06/28/2017 - 06/30/2017
After I decided to expand our Copenhagen stop into a Scandinavian road trip, I kept the Copenhagen stay at six days. This ended up being a wise decision because there were plenty of things to do within a short drive of Copenhagen as well as in Copenhagen itself. Our first day trip was over the bridge to Malmö, Sweden where we were picking up our rental car. If you're going to visit Malmö, the first thing you should know is not to ignore the umlaut over the letter o. The umlaut means the name is pronounced something like Malmeuh, rather than Malmoh. Of course, you'll be understood if you pronounce the name of the city wrong but it's somewhat annoying to natives. Imagine someone calling the capital of your country Washingtown if you're American, or Londown if you're English. It's not that big of a deal, but always better to get it right if you can.
Like Copenhagen, Malmö is a city with a lot of water around in the form of sea, canals, and ponds. Walking southward alongside a wide canal towards the city center, we passed the stately and ornate post office before a colorful structure caught our eye on the other side of the canal. We crossed to find something that seemed to be part sculpture, part jungle gym. As far as the kids were concerned, it was 100% a jungle gym. I later learned the sculpture is called Spectral Self Container, which was completed by the well-known Swedish sculptor Matti Kallioinen in 2013. It turned out to be quite useful, because it occupied the kids while I spent a boring half hour in 7-11 trying to determine why my Denmark SIM didn't function at all in Malmö despite the assurances of the Danish 7-11 clerk in Copenhagen. Eventually I gave up and bought a new SIM card for Sweden.
We didn't have to walk much further to reach Malmö's picturesque center. There are two central squares called Lilla Torg, the little square, and Stortorget, the great square. We had lunch at a cafe called Moosehead in Lilla Torg whose menu offered an incongruous but satisfying mixture of Thai food and burgers. Stortorget was surrounded by tall, beautiful townhouses and had a monument to King Charles X Gustav on horseback in the center. The surrounding area was largely pedestrianised and filled with traditional Swedish homes which were now shops and galleries.
Not far from Stortorget was Sankt Petri Kyrka, the most famous church in Malmö. The 14th century Gothic exterior is built almost entirely from brick, yet the facades and buttresses had a complex and sculpted appearance that was very appealing.
A few blocks south we ran into the moat-like canal that surrounds central Malmö. We checked out the view of the canal from one of the bridges then walked along the canalside promenade to Malmö's premiere green space Slottsparken.
We spent another hour circling back towards the car in Slottsparken, passing an interesting windmill and the relatively nondescript Malmö Castle, which is now a museum. After that, it was time to retrieve our new car and head back to Copenhagen for a well-earned dinner.
Until I visited Denmark, I'd never realized how close the country was to being an archipelago. The largest part of the country is connected to the European mainland, but only by an isthmus so long and narrow that it might as well be an island. Aside from the peninsula there are several large islands including Zealand, the one on which Copenhagen is situated. Our destination for our first full day in Denmark with a car was the northeastern part of Zealand, home to legendary castles and beautiful scenery.
After breakfast we drove straight to Frederiksborg Castle, near the town of Hillerød. The design of the castle was breathtaking, an enormous yet intricate edifice of red brick with countless turrets and spires. The castle was set in the middle of a large pond with swans and other birds, and to the rear were expansive and lush gardens.
The interior of the castle was equally impressive, especially the imposing and ornate Great Hall which is also an 18th century restoration after the original was destroyed by fire.
On the way out I got a nice shot of the famous Neptune fountain framed by the archway of one of the outlying buildings. The current fountain is actually a 19th century copy of the 17th original which was taken by the Swedes as war booty a few decades after its construction. Are the Danes still pissed off about it? I never had a chance to ask, although I've heard there's not a lot of love lost between the people of the two countries.
For lunch we drove up to Hornbaek on the northern coast of Zealand, where there's a fish restaurant with a small seafood market right next to the harbor. All the kids were sleeping and it was too windy to eat outside, so we ate our lunches on trays in the car.
Ten minutes from Hornbaek was Kronborg Castle, famous for being the inspiration for Hamlet's castle Elsinore. The castle is located on a promontory at the narrowest point of the Øresund, just two miles from the Swedish coastline. Kronborg has a somewhat bleaker appearance than Frederiksborg, probably due to serving double duty as a fortress controlling entrance into the Øresund as well as being a royal residence. We decided to forgo the steep entry price and limited our exploration to the grounds and gift shop.
Kronborg Castle is next to the midsized town of Helsingør, which has a well-preserved town center with centuries-old townhouses and cobblestone streets. The town was surprisingly busy and touristy, considering there hadn't been much of a crowd at the castle. We were excited to find a large epicurean market in the main square, although I'm not sure if it was a seasonal event or a one-off. We enjoyed the market and had drinks in a cozy cafe before returning to Copenhagen for dinner.
The next day was the coldest and rainiest of the entire Scandinavian road trip. We started out at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, a town better known for its annual electronic music festival. Perhaps it was the drizzle and overcast skies, but the town seemed very dreary and plain. The museum wasn't very exciting either, with a few boat skeletons and other drab displays. It was too cold to participate in the craft workshops outside, which weren't included in the already hefty admission prices. The kids attempted a little hammer throwing and then we were back on the road to the little island of Møn just south of Zealand.
It was a long drive to Møn so by the time we reached the little town of Stege we were more than ready for lunch. Fortunately there was an excellent cafe called David's which had delicious salads and sandwiches.
Our ultimate destination was GeoCenter Møns Klint, a geological museum at the eastern tip of the island. The largely underground museum is perched at the top of Møn's famous chalk cliffs. The last part of the drive took us through a very spooky and misty forest.
The GeoCenter was as delightful as the Viking Museum had been disappointing. It was much more than a geological museum, with plenty of interactive exhibits covering everything from erosion to dinosaurs.
After a couple of pleasant hours in the GeoCenter, we explored the boardwalk behind the museum that ran along the edge of the cliffs. Unfortunately the mist obscured the limited view of the cliffs available from the boardwalk and descending the hundreds of stairs to the beach below was out of the question. Instead we packed everyone up and began the long drive back to Copenhagen for dinner.