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17th May 2007
We take a taxi to the airport and board an SAS flight to Copenhagen. European airfares are terrifyingly expensive but our son Matt had fortunately found us a couple of cheap
economy seats months ago. Given the price we were expecting to be hard up on the aft toilets with just enough leg room to let the tray table rest upon Brian's stomach at a 45 degree angle. Been there and done that.…
more than once! Well we were indeed in the last few rows but the row spacing was unbelievably good. This is what it used to be like in economy class 30 years ago. What a huge difference it makes. We actually enjoyed our light lunch and the 90 minute flight itself.
It was raining in Copenhagen on arrival and as the airport was supposed to be only 8kms from town (according to something we'd read), we jumped straight into a taxi. We then watched with horror as the meter's numerals turned over as fast as poker machine wheels. We kid you not. Our fears were compounded by the following factors:-
1. The distance was obviously a LOT more than 8kms
2. We had only purchased a rather small amount of Danish Kronor in Brussels
3. This trip was going to prove very expensive and probably embarrassing.
Well at a cost of DKK.270 it was indeed quite expensive for an alleged 8km journey but not quite as badly as Brian had feared. Working from a (very poor) memory of the exchange rate he had been dividing the taxi
meter by 3 as the number raced skywards when the correct rule of thumb would have been to divide by five. This error only came to light a day later. Meanwhile Lynn had to listen to Brian's oft repeated exclamations such as, "Bloody hell, look at that! Nine dollars for a small can of Coke, what a rip-off
…. etc etc ad nauseum.
We were booked into the Imperial Hotel which turned out to be very nice and VERY Scandinavian in the design and room décor.
A photo of the room is
available by clicking the link below.
Copenhagen is the home of Brian's great grandparents before they migrated to Queensland sometime around 1870. Brian actually had one terrifying meeting with his great granny Nielssen when he was about 8 years old. Granny Nielssen was a tough old bird and every shopkeeper and resident of the small village of Killarney on the Darling Downs was scared stiff of her sharp tongue and demanding manner. However he still recalls that she was quite pleasant and loving when he had that one and only meeting, notwithstanding the fact that she gave his cousin Neville a good cuff around the ears for some misdeed at the very same time as she was handing Brian a boiled lolly.
Rain or not we have to make the best of our short time in Copenhagen so we went to the famous Tivoli Gardens which was only about 500 metres from our hotel. Notwithstanding the inclement weather we were impressed with the gardens and especially the glorious trees which were so green and in some cases so exotic in beautiful weeping poses over the lake, rockeries and huge banks of flowering tulips.
The Tivoli Gardens is a combination of gardens, restaurants, multiple band stands, small amphitheatres and fun fair attractions. Somehow it all comes together in a charming and non grating manner and as night fell the fairyland lighting effects made for a magical ambience.
I was disappointed in my photos which failed to really capture the feeling of the place but a few of them appear below for your interest.
18th May 2007
We awoke to a wonderfully sunny day and set out to walk down the
Strodget, a long outdoor mall of wall to wall shops, boutiques, cafes and fast food stalls. It seemed to stretch on forever but walking this strip is apparently the thing everyone does when visiting Copenhagen. Well, there's no doubt that literally everyone was indeed there on this sunny day! Don't ask me why we were all there… it was only a bunch of shops after all. Anyhow, we were packed in like sardines, shuffling slowly forward and trying (unsuccessfully) to avoid stepping on each others
heels. It was akin to being at the Royal Easter Show on a particularly
bad day.... only worse! The babble of noise around us was an amalgam of every language under the sun
What a joke on us all! We would have worked our way out of the crush but we were headed for a place on the harbour's edge called Nyhavn and this was the most direct
and easiest route so we just stuck it out.
Well we finally reached Nyhavn and found it to be almost as crowded as the
Strodget Mall. The tourists were out in force…. big time! Still, Norhavn was worth the trouble. It was cute little arm off the harbour where all the warehouses had been converted into cafes and bars. All were painted in different (but sympathetic) colours and it looked quite charming if one ignored the thousands of people. Brian took several dozen photos and a few appear on the webpage.
