June 21, 2004

Denmark--More Than Just Hamlet

Had a smashing weekend in Denmark, even though it was freezing and Copenhagen was in a conspiracy to piss us off.

We started out Thursday morning renting the car and dropping Scout off at the Hundehotel which is on the way out of town if you're going to Denmark. Off we went to our first stop, Odense, home of Hans Christian Andersen. We braved the rain to visit the H.C. Andersen museum. Wow, the Danes are fanatic about their Andersen. There was a multi-room display chronicalling in something like 55 stations the 70-something years of his life (in English, mercifully). Talk about a detailed blow by blow. They had everything from letters he wrote to his false teeth on display (not a pretty sight, let me tell you, and apparently they were very uncomfortable too). It was interesting because the Andersen they portrayed was a little different than the one I've read about. I mean sure, he lived his entire off of the goodwill of others, but they put it so nicely, substituting "benefactors" for "mooch." They barely gloss over his 5 weeks living with Charles Dickens, which I first read about in my Dickens and London class in college and which the Dickens family agree were some of the worst 5 weeks of their lives.

There's no doubt that in his later age, Andersen became a creepy old man interesting guy. One of his hobbies, aside from writing sometimes gruesome fairy tales (believe me, The Little Mermaid's original ending is not so happy) was cutting things out of paper. You know how you fold paper up and cut it to make snowflakes or paper dolls? Well apparently he was quite skilled, not to mention prolific, at it. The museum displayed a number of his papercuts and they were pretty creepy in the way that manifestations of obsessive compulsive disorder tend to be.

Okay, I'm being too critical. Being a children's literature buff, I do enjoy his contribution to the field. We even bought a poster of an illustration of one of his stories (it has a gruesome ending, but we'll skip over that) for our library. It's just that the Andersen museum was a little romantic about his life.

Click the extended entry below for more reports from Denmark.

We then headed to Copenhagen. It was cold and rainy the whole time we were there, but we still had time to check out some of the sights. We went to the amusement park right in the middle of the city, Tivoli Gardens. They had a nice setup where you paid the equivalent of 9 Euro to get into the park and then to ride the rides you got ride tickets. I think a situation like that doesn't work well at a big park like Disneyland (or the yet to come Legoland) but worked well for a small park like Tivoli where you don't necessarily want to ride all of the rides.

The Danish football team had a game and it was broadcast on a giant screen in the park. I stood to watch some of it while Kevin went back to the hotel to get the camera, and then we watched the end a little later. It was fun because I got to see both of Denmark's two goals and they won the game. Although I'm far from a football fan, it's always fun to watch with a crowd and get caught up in the excitement.

We rode the oldest roller coaster in Tivoli. It was cute. The ride operator sat on a seat in the middle and he had a hand brake. Not quite sure what he would have done if he'd had to use it--push the cars up the next hill I guess. When we pulled into the station and got off, he had to push the train up to where people boarded. It's definitely not something you'd see at an American amusement park.

We went to see The Little Mermaid statue in the harbor, although it was cold and rainy. We luckily got there before two coaches full of tourists pulled up. Good timing. There were some strange people. As I climbed down on the rocks to have my picture taken in front of the statue there were others doing the same thing. The guy next to me was standing with his kid. His back was to the statue and there was a woman taking their picture. However, the entire time, he had a camcorder glued to his eye and was filming both the woman taking his picture as well as the rest of the crowd taking pictures. And believe me, there was nothing to look at in that direction. Very odd.

(actually we saw the Little Mermaid first and then Tivoli but I don't feel like rewriting this)

I am ashamed to say that we ate at the Hard Rock Cafe. I know, I know, but they had buffalo wings! Real American ones too! With blue cheese dipping sauce! They were pretty good. I also noticed on the menu that they served salads with Hidden Valley Ranch dressing. Hidden Valley Ranch. I could have cried.

The next day, it was cold and rainy. We got tickets for the hop-on, hop-off tourist bus (kind of a rip off) and went to the summer royal palace (crown jewels!) and the art museum. I liked the palace but didn't like the art museum. They were very heavy on modern art and even in the old art section there were special modern art displays. I got tired of being on my feet and searching through the bizarre art I didn't understand to find the good stuff so I went to wait in the cafe. Apparently I missed a room of Munch and one of Matisse, but whatever.

The cafe there was one of the worst dining experiences I've had in a while. Suffice to say that in a country where waiters don't work for tips (a 25% service and tax fee is included in the price) the quality of the service is very different than what we spoiled Americans are used to. And let me just take this opportunity to say that Denmark was the most expensive place I've ever visited and that includes New York City. I couldn't believe how much things cost there. The only break we got was that the garage we parked our car in turned out not to be as bad as we expected. But damn, that's one expensive country.

Early the next morning we headed back to Billund to visit the original Legoland. We didn't let the cold and rain hold us back, and we got lucky once we were in the park as it barely rained at all. Cold though. Anyway, Legoland was great. It was much better than Legoland California, although I really should qualify that as saying it was much better than Legoland California 4 years ago, since I haven't been in that long and it's supposed to have improved.

Legoland had the absolute best ride I've ever been on in my life. And believe me, I've been on rides near and far, but none was as cool as this: Power Builder. It's hard to describe and always sounds pretty lame when you try, but I'll do my best. First, you design your ride on a computer. There are varying levels of "wildness" from 1 to 5 (chicken me insisted on a 1 first, then branched all the way into level 2). You then proceed to your "robot," which is the ride itself. It's a robotic arm and on one end is two seats with over the head harnesses. You put your card into the reader and the ride goes off and does whatever you programmed it to do. It swoops you around, tilts you on your back, head, or side, whirls you around, lifts and dives you, and basically just throws you around in any of like a billion possible combinations. We tried to take some pictures but looking at it doesn't do it justice. You have to ride it to get the full experience. I really hope they get this at Legoland CA, it was so cool. We went on it twice.

We then stayed at the Legoland Hostel because the Legoland Hotel was full. It was a darned nice hostel--definitely the best one I've ever stayed in. Don't tell anyone but I'd stay there again.

This morning we braved the cold and the rain to come back to Germany, picking Scout up. On the way we stopped at Ikea to pick up a few items. There are these Ikea plastic bowls in our kitchen that we've pretty much totally ruined so we wanted to replace them. We also bought a shower curtain. And in the true Ikea style, our purchases came to less than $10.00.

I swear once we crossed the Danish/German border, the temperature rose about 10 degrees, although you'll never guess what's happening now. That's right. Rain.

Posted by Shelby at June 21, 2004 10:56 PM