare set his celebrated play, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Then, there’s another work of art — the statue of The Little Mermaid at Langeline quay, carved by Danish artist Eline Eriksen while his wife posed as the muse. The sculpture was a gift to the city by JC Jacobsen, the founder of the Carlsberg group, for whose 200th birth celebrations I was invited. The beer fest was a spectacle, with thousands raising a toast to the Danish beer culture.

Jacobsen, a much respected figure in the city, built an entire beer township, the Carlsberg city, which boasts of a 160-year-old brewery, the Ny Carlsberg museum that houses some of the most exquisite classic artworks from his personal collection, condos, shops, businesses and parks, and more in the new town plan.

If you’re lucky enough to be in the city on a Friday or Saturday night as I was, the pub crawl is a must. Nights are when Copenhagen’s good day begins, with local bands bringing the buzzing streets alive and the many clubs and bars serving beer that brews right in the heart of the city.

Families keep the restaurants busy beyond hour counts, while young lovers and friends hang around in pubs, clubs and on streets. You can walk the town all night — it’s a safe, friendly, well-protected city, or so assured an Indian friend who has been staying there since a decade. Once you get tired of the walking, it’s a good feeling to sit by the breeze and sip some wine by one of the many serene quays, as a club in the distance lends the background beat.

The mornings and afternoons, you must save for the fresh and fabulous Danish cheese, whether it’s trying it all out yourself or picking a little for home. Cream Havarti, Danablu, Fynbo, Crema Dania … you just can’t get enough of the good stuff.

If you’re not sure about your appetite for European food, there are Indian restaurants such as India Palace and Taj (nothing to do with the Indian chain by that name), mostly run by Pakistanis as my friend informs; but obviously, nothing like the real deal. So, instead, I suggest, walk to the Bryggen quay, where ships dock and the Viking custom of community drinking continues.

Once you’re tummyful, walk by the old 18th century houses till the wobble in the stomach’s settled, and then, you could try some super scary rollercoasters at the Tivoli Amusement Park, the city’s Saturday favourite.

It’s an ever carnival in Copenhagen — the kaleidoscope of colours on that side of the Black Sea is for all who love their cheer and beer.
The best time to visit is early May to late August.
30 airlines operate between Delhi and Copenhagen, and you need a Schengen visa for Scandinavian countries including Denmark.
Other great places to check out are the Gefion Fountain, Church of Jesus and Hans Christian Ørsted Park
The best way to see the city is on rented bikes, available at hotels, train stations and public places. The parked ones are never locked; the Danes are an honest people.
Here, the blocks are named after the countries from where the ships sailed in. So, there’s one named after India too.
In Carlsberg city, don’t miss the old brewery, the beer wagons of yore, and the stud farm where horses weigh 900 kg each.