We wanted to take a boat cruise of adjoining canals and harbour and so did thousands of others. We joined a long chaotic queue and eventually got tickets for our cruise. The cruise boats are incredibly wide, low, open motor boats which are 8 seats wide and 20 rows long. Some 160 people on what looked like an oversized skiff. Incredibly we got fantastic seats even though we were one of the later boarders.
The cruise was worth every inconvenience up to that moment and we enjoyed it immensely. The tri-lingual commentator was both pretty and charming, notwithstanding the incredibly throaty choked words that seem sprinkled right through the Danish language.
19th May 2007
Brian has decided to stop writing in the third person because it makes things laborious, awkward, somewhat contrived and also error prone. Hereafter Brian will utilise the First Person style of narrative. He firstly secured Lynn's
permission for making this radical change.
Awoke with a very sore head…. but not from over imbibing. You may not have noticed that I have very little hair down the fairway nowadays
and given the low temperatures hereabouts I haven't felt the need to
wear a cap. However yesterday was so unseasonably sunny and hot in Copenhagen that I have managed to burn my scalp.
The rain has returned this morning and I'm off to Europcar to collect our rental vehicle whilst Lynn
does some packing. We're a tad nervous about how this will turn out because we arranged (and pre-paid) it all through an outfit in Sydney called Bentours who were offering car rental prices in Scandinavia 40% LESS than we could get on the internet. Well I'm ALWAYS suspicious of "gift horses" and that's why I'm nervous.
We've booked a "K Class" vehicle described as a "Ford Focus automatic or similar". A Ford Focus auto would be ideal. Lynn has one and I find it
comfortable and easy to drive with a good high seat that really suits my very temperamental back. However, past experience has proven that one
almost always gets the "or similar" from car rental companies so I don't have my hopes too high. My greatest worry is that the low rate may be because we're going to be given a near wreck with 100,000
very hard clicks on the dial (we've had such experiences in the past when chasing cheap rates) but I'm mildly reassured by the fact that Europcar is a major car rental player and not some single city corner shop entrepreneur.
No need to worry. We're offered a brand new Toyota Corolla Hatchback
with 19 kms on the clock. I'd have preferred a Ford Focus but the Corolla has a high and comfortable seat with easy access and exit features so I'm pretty happy overall.
I drive back to the hotel and we load our luggage in pouring rain. I'm pleased that my head is adjusting to mirror reverse driving faster than ever before. I think I've driven on the "wrong side of the road
for extended periods around 20 times since the first occasion in 1966. I've noticed that each time one adapts a little bit faster than the last
time. But today I'm warning myself "don't let yourself become over confident". It's so easy for one's brain to go on the blink at the most unexpected
moment and you find yourself in head-on mode on the left hand side of
the street. In fact there's a number of our past rental vehicles getting around Europe and North America with fingernail gouges in the passenger side upholstery to prove that particular point.
Lynn switches on our TomTom GPS Navigator for the acid test. We purchased this device last November then later purchased and downloaded the Western Europe map data but this is the first time we've tested it on European soil. Fortunately it works like a charm. How amazing and how wonderful. No more navigation stress and heated arguments and no need to play the blame game when things go wrong! And Lynn won't have to try to say things like "in about 200 metres you have to turn left into Västerlånggatan and then turn immediately right into Österlånggatan. Brian (yelling) "I
can't understand anything you're saying… spell it to me…. QUICKLY!"
Our TomTom's computerised voice says these names with ease and calmly corrects my actions when I make a mistake, guiding me back onto the correct route. Compare this with my human navigator…. "I told you to turn RIGHT! Now I don't know where we are…. Why don't you listen? Well I don't know what we can do now. You'll have to figure it out on your own. Oh well, find a place to stop (she's joking) whilst I try to figure it out. I wish you'd do as you're told. If you keep going along this street you'll soon be on 70 kms of freeway going in the wrong direction".
Our TomTom easily finds the way out of Copenhagen through rain and mist, leaving Denmark and taking us along a
16 km toll bridge across the sea into Sweden. Toll cost about $48 but
worth every penny.
We had a stressful few hours with parking, finding an ATM to get Swedish Kronor, buying some lunch, finding a toilet and figuring out some really weird technical aspects of our new Corolla. We won't bore you with the details
now but some of the high tech features of this Corolla are giving me a
touch of the "you know whats".
After a few
expletives, a tasty smoked salmon sandwich and a few well placed kicks
in the Corolla's direction (the security features on this car must be
worse than Fort Knox), we resume our journey to Vaxjo in a better frame
of mind. TomTom is still calling the shots beautifully and given that
there's a roundabout every 500 metres or so we've very pleased to have
him along for the trip.
Amazingly none of the accommodations we've booked in either Denmark, Sweden or Norway have asked for a deposit or a credit card guarantee. On the surface this is a strange but welcome set of circumstances. However it does cause some insecurity about how secure these bookings really are, especially as they're all now at least three months old.
At 5pm these doubts start to assail me and as we are still 90 kms away from our hotel I asked Lynn to call the hotel whilst we are in a gas station. In due course she reports on the difficulties of navigating through a computerised phone menu in Swedish and further advises that she reached our (very small) hotel out in a rural area just as ALL the staff were locking up for the night! "Just as well you called Madame. We will leave the key to the hotel
front door with the key to room 6 in our front letter box and say "hello" to you at breakfast". Hmmm, sounds like we're going to be the only guest for the night and absolutely home alone!
Lynn had particularly wanted to stay at Toftastrand Hotell & Konditori, outside the
small city of Vaxjo mainly because she saw a photo of their "Konditori" (bakery) products on the internet. Apparently the bakery was somehow part of the hotel. I'd had some doubts about the place because
it was much cheaper than other alternatives but Lynn kept saying, "don't you want to try some of those delicious cakes???"
Well when we got to Toftastrand Hotell we were greeted by a small rundown looking timber building with piles of cardboard cartons blocking the bottom of the fire escape (see photo) . Well I suppose I did make a few comments but I definitely didn't say "I told you so". That would have been cruel.
We found the key, let ourselves into the hotel then found our room on the 2nd floor. Our room turned out to be really plain but
quite comfortable and spacious with an excellent large ensuite bathroom. We also had a tiny balcony looking over a pretty lake. Hey, this aint so bad!
Photo of our view appear on this webpage.
nearby restaurant was closing as we reached their doorstep so there was
no other option other than to go into Vaxjo proper for some dinner.
Vaxjo is a city of 52,000 people but is was so quiet at 8.00pm you could
shoot a gun down any street without doing much harm. We couldn't believe
how deserted it seemed. Luckily a number of restaurants were open. We
picked a spaghetti joint with a very nice owner but very poor food. One
way and another the 19th day of May hasn't been our finest hour.
It was still
broad daylight at 9.00pm and we wandered into the local Cathedral for a
brief look around. It was really beautiful in a simple Scandinavian way
and totally unlike what one finds in France, Italy, Spain or Belgium for
example. And as Vaxjo happens to be in the heart of Sweden's art glass
region there were wonderful glass crosses and other modern glass objects
cleverly mixed in with all the olde worlde stuff in a non jarring manner. Well
worth the visit but unfortunately I didn't have my camera.
Next morning I mentioned to Lynn that I hadn't heard a sound from below during the night so the downstairs bakery obviously wasn't working. Maybe they don't open on Sundays, I suggested. However when I ambled
downstairs I was able to peek through a tiny slot into the bakery to see a baker pattering around his machinery surrounded by scores of trays loaded with cakes, pastries and bread rolls. It gets better and better.
We enjoyed a simple but appetising breakfast overlooking the lake and stayed on
into the morning long enough to enjoy some espresso and fantastic cakes around mid morning. The cakes were really rather special. Nambucca Heads eat your heart out. Yes, I always thought this
hotel would be pretty good!
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